Major changes coming to South African schools – including new subjects and adjusted holidays

 ·9 Mar 2020

The Department of Basic Education will introduce entrepreneurship and employability education as part of South Africa’s school curriculum.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said that the initiative is being driven by President Cyril Ramaphosa and will officially form part of the curriculum by 2024.

“In every grade level the existing curriculum – including economics, management systems and life orientation – is being enriched with real-life projects that are learner-centred (and include entrepreneurship opportunities),” she said.

“From 2020 – 2024 there will be trials in 600 schools, and we will have rolled out the entire curriculum by 2023 – 2024.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has previously emphasised the importance of South Africans embracing a culture of entrepreneurship as the country aims to attract R1.2 trillion in investment over five years.

“We must look at what needs to be done to promote and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and an entrepreneurial culture. I have long said that entrepreneurial skills should be included in the basic education curriculum,” he said.

“Far too often our citizens are risk-averse when it comes to entrepreneurship, preferring the so-called comfort of gainful employment to the perceived insecurity that comes with self-employment.”

Language changes 

Motshhekga said that government would also look to educate and assess more South Africans in their first languages.

This follows a five-year bilingual pilot project in the Eastern Cape which found that students are more comfortable and perform better when being taught in a language they are more familiar with, she said.

“We recognise the currency of English but there are Chinese scientists who don’t speak English that are doing very well.”

Motshekga said her department would begin bilingual assessments starting in 2021.

Early Childhood Development

Motshekga said that government is also moving ahead with its plans to enrol all South African children in a two-year compulsory Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme before starting Grade 1.

She said that Ramaphosa is set to make an official legal proclamation on the issue in the coming months which will serve as a legal framework for the changes.

“Preparatory work has already taken place and we will start phasing the integrated framework by 2021,” Motshekga said.

New certificate

Moshekga said that her department was still looking to introduce a General Education Certificate (GEC) which would act as formal recognition of the completion of Grade 9.

However, she noted that her department was still in talks with various authorities about the possible impact of the certificate and how it might encourage learners to leave school.

Motshekga has reiterated a number of times that the certificate will not allow students to leave school, but will instead act as branching point of a new three-stream model for children to complete further education.

Upon receiving the certificate, learners can then decide to continue with their school studies, study further in TVET colleges or even choose to enter into the world of work.

School calendar changes 

The 2022 School Calendar states that schools will close a week later than the previous year to ensure the protection of learning and teaching time.

“The opening of schools in 2022 will be staggered, with schools in the inland provinces (Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North-West) opening on 10 January 2022; while schools in coastal provinces (Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Western Cape) will open on 17 January 2022,” Motshekga said.

“Our policy states that learners must have 202 days of actual learning days, we have tried our best to adhere to this requirement.”


Motshekga said that her department has received a number of enquiries about the Covid-19 coronavirus but had no plans to close any schools.

Instead, she said that schools will be issued a number of safety guidelines including information on washing hands, covering mouths when coughing and avoiding contact with sick people.

“These are the same basic guidelines by the Department of Health so we really don’t create unnecessary panic but are also cautious not to cause harm to our children.”

At least two schools – in Grayston and in Hilton – have closed as a result of the coronavirus scare, however this was done without approval of the department.

Read: Here’s how much it costs to send your kids to a Curro private school

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