The piloting of the Coding and Robotics subjects, which has been taking place in 1,000 identified primary schools in Grades R – 7 across all nine provinces, is progressing beyond expectations. The levels of dedication and innovation displayed by DBE, PED and District officials during the recent Coding and Robotics and Technology Inter-Provincial Meeting in the Western Cape Province was inspiring. The Meeting took place at the Cape Teaching and Leadership Institute in Kuils River and continued on the second day, with a site visit to the Vredekloof Primary School in Brackenfell on 5 and 6 September 2022, respectively.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) GET Director, Ms Karen Dudley, opened the meeting by welcoming delegates. She encouraged a Whole of Society Approach (WoSA), “as collaboration is the only way to ensure a footprint, subsequent trial blazing and implementation of 21st Century skills where Coding and Robotics is but a part of the whole. These 21st Century skills must be foregrounded across all subjects for a mind-set change towards Project-Based Learning (PBL) and personalised learning instead of teacher-centred learning. The role of the teacher therefore becomes that of a self-regulated and independent facilitator,” she said.
Ms Elspeth Khembo, Director for Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST), Curriculum Innovation and e-Learning at the DBE, referred to the four strategic aims of the Integrated National MST Education Strategy (2019-2030), to ensure the strengthening, alignment and implementation of MST integration across provinces. These are the provision of relevant high-quality curriculum and interventions; attracting and retaining competent MST teachers; the improvement of provision, management and effective utilisation of resources, for equitable teaching practices in urban and rural schools; and partnerships to ensure high impact activities and programmes to improve learning outcomes across GET and FET bands.
In support of the PBL Approach, she referred to the E-learning Africa Conference, organised by the Mastercard Foundation, that she attended along with Basic Education Deputy Minister, Dr Reginah Mhaule, earlier in May, where the Rwandan Minister of ICT and TVET, Hon Claudette Irere, articulated that Rwanda takes care of the transition from primary into secondary school into TVET or Universities, whilst also cutting down on the number of school dropouts through Project Based Learning and Digital Skills Development.
Each province had an opportunity to present an update on the status of the pilots and the positive impact of Coding and Robotics Clubs within schools. Similar challenges experienced included: lack of budget to resource schools; training of teachers; the lack of affordable LTSM; and time tabling. From their presentations, it was encouraging to see that an increasing number of girls expressed their interest in Coding and Robotics.
The Cape Town Science Institute also gave an overview on their Reach Project Network, whereby Robotics, Coding, e-Education and Collaboration, launched in 2020 in partnership with the WCED, is a network of partnerships grouped under one umbrella to assist educators and partners for preparing learners for the 21st Century and equipping them with the requisite skills. Ms Carol Annandale from Lasec Education, gave an overview of their products, supplying quality education resources for the education sector, introducing the delegates to their technology kit, AppMechanic, building robot and the AppCar, a navigational robot locally manufactured and supported, and speaks to any device using Wi-Fi, once the free application has been downloaded.
The deputy principal of Vredekloof Primary school indicated that the biggest lesson is that the implementation of Coding and Robotics is a long-term project requiring the support of a shared academic vision with the School Governing Body (SGB), and buy-in with strategic partners and stakeholders. The school is implementing a five-year plan to systematically build resources, having started with unplugged coding and robotics in Foundation Phase, with the motto of “giving everyone an experience of success.”
In their presentation, the WCED highlighted that they are in the process of concluding a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of the Western Cape for offering a variety of accredited Coding and Robotics including a basic course. The British Council coding project has spurred the Province on to further innovate and collaborate with the Science Centre in introducing 500 Coding and Robotics Clubs, with further support from other partners that include Coding and Robotics Competitions and Olympiads.
In his closing remarks, Mr Christo Jones, Chief Education Specialist for Technology, Coding and Robotics (Grade R-9) from the DBE, thanked the delegation for forming meaningful partnerships within provinces and across specialisation areas to ensure that 800 Foundation teachers were trained and 1,000 Education Specialists orientated via the online Moodle training platforms. He presented the way forward saying that, “the DBE is finalising a procurement process for resourcing Grade 7-9 piloting schools with Coding and Robotics Kits, along with a three-day end-user training session. These kits contain tablets with online resources and mobile trollies. Grade 9 orientation is set for 18 to 23 September 2022, with the orientation and training of teachers for all the other grades having been completed, with encouraging feedback. Videos were translated into sign language to ensure inclusivity and access to special schools. The finalisation of the draft curriculum is anticipated for October, with a series of roadshows planned for November. The implementation of the Coding and Robotics curriculum in SA schools will also contribute to the acceleration of the Three Stream Model to meet the National Development Plan (NDP) target to produce 30,000 artisans per year by the year 2030, whilst enhancing a culture of entrepreneurship for the future employability of our learners”.