Topic 12: How do social/economic class-norms play out in schools and classrooms ?

This question relates to the study of the ‘sociology of education’. In topic 11, we argued that the Apartheid system had an agenda of producing ‘cheap labour’ and therefore had to ensure that Black learners don’t go beyond standard 2 (grade 4) in numbers, since “There is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour … What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?” Minister of Native Affairs, Hendrick Verwoerd in 1953. This agenda will play itself out in the way learners are socialised within the school, through ‘school rules’ and ‘class rules’. These rules will guide the thinking and behaviour of learners, exactly the way Steve Biko described as “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

In the study of Sociology of Education, the main question will be: What is the role of education? The intention was to clarifying (i) who benefits from education, (ii) what do we learn in school and why, and (iii) how is education linked to the economy. In making sense of these questions, one can focus on a Functional, Liberal or Marxist view. This is where the ‘hidden curriculum’ will plays itself out. It includes (i) the norms, values and attitudes that are acceptable within the school, (ii) what will be the focus of learning besides the formal lessons, and (iii) how the schools mould, shape and control the beliefs and actions of learners. If the focus of the agenda is to create ‘good workers’, then the hidden agenda will reward behaviour such as to be (i) conformist, (ii) docile, (iii) obedient, (iv) punctual, (v) respect authority (vi) believe in hierarchy, (vii) be instrumental. The real problem with the hidden curriculum is “the unwritten rules and expectations of behaviour that we all seem to know but were never taught” (Bieber, 1994). When you come from a middle-class family, you will fit into these ‘rules’, whilst poor learners will see and experience these rules as ‘foreign’ to them. The non-adherence to these rules is called ‘lack of discipline’. It is therefore important that teachers and schools ensure that there is a common understanding between teachers and teachers, teachers and learners, learners and learners, teacher and parents, learners and parents, and parents and parents.

In our methodology, we ensure that the ‘hidden curriculum’ is revealed and we ensure that different roleplayers understand their roles and responsibilities. We also facilitate how they take ownership that they understand the different expectations within and across the different roleplayers, as well as the need to communicate these to others. For example, when a teacher is ready to discipline a learner for a social error, he/she must first ask themselves whether they have taught and practiced the skill to the learner. Our fourth phase of the school turnaround methodology focuses deeply on the building of a healthy Climate, Culture and Relationships between the different roleplayers. During this process, we practically engage in (i) Seek – seeking to understand all aspects of the hidden curriculum, (ii) Observe – observing what people are doing and not doing, (iii) Listen – listening to what people are saying and not saying, (iv) Vocalise – vocalising by asking questions, check for understanding, and (v) Education – educating by teaching and learning since knowledge will empower learners to behaviour in line with what was learned.

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