President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to overhaul South Africa’s education sector as the country prepares for a ‘digital age’.
Presenting his state of the nation address on Thursday (7 February), Ramaphosa said that the Department of Education will introduce two years of compulsory early childhood development (ECD) for all children.
As reported on by BusinessTech in January, this compulsory enrolment will apply to all children between the ages of four and five and will take place before the child enters grade 1.
“This is essential in equipping children to succeed in education, in work and in life – and it is possibly the single most important factor in overcoming poverty, unemployment and inequality,” Ramaphosa said.
New technology and subjects
As part of this technological drive, Ramaphosa said that over the next six years, government will provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device.
“We will start with those schools that have been historically most disadvantaged and are located in the poorest communities, including multigrade, multiphase, farm and rural schools,” he said.
“Already, 90% of textbooks in high enrolment subjects across all grades and all workbooks have been digitised.”
Ramaphosa said that the Department of Education would also expand the training of both educators and learners to ‘respond to emerging technologies’ including the internet of things, robotics and artificial intelligence.
Several new technology subjects and specialisations will be introduced, he said, including:
- Technical mathematics
- Technical sciences
- Maritime sciences
- Aviation studies
- Mining sciences
“To expand participation in the technical streams, several ordinary public schools will be transformed into technical high schools.”
These are in line with the ANC’s 2019 election manifesto which proposed a number of other changes aimed at shaking up basic education in South Africa. Some of the more notable proposals include:
- Appointing adequately qualified teachers whose subject content knowledge is at required levels;
- Implementing a ‘new innovative way’ of assessing learners through the National Integrated Assessment Framework for Grades 3, 6 and 9 as a replacement for Annual National Assessments (ANA);
- Amending the curriculum to prepare learners for the fourth industrial revolution;
- Prioritising policies and strategies targeting the achievement of quality teaching and learning outcomes by enhancing the skills and competencies of educators, including the school management team comprising the school principal, deputy principal and subject heads.
- Fast-tracking the promotion and implementation of indigenous language programmes, including finalisation of language legislation in provinces for inclusion in the school curriculum.
- Promoting study of history in schools.