SA education to adapt to digital revolution

Thursday, February 7, 2019

South Africa’s education system is to go through a radical overhaul in order to adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Under the Framework for Skills for a Changing World, which will be rolled out over the next six years, educators and learners are being trained to respond to emerging technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence.

Several new technology subjects and specialisations will be introduced, including technical mathematics and technical sciences, maritime sciences, aviation studies, mining sciences and aquaponics.

To expand participation in technical streams, President Cyril Ramaphosa said several ordinary public schools will be transformed into technical high schools.

The President made these announcements at his second State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Thursday.

In addition to this, government will provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device.

Already, 90% of textbooks in high enrolment subjects across all grades and all workbooks have been digitised.

“We will start with those schools that have been historically most disadvantaged and are located in the poorest communities, including multigrade, multiphase, farm and rural schools,” the President said.  

ECD centres to fall under Basic Education

Government’s plan will also cut across Early Childhood Development (ECD).

With over 700 000 children accessing ECD in the last financial year, President Ramaphosa announced that the responsibility for ECD centres will migrate from Social Development to Basic Education.

Another critical priority will be improving reading comprehension in the first years of school by expanding the availability of early reading resources across the foundation phase of schooling.

“This is essential in equipping children to succeed in education, in work and in life – and it is possibly the single most important factor in overcoming poverty, unemployment and inequality,” the President said.

The department’s early grade reading studies have demonstrated the impact that a dedicated package of reading resources, expert reading coaches and lesson plans can have on reading outcomes.

Expanding access to higher education

Turning to government’s commitment to the right of access to higher education for the poor, the President said free higher education for qualifying first-year students will continue to be rolled out.

The scheme is being phased in over a five-year period until all undergraduate students who qualify in terms of the criteria can benefit.

Another key focus area for government will be stabilising the business processes of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme so it is properly capacitated to carry out its critical role in supporting eligible students.

“We call on student representatives and university authorities to work together to find solutions to the challenges that students are facing,” the President said, citing the latest clashes at the Durban University of Technology.

Students have been protesting that institutions of higher learning should allow those with historic debt to register along with the improvement of specific residences, and for allowances to be paid.

The protest saw students locking horns with the private security hired by the institution.

Twenty-year-old Mlungisi Madonsela was caught in the crossfire and died in hospital after succumbing to his wounds.

The President called on law enforcement agencies to thoroughly investigate the incident.

“We are concerned about developments on some campuses this week, especially reports of violence and intimidation,” the President said before extending condolences to Madonsela’s family. –