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Coding and robotics curriculum to be implemented – How about getting the basic education system up to par?!

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The education landscape in South Africa has taken a dramatic turn in order to adapt and to the global Coronavirus pandemic. Over the past year parents had to take on the role of teachers and dining rooms and kitchens have turned into classrooms. Being a third world country, South Africa was not as equipped as the rest of the world to switch seamlessly to online teaching and learning. The matric pass rate has decreased and schools in underprivileged areas that barely have access to proper sanitation are being left behind even further.

Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga has dropped a bomb on teachers and parents calling to amend the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) to include coding and robotics as part of the school curriculum from Grade R to 9. At face value, this is a very bold move to ensure that South Africa’s education system moves with the times and fit into 4IR, but let’s backtrack ever so slightly and just repeat a harsh reality: South Africa is a third world country and most schools do not even have access to proper sanitation – let’s not even get started on access to basic computers! The basic education system is not functioning optimally at all, but now there are big plans to jump ahead without strengthening the core foundations first.

The coding and robotics subjects aim to help learners become problem-solvers, think critically and work collaboratively in a digital-driven environment. The plan is to break study areas down as per the below:

Grade R to 3:

  • Pattern recognition –  identify abstract and geometric patterns
  • Algorithms and coding – physical coding activities that are easy-to-learn
  • Robotic skills – introduction to the fundamental mechanical and electrical engineering systems and circuits
  • Internet and e-communicating – topics such as digital identities, safety on platforms and a basic overview of the internet will be covered
  • Application skills – basic text editing and spreadsheet applications and use of digital devices

Grade 4 to 6:

  • Algorithms and coding – programming skills will be primarily developed by using a block-based coding platform
  • Robotics skills – introduction to microcontrollers that will be coded using a block-based coding platform
  • Internet and e-communication – digital citizenship and internet use, as well as concepts of piracy, plagiarism and copyright, will be covered
  • Application skills – text editing, spreadsheets, multimedia editing and computer-aided drawing

Grade 7 – Grade 9:

  • Algorithms and coding – programming skills in the senior phase are primarily developed by using a line based programming interface
  • Robotics skills – this will consist of two merging fields that including coding and engineering while continuing with mechanical and electrical engineering systems
  • Internet and e-communication – this will provide skills that prepare learners to interact safely on digital platforms
  • Application skills – developing end-user skills that are used on different digital platforms. This includes HTML and CSS, as well as spreadsheet applications

Although this sounds wonderful, it still needs to be addressed that according to a study conducted by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) only four out of ten (40.9%) of public schools have a computer lab! Further statistics from the National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) as of March 2018 – found that schools in the Eastern Cape, KZN, and Limpopo were the worst affected when it comes to digital resources. According to the department, an estimated amount of R16 billion is required to provide computer labs with connectivity.

President Ramaphosa, is it not of the utmost importance that when you build a house you need to ensure that the foundations are unshakable? Unfortunately, our children’s foundations are crumbling before they have been laid!

Coding and robotics curriculum to be implemented – How about getting the basic education system up to par?!

AUTHOR

Inge Liebenberg

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