The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that digital learning is required now, not in the future, says Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga.
Addressing a governmental lekgotla on Friday (28 January), Motshekga said there is a need to provide all learners and educators with the necessary technological devices so that they are prepared for work in the 21st century.
She added that her department is currently developing a new programme for online schooling and distance learning, with plans to give every teacher in the country a laptop before her term in office ends. This aligns with a previous mandate by president Cyril Ramaphosa to give every child learning materials on a digital device.
The goal is to provide ‘wall-to-wall’ connectivity and data availability in all basic education offices throughout the country, she said.
Motshekga said her department will also embark on a ‘curriculum strengthening process’ to equip learners with 21st-century skills.
“The strengthened curriculum must explicitly state the knowledge, skills, and competencies to be achieved. The curriculum must be inclusive to all, and schools must be appropriately resourced to teach 21st-century skills,” she said.
Motshekga said that her department plans to establish a task team to look at how knowledge, skills and competencies can be explicitly infused or re-packaged in Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) so they can better transition from school to work.
She said this new curriculum must reconsider the assessment regime in all grades to align with competency and skills assessment instead of content and knowledge assessment.
“In the meantime, we must steam ahead with a slick national advocacy campaign to explain and entice young people to engage and choose correctly from our three-stream model,” the minister said.
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.
Lost teaching time
Apart from the existing Covid-19 recovery plans, including the trimmed curriculum grades, Motshekga said it was time to ‘take the bull by the horns’ to make up for teaching time lost during the pandemic.
This should include the end of rotational school timetables, as well as updated attendance and enrollment tracking, she said.
Motshekga said her department would also increase learning time by providing extra classes, enforcing attendance at school every day and giving learners more homework.
All mainstream schools must be revamped to be friendly to learners with disabilities. In addition, the sector must ensure that there is early intervention to support learners with learning disabilities as soon as they start Grade R, Motshekga said.
“As part of fighting to end the stigma, we must all drive the message that young people with disabilities who drop out must return to schools or those who are not yet enrolled to do so,” she said.