Effects of the 'New 'Zambian High School Geography curriculum on Leaners
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The need for relevance in school curriculum in Zambia started way back after independence in 1964. This drive for relevance was in response of citizens to determine their own affairs through education, which aspects may have been excluded from formal education by successive colonial rulers. The geography school curriculum has not been spared in such a desire for relevance. Since independence, Zambia has had two high school geography curriculums. The first one was the senior secondary school geography curriculum that was in existence from 1964 to 2004 when the ‘New’ curriculum was put in place. Following the continued need for a curriculum that would be responsive to the needs of local society, the ‘New’ high school geography curriculum was initiated in 2004 and was still in force up to the time of this study in the year 2011.The purpose of this study was to evaluate effects of such a ‘New’ geography curriculum on high school (HS)/General Certificate of Education (GCE) learners. The study was conducted in two of the four districts of Lusaka province, these being Kafue and Lusaka districts. Basically, 10 schools were involved. The study was guided by the following research questions; i) What are the negative effects of the ‘New’ Zambian high school geography curriculum on HS/GCE learners?(ii)What are the positive effects of the ‘New’ Zambian high school geography curriculum on HS/GCE learners?(iii)What improvements can be made to the ‘New’ Zambian high school geography curriculum?In response to these research questions, the study sought to investigate views of policy makers and parents about the geography curriculum. The study further sought to investigate views and experiences of teachers and HS/GCE geography learners. In order to achieve the objectives of the study and respond to the research questions, the study employed a survey research approach within a quantitative and qualitative design. The study purposefully sampled 26 teachers, 19 were class teachers and 7 were heads of geography departments in the sampled schools. The teachers were drawn from 7 high schools. Furthermore, 246 HS/GCE learners were chosen as respondents using a stratified random sampling method. In addition 2 geography subject specialists were purposefully chosen from CDC and ECZ, one from each respective institution. The study also used the stratified random sampling technique to pick 24 parents who participated in the study. The total study sample was 298.Data was collected using two types of instruments namely, questionnaires and interview guide. Four separate questionnaires were used and one interview guide. The questionnaires were used to obtain data from the ECZ official, CDC official, teachers and HS/GCE learners. The interview guide was used to obtain data from parents.The study found that the implementation of the ‘New’ Zambian high school geography curriculum generated both positive and negative effects to both teachers and HS/GCE learners. It was established that among the positive effects was the emphasis of the curriculum on local and regional issues. This was in the case where alien topics that were covered in the previous curriculum were done away with. The ‘New’ high school geography was also observed to have included cross-cutting issues that addressed environmental education, though not in details. The inclusion of the field project component was yet another positive point.It was further established by this study that the ‘New’ Zambian high school geography curriculum was an objective type of curriculum, meaning that outcomes were predetermined which facilitated the learning of simple skills. However, when it comes to the actual understanding of ideas, learners experienced difficulties, as the pre-specification of objectives indicated that learners were just mere recipients of information and that learning opportunities seemed to be limited. It was further established that there was no interplay between the curriculum document, teachers, learners and their social setting. This study also established that the ‘New’ Zambian high school geography curriculum was prescriptive and limited in scope. This limitation was observed to have arisen from the lack of resources. This was in the case where textbooks that were used were observed to contain insufficient information, hence, restricting both learners and teachers to particular forms of knowledge. Arising from these findings, this study proposed improvements to the ‘New’ Zambian high school geography curriculum. Among them was the need to make adjustments in the way curriculum objectives were designed. This study, therefore, proposes an outcomes-based education (OBE) approach to curriculum design and delivery. This study further proposes an improvement in the way assessment is conducted through embarking on continuous assessment criteria. Regarding the curriculum content, this study proposes that issues of national concern are supposed to be addressed in detail. These are issues such as HIV/AIDS and environmental education. It has also been proposed by this study that systematic topic allocation to different levels be made to the curriculum. This study concludes by outlining various recommendations for consideration in the design and delivery of the curriculum. Among them is the need to conduct a countrywide evaluation on the effects of the ‘New’ high school geography curriculum on learners.