• Eastern Cape Rising Sun

Grade 9 exit, coming sooner than you think

Teachers argue that children spend way too much time in school, instead of acquiring skills.

Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga dubs her announcement of the General Education Certificate (GEC), a Grade 9/Standard 7 exit, as creativity and a skill boost that is needed for the 4th Industrial Revolution. The Field Trial is scheduled for completion at the end of July 2020.

In reality, she is re-hashing what was commonly known as a Junior Certificate (JC) during apartheid South Africa. For a few decades leading up to the 1980s, the Bantu education made provision for those who wished to leave school early (Standard 8). The Certificate qualified teenagers to train at a college to be nurses or teachers. However, one did not qualify for a university entrance.

“There are many factors that necessitate the Grade 9 exit. It will go a long way towards reducing the rate of failure at Matric level. Just over half of the children that enrol for Grade 1 make it to matric. It is time we focussed on skills. This also means there will be multiple qualifications,” she said.

A draft framework has been developed and assessment and examination modalities are being investigated, Motshekga announced during a Sadtu National Congress in Gauteng last week.

Raman Khandoo, the former Headmaster of John Bisseker High school for 36 years, agrees with this approach based on his experience of running a high school. “A lot of children struggle with academics, this will be a good option for them to enrol at technical colleges early in their teens, so they can acquire skills that are needed by the country,” said Khandoo.

“Skills acquisition after the exit must be enforced, if not, children will become cheap labour, like during our times,” he warned. Motshekga announced that the department will be introducing new and exciting subjects such as Aviation Studies, Maritime, Entrepreneurship, Coding and Robotics in order to pave the way for the early exit.

Pamela Sityata, a retired teacher from Willowvale agrees that this certificate is as valid as a matric, and argues that it might even be more valuable than matric.

“This is a great move, it worked for us, helped us get to the point of what we want in life sooner rather than later. Children spend way too much time in school, by the time they are done with matric, they are children with children, no skills, just responsibilities and a world they are not ready for,” said Sityata.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), the largest trade union for teachers, is not convinced. Provincial secretary for Sadtu, Chris Mdingi pleaded for the process to not be rushed. “We are of the view that there will be proper engagements with us given the implications and different interpretations that go with what the Minister is suggesting. There has to be further extensive research on the matter, it must not be rushed lest the good intention becomes something unpalatable to society and the country at large going forward”.

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