All the details for South Africa’s new school certificate – what you should know

The Department of Basic Education has called for comments on the introduction of the General Education Certificate (GEC) for Grade 9 pupils.

The GEC is the qualification at level 1 on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) that is intended to formally recognise achievements of learners at the end of the compulsory phase of schooling (GET).

Its primary purpose is to facilitate subject choices beyond Grade 9 and articulation between schools and TVET colleges.

While the department has reiterated that this is not an exit point for learners from the school system, Grade 9 is seen as a point where pupils may shift focus to more technical subjects and trades instead of a singular focus on a college or university education.

The qualification has a minimum of 120 credits, with a minimum of nine subjects required for successful completion. The weighting of the nine subjects varies, with three subjects on 20 credits each and six subjects on 10 credits each.

“The aim is to build a schooling system that recognises the knowledge, skills, values and competencies gained from ten compulsory years of formal schooling at the end of Grade 9 and to provide access into further education and training learning programmes,” the department said.

“The GEC aims to provide a well-balanced, general education which will benefit learners at the end of compulsory schooling or, alternatively define a learner profile for learners accessing further education and training, and other alternative institutions.”

Entrance and subjects

Access to the GEC qualification is open to all learners at a public or independent school – or other modes of education, such as home education – who have met the minimum requirements for promotion and progression to Grade 9.

However, a learner must be in possession of an official Grade 8 report which indicates that they met the requirements for promotion or were progressed to Grade 9.

The GEC is a one-year qualification, and learners must take all subjects in one examination sitting and complete the programme requirements for the grade. All of the subjects will also be considered through a school-based assessment.

The choice of subjects will typically be informed by the subjects that were chosen by the student in Grade 8.

Options after getting your GEC 

The achievement of the General Education Certificate (GEC) is designed to enable learners to access three learning pathways, the department said.

These include:

  • To continue with an academic route through the completion of the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) in schools, culminating in the achievement of the National Senior Certificate at NQF Level 4.
  • To choose a vocational route through completion of the National Certificate: Vocational Qualifications at NQF Levels 2, 3 and 4, which contain vocational specialisations that are offered in TVET Colleges.
  • To have access to occupational specific qualifications at NQF Level 2, 3 and 4, which consist of knowledge, skills and work experience and learning, in schools or in other institutions.

The department said that learners successfully completing the GEC qualification will be able to:

  • Identify and solve problems and make decisions using critical and creative thinking;
  • Work effectively with others as members of a team, group, organisation and community;
  • Organise and manage themselves and their activities responsibly and effectively;
  • Demonstrate entrepreneurial capabilities;
  • Communicate effectively using visual, symbolic and/or language skills in various modes;
  • Use science and technology effectively and critically showing responsibility towards the environment and the health of others;
  • Collect, analyse, organise and critically evaluate information.

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

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All the details for South Africa’s new school certificate – what you should know