Development of the new curriculum model for Primary Science
and Technology education in Mozambique
Oleg Popov & Mariano Jasso - INDE, Maputo, Mozambique
The question of curriculum revision comes up immediatly when a country
changes political and social orientation. This happened in Mozambique when the
new Constitution went into effect (30 November 1990) establishing a multiparty
system and stipulating development towards a pluralistic market-oriented society.
Today„s democratic transformations in the society open new possibilities and
new challenges for Mozambican education.
Torsten Husén (1990) summed up five general strategy rules concerning
educational reform: (1) educational reform should be part and parcel of social
reforms; (2) reforms cannot be implemented overnight; (3) resourses are needed;
(4) central government and grassroot participation are key factors; and (5)
educational research and development are called for. Historical analysis of the
validity of these rules in the Mozambican context was done before by one of the
authors (see Popov, 1995). We believe that the process of the construction of
new democratic traditions in the country initiated with first multi-party elections
in October 1994 will be permanent. In this context the making of curriculum can
also be seen as a process of inventing new traditions in education. Existing
traditions that are reflected in the written curriculum, classroom-practice and
textbooks have to be reconstructed.
Mozambique one of the puerest countries in the world where agricultural
production exist at subsistence level. It is also caracterised by lack of formal
sector opportunities and insignificant level of modern sector employment of the
school graduates. By this way, the reality fo Mozambique in the 1990s is that a
growing number of school leavers have to rely on their capacity for enterprise in
order to survive well especially in the rural areas. If education is to lead
development, this situation should be reflected in the content of education in
terms of curricula wich promote knowledge and skills for interprise, could lead
to fulfilling informal sector jobs, and could promote a possible growth potential
in the dominant informal and rural sectors.
Our studies of students achivements in primary science (Popov, 1994) show
that little is learned, far too little from the existing curriculum requierments and
An international workshop that took place in Gaza province of Mozambique in
January 1995 was starting poin for oppening a new field of research for science
group: technology edication and local part of curriculum, establishing by such
way a new Science and Technology (S&T) curriculum area.
The present paper discusses from a social-constructivist perspective the
principles that underpin a development of the new Science and Technology
curriculum for basic education in Mozambique. The paper attempts to highlight a
long-standing question of how to combine, in the curriculum for formal
education, demands of its social relevance for rural communities with high
academic expectations from schooling of middle and high class urban dwellers
representing the new social elite. We suggest to adopt a two-pronged approach to
curricular reform. First, performance standarts for learning should be established
and outcomes measured through examinations or national assessments. Second,
local variation should be encouraged in the implementation of the curriculum
through materials, teaching and time.
We base our work on the definition of the curriculum as it was done by Ulf
1. A selection of contents and goals for social reproduction, i.e., a selection
of what knowledge and skills are to be transmitted by education.
2. An organisation of knowledge and skills.
3. An indication of methods concerning how the selected contents are to be
taught; to be sequenced and controlled, for example.
Thus a curriculum includes a set of principles of the way in which knowledge
and skills are to be selected, organised and transmitted.
Behind any curriculum there must be a set of principles according to which the
selection, the organisation and the methods for transmission are formed.”
Historical analysis of curriculum development in the post independence
period in Mozambique and study of international experience led us to
formulation of a number of principles that constituted a basis for the
development of the new model for S&T curriculum. This model, as well as
mechanisms and forms of its practical implementation have being broadly
discussed at the national seminars and conferences. The process of introduction
of innovative elements in school practice is currently tested in the experimental
schools around the country.
Lessons from the past
Sustainability of reforms
Many of intermediate form of small-scale reform experiments were never
followed by wider implementation, as for instance, UNESCO project of
integrated agricultural subjects, CROCEVIA project of Science laboratories, etc.
All of them represent short-live innovative cases with a lack of concistency in the
We consider our project preparation, design and implemetation as a long-term
participatory project, where different interested parties will be actively involved
in all stages of the process. Special attention is given to role of the community
and parents in decisions concerning the content and methods of teaching-
Ideas behind the curriculum
Students “lack the skills required to apply what has been learned to the new
situation. This is a problem because it is the cognitive skills children develop in
school -- not simply their exposure to schooling -- that are determinants of the
subsequent productivity.” (Lokheed, 1995).
Assessment should be oriented to increase meaningful feeddback from
students through written, verbal, graphical, diagrammatical, manipulative,
Thought and language are interdependent. If student are not talking science,
normally they are not learning science. Thus, increase higher order thinking
withing the classroom means increase ammount of students‟ scientific talk.
Teach from the application to the concept.
Teach from the familiar and from what students know of this to the unknown
(don‟t teach what they already know).
Primary science should be directly related to an area of revevance to society.
Leave out topics that are too difficult for the students.
The students need education. Science is the vehicle for this education. The
textbook is an aid, not the substance.
Constructivism. Students learning needs students envolvment. “The student is
always active when learning take place. This active process is the process of
making sense. Learning does not occur by transmition but by interpretation.
Interpretation is always influenced by prior knowledge. Interpretation is
facilitated by instructional methods that allow for the negotiation of ideas.”
Importance of flexibility and adapting to local needs, particulary with respect
to curriculum (local relevance and variation in level or pace), the organization of
schools (clustering, extended instructional day), and pedagogy (use of the mother
tongue in some subjects teaching, while other are taught in an official language;
encouraging a small group learning).
The curriculum defines the subjects to be taught, furnishes general guidance
regarding the frequency and duration of instruction, and, through a syllabus,
specifies more precisely what is to be taught and what will be assessed. Core
curriculum should define a minimal levels of learning or performance
standards. Syllabi should be closely linked to measures of outcomes.
Efective teacher training may need to include such development skill as
primary health care.
Call for utilitarianism
Natural sciences have to be more related to practical use. Content is learned in
the interplay with the context. An individual understands the value of knowledge
through its use for him.
Four main inputs to improve primary education (Lockheed, 1995): texts,
time, teachers and teaching.
1. Texts, specifically libraries and textbooks. Availibility of textbooks have
positive and significant effects on learning.
2. Time for learning. International norms for the duration of the school year
provide for and average of 880 hours of instruction annually at the primary level.
3. Teacher subject-matter knowledge. Teachers with a better knowledge of
subject material and greater written and verbal language proficience have better
performing students. Our research suggests that the overall level of relevant
knowledge of primary school teachers is insufficient.
4. Teaching practices. Teachers with wide repertoire of teaching skills appear
to be more effective than those with limited repertoire. In the review by Bruce
Fuller and Prema Clark (1994), only “assigning homework” was found
consistently associated with higher learning achievement. We share the
arguement of the Robert Yager (1995) that how teachers teach is frequently
more important than what they teach.
The last educational reform - the National System of Education (SNE)
introduced in 1983 - was completed in Mozambique in 1994. It represented
an achievement at a particular historical point on basis of certain social and
political priorities. Facts show that the pro-Communist orientation of the
country in the post-independence period had a positive impact on the
development of science education. However, there were significant
discrepancies between formulated and implemented policies. For instance,
the ideas of the first post-independence educational decrees to make
primary schooling in the rural areas relevant to production were forgotten
and regional and linguistics problems were neglected.
Reports from different countries show that one of the modern educational
tendencies in Africa, is an emphasis on the subjects Science, Ecology and
Technology (the boundaries between them are often blurred). It is highly
recognised the value of these subjects for development of such mental activities
as question-ability and intellectual flexibility, particularly important for
democracy, as well as manipulative process-skills that are valid for pupils„
everyday environment. The Presidential Forum on Science and Technology
Development in Africa that took place in Maputo in July 1994 stressed the
importance of this field of research and education. However, in practice of
Mozambican primary and secondary schools, the technological and ecological
education do not exist at present. Furthermore, during last years we could
register a steady shift in the position of natural science subjects towards a low-
There is a lot of constraints to change the situation. On the one hand, it is
very problematic to do something within existing curriculum frame. On the other
hand, it is clear that a single curriculum innovation will not really affect the
quality of schooling in the long run. A critical mass of skilled teachers and
administrators would be one important factor required to sustain a certain change.
However, in Mozambique, at the time being, does not exist any organisational
structure for in-service teacher training that would be necessary for this purpose.
We believe that curriculum innovations is an important vehicle to start up a
first stage of the education improvement process. To be a realistic proponent for
curriculum change, we advocate an evolutionary approach. Previous
Mozambican experience clearly confirms a standpoint that “in a system with as
much inertia as any educational system, revolution is just not on“ (Ralston, A.,
Curriculum decision-making involves crucial cultural and political
choices. Considering curriculum as a “selection from culture“ it is
impossible over-estimate the importance to link formal education with
traditional culture - wisdom of generation penetrating everyday life on all
levels in society. New curriculum can not be neutral object in relation to a
child„s cultural capital.
Stressing that curriculum development should be considered in the
context of time and space, it is possible to add to the traditional questions
of what, who, and how to teach questions of where and when to teach. The
growing social stratification of society enhances differences within
educational system, and curriculum should be flexible enough to reflect
them. This could be done by the introduction of the local part of the
curriculum which should assist in the bridging existing gap between “world
of school“ and “world of home“. Local curriculum should provide
community-oriented education. This could be seen as a direct reflection of
the democratic transformations in the country, when a local community will
take part in the definition of content and methods of teaching in primary
school. The role of technology education in the appropriate form for
different communities is explicit in the foregoing. Our experience also
shows the importance of further research on gender sensitive aspects of the
At the same time, it is obviously important to maintain a central core
curriculum (curriculum de base) specifying a common set of goals and
objectives as well as a certain amount of common content. This is
especially important in Mozambique with its extremely high level of
migration. A child should not be penalized simply because he or she has
moved from one area to another.
Finally, we also argue for an integrative approach for curriculum
development. This should involve active in-service teacher training paralleled
with revision and re-edition of teaching material and the correspondent
adjustment in the teacher training curricula.
General lines of S&T curriculum
Primary school agriculture (PSA) would constitute an integrative part of
The agriculture-oriented formal primary school teaching should be
concentrated on the theory of agricultural practices, botany and soil with specific
reference to maise, cassava and other popular palants cultivation. Practical
activities should be undertaken, for instance, on demonstration plots.
Fertilisation experiments - models of improving plantations by applying a
compost made of local grass and cow dung. Planting of elephant grass for cattle
fodder and as an anti-erosion measure, protection of drinking water from the
cattle. Foresty and establisment of plants nurseries.
Primary health education
Building of pit latrines in order to improve general health standarts, making of
windows and plastering walls in order to avoid ticks, bugs and otherinsects that
carried sicknesses. Daily sweeping of the houses and by separating the women‟s
sleeping area from that of the farm animals. With respect to improve nutrition,
programmes should be introduced wich aimed at securingg a higher vitamin and
proteine content in the daily diet.
The ample use shoud be made of locally available resourses, for instance wild
greens, roots and fruits, some of which are high in vitamine content.
Health and hygiene, the care of children (child welfare), agriculture (row-
planting and spacing of maize, the use of manure and the selection of proper
seeds) and gardening for food, clothing, sewing and knitting, nutrition, improved
cookery (that could include use of the other vegetables, some of which are
already locally grown, for instance groundnuts, pulsel, onions and tomatoes, to
suplement local diet), housebuilding, basket-weaving and carpintary. Better land
usage related to erosion and congestion.
Knowledge of the body.
A body of knowledge of the physical evironment will be an important part of
content of the syllabus. Genuine “look and see” activities shold be an essential
part of the environmental studies. Experiments should involve testing out
propositions. We call for variety of teaching methods.
Development of orientaion in space and time. Perseption of weather and
structure of solar system (that is now a part of Grade 5 Geography)
Study of sound will develop auditory perceptions of pupils that very important
for second language aquisition. (Quality of sound - tone, familiar voices,
frequency, intensity, sequence - temporal orientation, and duration - spatial
orientation). Such activities might consist of all interactive and rhythmical
Craft. Villages can teach some of the subjects in the curriculum in which they
had a special expertise, such as basket-weaving.
It is possible to undertake integrated school and village activities by using the
time-table flexibly. Integrate literacy skills with programmes to impove the basic
living conditions of the local communities.
Framefactors for development of primary S&T curriculum.
Sketching a model of curriculum development we should take into account
some framefactors that predefine fisiability of goals and actions.
Language: only a small minority (estimates vary but around 2% of the
population) speak the official language of education, Portuguese, as a mother
tonge, the rest of populations speak 20 other different languages of Bantu group.
Home background: in the rural and urban areas children (as well as adults) have
very different possibilities of contacts with reading materials such as books,
newpapers, magazins; access to other form of media of communication;
traditions of story telling, modern and traditional art and technology;, perception
of time and space.
Three shifts and big class size in the urban schools and one shift and big (or
small) class size in rural schools.
In the rural areas majority of children have books. In rural schools more than
half of pupils do not have textbooks.
Different schools have very different material conditions.
Selection of the curriculum content
“When the child does not participate in production, the knowledge and skills
necessary for production have to be classified, selectedand transformed into
texts that can be used in the context of reproduction.”(Lundgren, 1983). The
process of content selection for SET curriculum could be visualized by next
1 Adoptedfrom paper: Popov O.A. & Baranov A.F. Bases conceptuais de construção de
conteudos das disciplinas integradas de Ciências Naturais. Mimeo
Structural model of the content development in primary SET
Areas of socio-laboral Areas of scientific
exploitation of T1 S1 research
Man - Nature interaction
the human-made world
wisdom T2 S2 knowledge
Selection of curriculum content
Technology S&T Natural Science
The graph above reflects a strong relationship between nature, culture and
education. For our purposes culture is defined as the collective memory of the
ways people have tried to solve common problems; it is the manmade part of the
social and natural environment and is the result of accumulated innovations for
survival. This stugle for life has always been embedded into a spiritual
interpretation of life with specific societal organization. Culture has never been
something static, on the contrary, it has always been forced to be dynamic and to
absorb all kind of elements from other cultures just to allow one‟s own people to
survive. Culture in Africa is alive, but undergoing great changes. It is difficult for
any culture to prosper since people are forced to livee in an environment that is
dictated by deprivation, poverty and increasing ignorance. Education is part of a
culture, it reflects a society‟s approach of preparing the next generation for
future societal life.
The brunch S represent on different hierarchical levels the process of
scientific reflection of Nature. (“Science investigate the surrounding world”).
This epistemological line was used in the construction of actual Natural Science
curriculum. Arrows indicate the dynamic interdependence between different level
of scientific knowledge. The intersection of block pupils knowledge with other
three blocks indicate that pupils acquire not only via formal schooling but also via
direct involvement into contact with Nature and its reflection in human culture
(in form of science and technology, for instance.
The brunch T represent reflection of technological exploitation of Nature.
(“The technology invent the new things that did not existed before” it is the
human-made world). This brunch and its intersection2 with brunch S is what we
pretend especially investigate and develop. We concider S&T as the teaching and
learning process of science/technology in the context of human experience
Technological activities are untimely connected with practical knowledge of
people and constitute an important part of cultural heritage. By this way
technology education connected with local traditions will support cultural
identity of pupils..The first step for us was to identify existed areas of
technological exploitation of natural resources (T1) and correspondent
traditional socio-labour practice in local communities (T2). For this purpose we
use Participatory rural appraisal - PRA. This methodology is internationally
recognized for its efficiency in study community practices. This work involved
representatives of communities and local teachers.
Principles for development of experimental S&T curriculum
introduction of centralised (core) an local (adopted) curriculum
revision and keeping a main part of a content of current syllabus that will
constitute a core curriculum.
revision of teaching methodology
introduction of technology education, development of ecological and health
parts of the content
integrated S&T education will be extended till Grade 7
5. Language liberation
use of vernacular languages as auxiliary language of instruction
2 Technology uses products, forms, materials e technical solutions existed in the Nature
(which are investigated by Science) and invent the new ones. Technology e Natural Science
have a lot of common objects, instruments and working methods (such as characteristics and
properties of materials; models e structures; planing, realization and evaluation of practical
activities, etc.) all that justify their merging in primary education in one subject.
6. Experimentation and research
all curriculum innovations should be tested in the small scale.
Conclusions and recommendations
Pre-service and in-service primary teacher training institutions should work
with integrated S&T courses.
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Lundgren, Ulf (1983) Between hope and happening: text and context in
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in Mozambique. Educational assessment project. Final report. INDE.
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