As the world delves deeper into the digital world, can Newcastle parents and other South Africans expect to see their children’s school curriculum change within the very near future, with more new-age skills being taught?
According to the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, South African youth will be requiring high levels of digital skills, as well as 21st-century life skills, which will include scientific, digital, financial, and cultural fluency.
The department has published a white paper, titled the National Digital and Future Skills Strategy. A notice which considers the steps required to ensure South African youth have the essential skills and are fully prepared for the workforce after their school careers.
Looking at the mission of the strategy, the department explains, “This Digital and Future Skills Strategy addresses the need for mechanisms to foster digital skills development across South Africa, at early childhood development, schooling and post-school education and training levels, recognising that digital skills are necessary for economic growth, social development and cultural enrichment across all sectors of our society and economy, based on strategy elements to be undertaken by government, in conjunction with a range of stakeholders.”
This first element of strategy addresses the development of basic and intermediate digital skills. This will begin from early childhood development (ECD) through primary and secondary schooling, to post-school education and training (PSET).
According to the department, building basic and intermediate digital skills is a critical area for a national strategy to ensure that learners, school-leavers, and young adults are prepared for a society and an economy where digital technologies are increasingly pervasive.
Additionally, the department elaborates that the three interdependent strategic initiatives must be:
- Designing, writing content for and continuously revising curricula to build a wide range of digital skills, constantly adapting to changing knowledge needs.
- Building capacity to ensure all educators are empowered with digital skills and that these skills remain current.
- Providing access to the necessary infrastructure that enables digital skills development and making sure this is operational, secure, and sustainable.
However, the department points out the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education and Training are key role players for the success of this first element. Especially with respect to schools, teacher training, TVET institutions and other private post-school institutions.
“Aligned with the current curriculum review processes of the Department of Basic Education, a curriculum development initiative needs to be undertaken for computing, coding and a wide range of digital skills relevant to the continuously evolving digital skills requirements,” the department adds.
This will include but not limited to the basics required for further studies and work in the fields of the following:
- 3D printing
- Algorithms design and use
- Artificial intelligence applications
- Big data analytics
- Digital content design
- Drone applications
- Mechatronics and robotics
- Software engineering.
Elaborating on the new skills requirements, the department adds, “Curriculum review should give attention to language and mathematics curricula, since these provide foundation knowledge for digital learning.”
The curriculum review and design will require attention to computational thinking and problem solving; data literacy and analytical skills; mobile literacy relevant to the increasingly wider range of mobile, digital devices.
Furthermore, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies says extended initiatives, over the next decade, will be required to advance teacher’s digital skills to the point where they are major contributors to digital literacy, digital fluency and digital creativity for young people.
“In furtherance of the existing DBE initiatives, large numbers of teachers need to be trained to teach subjects where school goers at ECD, primary and secondary schooling levels learn to be digital citizens.”
The department emphasises this will include:
- Teachers from Grade R to Grade 12 who will teach coding, CAT, IT, and the fundamentals of various branches of computer science, such as AI.
- Teachers from Grade R to Grade 12 who will teach accounting, biology, languages, mathematics and science subjects using digital tools and applications.
The department claims, “Given the volume of teachers involved, this could be provided via online platforms and/or mobile platforms. Furthermore, the teacher training curricula need to be adjusted and added to, in order to cater for the new schooling curricula aimed at digital literacy and fluency.”
With plans to update the education curriculum, the department points out that connectivity, security and sustainability are major issues in schools, where theft has undermined many initiatives.
“What is needed in the future is a combination of approaches for infrastructure funding, for long term sustainability of digital infrastructure and for community-supported security measures.”
What are your thoughts on children learning more about the digital world, allowing them to explore further job opportunities from outside the “regular options”?
Share your views with us in the comment section below.
Author: Quinton Boucher
Edited: Calvin Swemmer