The Department of Basic Education is concerned about the high number of learners dropping out of the school. It says statistics for drop outs is 14 times higher than the world average. It is one of the reasons that the department plans to introduce a new curriculum aimed at focussing on technical skills.
The Ministry heads are currently in Zimbabwe to exchange ideas on new curriculum development. Both Zimbabwe and South Africa are in the process of overhauling their school curricula.
The two countries are for the first time swopping notes on how to adapt their education systems to produce citizens with greater critical thinking and problem solving skills.
“We are dealing with common problems and we identified those areas which we feel we should exchange notes on. One is curriculum reform, which is what we have done. The second was around the profesionalisation of the sector, the other one was also the content because we really want to exchange notes about what is it that you are teaching your kids about the history of Africa, what we had realised in our interactions not just with the Zimbabwe Minister but those in SADC is that we are all working on the same topics and same issues but we are not talking to each other,” says Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
South Africa says 80% of the learners have been channelled to academic stream but that not white collar jobs are no longer available to cater for everyone. It is finalising a curriculum for a technical occupations that will see 500 technical schools created around the country over the next 15 years.
“A desirable split would be about 40 % going the academic route, while 60% will go the vocational education. We have started this year to implement and strengthen our technical vocational stream,” says Director General Basic Education Hubert Mweli.
The push comes against an alarming rate of learners quitting school before Matric. The department says one of the reasons is that those learners cannot cope with the academic curriculum. Where the world’s average rate is 1%, and in Africa the dropout rate is 5%, in South Africa it is 14%.
Zimbabwe is itself grappling with similar challenges. It claims a literacy rate of 92 % but very little formal employment opportunities.
“While the population is highly educated as a whole, we have realised the need for a more enhanced trajectory that guarantees an education that truly equips learners with life sustaining skills,” says Zimbabwe Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Lazarus Dokora.
South Africa’s six member delegation is expected to tour several schools in Harare during its two day visit.