P4C in Grade ‘R’

‘Will Grade R really improve the quality of SA Education?’ At this stage we would argue ‘no’, unless there is rigorous debate from all stakeholders on the kind of Grade R we need to introduce. One way forward we would suggest is to debate alternative ways of conceptualising the Grade R year. To interrogate what it is we want our learners to acquire in the context of Grade R.

Our research has shown that the majority of Grade R practitioners in Gauteng are interpreting the NCS through a narrow and prescriptive lens. They are so driven by what they perceive as the demands of the three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic – that a 4th R – reasonableness, which we argue is equally important, is “Cinderella-d” or sidelined. By reasonableness we are referring to those attributes of character that begin to develop in early childhood, or maybe don’t develop because of a wide range of socialization, pedagogical and other factors. In using the term reasonableness we are referring to a child's ability to give reasons for their opinions. To, unconsciously perhaps, counter bias and prejudice through responsive listening – listening and responding to the ideas of others, adults and children, and starting to listen to themselves. The movement ‘Philosophy for Children’ which is gaining ground in South Africa, is one way to approach this. In this pedagogical approach, children learn how to become active members of a ‘community of enquiry’. Story books and other stimulus are used to generate responsive listening and collaborative enquiry (thinking together) as children step back from self and reflect on what they are saying and how they are saying it. This kind of action, that we would call a meta move, is essential in reasonableness and ‘lived democracy’. Democracy is not innate. It is the children of today, our Grade Rs and other young children, who will breathe life into our constitution.

By Vivien Linington