Presented by Optimi Classroom

Disruption in education – is the South African curriculum ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution?

 ·13 Jan 2023

The pace at which the job market is evolving demands schools to relook at the curriculum of yesteryear and replace it with new subjects that will develop well-trained and holistic future leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset to take the country forward.

That said, the relevance of academic excellence will not diminish but it will get enhanced with the right combination of extracurricular activities that promote holistic growth.

This mean that South African schools have no choice but to move beyond traditional learning.

It is no secret that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is upon us, and we are already living in a world of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, 3D printing, genetic engineering, etc.

Contrary to the old-school traditions housed in English, Mathematics, Science, etc., the new curriculum will have to be redesigned and include courses that reflect the skills mandated by emerging economies and technologies.

Skills such as coding, robotics, design thinking, sustainability, and financial literacy will have to be integrated and taught in the classroom.

Although the current school curriculum does not equip learners with the right skills or education for the 4IR, Robotics and Coding are being introduced into the school curriculum for Grades R to 7 in 2023, with full-scale implementation for Grades 4 to 6 and Grade 8 planned for 2024, and the Grade 9s will follow suit in 2025.

But the big question is if South African schools are ready to take that leap into preparing learners for the future world of working.

“There is still a lot of training that needs to be done to upskill teachers and prepare them for the future of learning, especially when it comes to Coding and Robotics,” said Aunyana Moloisane, Managing Director of Optimi Classroom and education expert.

“Many jobs that we are preparing our learners for have not even been created yet!”

As things stand, the Basic Education Department has trained nearly 44,000 teachers in computer skills, and the University of South Africa has partnered with the department by making its 24 ICT laboratories across the country available to train teachers in coding.

Although it looks impressive on paper, South Africa must face the stark reality of an unequal society that includes a high crime rate, gender-based violence, and unemployment.

According to a recent article, it is paramount that South Africa aggressively develop systems that will propel the country and the youth, forward in 2023.

“South Africa faces unprecedented challenges like social, economic, and environmental, driven by the accelerating globalization, and therefore we at Optimi Classroom have been working tirelessly to ensure our teachers and learners are fully equipped to move forward,” Moloisane said.

“SA faces many challenges relating to the readiness for 4IR and the future of learning and teaching.

Teachers at both primary and high school are not being provided with the right training and development to assist them for a 4IR geared education system, while the disparity between urban and rural exacerbates the situation.”

Globally, 4IR has already taken off at the speed of light and South Africa is playing catch up.

The reality is that access to fast and reliable internet is a national problem and not everyone has access to the internet.

Added to this, another challenge remains South Africa’s lack of electricity that can also prolong training and hinder accessibility.

“We are aware of the challenges, but it should not stop us from pursuing the inevitable, otherwise the divide will just become greater,” said Moloisane.

“These new subjects unlock a whole new world for many teachers and creates opportunities to upskill.

There are endless opportunities in the coding and robotics fields, with some yet to be discovered.

How amazing would it not be if these discoverers are borne from the seeds we plant today?”

Exciting and continuously evolving, the robotics field has increased growth in the past 10 years, with multiple industries integrating its learnings and practices.

Optimi Classroom accepts and welcomes the fact that today’s learners are digital natives.

They are accustomed to getting information and meeting their needs with a click of a button in a user-friendly, personal, and customizable way.

Future educators will have to face the fact that learners will need (and want) to learn in a flexible, personalized format — for some, this may mean having a more technology-focused classroom.

Learners will want their learning experience to meet their interests, time constraints and academic needs.

“Our main goal is to get the South African workforce back on track and reduce the unemployment rate by developing people who seek, as well as take advantage of the ever-changing landscape, not just simply someone who wants to clock in at 9am and clock out at 5pm.

The new year at Optimi Classroom brings new changes; changes that will encourage a shift in mindset, and skillsets, to ensure that South Africans have the best opportunities to succeed,” Moloisane concluded.

For us to prepare for this uncertain yet exciting future that we wish to create, we must shift the mindsets of learners as well as teachers.

Mindset is the major determinant of success in every walk of life.

In other words, the thinking patterns we habitually adopt largely govern the results we achieve.

And the best time to start, is today.

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