The big changes coming to South African schools

 ·3 Nov 2019

After numerous policy changes and the stop-and-start implementation of various models, South Africa’s education system has finally turned a corner, says Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga.

Writing in a column for the Sunday Times, Motshekga said the basic education sector is now ‘firmly a system on the rise’ meaning that there is no need to overhaul the entire architecture of the basic education system.

However, she indicated that a number of changes were on the way that would improve education standards across the country.

“We are not about to introduce a new curriculum. But, as you all know, any curriculum worth the paper it is written on remains a dynamic document, meaning amendments occasioned by the new developments will be considered,” she said.

“Our focus is on the re-engineering of the sector to cement the narrative of a system on the rise.

“It is all about being faster (Khawuleza phase), and smarter (Digital Innovation). It is about building the service delivery ecosystem for better quality and value in our basic education sector.”

Of one of the ways that the schooling system is ‘changing for the better’ is through the implementation of the new General Education Certificate (GEC), said Motshekga.

“In simple language, (the certificate) marks the end of the compulsory school-going phase, Grade 9, with a nationally recognised qualification after having passed a standardised national assessment,” she said.

“Inherently, it will offer a standardised benchmark against which schools can compare their internal assessment standards.”

Motskega added that no learner will be asked to exit schooling at Grade 9 after obtaining the certificate.

Instead, the certificate will be used as a barometer to assist learners to choose their future learning pathways that are available in the system, such as academic, technical vocational and technical occupational.

Other proposed changes

BusinessTech has previously covered a number of other proposed changes coming to South African schools in detail.

Some of the most notable new policies which Motshekga and her department are working on include:

  • Compulsory Early Childhood Development (ECD) – Government aims to enrol all South African children in a two-year compulsory Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme before starting Grade 1;
  • Decolonising education – Motshekga has previously indicated her department would continue with the decolonisation of education through the teaching and promotion of African languages, South African and African history and national symbols to all learners up to Grade 12. She said that a new compulsory history curriculum would also be introduced following public consultations;
  • Progressed learners – The policy of ‘automatic progression’ proposes that a learner may only repeat a grade once in the Foundation Phase (Grade R – Grade 3) to prevent them from being retained in this phase for longer than four years. Motshekga said that her department is putting plans in place to make the necessary policy amendments to allow for these changes and that the amendments will ultimately be a boon to both students and the school system;
  • New subjects – As part of plans to future-proof the economy, president Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to introduce a number of technology-focused subjects to the curriculum. In April 2019, the Department of Basic Education said it had trained 43,774 teachers in computer skills and would shortly begin training teachers for the new coding curricula. The minister said that the DBE will also be introducing a robotics curriculum from Grade R-9.

Read: Solidarity begins work on its new R4.5 billion alternative Afrikaans school system

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