Government looking at separate curriculum for rural schools

The Department of Basic Education has published a new “Rural Education policy”, looking at introducing a number of changes to how rural schools are managed across the country.

The policy follows a 2005 report by the Nelson Mandela Foundation which argued for a holistic response to the special circumstances facing rural communities.

The report recommended that state provision of rural schooling should be resourced and organised differently from urban schools, as a necessary measure to meet the needs of rural learners.

As a result, the new policy aims to capitalise on resources available in rural communities instead of focusing on the current deficits facing them.

Under this new policy, developmental outcomes are less aligned with economic riches and more aligned with:

  • Self -esteem: Children’s and teachers’ valuing of themselves, an identity and sense of pride in oneself and the place where one lives, learns and works.
  • Social Connectedness: Being connected to meaningful others and belonging to a group, i.e. school communities using partnerships to function as educational units of wellbeing, learning and teaching.
  • Functional Services: Learners and teachers must have access to basic development services that includes but not limited to the following: health, social development, and libraries.

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What is a rural school?

In South Africa there is no single definition of ‘rural’ as rurality is characterised by diverse contexts.

While ‘rural’ usually refers to settings that are sparsely populated and where agriculture is the major means of economic activity, the concept also includes areas of dense settlement created by colonial and apartheid -driven land settlements. Several ‘mining’ areas where mining is no longer active also fall into this category.

“A lack of single definition for rural and diversity within these contexts make it difficult to formulate policies and develop programmes that are tailor-made for rural schools,” the policy states.

“It also hampers efforts to intervene meaningfully in improving the quality of education in rural schools.”

As part of this, the policy recommends that a rigorous classification of rural schools takes place, looking at a number of factors such as location, the school phase, poverty, and Statistics South Africa data.

Reviewing and aligning the curriculum 

“This rural education policy views rurality (as a) driver of educational reform, not (a) follower of urban agendas and priorities,” it states.

“Therefore, curriculum development,provisioning, resourcing and subject choice for rural schools should be guided by three key principles which should be incorporated in the implementation of curriculum in rural schools.”

The three guidelines are:

  • A curriculum that promotes a sense of place, pride and belonging in the school community but at the same time allows for individual mobility.
  • A curriculum that recognises resource scarcity in rural areas but that acknowledges and harnesses the resources and knowledge that exists in rural communities. For example, environmental concerns and agriculture are core resources intrinsic to the lived experiences of rural communities.
  • A curriculum that reflects the aspirations of the individual learner and the community whilst responding to the well-being and development needs of the community.

The policy also tackles the issue of the language of instruction, and while it notes that English is still the preferred language of teaching, most school communities in rural areas are multilingual and it is often the case that teachers and learners have different home language.

Because of this, the policy provides guidelines on developing more multilingualism in education, and educating school governing bodies with knowledge of the value of literacy development in home language in parallel with English as a subject, and not the language of teaching.

The policy also encourages agriculture as a core part of rural school education, because of the role it can play in responding to the changing labour markets.


BusinessTech asked the DBE for comment, but had not received a response at the time of writing.

Read: 23 day schools in South Africa that charge more than R100,000 a year for tuition

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