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Report to Prof

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Report to Prof

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									                 Report to Prof. Linda Chisholm, Head of C2005 review process

  THE NEED FOR SCHOOL LIBRARIES IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN CURRICULUM
   A RESPONSE FROM LIASA TO A SOUTH AFRICAN CURRICULUM FOR THE
     TWENTY FIRST CENTURY. REPORT OF THE REVIEW COMMITTEE ON
                         CURRICULUM 2005

School librarianship internationally thrives in learner centred education systems that
encourage active learning. It is a truism that the state of the school library within a
school reflects directly the kind of learning valued within it. The outcomes-based
Curriculum 2005 should have brought a better climate for school librarians in South
Africa as they have a direct and unique contribution to make to its success. However,
although information-handling skills are identified as critical cross-field outcomes, the
role of school librarians in teaching these skills has not been recognised. Thus, although
there is much in the report of the Review Committee that resonates with librarians, it
disappoints as it still fails to make any explicit mention of their crucial role.

Overall, LIASA agrees with the diagnosis of the problems but feels that the review
document has failed to recognise that a cure for many of the problems exists – school
libraries.

Role of libraries in the curriculum
In South Africa there are schools with well-developed school libraries that are essential
to the learning programme. In these schools librarians work as partners of teachers -
managing the learning resources, consulting with teachers on the best use of the
resources and, most importantly, developing information literacy, a level of literacy now
widely accepted to be crucial to successful functioning in the so-called global economy.
Information literacy – a complement of attitudes, competencies and knowledge gained
through searching for and using information from a range of resources - is necessary for
the resource-based learning central to C2005. The mere provision of resources does
not lead to resource-based learning. The lack of information literacy among educators
has raised concerns about their capacity to manage resource-based, learner-centred
classrooms (Czerniewicz, Murray & Probyn, 2000:14).

The School Register of Needs Survey in 1997 found that nationally less than 30% of
schools had functioning libraries (Department of Education, 1997). The HSRC national
survey of school libraries commissioned by the Department of Education in 1999 has
apparently confirmed these figures although its exact figures cannot be given as the
report has not yet been officially released. Other research in the Western Cape has
shown that the libraries that do exist rely on so-called governing body funds for their
materials and their staffing (Hart, 2000). The implication is that school libraries sadly
have become an indicator of disadvantage. Schools that serve poor communities just
cannot afford a library and a librarian. The result is that these schools cannot implement
the very curriculum that is designed to redress past inequalities.

High achieving schools view the school library as pivotal to their success. International
research and a glance at our own Sunday Times list of “good” schools give consistent
evidence that dynamic school library programmes and academic excellence go hand in
hand. The Review Committee itself highlights research that shows that C2005 depends
on the provision of resources. In comparing the resource-based learning within one
school – where in a five day period a wide variety of resources were used - with the
lecture method prevailing in a school just five kilometers away, it comments, “teachers
within well-resourced classrooms were clearly reflecting C2005 principles” (page 77).

Reading
Today’s emphasis on information literacy does not replace the traditional role of the
librarian as the literature and reading expert within the school.

Inability to read “for meaning” is a factor in our high failure rates that cost the education
system millions every year (READ Educational Trust, 1998). In declaring 2001 the
“year of the reader”, the Minister of Education has acknowledged the problem. We
agree with the statement on page 73 of the report that access to books is essential if
learners are to learn high level reading skills and we share the concern that schools are
not buying attractive literature. If children are to learn these skills, they need to learn to
enjoy reading. The more they enjoy reading, the more they will choose to read – and the
better they will become at it. There is widespread evidence that access to a wide variety
of different books – rather than multiple copies of classroom readers - is what makes
children turn to reading with pleasure. The Book Box Service in Botswana is an
example of how access to enjoyable reading material improves academic achievement
(Baffour-Awuah, 2000).

Ring- fenced budgeting for library materials is needed
Throughout the report there are allusions to problems with learning support materials.
Teachers have been expected to move away from their reliance on textbooks and chalk
& talk methodologies but have not been provided with the support they need to make the
changes. The report attributes problems in the implementation of the new outcomes-
based curriculum to lack of learning support materials and to lack of training in the use of
these materials (for example on pages 23, 24, 26, 28, 31). This is where librarians are
needed – to build and manage collections of learning resources and to develop the skills
needed by educators and learners to exploit the resources. In this way they can play an
important role in developing the kind of curriculum recommended by the Review
Committee- one that “stimulates curiosity and fosters habits of purposeful enquiry”.

We suggest that the term LSM, as used in the report of the Review Committee, needs
closer examination. The report seems to see LSM only in terms of textbooks and
materials produced by education departments – a view shared by large numbers of
educators. The report does mention “books” but seems to see them only as reading
materials for the teaching of reading. The term LSM refers to a far wider range of
materials and genre of book. Access to this kind of variety is essential to good learning.
Teachers are confused by the term LSM so we suggest a return to the term “library
materials”. Educators know the difference between these and textbooks.

A good textbook will provide the basic foundation and then encourage learners to
deepen and extend their knowledge by encouraging them to ask questions and
investigate their answers. Here access to a collection of carefully chosen resources –
not teachers’ or departmental worksheets - is crucial. In formulating their questions and
searching for answers, learners will learn the skills of selecting, analysing, synthesising
and applying information. The librarian – as guide, facilitator and consultant – plays a
crucial role in this learning.

The report acknowledges the need for ring-fenced budgeting for LSM so that schools do
not spend allocations on stationery for example. We suggest that library materials have
to be explicitly distinguished from textbooks and departmental materials and have to be
similarly provided for.

The National Policy Framework for School Library Standards
LIASA acknowledges that providing every school overnight with a well-equipped library
is unaffordable. It supports the vision of the draft National Policy Framework for School
Library Standards (Department of Education 1998) now being considered at HEDCOM
and CEM. This document allows for a gradual phasing in of school library programmes,
sharing of resources, and a flexible use of various models of provision. These models
include classroom and box collections, shared public and school libraries and shared
school libraries. We suggest that with appropriate information and communication
technologies, even a very small school library can bring a vast array of information
resources to disadvantaged schools.

The National Policy Framework document might provide the policy and legal framework
but, without the necessary political and administrative support, will result in mere lip-
service to the need for school libraries. In this document LIASA has contended that
school library programmes are necessities and not luxuries. Outcomes-based education
just cannot work without them. The implication is that their development cannot be left
simply in the hands of school governing bodies which are struggling to cope with
conflicting demands on their budgets and which might well not understand the need for
school libraries. The Department of Education, we believe, should apply for conditional
grants from government for school libraries. These grants will depend on explicit
mention in new curriculum policy documents of the need for school libraries.

Unless the Department intervenes more forcefully and commits itself to the
implementation of the National Policy Framework then the present gap between
information-rich and information-poor schools will continue to grow.

                                       References

Baffour-Awuah, M. 2000. Reading makes a difference. IASL conference, Malmo,
       Sweden, August 2000.
Czerniewicz, L, Murray, S & Probyn, M. 2000. The role of learning support materials in
       C2005. Department of Education, National Centre for Curriculum Research &
       Development.
Department of Education. 1997. School register of needs survey. Pretoria: Department
       of Education.
Department of Education. Directorate: Centre for Educational Technology and Distance
       Education. 1998. A national policy framework for school library standards.
       Pretoria: Department of Education.
Hart, G. 2000. Project work as a vehicle for information literacy education in a circuit of
       South African schools. IFLANET. Available online: www,ifla.org.
READ Educational Trust. 1998. No South African child should fail matric. Braamfontein:
       READ.
                      Written by Genevieve Hart and Sandy Zinn
                                with contributions from
              Colleen Meinert Sara Greyling, Bertha Kitching, June Matlala

24 November 2000

								
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