Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga gave an impassioned speech in Parliament on Tuesday Afternoon during the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) debate on International Literacy Day.
“We must agree as a nation, that basic education is indeed at the heart of building a South African nation for a better and prosperous future.” Said Minister Motshekga.
International Literacy Day commemorated on 08 September 2018, under the theme: “Literacy in a digital world: Taking measures to leverage the economic potential of the 4th Industrial Revolution” gives us the opportunity to reflect on what is being done to promote literacy especially in relation to the 4th Industrial Revolution.
The Minister emphasised the absolute need to improve the quality of learning and teaching outcomes across our education system. “This is an imperative, if we have to tackle the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment; and stimulate our economic growth and development; and help ourselves to leapfrog towards a just, equitable, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa that we are yearning for,” she said.
“We must ensure that more learners reach the basic levels of literacy and numeracy in the Foundation Phase. This is an overriding determinant of how successful learners will be in their 12 years of their long walk to Matric; and largely determines whether learners will cope with schooling at all, or run the risk of dropping out and add to the huge numbers of young people not employed, not in education nor in training – the so-called NEETs. We must make early grade learning and teaching our topmost priority.” Said Minister Motshekga.
The Minister reminded members that we stand on the brink of a disruptive technological revolution and trends that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, this technological transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. “We do not yet know just how it will unfold; but one thing is clear, the response to it, must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders, from the public and private sectors, to the academia and civil society,” commented Minister Motshekga.
Globally, countries are being challenged to respond to the opportunities and risks presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Advanced Technologies, such as automation, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles will demand non-routine, interpersonal, analytical, and social skills, such as persuasion, as well as emotional and social intelligence; and will demand creativity, agility and adaptability. Furthermore, creative and critical thinking, communication, media literacy, and ethics, will be demanded.
“Honourable Members, the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution has also led to the expansion of the definition of “Literacy” beyond just reading and writing. Educational institutions are now expected to meet learners’ needs through the integration of 21st century skills – referred to as the 5 Cs. These 5 Cs are critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and computational thinking. The 5 Cs underpin new forms of Literacy in the digital world,” Explained Minister Motshekga.
At the basic education level, the modernisation of the classroom has become a phenomenon of the global society. Teaching approaches, are beginning to change in all countries, especially leading countries in education, such as Finland and Singapore.
“South Africa cannot and should not be left out. The progress we are seeing in Gauteng and the Western Cape, vis-à-vis the modernisation of the classroom, with the Eastern Cape and Free State following suit, is encouraging to say the least. The alignment of content and teaching methodology, to real life situations, in the context of the 4th Industrial Revolution, are therefore imperative,” noted Minister Motshekga.
Noting that the new forms of literacy are largely underpinned by developments in technology the Minster shared details with the members of the NCOP on Operation Phakisa for ICT in Education.
This includes the provision of core connectivity to schools; the development of learning and teaching materials; the more effective use of ICTs in the administration and evidence-based improvement of the education system; and the preparation of teachers for an education system more strongly underpinned by ICTs.
The Minister explained that DBE is preparing learners for the Fourth Industrial Revolution through a three-pronged approach, which consists of the revision to school curriculum design, including the (a) PLAY-based learning methodology for the Foundation Phase, Computer Application Technology, Information Technology, and the Three- Stream Curriculum Model; (b) the provision of ICT resources to schools, including connectivity and devices through Operation Phakisa; and (c) the integration of technology in teaching and learning (e-Learning) through Operation Phakisa.
“Critical for us, is the integration of ICTs into all the levels of the education and training system, in order to improve the quality of teaching and learning, by digitally transforming the basic education sector. All stakeholders are aligning and delivering a consistent solution to all schools, to ensure that no school is left behind, because of its geopolitical location. We want a learner in Lusikisiki to have the same access to ICTs, as a learner in Johannesburg. For without this, such learners would be unable to cope with the demands of the 21st century and 4th Industrial Revolution.” Said Minister Motshekga.
In closing her contribution to the NCOP debate the Minister said, “I wish to conclude by saying that we are cautious in the way we are embracing technology, to ensure that any transformation in the education sector, is not dictated to by technology; otherwise it will be like ‘a cart pulling the horse, or the tail wagging the dog’. Technology cannot be an end to itself, but should rather be informed by sound educational needs.”
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