Govern­ment gears up for three-tier ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that aims to stream pupils ac­cord­ing to their in­di­vid­ual ap­ti­tudes

CityPress - - Front Page - SIPHO MA­SONDO­sondo@city­

South Africa’s state school sys­tem is fac­ing a ma­jor shake-up, as it seeks to di­vide pupils into three streams: aca­demic, tech­ni­cal oc­cu­pa­tional and tech­ni­cal vo­ca­tional. In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with City Press this week, Mathanz­ima Mweli, di­rec­tor­gen­eral of the de­part­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, said the pupils would be chan­nelled into one of the three streams based on their strengths and weak­nesses.

Those chan­nelled into the tech­ni­cal oc­cu­pa­tional stream would be able to leave school in ma­tric and head straight for the work­place be­cause they would have ac­quired skills to make them em­ploy­able im­me­di­ately.

The aca­demic stream would re­main as it was be­cause the ma­jor­ity of the coun­try’s schools were aca­demic schools.

“As part of the tech­ni­cal oc­cu­pa­tional stream, we will in­tro­duce 26 sub­jects, which will in­clude spray-paint­ing, panel-beat­ing, hair­dress­ing, wood­work, glass­work, glaz­ing, weld­ing, up­hol­stery, hus­bandry (farm­ing) and many more,” said Mweli.

“Peo­ple can laugh at [Julius] Malema be­cause of [his hav­ing stud­ied] wood­work, but wood­work can make you a very suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man in the fur­ni­ture busi­ness.

“Al­most all suc­cess­ful hair sa­lons in this coun­try are run by out­siders (im­mi­grants).”

The tech­ni­cal vo­ca­tional stream would in­clude sub­jects such as en­gi­neer­ing and tech­ni­cal draw­ing, which would ben­e­fit those pupils wish­ing to study trades af­ter school, such as boil­er­mak­ing and fit­ting and turn­ing.

The de­part­ment would plan the new sys­tem this year and it would kick off in 2017, when it would be pi­loted in 58 schools coun­try­wide.

Mweli said these schools were al­ready of­fer­ing the sub­jects, but only to peo­ple with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties.

“We will in­tro­duce these [tech­ni­cal oc­cu­pa­tional] sub­jects at Grade 4 level. And we will in­crease the [num­ber of] schools [of­fer­ing the new sub­jects] to hun­dreds or thou­sands,” he said.

Mweli said the in­tro­duc­tion of the new streams would dra­mat­i­cally re­duce the fail­ure, dropout and rep­e­ti­tion rates. More of­ten than not, he said, these were as a re­sult of pupils who had been pushed into the aca­demic stream when they should have been chan­nelled else­where. “The in­ter­na­tional dropout rate is 1%,” said Mweli. “On the African con­ti­nent, in­clud­ing the [South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity] re­gion, it is about 5%. And in South Africa we are be­tween 15.3% and 20%.

“Not ev­ery learner will pass Grade 12 [in the aca­demic stream]. Not ev­ery learner has to go to Grade 12. All suc­cess­ful peo­ple have not nec­es­sar­ily done Grade 12.”

Push­ing all pupils into the aca­demic stream is mis­placed and puts pres­sure on uni­ver­si­ties, said Mweli, adding the coun­try com­mit­ted a “scan­dalous mis­take” in 1994 by shut­ting down tech­ni­cal high schools or re­duc­ing their sub­jects from 16 to just four.

“Many things have been tried, some of which have taken us back­wards.”

The sec­ond stream would be tech­ni­cal vo­ca­tional, which would of­fer 12 sub­jects.

“Th­ese will be in­tro­duced in grades 11 and 12 this year,” said Mweli. “Elec­tri­cal, me­chan­i­cal and civil en­gi­neer­ing will be the core sub­jects, with each of them hav­ing three sub-sub­jects.

“Th­ese kids will end up as boil­er­mak­ers, fit­ters and turn­ers, ar­ti­sans, etc.

“Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Devel­op­ment Plan, we need to be pro­duc­ing 30 000 ar­ti­sans ev­ery year by 2030.”

Mweli, who is a walk­ing en­cy­clopae­dia about his de­part­ment, said that when the new sys­tem was fi­nalised, the oc­cu­pa­tional and vo­ca­tional streams would ac­com­mo­date about 60% of pupils in the sys­tem.

The other 40% of the coun­try’s pupil body would be placed in the aca­demic stream, whose im­por­tance, he said, should not be down­played.

“The Na­tional Se­nior Cer­tifi­cate has a lot of cur­rency, as a re­search pa­per at the Univer­sity of Cape Town has proved: if you have a Grade 12, you have a bet­ter chance of get­ting a job than those who don’t.

“It also found that peo­ple who had a ma­tric cer­tifi­cate en­joyed bet­ter up­ward mo­bil­ity than those who didn’t.”

Mweli, who started his ca­reer as a teacher more than 20 years ago, said he was pleased by the dra­matic in­crease in the num­ber of uni­ver­sity-en­trance passes in 2015. In poor, no-fee schools alone, the num­ber of these passes in­creased from 16 486 to 23 407.

He said he was wor­ried about the Eastern Cape, which re­gressed from a 65.4% pass rate in 2014 to 56.8% last year. He blamed a num­ber of fac­tors, in­clud­ing teach­ers’ unions, poor po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship, the high turnover of de­part­ment heads and a lack of in­fra­struc­ture.

Mathanz­ima Mweli

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