Changes planned for schools in South Africa – including new languages and subjects

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga has provided an update on her department’s plans to introduce a number of changes at schools in South Africa, after plans were delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Answering in a written parliamentary Q&A, Motshekga said that this will include Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL), which will target schools that did not offer a previously marginalised official African language.

Motshekga said that there a total of 2,584 schools that will follow this programme, but that plans to roll out the new languages to higher grades had been delayed due to the pandemic.

“The IIAL strategy has been implemented in Grades 1-3, and it was supposed to move to Grade 4 in 2021.

“However, its implementation has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic; and the department of basic education’s primary focus has been and continues to be on fundamentals, which is the home language and the first additional language levels,” she said.

“It is worth noting that there are schools that are already implementing the IIAL strategy up to Grade 7, as evidenced through the 2021 annual performance plan monitoring report.”

Language change 

Motshekga said that her department is also pushing forward on its plans for ‘mother tongue teaching’, with students allowed to both study and write exams in their home languages.

Provinces continue to support and extend the use of mother tongue education, she said.

“The Eastern Cape, for example, initiated mother tongue-based bilingual education, wherein 2,024 schools are using IsiXhosa and Sesotho for learning and teaching beyond the foundation phase.

“Learners in these schools are taught mathematics, natural science and technology in their home languages of IsiXhosa and Sesotho.

“The 2020 Grade 12 learners, for the first time in the history of the NCS, had access to preliminary examination question papers in their home languages of IsiXhosa and Sesotho.”

Other subjects coming 

The department of education has also indicated that it will trial new subjects this year  – including entrepreneurship and coding and robotics

Nationally, 540 schools will be monitored for implementing compulsory entrepreneurship education, the department said.

The initiative is being driven by president Cyril Ramaphosa and is expected to officially form part of the curriculum by 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.

54 schools will be monitored for piloting and implementing the Coding and Robotics curriculum, the department said.

The subjects would form part of the curriculum at different school levels from Grade R to Grade 9.

The coding and robotics subjects are aimed at guiding and preparing learners to solve problems, think critically, work collaboratively and creatively, and function in a digital and information-driven world, the department said.

It added that learners will be able to apply digital and ICT skills and to transfer these skills to solve everyday problems and its possibilities.

“Furthermore, the subject aims at equipping learners to contribute in a meaningful and successful way in a rapidly changing and transforming society”.

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Changes planned for schools in South Africa – including new languages and subjects