If there is one thing that we have all learnt over the past two years, it is undoubtedly that the only constant is change. A global pandemic changed our outlook on life in general and unmasked some real obstacles that the South African education landscape faces every day. Speaking of change, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) announced that there are several changes waiting in the wings for South African schools as it plans to prepare students better for when they step into the workplace.
In the DBE’s annual performance plan for 2022/2023 all the regular checklist items are still in place, such as motivating learners to stay in school, passing matric and being equipped with entrepreneurial skills for the job market, but there are also four changes that are looming:
– The department plans to introduce a Grade 9 General Education Certificate (GEC) which allows for learners to have some form of qualification before matric which will be rolled out in schools by 2024.
– Coding and robotics will be fully implemented into the school curriculum for Grade R to 3 and Grade 7 learners in 2023, Grades 4-6 and Grade 8 in 2022 and a Grade 9 pilot in 2023. The full-scale implementation for Grades 4-6 and Grade 8 is set for 2024 and 2025 for Grade 9.
– Early childhood development is a big focus for foundational learning in the coming years and Grade R learning will become mandatory.
– Teaching in mother-tongue languages is also set to be rolled out in South African schools.
The big question is, will all these changes be advantageous or detrimental to the South African education landscape or not? Looking at these changes on paper it looks fantastic and very forward-thinking to equip our leaders of tomorrow for the future, but there are many obstacles that first need to be thought about very carefully, for example:
– South Africa has 11 official languages, how is that practically going to work to roll-out mother-tongue teaching in every school?
– With 4IR in full swing, coding and robotics are being planned to be implemented as subjects, but most schools’ infrastructures are not even geared for Wi-Fi, some schools in rural communities don’t even have access to basic sanitation. What is going to be done about this?
– In terms of the GEC certificate – how is this going to 100% motivate learners to stay in school if Grade 9 already solidifies some kind of qualification?
– If school attendance becomes mandatory for Grade R learners, how will this impact families and their finances?
All fore-mentioned changes will be positive if the government and the powers that be get the basics right first, but if certain hurdles cannot be overcome, the house is going to topple over before it has even been built. And a final thought – loadshedding needs to be addressed first before any form of e-learning and digital leaps and bounds can be made. May the force be with you Mr President, we are counting on you.
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