The plan to bring coding and robotics subjects to South African schools

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga recently signed a performance agreement with president Cyril Ramaphosa that promises a shake-up the country’s entire schooling sector.

The performance agreement, which was published for the first time last week, outlines new subjects and qualifications that Motshekga’s department is expected to introduce over the coming decade.

It also sets outs maths and science performance targets which the country’s students are expected to reach when compared to their international peers.


New subjects

Motshekga has committed to introducing a new coding and robotics curriculum at South Africa’s schools by 2023, with plans to further pilot the programme after this date.

In July, Motshekga said that her department developed the coding and robotics curriculum for Grades R-9, which was being repackaged to ensure proper sequencing and seamless progression from one phase to the next.

After putting the final touches on this curriculum, it will head to the quality council authority, Umalusi, for approval.

The rollout of this curriculum forms part of the department’s strategic implementation of a curriculum with skills and competencies for a ‘changing world’ in all public schools.


Benchmarks

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2019 (TIMSS) study published last week showed that South African students once again scored poorly for maths and science when compared to their international peers.

On the TIMMS scale, learners who achieve 400 TIMSS points are described as having acquired the basic mathematical or science knowledge for that grade.

The latest study showed that South Africa’s Grade 5 students scored an average of 374 for mathematics, and 324 for science – well below the 400 ‘basic’ threshold.

Similarly, the country’s Grade 9 learners scored 389 for mathematics score and 370 for science.

As part of her performance agreement, Motshekga will need to raise the average score to 426 by 2023 for Grade 5 students and an average score of 420 for Grade 9 students.


Grade 9 certificate

Motshekga has been tasked with introducing a new General Education Certificate (GEC) for Grade 9, with the first examinations be held by 2023.

Upon introduction, the GEC was met with mixed reviews following misinterpretation that it offered an exit point for learners after Grade 9.

Following the confusion, the department has clarified that the GEC is not an exit point but instead offers learners different education and training pathways between schools and colleges at a level below Grade 12.


Three-stream curriculum

Alongside the introduction of the GEC certificate, Motshekga has been tasked with introducing a new ‘three-stream’ curriculum to 1,000 schools by 2024.

The model, which was piloted across 58 schools in 2017, features three streams of education – academic, technical vocational and technical occupational. Up to now, basic education has only featured two streams – the academic/technical pathways.

However, both streams are built on a common school programme of general education up to the end of Grade 9, after which learners can either stay in schools or transfer to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.

The third stream being introduced by the department is a technical occupational stream which will instead offer skills and vocational programmes and is aimed at producing students who can leave matric and immediately enter the workplace – with skills like spray painting, woodwork, and hairdressing.

This includes the introduction of subjects such as technical mathematics, technical science and entrepreneurship with the goal of producing 30,0000 artisans by 2030.


New History curriculum and introduction of indigenous languages

As part of a focus on social cohesion, Motshekga has been tasked with introducing a new history curriculum by 2024.

Academics have previously welcomed the proposed changes to the history subject in South Africa, as the current syllabus downplays aspects like slavery and racism. The destruction of ancient African civilisations has also been omitted.

Motshekga will also be required to introduce African languages as a subject option to 80% of the country’s schools by 2024.

In May, Motshekga said that her department intends to introduce African languages as mother tongue incrementally beyond the foundation phase (Grade R – Grade 3).

Motshekga said that this change follows a successful ‘Mother Tongue Based Bilingual Education pilot’ run by the Eastern Cape Department of Education.

As part of the pilot, 2,015 schools are using IsiXhosa and Sesotho as the language of learning and teaching (LoLT) beyond the foundation phase.

Motshekga said that learners in these schools are taught Mathematics, Natural Science and Technology in their home languages IsiXhosa and Sesotho.

This article first appeared on BusinessTech and is republished with permission.

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The plan to bring coding and robotics subjects to South African schools