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South African Journal of Childhood Education

On-line version ISSN 2223-7682
Print version ISSN 2223-7674

SAJCE vol.12 n.1 Johannesburg  2022


Another student associated her success in implementing the LS curriculum with the usefulness of the CAPS document and with her mentor's guidance:

'I was able to teach life skills in my school because my host school followed the CAPS, and so it was easy for me. I watched as my mentor taught the children and managed the classroom. She also helped me to put the children under control while teaching them life skills. And as a mother who loves children, it was easy for me to interact easily with them.' (Participant 9, interview on 05 September 2017)

One of the pre-service teachers stated:

'We are taught the various theories on child development. Life skills gives us an insight of how children develop, what to teach and how to teach them to understand better. I think I'm happy with the knowledge gotten. I taught life skills during my teaching practice, though in an English-speaking school. Also, my mentor is very helpful.' (Participant 11, interview on 07 September 2017)

The responses of these students revealed that they had encountered no difficulties during their teaching practice.

Theme 2: Curriculum, content and implementation strategies

One student addressed the issue of implementing the curriculum, focussing on the difficulties experienced with controlling the learners and with simplifying the content appropriately for FP learners:

'Eish! It was not easy to implement the life skills curriculum to the children. I felt I did not do well; I could not get the children to settle down to learn. I could not effectively break down the content to suit the FP learners' level. I think they should have taught us the content relevant to foundation phase learners rather than just giving us slides. What we met during teaching practice does not correspond with what we are taught on the campus. Even lesson plans, the lesson plan template they gave was different from what we met out there.' (Participant 3, interview on 07 September 2017)

Some of the pre-service teachers felt that the LS programme they were taught at university was not the same as the LS programme, they were expected to teach, and they therefore struggled with implementation strategies and classroom management during their teaching practice. The pre-service teacher as stated below eventually conducted her own independent research to discover how to implement the FPLS CAPS curriculum:

'The experience was not palatable. Yes, we learned different types of theories that helped us to understand the way different children behave but we are not taught how to simplify the contents and how to write on the chalkboard. Rather, we are taught education courses that are not relevant to us. I could not write on the chalkboard and neither could I excite the children to learn. In fact, I struggled throughout the teaching practice period. I eventually learnt some implementation strategies that are relevant to children, from the Internet. This helped me towards the tail end of the exercise.' (Participant 15, interview on 12 September 2017)

Most of the pre-service teachers interviewed mentioned that they had experienced problems in teaching LS to the FP learners. Their teacher-education programme had not modelled good practices to draw on during their practical experience, and the teaching strategies and the content advised did not support their teaching. The pre-service teachers struggled to develop outcomes for their teaching, as they had not been taught how to do so. One participant focussed on the inappropriateness of the teacher-training for the LS curriculum:

'The implementation strategy in foundation phase is different from what we are used to in the teacher training. I spend extra time to prepare myself to teach; I also tried to watch my mentor and followed the strategies she adopted in implementing the life skills module. I wish our lecturers would help us by teaching the relevant content and adopting those implementation strategies that are relevant to foundation phase. And look at the curriculum on the campus, there are things that we should not be learning which they are teaching us. I want to suggest that the curriculum be made more relevant to us.' (Participant 7, interview on 13 September 2017)

Another participant's response indicated that their LS teacher training had largely favoured those who were already skilled and had not considered those who needed additional support. This participant also complained of limited time allocated for the teaching of LS:

'I must confess, it is hard for me to implement the curriculum. Breaking down the content into parts to suit the foundation phase level and to get the attention of the children was not easy. Even the time was not sufficient to effectively teach. However, I struggled through. I think the teacher education favoured those who are cognitively sound and those that attended English-speaking schools. The lecturers forgot that we do not have the same cognitive ability, and they adopted the lecturing method of implementation.' (Participant 5, interview on 12 September 2017)

The following participant had a similar response and commented that their teacher training had been conducted by using a teacher-centred approach and had focussed on content that did not take their needs and those of the FP learners into account:

'To me I love the life skills subject but have a problem in organising the contents and the necessary procedures in implementation. I am supposed to know the major steps in interacting with the pupils but could not perfectly do it. I think our lecturers need to adopt a better strategy in preparing us for this teaching practice. They have the skill, but presentation is poor. They use a teacher-centred approach, and they teach from slides without detailed explanations. In fact, they end up talking to themselves.' (Participant 17, interview on 12 September 2017)

The above responses indicate that several pre-service teachers in this study encountered difficulties in effectively and adequately implementing the FPLS curriculum during their teaching practice. They were largely in agreement that whilst they had been taught various theories of child development, they had not been taught practical implementation strategies. In particular, they had not been taught how to structure and deliver the LS content in a way that was suitable for the FP learners.

Theme 3: Language of interaction during the teaching practicum

Vygotsky (1980) identified language as an important tool for promoting effective interaction. However, language was described by the pre-service teachers as a significant barrier to success during their teaching practice. The findings clearly showed that most of the students performed their teaching practice at rural schools, where they were expected to teach using the children's home language. The recommended medium of instruction for the FP is the learners' home language. For most South African learners this is an African language, and for the learners associated with this study the language was isiZulu. Thus, translating English language content to the learners' home language became a problem. Hence, under this theme it emerged that a number of students experienced difficulties with teaching LS in isiZulu. One pre-service teacher commented on the resulting difficulties as follows:

'We don't have the vocabulary in isiZulu. And teaching the learners is a big problem for me because when you write on the board, they will tell you that, no, this word is not spelled like that. That is the big challenge we are faced with during the teaching practice. If you ask many of us, the major problem is the language of implementation.' (Participant 1, interview on 08 September 2017)

This point was reinforced by another participant:

'How do I teach effectively? I lack the right simple language to teach the life skills. Language is another big challenge.' (Participant 6, interview on 12 September 2017)

Another pre-service teacher emphasised the problem of translating the LS curriculum into isiZulu:

'The language is really challenging because most children do not understand English, but only their home language, isiZulu. Eish! There was a problem in translating the curriculum into isiZulu. There was a time one of the children was correcting what I wrote on the chalkboard. It was not a good experience.' (Participant 2, interview on 13 September 2017)

Another student related her own experience as follows:

'I did my teaching practice in a deeply rural area where the setting and historical background dictated the use of both English and their mother tongue to explain some concepts. I managed to skate through because of my versatility in isiZulu.' (Participant 4, interview on 14 September 2017)

The findings revealed that the majority of the pre-service teachers experienced difficulty in implementing the FPLS curriculum effectively because of barriers created by the language of interaction. Most of the participants conducted their teaching practice in a rural area where they were expected to teach in isiZulu, but only a few could implement the curriculum effectively in isiZulu. They complained about their inability to translate LS content effectively from English into isiZulu and therefore supported the inclusion of basic isiZulu courses and isiZulu vocabulary into the university teacher-training curriculum for FP pre-service teachers. In addition, pre-service teachers who had a more sophisticated command of language found it difficult to simplify the LS curriculum to the level required for FP learners. Thus, they struggled with developmentally appropriate language suitable for the FP classroom.

Theme 4: Lack of awareness of the importance of life skills as a school subject

One aspect of the primarily negative experiences of the pre-service teachers during their teaching practice was being denied the opportunity to practise and teach what they had learnt. It was evident from the findings that within the schools LS was not given priority as a learning area and was relegated to the margins. Some of the pre-service teachers struggled to find time to teach LS at their schools, and some believed that they did not have enough content knowledge to teach the subject effectively.

One of the pre-service teachers commented on the dismissive institutional attitude to LS as a subject:

'Another thing, they don't take life skills seriously in some of the schools. They are focussing on mathematics, science and isiZulu. I think something must be done to make the public aware of the importance of life skills to foundation phase learners.' (Participant 20, interview on 25 September 2017)

Another participant's experience supported the above comment:

'I did not teach life skills but was given another subject to teach.' (Participant 19, interview on 15 September 2017)

One of the pre-service teachers declared that she did not have enough LS content knowledge to teach the learners:

'We were taught life skills modules partially in our third year. Because of the student protests we wasted a few weeks. In fourth year, for just a semester. Eish! I did not want to stand before the children fidgeting so I opted for another course suggested to me by the host school.' (Participant 10, interview on 24 September 2017)

As mentioned previously, LS is an important feature of the FP CAPS document, as it constitutes one of the three primary learning areas, the other two being literacy and mathematics. However, the findings from this study showed that many of the pre-service teachers were unable to interact effectively with the learners, as they lacked implementation strategies, the appropriate language skills suitable for their FP learners, classroom management skills and the appropriate institutional incentive to teach the content. Life skills as a subject is often simply not offered in the FP, as many schools assign more importance and, therefore, give more attention to literacy, mathematics and science and relegate LS to the margins. Some of the pre-service teachers were forced to teach other subjects instead of the LS they had prepared for. The data from this study revealed that the aims and objectives of the FP pre-service teachers were not achieved in their teaching practice. There was a contrast between theory and practice.



There were four important findings. These findings showed that the pre-service teachers had both negative and positive experiences of teaching LS to FP learners during their teaching practice.

Theme 1

The first important finding related to the assistance from mentors received by five of the study's participants. The data from this study revealed the significant role played by mentors in supporting the pre-service teachers to successfully conduct their teaching practice exercises. Five out of the 20 participants described their teaching practice as a positive experience, as they were able to teach LS successfully. However, these participants were assisted by their mentors in the host school. This finding is supported by Mena, Hennissen and Loughran (2017), who affirm that the effective supervision of pre-service teachers by experienced educators during teaching practice is crucial to the development of teaching skills and classroom management strategies and the acquisition of a professional teaching philosophy.

The pre-service teachers received support in different areas of their practice. They were guided on how to teach and present the content in a way that accommodated the learners' needs, and on how to design lesson plans, as one of them mentioned that the lesson plan template they had been taught at university was different from the one they were expected to use. The students were also assisted in managing their classes and bringing the children under control. This finding was congruent with Ambrosetti's (2014) finding that:

[T]he classroom-based teacher who agrees to mentor a pre-service teacher needs to nurture, advise, guide, encourage and facilitate authentic learning experiences for developmental growth. (p. 30)

This point is further supported by Vygotsky's social constructivist theory, which focusses on the construction of knowledge through the social interaction and support of more knowledgeable others - which in this study were the mentors (Vygotsky 1980). However, all these students carried out their teaching practice at urban, primarily English-speaking FP centres, so the positive experiences they reported were rooted in a specific context. The significant role played by the mentor implies that there is a need for collaboration between higher education and the mentors in socialising the pre-service teachers into their teaching career.

Theme 2

The second important finding of the study was the students' experiences in relation to effectively implementing the FP learners' LS curriculum. The data from this study showed that the majority of the students lacked the ability to present content to their learners effectively. They struggled to manage the children's behaviour and noise levels in the classroom. In their own learning, most of the pre-service teachers were used to learning with slides and group work, but the FP learners were not used to group work, and it was difficult for the pre-service teachers to teach LS effectively to them. This implied a discrepancy between the curriculum content and the implementation strategies taught to the pre-service teachers at university on the one hand, and the needs of the FP learners on the other hand. There was a lack of congruence between the two curricula. The content, the curriculum implementation strategies and the lesson plan template that the students were taught during their teacher training did not suit the FP learners. The content and the implementation strategies taught at university were designed for teachers in training, and it was, therefore, difficult for the pre-service teachers to simplify the content to suit the FP learners. The data further revealed that the focus of the LS lecturers at university seemed to be on covering the syllabus, with little consideration for how much of the content was grasped and absorbed by the pre-service teachers. These findings support previous studies by Hennemann and Liefner (2010), Mooi (2010) and Rasul and Mansor (2013), who reported that university graduates in education were not well equipped for their careers, as there was a gap between the skills acquired during training and those required in practice in the classroom.

It was further disclosed from the data of this study that the time allocated for LS was not sufficient to cover all the subject areas. Life skills in FP has four focus areas: Beginning Knowledge, Personal and Social Well-being, Creative Arts and Physical Education. In a bid to design the lesson plan and cover the content within the limited time allocated, the students ended up not giving of their best. A study conducted by Dixon et al. (2018) supported the students' claims that the complex and dense nature of the LS curriculum makes it difficult for teachers to implement effectively.

The implication of this for higher education is that it seems the objective of FPLS teacher education in preparing them for the teaching profession is not being achieved as expected.

Theme 3

The third important finding was that the language of interaction in the classroom created barriers to teaching and learning especially in rural areas. The medium of instruction at FP level is the learners' home language; thus, the pre-service teachers were expected to teach the FP learners in the learners' home language, which for most learners in this study was isiZulu. Many of the pre-service teachers who were not proficient in isiZulu, therefore, found it difficult to communicate effectively enough to implement the FPLS curriculum. It was embarrassing for the pre-service teachers to be corrected by the learners they were supposed to teach. This problem could be understood in terms of Vygotsky's (1980) focus on language as a vital tool for facilitating the types of effective interactions that lead to constructions of knowledge. Without this vital tool, the pre-service teachers were unable to establish such constructions of knowledge to teach LS effectively. According to Dippenaar and Peyper (2011), when an educator lacks proficiency in the language of teaching and learning, which is integral to the learners' success, the possibility of achieving teaching and learning outcomes is drastically reduced. A recent study by Wildsmith-Cromarty and Balfour (2019) added that some practising teachers in rural schools do not have adequate language of communicating the skills they are expected to teach to the learners.

Theme 4

The fourth important finding was that LS as a subject was relegated to the margins of the curriculum, as most of the host schools devoted the bulk of their time and resources to mathematics and science learning. This defeated the purpose of the pre-service teachers being trained to teach LS to FP learners and will no doubt rob the learners of the benefits they would have derived from LS education before entering the intermediate phase and high school (Arasomwan & Mashiya 2018). The implication of this finding for policymakers and curriculum designer is to adequately follow up and supervise the curriculum to ensure the effective execution and achievement of the purpose.

The data showed that the pre-service teachers had diverse experiences during their teaching practice. Some were able to teach LS to the FP learners smoothly and successfully with the support of mentors, whilst others complained of difficulties in implementing the FP curriculum, as they lacked the skills to simplify the content to suit their learners. The inability of these students to teach the FP content effectively and the struggles they had with a lack of a language of interaction formed significant concerns for them. These findings were congruent with Mkhasibe's (2018) conclusion that some pre-service teachers lack the knowledge and ability to direct learners appropriately. They also revealed certain issues specific to LS education at FP level, such as a lack of appropriate training in the subject at university and a generally negative and unsupportive attitude towards the subject at schools. Kasapoglu and Didin (2019) raised a very pertinent point on the importance of training effective pre-service teachers to impart LS to FP learners, declaring that the determining factor in FP learners' success is an experienced, passionate and well-equipped LS teacher. Demotivated and ill-equipped LS teachers are unable to be 'the more knowledgeable other' that is required for the construction of knowledge according to Vygotsky's (1980) social constructivist theory, which emphasises the construction of knowledge through effective interaction between individuals and a more knowledgeable other in a social context.


The implications for the FP pre-service teachers and their learners centred on the inability of the pre-service teachers to put into practice what they had learned and impart the basic LS needed to live a balanced life. The WHO (2003) has stated that LS education prepares children for young adulthood by equipping them to:

[M]ake informed decisions, solve problems, think critically and creatively, communicate effectively, build healthy relationships, empathise with others and cope with and manage their lives in a healthy and productive manner. (p. 3)

Similarly, the CAPS' aim of LS education, which is stated here, is defeated:

Life Skills subject is aimed at guiding and preparing learners for life and its possibilities, including equipping learners for meaningful and successful living in a rapidly changing and transforming society. Through Life Skills learners are exposed to a range of knowledge, skills and values that strengthen their- physical, social, personal, emotional and cognitive development; creative and aesthetic skills and knowledge through engaging in dance, music, drama and visual art activities; knowledge of personal health and safety; understanding of the relationship between people and the environment; awareness of social relationships, technological processes and elementary science. (DBE 2011:8)

Thus, a child who is denied these skills at FP level runs the risk of social and educational failure later in life. The inability of the pre-service teachers to teach effectively affects their learners' acquisition of basic educational principles, whilst the implication of the findings of this study to higher education is the unachieved goal and objective of the FPLS teacher education, hence the suggestions for review and reinforcement of FPLS curriculum to achieve its aims of adequately preparing the pre-service teachers to carry out their teaching role.


This study was limited by certain constraints. The case study was limited to a population of just 20 final-year pre-service teachers at one South African university. It did not involve a wide sample of final-year students in South Africa and did not involve the educators who train them. The findings are subjective and contextual and thus cannot be generalised to the larger population. Another constraint is that the interview questions focussed primarily on the pre-service teachers' teaching practice experiences, rather than on their experiences in relation to the quality of the teaching training they received.


This study proposes the inclusion of a practical component (micro-teaching) in the LS method module, during which lecturers should emphasise putting theory into practice and should guide students on implementation and assessment. This component should be included throughout the LS teacher training curriculum. An increased focus on practical implementation would allow LS pre-service teachers to develop teaching and classroom management skills before engaging with the final teaching practicum (Zakaria et al. 2019). Including a practical micro-teaching component in the teacher training programmes could help pre-service teachers to acquire basic teaching skills and develop self-confidence to avoid the challenges encountered by the participants of this study.

In addition, the congruence between the teacher-training curriculum and the LS curriculum implemented in schools should be improved. The curriculum content needs to be aligned and translated conceptually for young children, and linguistically to accommodate their home language. This is supported by Van den Akker's (2009) concept of the curriculum spider web, which proposes that curriculum content should be implemented in a way that accommodates cultural and linguistic differences and that addresses both the local and global context.


Contribution of this study to the body of knowledge

This study has contributed to bridging the knowledge gap on FP pre-service LS teachers' experiences with implementing the FPLS curriculum during their teaching practice. Thus, the findings of this study may assist higher education institutions with improving their pedagogical strategies and may assist policy makers with improving teaching and learning policies to suit the diverse needs of FP pre-service teachers and learners.



This study aimed to explore the experiences of pre-service FPLS teachers during their teaching practice and to answer the following research questions: (1) What is the experience of FPLS pre-service teachers during teaching practice? (2) What is the connection between their teacher training and the teaching of LS? The experiences of FPLS pre-service teachers during teaching practice were both negative and positive. The positive aspect was that a few of the students have smooth and beautiful experiences because of the support provided by mentors, whilst the negative aspect was that the majority of the pre-service teachers experienced frustration and anxiety during their teaching practice because of their inability to effectively impart to the FP learners the LS curriculum they had been taught at university.

Regarding the connection between their teacher training and the teaching of LS, it was discovered that there is a mismatch between the content the pre-service teachers learned and what they were expected to teach the learners during teaching practice. The pre-service teachers connected their negative experiences during their teaching practice with the teacher education they had received at university. They were critical of their educators' pedagogical strategies, of the limited time allocated to LS in the university curriculum, and of the discrepancy between the content of the FPLS teacher training curriculum and the curriculum required to be taught at school to the FP learners. This is a cause for concern, and the underlying reasons need to be identified and addressed. Are the FPLS lecturers qualified and dedicated to their work? As students, are the pre-service teachers adequately prepared to study the LS module? And are the pre-service teachers equipped with adequate practical and essential teaching skills at university? These are vital questions that require further research(es) to answer.



Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors' contributions

D.A.A and N.M. contributed equally to this work.

Ethical considerations

Ethical clearance was obtained from the University of KwaZulu-Natal Research Ethics Committee before approaching the research participants. The ethical clearance certificate number is: HSS/0460/017M.

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.



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Deborah Arasomwan

Received: 03 Sept. 2018
Accepted: 01 Nov. 2020
Published: 11 Mar. 2021


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