Tatenda Freeman Murenjekwa
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MOPSE) guided by the Curriculum Framework for Primary and Secondary Education (CFPSE) 2015-2022 thrived to make history a real, crucial, interesting and life-oriented subject. The updated curriculum championed the ‘new’ history approach which propagated active participation of learners, skills development, the cultivation of the sense of time, space and society, development of wisdom, mental training value , heritage value, vocational value and training in resolving contemporary social and individual problems among others. For many years, learners shun history because of its teaching and learning methods such as dictating notes, note taking, use of big words which often confuse learners and the way learners were regarded as passive recipients of the teachers’ knowledge and wisdom. Although the relevance of history in the updated curriculum 2015-2022 has been secured, the subject still have certain drawbacks which continue to hinder its place in schools relating to lack of teaching and learning resources to implement the ‘new ‘history concept and stiff competition from heritage studies. Terms including History and curriculum are going to be defined and a brief background to be highlighted as the discussion progresses.
Moyo and Modiba (2013) defined History as an unending dialogue between the present and the past. Carr (1987) referred to History as a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts and unending dialogue between the present and the past. Gondo et al (2019) defined Curriculum as a specification about the practice of teaching which involves pragmatic efficacy of the learners’ experience. Aggarwal (2008) notes that curriculum is the pivot and the hub which all activities in the school revolve. Drawing from the above, history can therefore be defined as an inquiry into the past, present and future. Curriculum can also be referred to as a guideline to the process of teaching and learning.
For many years, the traditional teaching style or specifically teacher oriented instruction has been dominant in the teaching and learning of history in schools. The teaching and learning of history was thus known to be characterized by the dictating of notes, note-taking and use of big words which often confuse learners and this created boredom on the part of learners. The teaching and learning methods employed using rote-learning have almost driven the subjects into the dustbins of history. The relevance of history in and outside the school seem to have reached critical stages. Steele (1976) notes that most learners regarded history as a useless subject that would not benefit them in real life situation. Mapetere (2013) argues that the ’Old’ History was the transmission of facts to memory without personal processing of information on the part of the student-knowledge out there. Dwarko (2007) also indicates that some parents hold a perception that history offers very slim opportunities for employment to the extent that they threaten to withdraw their helping hand to children who happen to dream of pursuing History in life. History was thus regarded as an abstract subject which was premised on the cram and pass principle. Mapetere (2013) notes that the child was expected to memorize facts and reproduce them when required. The teaching and learning methods employed in history before the updated new curriculum has driven the subject into disrepute.
The concept of ‘leaning by doing’ or experiencing which forms the basis for history teaching and learning in the updated curriculum 2015-2022 propagated its relevance. The ‘new’ history approach which diverted its course from rote-learning and or banking concept and advocate for a more practical way of learning restored the value of history. Dwarko (2007) argues that the pedagogical practices such as lecture method which does not engage learners makes History a boring and abstract subject. Mapetere (2013) pointed out that in the teaching of history, pupils should be allowed to discover more than to simply get information from the teacher. He further notes that the ‘new’ history approach departs from the concept of generalizing things, dictating notes thus when teaching about Great Zimbabwe state, field trips should be organized so that learning by experiencing takes precedence. This can be supported by the Chinese adage which says, “What I hear, I forget and what I see, I remember.” Learning by doing gives students the zeal to study history and pursue it to tertiary level. Douch in Steele (1976) notes that children should not see history as a film in which they are spectators but see it as a play in which they are actors. The updated curriculum being the champion of learning by doing strives to avoid boredom on the part of learners thus keeping history alive. According to Mapetere (2013), methods like role-play, simulations and drama will helps learners to be players in History and not spectators. Sugrue (1997) notes that the process of learning by doing gives learners more central role and this will learners adherence to their learning. In this regard, one can say the updated curriculum restored the value of history in schools.
The new curriculum 2015-2022 championed the development of skills which empowered History and secured its place in the heart and minds of the learners as well as the classroom practitioner. Kochhar (1984) notes that History is a subject which has gone into disrepute because of its dead uniformity and frozen and fixed account of facts. The new curriculum fosters the ‘new’ History approach which focusses on the development of the learners’ skills. Mapetere (2013) argues that skills of selection, analysis, evaluation and empathy which are central to the ‘new ‘History approach can be used in economics, politics and even in family life decisions. In this regard, the new history approach tried to cement the existence of History in the 21st century. Dickson and Lee (1986) argue that the aim of the new history approach was to consciously improve pupils’ thinking abilities. Mapetere (2013) argues that guiding questions should be provided to pupils to help them in researching notes and that way they may exercise skills of selection, analysis and summarizing. The capacity to develop these skills played a significant role in making history real and interesting. Coltham and Fines (1971) mentioned several skills and abilities developed through the process of studying history including vocabulary acquisition, analysis, and synthesis, judgment and evaluation as well as communication skills. Brooks et al (1993) notes that historical study encourages people to become articulate, especially through group discussions and places great emphasis upon the basic skills. There is an urgent necessity of uplifting the teaching and learning of history. Kochhar (1984) argues that the use of audio-visual aids can add zest, interest and vitality to any learning situation and make history a living subject. Brooks et al (1993) pointed out that History no longer deals with the old bankrupt stock of rote learning and historical literacy today encompasses a wide range of skills as well as the acquisition of and understanding of knowledge. Therefore[M1] , the place of history under the confines of the new updated curriculum has been secured since it is premised on the development of skills.
The place of history in schools has also been cemented by the vast job opportunities the subject offers. Prima facie, History has been regarded as a dead subject which is useless and void in life. Reiner (1961) notes that a historical scholar is both a research worker and historian. Aggarwal (2008) notes that the aim of history is to foster vocational value. He further argues that history provides various openings for persons well qualified in the subject and they can work as archivists, curators, political journalists, foreign and military correspondents, teachers in schools, colleges and universities. The new curriculum lubricated the path for history to be recognized as a living subject thus through field trips learners will be able to see opportunities offered by history and will help learners to develop a positive attitude towards the subject. Gosh (1951) argues that history makes the boy thoughtful, critical and of a discerning judgment-qualities that he will need every day of his life when he enters the world. Skills development helps to emancipate history from mere rejection. The vast job opportunities yet and yet to be discovered as a result of the updated curriculum 2015-2022 makes history a subject with substance.
Although the updated curriculum 2015-2022 has managed to foster the relevance of history, the subject continued to battle for its survival as a result of lack of teaching and learning resources. The new curriculum advocated for the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the teaching and learning process. Taruvinga and Moyo (2000) discovered that the new history approach has not meant much to history teaching due to resource unavailability. They further argue that the economic challenges facing the country is making it a dream to organize a trip to Great Zimbabwe monuments. The use of ICT by history students in particular seems to be a mirage given the rate of power-cuts in the country. In this regard, the place of history in the updated curriculum seem to be hindered by resource unavailability. Given the above, one can say the new curriculum 2015-2022 was adopted on an uneven ground.
The value of history in the updated curriculum has been infringed by stiff competition emanating from heritage studies. The updated curriculum has fused some components of history within the study of heritage which makes History a silent subject crying for its survival in the background. The lower classes as directed by the new curriculum are now partaking heritage studies in place of history. However Heritage studies can be referred to as modified History given the shock of wave that left history almost drowned. Basing on the above, the place of History in the updated curriculum has been curtailed as a result of stiff competition from heritage studies.
The discussion has highlighted that the new curriculum 2015-2022 has largely secured a place for the study of History given its focus on learning by doing and experimenting, development of skills and its promises on the vast job opportunities offered by history. The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education oriented new curriculum managed to divert the teaching and learning of history from rote learning, dictating notes and note- taking. The traditional teaching style often caused boredom on the part of learners and makes history to be labelled a dead and abstract subject. The new curriculum came in as a panacea to promote the relevance of history in this 21st century. The major tenants of the updated curriculum which includes learning by experimenting has managed to retrieve the learner’s interests in the subject and help learners to develop skills of analyzing, evaluating, summarizing, selection and empathy which are central to the new history approach. Although the new curriculum has managed to empower history in as far as its relevance is concerned, history still has certain drawbacks which hinder its recognition in the 21st century such as lack of teaching and learning resources as a result of economic constrains and also stiff competition from heritage studies which makes history to cry in the background for its rescue. The updated curriculum propagated the value of history.
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