This paper first provides a discussion on disadvantage and what that means in an educational context. It then proposes a theoretical conceptualisation of curriculum highlighting that curriculum advantages some learners more than others on several levels. Finally, discussion then turns to an evaluative study of an initiative that is ongoing in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, involving disadvantaged learners and their teachers in under-resourced schools. Key findings from the study include effective ways the initiative found (a) to assist teachers in disadvantaged schools to keep abreast of changes to curriculum; (b) to empower teachers to promote their learners’ capacity to access the physical science, higher level mathematics, and the business studies curriculum; and (c) to support learners to substantially increase their grades in what they term ‘the killer subjects’. This paper has a strong focus on mathematics as it is here that there have been the most marked increases in learners’ grades. These outcomes in turn have allowed learners to escape from the poverty trap and the disadvantage in which they had been situated.


education, disadvantage, curriculum, evaluative study, South Africa


© Australian Curriculum Studies Association Inc. Reproduced in Research Online with permission.

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