Disastrous or helpful? Experts weigh in on the proposed Grade 9 certificate

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Picture: Matthew Jordaan African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg – There has been mixed reaction to the Department of Basic Education’s proposed Grade 9 exit plan.

The National Department of Basic Education (DBE) was of the view that the General Education Certificate (GEC) would assist pupils in choosing the correct career.

The GEC, which would be an NQF registered qualification, was based on a three-stream model: technical vocational, academic and occupational.

According to a statement sent by the department, the intention of the plan is to equip more pupils with technical skills.

“Under the technical vocational stream, there was a target of 10000 artisans per year. The department has also introduced new subjects, technical mathematics and technical science which could be referred to as applied mathematics and applied science. These were relevant in supporting areas of specialisation and schools that offer these subjects were currently being unveiled in different parts of the country.”

The University of Pretoria’s department of educational psychology’s associate professor, Salome Human-Vogel, said there was a high demand for placement in universities as everyone views university education as the only way to achieve success.

“Apart from the fact that there aren’t enough places for all students in South Africa, not everyone needs a university education to contribute to the economy of the country,” she said.

Human-Vogel said the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology releases an annual list of occupations that are in high demand and that is where TVET colleges play a big role.

“The TVET college sector is one of the mechanisms the government is currently looking at to address the high unemployment rate in this country and the target is to have 10000 artisans trained in the technical-vocational stream per year. This looks to help with the skills shortage in this country. We actually need to channel more people into TVET colleges. We need to enable learners earlier to access the right streams,” she said.

Dr Lize Barclay, senior lecturer in futures studies and systems thinking at Stellenbosch University Business School, said there was nothing controversial with using Grade 9 as a formal exit, highlighting that some countries in Europe and Asia had adopted the idea many years ago.

Barclay said with a few changes, the exit plan stood to be a success.

“First, the FET college system should be strengthened as a formal and valued vocational alternative.

“Second, artisanal and vocational jobs should be seen as valued and align with the fact that it is globally sought-after.

“Third, youth entrepreneurship programmes should receive more formalisation and funding as jobs will rapidly decline in favour of gigs and self-employment going forward.”

However, Nomsa Marchesi, the DA’s shadow minister of basic education said the plan sought to further lower the quality of the country’s education and that the government should upgrade current syllabus at both schools and TVET institutions.

“This disastrous plan by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration will further disadvantage the poor and the future of the country,” she said.

“The plan is akin to dusting off Hendrik Verwoerd’s education policy which prescribed that black youth should only receive the kind of education that prepared them for low-skilled and low-paying jobs.”

She said it would create yet another generation of young people who were unskilled and ill-equipped to enter the jobs market.

“We want to know what the Grade 9 certificates will mean to these young people – especially given the fact that even matric certificate holders as well as some university graduates’ qualifications are gathering dust. And we also want to know what plans the department has in place to assist Grade 9 school leavers in upskilling themselves to enter the jobs market”.

Marchesi said youth aged 15-24 years were the most vulnerable in the South African labour market as the unemployment rate among this age group stands at more than 55%.

“Nothing is more important for our children’s future – and the future of our country – than having a good quality basic education system. It is the key building block on the pathway to a good job”.

Sunday Independent

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