It’s been just over a month since Bulembu Christian Academy made the switch from the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum to the Cambridge curriculum. This blogger checked in with Dennis Neville, Bulembu’s Director of Education and Training, to find out how thing are going…
2020: Overall, tell us how the transition has gone.
DN: The transition has gone very well. There have been a few organizational and communication bumps along the way but as a general rule it has gone smoothly.
2020: The physical structure of the school has undergone quite a change as the classrooms had to be converted from the ‘office’ system to a more traditional layout. What was that process like?
DN: The team that made the physical changes to the building were exceptional. Bulembu’s Resident Engineer, Collin Cotterrell, and his infrastructure team of welders, carpenters and painters really were incredible. In two weeks they turned the whole school around and had the right attitude and the right approach to the whole project. I am very grateful to them for their professionalism and heart to serve with excellence. They successfully transformed ten classes from the ACE office cubicle setup to a conventional classroom setting – complete with brand-new, Bulembu manufactured desks.
2020: How have the teaching staff adapted to the changes?
DN: The teachers have really grabbed the bull by the horns with this change. They have run with the vision and the new curriculum. They are working incredibly hard building a new curriculum and helping the children to adapt to the changes. They are using the Swazi curriculum as a base but are building on top of it and adding to it which requires a lot of planning and extra hours. I really value the passion and dedication of our staff at BCA who have made all of these changes possible.
2020: The switch from ACE to Cambridge is quite a jump in learning styles and classroom environment. How are the children adjusting?
DN: Some of the children have battled to adapt and some of them struggled with the particular grade that they had been placed in. Our team have worked hard to help the children adapt. Overall the children have been resilient and coped well.
2020: What was the process that dictated which grade each child was placed in?
DN: To place children in their new grades we took two factors into consideration. First we examined where they were in the ACE curriculum and how they were doing in that program. And second we gave all the children Cambridge Progression Tests in English and Mathematics. These tested their capacity in each subject and we were able to place them according to those results.
2020: How are you measuring the success of the transition and the impact of the new curriculum on the students?
DN: We are testing the children every two weeks to gauge adaptation to the new curriculum and to make sure that good learning is taking place. We’re not quite at the stage yet where we have conclusive results.
2020: Have any additional staff been hired on at the school?
DN: We have three new staff on board so far – three promising teachers for our Grade 1, Grade 4 and Grade 6 classes. We are still looking to add to our team in especially the high school and are specifically looking for a Maths and Science teacher.
2020: Has the timetable changed at all?
DN: The timetable has opened up and has changed for both the primary and high schools. In the high school we are now offering two new courses in addition to what was being covered before: Accounts and English Literature. In our efforts to ensure that we continue to disciple our children and lay the right biblical foundations in their lives, we also offer a new subject called Biblical Studies and Life Orientation. Extra curricular activities are largely the same as they were during the ACE curriculum. On Monday and Wednesday the students have sport and can choose between netball, soccer (boys and girls), volleyball and we have just started up a cricket team. On Tuesdays the students have more cultural options, which include Swazi dance, choir, drama, chess and art. And then on Thursday afternoons the students all participate in the Royal Rangers program which combines Christian discipleship, leadership training and outdoor education.
2020: So, from your perspective, overall the transition at the school from the ACE curriculum to the new curriculum has been…
DN: Exciting and challenging. I have such a sense of excitement as I walk through the school and see the level of learning that is taking place. Our purpose is to raise the next generation of Swazi leaders through spiritual, physical, educational and emotional transformation. Please pray for us for God’s wisdom and favour so that we can see our children become all that God has called them to be.