South Africa’s youth will require high levels of digital skills and 21st-century life skills, including scientific, digital, financial and cultural fluency, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies says.
The department has published a new white paper focusing on a national ‘digital and future skills strategy for South Africa’ in which it considers the steps that will need to be taken ensure South Africa’s youth have the necessary skills and are prepared for the workforce.
One of the key proposals is the introduction of digital-focused subjects across the country’s schools. While the Department of Basic Education already has plans to introduce coding and robotics as official subjects, the white paper indicates that further changes to the curriculum should be made.
“Aligned with the current curriculum review processes of the Department of Basic Education, a curriculum development initiative needs to be undertaken for computing, coding and a wide range of digital skills relevant to the continuously evolving digital skills requirements,” the department of communications said.
This will include but not limited to the basics required for further studies and work in the fields of:
- 3D printing;
- Algorithms design and use;
- Artificial intelligence applications;
- Big data analytics,
- Digital content design;
- Drone applications;
- Mechatronics and robotics;
- Software engineering.
The department said the curriculum review should also give attention to language and mathematics curricula since these provide foundation knowledge for digital learning.
“Curriculum review and design will require attention to computational thinking and problem solving; data literacy and analytical skills; mobile literacy relevant to the increasingly wider range of mobile, digital devices,” it said.
The department said that curriculum review must also be supported by teacher digital skills advancement and digital infrastructure investment in schools, over and above investment in tablets and broadband.
The department said that extended initiatives over the next decade, will be required to advance teacher’s digital skills to the point where they are major contributors to digital literacy.
This means that large numbers of teachers need to be trained to teach subjects where school goers at early childhood development, primary and secondary schooling levels learn to be digital citizens, it said.
The department said that this will include:
- Teachers from Grade R to Grade 12 who will teach coding, CAT, IT, and the fundamentals of various branches of computer science, such as AI; and
- Teachers from Grade R to Grade 12 who will teach accounting, biology, languages, mathematics and science subjects using digital tools and applications.
“Given the volume of teachers involved, this could be provided via online platforms and/or mobile platforms. Furthermore, the teacher training curricula need to be adjusted and added to, in order to cater for the new schooling curricula aimed at digital literacy and fluency,” the department said.
Connectivity, security and sustainability are major issues in schools, where theft has undermined many initiatives, the department said.
“What is needed in the future is a combination of approaches for infrastructure funding, for long term sustainability of digital infrastructure and for community-supported security measures.
“Fast, reliable Internet access will enable a range of new learning modalities, updates, no real familiarity, access to new information, and no research.”
While tablets are useful for overcoming access to books locally, they need to have access to internet-based resources to be truly useful, the department said.
“Access to the internet outside of school hours is also important for research, communication, preparation of homework assignments, whether this is on tablets or smartphones, and whether these are provided by the state or by the learner’s family.”