Nursing Students Perceptions of an Extended Undergraduate Curriculum Programme at a Higher Education Institution
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Session presented on Thursday, July 21, 2016 and Friday, July 22, 2016: Purpose: During apartheid, South African education laws encouraged racial segregation with learning opportunities and resources spread unequally amongst different races. A solution of the post-apartheid South African government to address past discriminations was to improve access to tertiary educational institutions (Draft National Plan for Higher Education in South Africa, 2001:4). This however did not remove the fact that the potential students of the previous disadvantaged groups would be more successful at tertiary institutions, but only that they would be given more opportunity to access higher education. internationally, Ireland's similar 'National Plan for Equity and Access in Higher Education' (Dhunpath & Vithal, 2014:3) addressed educational, economic and social issues towards giving disadvantaged individuals access to education. Scotland's 'More Choices, More Chances' campaign focused on increasing the quantity of young people that would receive an education (Dhunpath & Vithal, 2014:4). In South Africa the poor performance rates of these previously disadvantaged students at tertiary institutions of education indicated that they remain underprepared for tertiary educational studies, even though they have more access (Draft National Plan for Higher Education in South Africa, 2001:5). The Council for Higher Education (2013:57) defines under-preparedness for studies as difficulty with adjustment to the prescribed curriculum as well as an inability to study independently. An extended curriculum programme was thus implemented to facilitate success for underprepared students in tertiary education studies (Education, 2013:70). Methods: The Extended Curriculum Programme (ECP) was implemented to address the throughput by the Department of Education. Firstly they wanted to ensure that they were able to meet the needs of the students who accessed the tertiary institution, and secondly to ensure that the underprepared first year students have a strong academic basis to make it possible for them to succeed at their studies (Council for Higher Education, 2013:71). Students in the Extended Curriculum Programme at a nursing education institution within the Western Cape have their first year of education spread over two years. Where a semester's work in mainstream curriculum is covered in the prescribed six months; the same work in the Extended Curriculum Programme is covered in a year. This is to allow the student enough time to adjust between secondary and tertiary education, to rectify bad learning habits and educational disabilities and to ensure successful integration into the mainstream programme. In addition the Extended Curriculum Programme students receive additional lessons in language, numeracy and exercises in scaffold reading to assist with the discourse of their related faculty. This programme is regulated by the South African Nursing Council and accordingly the student will need to complete a prescribed amount of theoretical and practical hours to be able to receive registration on completion of the programme (Western Cape College of Nursing 2014:20).These nursing students on completion of their studies will graduate as registered nurses in general, community, psychiatry nursing and midwifery. Results: Despite having a negative undertone associated with this programme it appears successful in helping the previously underprepared student overcome their educational challenges and successfully integrate into the mainstream nursing programme. Although there are some quantitative studies that have investigated the success of Extended Curriculum Programmes in other faculties i.e. engineering, pharmacy, no formal research has been undertaken in a nursing faculty. This indicates a gap in the knowledge regarding the success of the Extended Curriculum Programme in nursing education. Conclusion: The study is aimed at exploring nursing students' perceptions of an extended undergraduate curriculum programme within a higher education institution in the Western Cape. A qualitative approach by means of a descriptive design will be used for this research project. The information will be gathered via 2 focus group interviews consisting of 5 participants each of the population of forty-seven previous Extended Curriculum Programme students that progressed to the second year mainstream programme in 2015. The semi-structured questions that will be used allow some structure to the focus group whilst also providing the facilitator/interviewer the freedom to deviate should the participants highlight extra information that requires exploring. Participants will be chosen using a purposive sampling method and interviews will take place at the higher education institution where the participants receive their instruction. Thematic analysis will be used for data analysis. Once the research has been completed the recommendations and findings, as per the study, will be made available to the higher education institution where the curriculum programme is being offered.