The Department of Basic Education plans to pilot its new General Education Certificate (GEC) for Grade 9 learners later this year, ahead of a national rollout in 2023.
The GEC is intended to formally recognise learners’ achievements at the end of the compulsory phase of schooling. Its primary purpose is to facilitate subject choices beyond Grade 9 and articulation between schools and TVET colleges.
Under the current system, hundreds of students leave the school system each year without a qualification, hindering them from finding jobs, the department said.
While the department has reiterated that this is not an exit point for learners from the school system, the certificate will provide better decision-making for learners, especially those who may shift focus to more technical subjects and trades instead of a singular focus on a college or university education.
As part of the GEC change, the department will be piloting a new assessment model in 2021 which breaks away from examinations and other summative forms of assessment, to help form a complete form of learners capabilities, says Dr Mark Chetty, director of national assessments at the Department of Basic Education.
Chetty said the department plans to introduce new project-based assessments, which will cut across several school subjects and examine how learners integrate information from many areas to solve a problem.
A separate ‘inclinations assessment’ will look at a learner’s self-knowledge, including:
- A learner’s unique attributes;
- A learner’s inclinations in terms of career paths;
- What are they good at?
- What pathway are they looking at choosing?
“In addition, we will maintain the curriculum standard testing – so that is not lost,” Chetty said. “But when we put all of these elements together will be able to create a dashboard of a more holistic picture of this learner, who at the end of Grade 9 has to choose a specific pathway.”
Don’t have the right skills
The new certificate is expected to help address South Africa’s high youth unemployment levels – an issue which president Cyril Ramaphosa has warned is South Africa’s ‘most pressing challenge’ right now.
Addressing a national teaching conference on 6 October, Ramaphosa said many young South Africans do not have the right skills to succeed in the labour market.
“Some of the young work-seekers are not well educated and do not possess sufficient skills and previous work experience demanded by employers in the labour market,” president Ramaphosa said.
“That places a great responsibility on teachers and education officials – and indeed on all of us – to ensure that our schools, colleges, universities and other training institutions are producing the skills and capabilities that our country needs.”
Employment data from StatsSA shows that the number of young South Africans (15-34 years) not in employment, education or training (NEET) was 44.2% in Q2 2021. The NEET rate for males decreased by 1.2 percentage points, while for females, the rate increased by 0.2 of a percentage point in Q2 2021.
In Q2 2020 and Q2 2021, more than four in every 10 young males and females were not in employment, education or training.