Government aims to enrol all South African children in a two-year compulsory Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme before starting Grade 1.
Presenting her departmental budget on Tuesday (16 July), minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga said that ECD will improve the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy.
“To achieve that goal, we need to urgently proceed with the implementation of the two-years of ECD before Grade 1 and the systematic relocation of the responsibility for ECD from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education,” Motshekga said.
“The Department of Basic Education is working closely with the Department of Social Development and other partners to oversee the migration, and proceed with the process towards two years of compulsory ECD for all children before they enter Grade 1.”
Motshekga said that her department will develop a comprehensive plan for the different workstreams involved in the ECD function shift (Grade R, Grade RR, and Birth to 4), in collaboration with the relevant partners in government.
She added that a plan, including all the costs of the programme, will be finalised by March 2020.
Kiswahili and other subjects
Motshekga also announced that Kiswahili will officially be introduced as a subject in local schools.
She said a number schools, mainly around Gauteng, have been identified to pilot the language offering this year – with an aim of fully implementing it next year.
“I am delighted to announce that the Council of Education Ministers overwhelmingly agreed to incrementally introduce Kiswahili in our schools. There is a high level of enthusiasm about this,” Motshekga said.
“Kenya and Tanzania have committed to assist with the training of educators and the development of appropriate learning and teaching support materials in Kiswahili.”
As part of plans to future-proof the economy, president Cyril Ramaphosa has also pledged to introduce a number of technology-focused subjects to the curriculum.
In April 2019, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) said it had trained 43,774 teachers in computer skills and would shortly begin training teachers for the new coding curricula.
Motshekga said that these teachers will be trained on coding from June to September 2019.
Coding as a subject will be piloted at 1,000 schools across five provinces starting in the 2020 school year.
The minister said that the DBE will also be introducing a robotics curriculum from Grade R-9.
New languages of instruction
In his state of the nation address, president Ramaphosa said that all foundation and intermediate phase teachers are to be trained to teach reading in English and the African languages.
He added that the government is currently training and deploying a cohort of experienced coaches to provide high-quality on-site support to teachers.
“We are also implementing the Early Grade Reading Programme, which consists of an integrated package of lesson plans, additional reading materials and professional support to Foundation Phase teachers,” he said.
“This forms part of the broader efforts to strengthen the basic education system by empowering school leadership teams, improving the capabilities of teachers and ensuring a more consistent measurement of progress for grades three, six and nine.”
Department to build 40 schools this year
Motshekga said that her department will complete the construction of 40 schools and deliver sanitation to 775 schools and water to 225 schools by the end of 2019.
606 schools will also be provided with sanitation through the SAFE initiative, she said.
“School infrastructure provision remains a contentious matter that requires agility, innovation for effective delivery to accelerate the achievements that have already been registered.
“To beef up capacity at the national level, we have already appointed a chief quantity surveyor and an engineer. We are in the process of identifying two more chief quantity surveyors and a chief projector manager for school infrastructure,” Motshekga said.