Progress of CAPS Coding and Robotics Pilot Showcases Encouraging Developments

The Coding and Robotics Pilot programme, designed to integrate computational thinking into the core of South African education, is showing notable advancements. Teachers, via training through the DBE-UNISA Partnership and the UNISA MOOC platform, are growing more proficient and confident in their presentation and delivery of the draft curriculum, currently impacting 200 primary schools within the Foundation Phase.

While the coding and robotics curriculum remains in draft form, with a planned finalisation date in 2023 for the Foundation Phase, there are plans for its pilot extension into the Intermediate and Senior phases. This will involve additional teacher training once the curriculum for these stages is finalised.

Despite resource limitations in a significant number of pilot schools, educators are equipped with lesson plans and have been orientated by DBE and the provinces. The programme will expand in 2023 to cover Grades R-3 in the initial 200 pilot schools, along with extension to 1000 schools for Grades 4-7, and 569 secondary schools for Grades 8 and 9.

However, challenges persist, such as inadequate internet connectivity and lack of IT devices and Coding and Robotics Kits. The DBE continues to work with corporate partners to improve connectivity and resource provision, with the MST Conditional Grant allocation to PEDs earmarking Coding and Robotics for targeted funding.

The DBE has developed several programmes in collaboration with the British Council, targeting Grades 8 and 9 learners and teachers, focusing on digital skills, including coding. There’s also an ongoing Robotics Challenge, in partnership with SITA, for these grades, with a current challenge ending on 26 March 2023.

The Girl Learner in STEM Initiative aims to encourage female learners to engage with STEM subjects, with Boot Camps planned for 2023. This initiative is a collaboration between the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and United Nations Women.

The pilot programme has thus far achieved moderate success, with increased nationwide awareness of Coding and Robotics, the orientation of all provincial subject managers, increased expenditure on resources by PEDs, and enhanced digital skills of educators. Several partnerships have been entered into with HEIs, most notably NMU, aimed at further teacher training, and ongoing monitoring of the programme is conducted.

This progress aligns with the digital transformation goals of South Africa’s education sector, making it a significant step towards achieving the 21st Century skills required for future workforce needs.