Evaluation of nutrition information embedded in the grade 8 to 12 KwaZulu-Natal school curriculum
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There is a lack of information and research on nutrition content in the curriculum for learners at the secondary school level. While nutrition content is addressed in the curriculum for Grades 8 and 9 in Natural Science, Social Science and Life Orientation, not all aspects of nutrition education are included. In Grades 10 to 12, nutrition content exists in Life Orientation, Agricultural Science, Agricultural Technology, Design Studies, Civil Technology, Electrical Technology, Mechanical Technology, Dance Studies, Information Technology, Consumer Studies and Hospitality Studies, however, not all learners are exposed to the learning areas that contain nutrition content. An important consequence of this lack of exposure to information on nutrition content is that learners who leave school after Grade 12 with inadequate nutrition knowledge potentially become adults who suffer from lifestyle diseases. This study focused on the nutrition content in the curriculum in Grades 8–12 in Kwa-Zulu-Natal in order to: evaluate the content in the curriculum referring to nutrition and to analyse the critical and developmental outcomes of nutrition education;. assess the nutrition knowledge of learners in Grades 8–12 in the Durban Central area (for the purpose of following a healthy lifestyle); determine the views of educators on the inclusion of nutrition content in the curriculum; highlight the importance of applying nutrition content in the curriculum to educate learners on disease prevention and good eating habits. The design of the study was evaluative, analytical and descriptive, and adopted both the quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The purposive sampling method was utilised for the selection of sample. The study was located in Central Durban and the sample comprised of boys and girls in Grades eight–12 at Durban High School and Ridge Park College, respectively. The sample included 343 boys and 360 girls who participated in the study. In order to establish the views of educators who teach nutrition knowledge in the curriculum, the study also included 134 educators purposively selected from 15 schools in the Umlazi District in KwaZulu-Natal. Two sets of instruments were used for data collection. The Nutrition Knowledge Questionnaire (NKQ)(previously developed) was used to determine the nutrition knowledge of learners in Grades eight–12 and across genders in both schools. An Educator Questionnaire (EQ) (developed for the study) on the learning areas that contained nutrition content was utilised to measure the extent to which the educators teaching those learning areas completed the curriculum content on nutrition. The Educator Questionnaire was used to ascertain the educators’ views on the importance of nutrition knowledge. The results of the research showed that the content dealing with nutrition in the school curriculum for Grades eight–12 was inadequate in certain learning areas to adequately educate learners on nutrition for the purpose of following a healthy lifestyle. The compulsory learning areas that contain aspects of nutrition knowledge were Life Orientation, Natural Science and Social Science for Grades eight and nine. In Grades10 to 12, Life Orientation is the only compulsory learning area that contains aspects of nutrition knowledge content. Nutrition knowledge investigation showed that learners are not adequately prepared in respect of all aspects of nutrition knowledge when they leave school at the end of Grade 12. The curriculum analysis of the learning areas in Grades 10 to 12 showed that the learning areas that contain nutrition knowledge are specialist learning areas not offered at all schools in the Durban Central area. The Educator Questionnaires showed that learning areas that include nutrition content in Grades 10 to 12 are not offered at all schools, thus probably negatively impacting on the learners’ level of nutrition content. The results of the Educator Questionnaire reinforced the notion that the curriculum for nutrition education was inadequate. The research concluded that the curriculum does not prepare learners adequately in respect of all areas of nutrition knowledge to enable them to follow healthy lifestyles. The results revealed that there is a correlation between the nutrition knowledge of learners and certain nutrition education aspects in the curriculum. Such results showed that the total mean scores for all the Food Based Dietary Guidelines ranged from 62.0% as the lowest, to the highest total mean score of 72.0%. However, the scores are low in critical areas of nutrition knowledge when individual scores are taken into consideration. An important consequence is that learners who leave school at the end of Grade 12 with inadequate nutritional knowledge become adults with the potential to suffer from lifestyle diseases. It is recommended that a compulsory learning area for all grades that deals exclusively with health, physical education and nutrition be introduced into the curriculum to assist learners to follow healthy lifestyles during and after school.