Plan to overhaul school curriculum welcomed
Durban – A TEACHERS’ union and a parents’ association have welcomed the government’s move to overhaul the national curriculum to develop pupils’ skills for the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), but have warned that the education system’s capacity challenges could hamper implementation.
The department’s process was outlined in the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s 227-page report, which was gazetted recently for public comment.
President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the commission last year to develop a country strategy to respond to 4IR.
The commission’s report noted that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) had started to introduce new technology-focused subjects such as robotics and coding.
However, it said the department was faced with challenges such as a lack of human capital expertise, strategic capacity, financial resources, teacher training and direct links to industry to place school leavers in jobs.
The commission proposed that the arts, including music, be given greater priority in the education system, particularly at the foundation phase because of their value in developing critical thinking skills.
Entrepreneurship should also be included in the curriculum at this level, while there should be a major shift towards critical thinking and problem-solving rather than the old style of rote learning of knowledge, the commission proposed.
A new model for secondary education was also being designed to enable pupils to focus their studies in a variety of vocational, academic and occupational directions at school level, a move that would mean technical, vocational, education and training colleges would have to operate at higher qualification levels.
National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) KZN chief executive Thirona Moodley said yesterday the union would support the DBE’s move to prepare pupils for 4IR.
She added the union had long been concerned about the adequacy of the current curriculum.
“Naptosa has always been of the view that the current curriculum is content heavy and does not adequately prepare pupils for the world of work.
“As a country we need a curriculum that is skills driven to ensure that school leavers can immediately enter the world of work and start contributing to the economy of the country,” she said.
Moodley said the academic, vocational and occupational streams had been on the agenda of the DBE for the past few years, but progress had been slow.
“Delays may be attributed to lack of capacity of the current cohort of educators and the financial demands that this model will place on the system,” she said.
University of KwaZulu-Natal director of School of Education Studies, Professor Labby Ramrathan, said he supported the idea of overhauling the curriculum and focusing on technology.
Ramrathan said the current system subjected all pupils to work towards a higher education, when in reality only 17% of matriculants achieved this level of study.
“I know streaming is looked on as taboo, but if we have core learning in terms of all the literacies and then move towards specialisation in specific areas, you at least have a sense of what you want to pursue.
“If you make early career decisions you will be able to get a sense what is required to aspire to that career,” he said.
KZN Parents Association chairperson Vee Gani said it was important to give pupils skills for the future, but the department faced huge challenges as most schools did not even have an adequately equipped computer room, class sizes were as large as 60 pupils, and school fee collections had been as low as 20% at many township schools due to the lockdown this year. “4IR is here and the idea to get children to work to that modality is important, but my concern is if we talk as much as we talk but we don’t make the opportunities available, nothing is going to change,” Gani said.