The Republic of South Africa, through its Ministry of Basic Education, is delighted to have taken part in the 2013 Ministerial Session of the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE.) this week.
On behalf of our government and people, we thank the State of Qatar for inviting us to this important conference that draws its strength from the principles of continuous innovation, diversity, collaboration and partnership that we equally cherish.
Doubtlessly, this singular privilege extended to us by one of the most prosperous nations in the world will go a long way in further strengthening the strong and strategic relationship South Africa has with the State of Qatar.
Indeed our transforming schooling system that’s progressively evolving from the ravages of a devastating political history and an education system hitherto premised on principles of racial segregation and inequality, stands to benefit from the Summit for Education given its international character, with 30 Ministers having been invited.
The rapid changes and increased complexity of the world of today have presented to all nations new challenges leaving in their wake new demands on our education systems.
This calls for innovation and change in the manner in which we organise our education systems and National Ministries in particular best to prepare our children, the inheritors of our future, for lifelong learning and productive roles in the world.
Developing countries face the mammoth task of ensuring educational relevance and quality coexist with the imperative to expand educational opportunities to the millions who have been historically excluded and thus rendered most vulnerable.
Aspects that have greatly influenced the need for change in the delivery of education to societies have included technological developments of the 21st Century. Digital technologies have proven to be powerful as enabling tools for educational change and reform. In them reside endless possibilities of expanding access to education and reinforcing the relevance of education to the increasingly digital workplace.
Technology has proven to be pivotal in improving education quality. It has helped in transforming teaching and learning into an engaging, active process that’s connected to real-life situations. This has impacted on classroom practice, teacher training and organizational management.
Studies point to a positive correlation between work quality and 21st Century skills in such areas as collaboration, knowledge construction, problem-solving, innovation, self-regulation, use of technology for learning and communication.
Arising from these observations is that nations, mainly in the developing world, need to build their potential as knowledge economies. This will require investment in human capital and a highly skilled labour force, as well as infrastructure for high-technology industries.
Economic activities based on new knowledge are known to stimulate growth, provide higher wages and greater employment opportunities as well as enhance a country’s competitiveness in the global environment.
These developments necessitate the use of customised solutions geared to respond to new challenges mainly by adopting innovation and innovative management in education policies and organizational structures of the ministries of education.
We share the view that ministries of education should adopt strategies that facilitate the collection, development, prioritization and implementation of new ideas for mitigating challenges of globalization. But new ideas or strategies should be embedded in policies and framework of the respective ministry.
We believe South Africa is well on course in building a Basic Education system for the 21st century. A solid foundation for a higher trajectory is firmly in place. More children are beginning to get an education in spite of the gap between the poor and the affluent families and communities.
The Percentage of 5 year old children attending an education institution in the country has grown from 39.3% to 84.8% between 2002 and 2011, and the percentage of 7 to 15 year old children attending school has increased to 98.8% in 2011, thus making it possible for us to meet the Millennium Development Goals in respect of achieving primary education.
We look forward to finding more new ways at the 2013 WISE for thinking about challenges and innovative ways of addressing them. For us the goal is to reverse decades of maladministration and mismanagement by the past apartheid governments, this entails broadening educational access and equity while improving efficiency and quality of education. Working together we can do more to build a better world.