Durban - The national Department of Education’s says the Grade 9 exit certificate or General Education Certificate (GEC) forms part of its plans to ensure young people are equipped with skills and competencies for a changing world.
Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the certificate had been on the table since 2015 and was first announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Effectively, it means that pupils will have an option to end their secondary schooling at the end of Grade 9. He said the first point to note was that grades 3, 6, and 9 had always been known as exit grades because they led from one phase to another. Grade 12 is the only one that was an exit grade from school to post schooling.
“Basic as these facts might be, they are fundamental to making sense of the current debate.
“It’s also important to remember that the notion of a School Leaving Certificate doesn’t exist in our policies any more.
“It’s an apartheid terminology that has no place in our democratic dispensation,” he said.
He said the education system was being altered to come in line with a changing world.
“The world is changing, and changing incredibly fast. The development and implementation of a curriculum for coding and robotics from the foundation phase up to Grade 12 and focusing on core skills and competencies is a demonstration of our determination to ensure that our young people will be on par with the rest of the world,” he said.
Mhlanga said the department believed that the solution to unemployment, inequality and poverty was to focus on a skills revolution.
Mhlanga said the GEC was the tail-end of a three-stream model in the Basic Education sector.
“In line with the three-stream model, the focus on an academic pathway is already increasing the numbers of pupils who have passed mathematics and science at 50% and above. In terms of a technical vocational pathway we introduced 11 new subjects that contribute in increasing artisan skills and entrepreneurship. The technical occupational pathway introduces 26 subjects. This has been piloted in 78 schools in 2017 and 2018, and implementation starts in 2020,” he said.
The introduction of the GEC has received mixed reaction from teacher unions who believe that it could help decrease the pupil drop-out rate. The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA believes the current curriculum is not beneficial for all pupils.
“The millions of pupils in our country are not all academically inclined some have strengths elsewhere and they should be given an opportunity to explore their options and not be stifled by a curriculum they have no interest in,” said Naptosa provincial chief executive, Thirona Moodley.
She said pupils would have to transition into other institutions that would prepare them to enter the world of work.
“Not all pupils will require an NSC as we know it to become employable.
“It is for this reason that the department has developed the three-stream model that will cater for pupils who have different skills, interests and career options,” she said.
Moodley said that if the department got it right, the outcome could be great for pupils.
Allen Thompson of the National Teachers Union said Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges had an N1 qualification that was equivalent to Grade 10.
He said there were also N2 and N3 qualifications that were equivalent to Grades 11 and 12.
Professor Labby Ramrathan, based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Education, said the idea was to avoid forcing pupils to continue until Grade 12.
However, he said that if not managed correctly this could create social problems where there was an influx of pupils leaving school and loitering around communities.
“Then we have to ask what we do with pupils who cannot find a place at TVET colleges. We know the unemployment rate is already high and it’s a fear that these pupils will be left idle,” he said.