The dawn of democracy has made it possible for more learners to attend school and spend more time in the classroom than ever before.
South Africa has made progress in improving the state of education. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says government has made progress in making education accessible to the majority of South African children.
Minister Motshekga attributes the progress to the efforts put in place by the Department of Basic Education.
These efforts include improving the curriculum, introducing sign language, providing feeding schemes and scholar transport, introducing the Annual National Assessment (ANA), broadening Early Childhood Development (ECD), supporting technical schools, and publishing norms and standards.
The department, in partnership with the British Council, is now set to tighten the teaching of English as a First Additional Language. It will also beef up the teaching of African languages at schools.
Implementing the public service charter
Now that government and trade unions in the Public Sector have signed the Public Sector Charter, the productivity of teachers looks set to improve. Among other things, current and former state employees to do business with the government.
Minister Motshekga expresses confidence that the charter will raise the “conscience of the few rotten apples” in the education sec- tor because the majority of teachers are committed to their job and they love children.
“I think it will enhance the work that we are doing and strengthen the hands of those teachers who have been doing well and per- haps to even help us as a nation to begin to appreciate them more.”
In 2009, the department implemented a new curriculum. “We have strengthened the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) through the development of the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS).”
The department set a review committee made up of curriculum experts, academics, researchers, teachers and officials who conducted an independent review of the old curriculum. The committee recommended that the curriculum be changed.
The minister adds that when her term ends next year, the new curriculum will be fully implemented, and this will be for her “a rewarding experience”.
Early Childhood Development
The number of children receiving childhood education has been fl in recent years and according to the minister, the country has passed the stage of counting numbers within ECD to focus more on quality.
According to Statistics South Africa, General Household Survey 2002 – 2011, children enrolled for ECD increased from 7 per cent in 2002 to 34.5 per cent in 2011. The minister says there are changes in the ECD area as the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) has adopted a new curriculum for ECD. “It is a seamless curriculum in line with the objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP),” she adds.
Support to technical schools
Minister Motshekga expresses concern that the country does not have enough people with technical skills. This has prompted the department to establish a task team to look at ways of attracting learners to the area of technical studies.
The enrolment figures at these schools have declined since 2007. “The technical high school sector is under severe pressure to attract learners. The enrolment figures in 2007 were at 119 000 and, it now stands at 45 000”.
Minister Motshekga says the decline worries her. “It’s an indictment that we have huge projects such as Medupi and we have to import boilers while we have this huge unemployment rate in the country. I think it’s a problem that our system has not been preparing our kids adequately and for our needs as a country.”
She says the task team has already presented draft CAPS for Civil Technology, Electrical Technology and Mechanical Technology.
“These subjects will be supported by technical mathematics, technical science and the current engineering graphics and design” she concluded.
Access to education
On her schooling days, Minister Motshekga says she recalls how the whole of Katlehong had one school and access to education was dependent on when you apply. “The government could not be bothered where the kids studied” she adds.
“Some of us who lived through apartheid knew that access was through a first come first serve basis and if there no space there is no space.”
She adds that despite the progress government has made in making education more accessible, it remains under constant pressure to meet the demands of a growing population.
“This access has put so much pressure on government to build lots of schools and churn out lots of teachers. People who didn’t grow up under apartheid don’t know what that means. It means that we don’t have to run for space, space has to be guaranteed by the state.”