The Western Cape Education Department is currently hosting a Conference at the CTICC on the 25th to 26th March 2019. Picture: WCED NEWS/Twitter

Cape Town - The Western Cape Education Department is currently hosting a Conference at the CTICC on the 25th to 26th March 2019.

The conference aims to bring together a wide and diverse range of voices in education and development in the province to discuss educational challenges with a focus on a rapidly changing technological and living environment. 

There has been recent hype around the Fourth Industrial Revolution (“4IR”) and the skills required to meet the needs of the 21st Century. The conference aims to address these needs as well as other challenges in the Western Cape.

These include:

  • How to adapt to a changing future of work and lifestyle shaped by the fourth industrial revolution and the need for 21st century skills
  • Social justice
  • Inequalities in school performance
  • School safety, gangsterism and youth disaffection/unemployment
  • Literacy and numeracy levels
  • Teacher professional development

"This conference is an opportunity for the Western Cape education community, as well as education stakeholders across the country to network with leaders, strategic thinkers and entrepreneurs from Africa and across the globe, right here in our own province," said MEC for Education, Debbie Schäfer.

"The phrase “Future Focused Education” was born in a hotel in Midrand, when myself and my HOD were trying to come up with a catchy slogan that encapsulates everything we are doing and wanting to do in education in the Western Cape.

"It could quite legitimately be asked why we are wanting to worry about the future, when there are so many things we still have to deal with in the present, especially in our country. 

"But the reason, simply, is because we have no choice but to do both simultaneously.  If we don’t, our young people are going to be at an even greater disadvantage than they are now," Schäfer said.

"The children that we are teaching today need skills that they will need for the rest of their lives.

"So as a department we must direct a great deal of our attention to ensuring that our education system serves the dual purpose of ensuring that the basics are in place, and yet also anticipating and teaching the skills that will be needed when these children leave school, in up to 12 years’ time."

Schäfer added that the WCED has identified e-learning as what has been termed a “game-changer”

"We believe it is important because it will enable all our learners –and teachers - to access modern technology, and in so doing more easily access a variety of resources that would otherwise not be available to them. Of course, it is also essential in the modern economy to be computer literate, and many jobs are and will be needed in the field of technology in the future.

"Any profession requires ongoing professional development, and e-learning can likewise open up many opportunities for them to access quality training and tools to use in the classroom.

"So we have developed the e-learning strategy into six streams, and refined the focus onto three of our top priorities in the department, namely teacher development, and improvements in maths and language," Schäfer said. 

"The WCED is working to ensure that every school in the Province begins to feel the benefits and transformative nature of this exciting project."

"Some people have questioned whether we should be spending money on developing e-learning when there are so many other needs that we have. Our view is that we cannot afford NOT to do so, as we are doing our children a disservice if we do not equip them for life in the outside world."

Andria Zafirakou, the 2018 Global Teacher Award winner, was also announced one of the key note speakers at the conference, but would be in attendance on Tuesday.

Zafirakou beat teachers nominated from more than 170 countries to win a prize worth $1m in Dubai last year and has also since been appointed MBE in the United Kingdom’s New Year’s Honor’s list for her services to education and young people. She has also been named in the top ten of The Evening Standard’s list of the most influential people in London.

Zafirakou is a teacher at a north London secondary school called Alperton Community School and was instrumental in changing the lives of many of the learners at the school through creativity, while also promoting diversity.

Using the prize money awarded by the Global Teacher awards, Zafirakou founded a charity called Artists in Resistance with an aim to improve arts education in schools.


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Cape Argus