Former President Mr. Thabo Mbeki
All Members of the Working Group
Ladies and Gentlemen
In his classic poem titled, ‘Second Coming,’ William Butler Yeats notes that, ‘the best lack all conviction,’ while, ‘the worst are full of passionate intensity.’
We meet today amidst evidence that some amongst us have outsourced the faculty of passionate intellectual engagements in exchange for demagogic tendencies.
These demagogues are aided and abetted by keyboard activists and trolls who are polluting our cyberspace with fake news, alternative facts amongst other misdemeanours.
It came as no surprise then, that, when the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni released his economic recovery discussion document, titled, ‘Economic Transformation, Inclusive Growth, and Competitiveness: Towards an Economic Strategy for South Africa’ some threw their toys out of the cot.
They did so in a polemical fashion without offering us any nuanced riposte on the matters addressed in Comrade Mboweni’s economic discussion paper.
Some went as far as saying that the Minister has gone rogue. Some opined that he thinks he is a prime minister.
Comrade Mboweni’s only crime is he dared to reason, to think and engage in intellectual pursuit to solve our everyday challenges, such as a low growth and rising unemployment.
It is within this context that we value and applaud the Thabo Mbeki Foundation and its partners for taking a road less travelled to interrogate the threats and opportunities for our basic education in the context of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
You did so as a non-state interest group. This is vital for the health of our democracy because public policy will benefit, and our country would register faster progress if there’s unity of purpose.
As a country, we need to reignite the culture of intellectual engagements and rational public discourse as it were. The best must refuel their passion for intellectual gymnastics.
We must drown the voices of those who suffer from generalised intellectual dyslexia without raising our voices.
In the midst of the emergence of crass materialism, fake news and alternative facts, we must emerge as leaders in the business of knowledge production.
Our democracy makes it possible for many of us to single handedly undertake the intellectual pursuit of truth, regardless of society's constraints under which we operate.
My political and intellectual persuasions preclude me from dishing out vile rebuke against such an honourable pursuit, a quest for knowledge and answers to our today’s challenges.
Thus, Mr. former President and your team, we welcome this Working Group’s Report and Findings aptly titled, ‘Education in the Age of the 21st Century.’
The Working Group had a nice ensemble, comprising of educators, academics, civil society, business, policymakers and thought leaders.
All these pre-eminent citizens and friends of South Africa are preoccupied with the urgent task to make our country a better place to live, work, learn and play.
As you say, the idea is to tackle the complex question of what practical steps South Africa needs to take in order to lay the foundation for a successful transition to this new epoch, which is characterised by digital and emerging technologies.
These digital disruptions and emerging technologies means we have to prepare our young people for careers that are yet to be recognised as professions. The old is not struggling to die, it is dead.
Yet the new is struggling to be born because it requires a set of new skills that the old hadn’t even imagined yet. This then calls for the radical shifts in the socio-economic planning including an overhaul of teacher training and curriculum development.
The Working Group’s Report and its findings sets us on a path to new ideas, knowledge and most importantly implementation strategies.
It ignites a rational based conversation in our country about a subject as emotive as basic education.
The report will go a long way in enhancing our evidence-based policy making and actions.
Programme Director; we have begun with baby steps to integrate emerging technologies in our basic education system so as to prepare our young people for the disruptive nature of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
At a global level, we are doing so through a three-pronged approach, which consists of the revision to school curriculum design, including the:
- PLAY-based learning methodology for the Foundation Phase, Computer Application Technology, Information Technology, and the Three- Stream Curriculum Model;
- The provision of ICT resources to schools, including connectivity and devices through Operation Phakisa; and
- 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.
All stakeholders are requested to align and deliver a consistent ICTs solution to all schools, to ensure that no school is left behind, because of its geopolitical location and/or economic profile.
Hence, we are excited that Thabo Mbeki Foundation & ProFuturo is pursuing a project to leverage technology in-order to close the educational digital gap.
As we know it is proven beyond doubt that digital technology can ensure access to a quality education for everyone anyone, anywhere in the world.
We are working at full speed to ensure that within the next six years all our workbooks and textbooks are delivered via a tablet device as announced by His Excellence President Cyril Ramaphosa.
I am delighted to inform you that one of our priorities for the next five years includes the immediate implementation of a curriculum focusing on skills and competencies for a changing world.
This addition to the curriculum takes into account the disruption brought by the 4th Industrial Revolution as well as the introduction of Entrepreneurship, schools of specialisation and/or focus schools.
We have begun the process of transforming our curriculum by introducing new and exciting subjects such as Coding and Robotics.
Our plan includes the introduction of 10 types of Focus Schools incrementally throughout the country in the Medium to Long Term to offer these new subjects, and other skills based subjects.
Interestingly, we also intend to establish Hi-Tech (IT, Coding and Robotics Schools), Arts, Maths and Science, BCM, Aviation, Maritime, Engineering (Technical High Schools), Hospitality & Tourism, Schools of Skills and Commercial Schools.
We thank you for working with us without ceasing to ensure that the ‘Age of Hope’ so eloquently expounded by former President Mbeki in 2006 doesn’t become an ‘Age of Despair.’
We thank you for your continued faith in the South African Government and its people, your thought leadership and investment will ensure that our ‘new dawn’ doesn’t become a ‘false dawn.’
Help as we rebuild and renew our country of our dreams.
Yes, we are convinced that through working together, and in our lifetime, we shall indeed achieve what we envisioned in 1994, a country where everyone reaches their full potential and fulfil their dreams.
A country where opportunity is determined not by birth, but by ability, education and hard work.
In conclusion, on behalf of the Basic Education Department and all our people, I extend our heartfelt congratulations to our former President Thabo Mbeki, Members of the Working Group, panelists and friends of South Africa.
I thank you.