30 Nov Changes To South African Education Coming Soon
Changes To South African Education Coming Soon
Rand Rescue covered some differences between South African and foreign education systems in an earlier article. While that is still top of mind, it’s necessary to look at some crucial changes coming to SA’s education soon.
What are the pending changes?
While change is not always a good thing in SA, some of the changes to be implemented aren’t bad news – provided the Department of Basic Education (DBE), Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) can pull off the grand plans they’ve touted.
While the DPWI and DBE may be optimistic, the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG), has dubbed the DBE fruitless & wasteful on numerous occasions. The group has fired shots at various government departments and SOEs on numerous occasions.
The PMG has been most vocal about the governments continued ‘bailing out’ of embattled SOEs at the expense of other necessary projects and has called out the DBE for non-compliance with the Public Finance Management Act and Treasury regulations.
In 2018 alone, the group claims that the DBE:
– did not achieved up to 50% of its financial targets despite claiming having spent 93% of their budget
– built only 16 of the 59 schools they were tasked with building
– provided sanitation to only 10 of the 265 schools they were supposed to provide service to
– provided water to 10 of the 280 targeted schools
– provided electricity to 0 of the 620 targeted schools
By the DPWI’s own estimates, only 848 of the 22 000 schools in SA are full-service schools.
Improving school infrastructure
The DPWI has released their plans for improving school buildings and educational infrastructure in coming years.
Their plan – Phase 2 of the National Infrastructure Plan 2050 – outlines plans to improve infrastructure for the department of education, including eradicating the use of pit toilets and offering access to internet or libraries.
While touting their plans, the DPWI noted that they have at least a R10 billion shortfall in spending, which is the reason their plans have been ‘behind’.
Robotics and coding
The plan has been in the making for quite some years – with great onus on it mentioned during the 2020 SONA as well as the 2020 Budget speech. However, execution of such plans have been rather slack – mostly due to Covid-19 and other budget issues.
Despite these drawbacks, the DBE plans to implement coding and robotics as a new school subject for Grade R-3 as well as Grade 7 students in the 2023 academic year.
They have already piloted these subjects for Grades 4-6 and Grade 8 in certain schools in 2022, with a planned pilot for Grade 9 in 2023. Full-scale implementation for Grades 4-6 is planned for 2024, with implementation for Grade 9 planned for 2025.
Mother-tongue education is something which has been on the cards for quite some time. Most schools in South Africa offer instruction in English, but English is only the 4th most spoken language in SA, with only 4% of public school learners using it as home language.
First-language education is something which has been proven time and again to be a great benefit for learners. Instead of focusing on mastering the additional language and translating information, learners can focus on absorbing the actual information they are being taught.
The problem, of course, is that it takes a vast amount of resources to convert all training and assessment materials into different languages. Moreover, it requires a vast amount of educators to be able to provide first-language tutoring to all children – especially in a country with 11 official languages, as well as South African Sign Language set to become our 12th official language.
This one is a bit of a conundrum. The DBE has been ‘deploying’ mobile learning facilities and aims to increase access to these in coming years. The problem, of course, is that the DBE is already struggling to maintain curriculum standards and infrastructure in normal schools, and has also been clashing with home-learning and remote learning institutions on a regular basis in the past.
On 27 November 2022, a publication noted feedback from school principals stating that home learners are underqualified and may need to repeat a year of schooling should they return to traditional learning.
This article has been widely refuted by many parents of home-learners who claim that their children have received a far higher quality of education since studying from home than they did in a school environment.
The DBE has noted a drop-off in virtual/online schools with an influx of children returning to classrooms. The question is therefore why the department itself would be looking at introducing more remote learning facilities when they cannot properly manage the schools they’re in charge of.
The Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill is aimed at tightening up regulations for homeschooling. While this is not a bad thing in and of itself, it doesn’t bode well in the context of the DBE’s track record.
One proposed regulation of BELA is the criminalisation of parents who don’t ensure their children attend school – making them liable for fines and up to 12-months jail time.
While many parents had the option to choose whether their children would be enrolled for Early Childhood Development courses and what curriculum they prefer, the DBE will be taking over the management of foundational learning, with much of this having commenced on 1 April 2022.
This will make Grade R mandatory for all schools and all learners with a focus on literacy and mathematics.
Compulsory Grade R schooling is part of the BELA Bill’s proposed changes to the South African Schools Act (SASA) and the Employment of Educators Act (EEA).
Cosatu was one body which is critical of the Bill, stating that it should instead focus on making schooling compulsory up to Grade 12 (from Grade 9), as too many learners are dropping out of school to pursue low-paying jobs and thereby not contributing to a highly educated workforce.
The ‘Government’ curriculum
By far the most worrying part of BELA is the proposal to give government department heads full power over language policies and curriculums adopted at schools.
While home language tutoring is ideal to ensure children grasp the basics of their subjects, it’s not practical to expect any schools to simply comply with the whims of individuals. Furthermore, since curricula are vetted by the DBE and schools need to submit their proposed learning materials before the start of each year or term, these individuals shouldn’t be granted authority to veto the existing system to their liking.
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