The Department of Basic Education has announced its ambitious plan to introduce 38 new subjects to South African schools in the coming years. The new curriculum, which targets learners in grades 10 to 12, is part of the department’s innovative ‘three-stream’ model. With full implementation set for 2025, this model aims to provide learners with better education and more accessible pathways to employment.
New Subjects in Occupational and Vocational Streams
The department has already trialled several occupational subjects, such as Agricultural Studies, Beauty and Nail Technology, Art and Crafts, Ancillary Health Care, Office Administration, Upholstery, Early Childhood Development (ECD), Maintenance, Motor Mechanics, Food Production, Body Works/Panel Beating and or Spray Painting, Needlework, Welding, Hospitality Studies, Sheet metal work, Wholesale and Retail, Electrical Technology, Bricklaying and Plastering, Woodworking and Timber, Plumbing, and Hairdressing.
Prominent vocational subjects include Agricultural Studies, Art and Design, Digital Technology, ECD, Mechanical Technology, Electrical Technology (Digital, Electronics, and Electrical), Civil Technology, Hairdressing and Beauty, Ancillary Health Care, Services: Maintenance and Upholstery, Consumer Studies, Hospitality Studies, and Wholesale and Retail Studies.
According to Seliki Tlhabane, the department’s chief director for mathematics and science, the main difference between the occupational and vocational streams lies in the proportion of practical work learners must complete. About 75% of the occupational stream’s curriculum is practical, and 25% is theory. Academic subjects involve minimal practical work, while vocational studies require a 50-50 balance between practical work and theory.
The Three-Stream Model
The current education system in South Africa, known as the academic stream, primarily focuses on guiding learners through matric and into universities or other institutions of higher learning. However, this approach has inadvertently led to technical or vocational skills being perceived as “lesser” than academic pursuits.
Recognizing the potential of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, the Department of Basic Education aims to change the perception that these institutions are for learners who have failed academically. By encouraging bright students to pursue technical and vocational programs, the department hopes to address this issue and promote a more balanced educational landscape.
The critical aspect of the occupational stream is work-based experience, where learners are attached to a workplace supervised by professionals, acquiring real-world work experience. For vocational studies, the combination of theory and practical work suffices.
Pilot Programs and Future Implementation
With the upcoming introduction of new subjects and the GEC, the Department of Basic Education is taking significant steps to revolutionize the educational landscape in South Africa, offering learners a more diverse range of opportunities to succeed in both academia and the workforce. Since 2017, the three-stream model has been trialled in various capacities nationwide and entered the ordinary school trial phase in 2021. The new subjects in the occupational and vocational streams are expected to be fully implemented in grades 10 to 12 by 2025.
General Education Certificate (GEC)
Introducing new subjects in the occupational and vocational streams supports the department’s launch of the General Education Certificate (GEC), which will be trialled this year and fully rolled out by 2024. The GEC will serve as a transitionary certificate for grade 9 learners, allowing them to pursue occupational and vocational training.
Benefits of the Three-Stream Model
The three-stream model seeks a more inclusive and diverse education system for South African learners. By introducing the occupational and vocational streams, the department aims to:
- Break down the stigma associated with technical and vocational education by promoting these subjects as valuable and viable alternatives to traditional academic paths.
- Cater to learners’ diverse needs, interests, and strengths, providing more opportunities for personal and professional growth.
- Equip learners with practical skills and real-world experience, increasing their employability and preparing them for the workforce.
- Strengthen the South African economy by producing a skilled workforce in various fields, including high-demand trades and services.
Challenges and Future Prospects
While the three-stream model holds promise for revolutionizing the South African education system, it also faces several challenges. Some of these challenges include:
- The need for adequate funding and resources to implement and sustain the new curriculum streams.
- The necessity to train and equip teachers with the skills and knowledge required to teach new subjects effectively.
- The task of changing societal perceptions about technical and vocational education to ensure equal opportunities for all learners.
Despite these challenges, the Department of Basic Education remains committed to transforming the educational landscape by offering diverse opportunities for learners to succeed in academia and the workforce. With the full implementation of the new subjects and the GEC by 2025, the department hopes to foster a more balanced and inclusive education system that addresses the unique needs of South African learners and prepares them for a successful future in their chosen fields.