Why South Africa is getting new school subjects – instead of updating the ones it has

Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga has provided more information on the introduction of coding and robotics as subjects at South African schools – and why these topics were not incorporated in existing school subjects.

Responding in a recent written parliamentary Q&A, Motshekga said that the coding and robotics curriculum for Grades R-9 has been developed as a stand-alone subject for the following reasons:

  • There is not enough space in the Natural Science and Technology curriculums to include enough of the new content without removing too much content in the existing curriculum;
  • Adding coding and robotics in the existing subjects might require reducing the content of the other subjects and might affect the articulation, flow and progression of the subject;
  • The notional hours are linked to the Annual Teaching Plan (ATP), and the new content will interrupt the flow of the content;
  • Teachers may fall back to what they are comfortable with, meaning that the new content in the curriculum may never reach the learners effectively if the government adds it;
  • Infusing the new subjects into Life Skills, Natural Science and Technology would involve updating three different curriculums as opposed to creating one new one;
  • The Coding and Robotics curriculum is more skills-focused than theory focused, meaning there is still a large need for the theory knowledge contained in Natural Science and Technology;
  • The fourth-industrial revolution needs more skills taught to learners and not just a change in focus of subjects that are already offered – more time is needed to prepare learners.

Motshekga said that the draft Coding and Robotics curriculum for Grades R-9 has been presented and approved at Heads of Education Committee (HEDCOM) and Council of Education Ministers (CEM) and has been submitted to the regulator Umalusi for evaluation and quality assurance.

She said that the draft Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) will be piloted in 2021-2024 for Grades R-3 in 200 schools, and for Grade 7-9 at 1,000 schools. Full implementation across all grades will commence in 2025.

The minister added that the Department of Basic Education has secured initial funding for the Grades R-3 for an amount of R77 million.

“A business plan was submitted to the National Treasury requesting funding for the strengthening of Technology subject in Grades 4-9 through the integration of Coding and Robotics. The amount approved by National Treasury for the request was R60 million.”

In November, Motshekga published a curriculum policy document for public comment which will introduce a number of additional subjects at the country’s schools.

Many of these subjects are aimed at directly helping school-leaving pupils who will not necessarily complete Grade 12 or enter university. The proposed subjects cover a wide range of fields including agriculture, art and various technology subjects, including:

  • Agricultural Studies;
  • Ancillary Health Care;
  • Art and Design;
  • Civil Technology;
  • Consumer Studies;
  • Digital Technology;
  • Electrical Technology;
  • Hospitality Studies;
  • Wholesale and Retail.

Read: Homeschooling vs online schooling in South Africa

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Why South Africa is getting new school subjects – instead of updating the ones it has