With the matric results season having begun, an education expert on Wednesday said technical qualifications aligned to industry requirements were vital.
Conceding that not all high school pupils would take the academic route by pursuing degree courses at university after matriculating, leading education expert Mary Metcalfe said on Wednesday she was encouraged that the department of basic education was establishing “a broad architecture of a more diverse curriculum for the last three years of schooling – Grades 10 to 12”.
Said Metcalfe: “This is to be welcomed because the three streams – academic, technical and occupational – will provide differentiated options in secondary schools and be more inclusive of interests and aptitudes.
“As this is introduced across the country, pupils will be able to select from these options within schools and will write the national senior certificate (NSC) in Grade 12.
“Those that leave school before Grade 12 to enter technical, vocational education and training colleges will write the equivalent national certificate (vocational) – the NC(V).”
Metcalfe, however, warned that failure by the department not to update information contained in technical textbooks, could have “undesirable results”.
“There must be expert critical engagement with the new current NSC technical vocational subjects: mechanical technologies, civil technologies, electrical technologies, technical maths and technical science – aligned to maritime sciences, aviation studies, mining sciences and aquaponics,” she said.
“A real danger lies in the locking in of pupils into narrow and inflexible content that become outdated, rather than building core competencies as a basis for confident engagement with new content, technologies and opportunities.
“We must also avoid a proliferation of courses that the schooling system cannot sustain.
“Resources needed across the whole system and the costing is also crucial.
“These resources are often expensive and require frequent updating to market changes – as does the content.”
Added Metcalfe: “While the greater differentiation in further education should entice pupils to stay, as many as 40% of pupils currently leave, completely uncertificated, before Grade 12.
“This must change, but for those who do choose to leave after the age of 15, they will at least have the nationally validated GEC [General Education Certificate] in hand, which will have more currency than a school report.
“For me, the greatest system quality benefit of the GEC will be to direct the energy and resources of the system to improving quality in Grade 8 and 9.
“These are the most neglected years in the system which currently focuses intensely on the high-stakes Grade 12 results.”
She said the most important task for the department was “to build public understanding of the policy framework for the GEC and the differentiated three-stream model, so that it can be refined and its implementation strengthened through public debate”.
The complexities of introducing new subjects were enormous. “Steady planning that is not rushed, but aligns the systemic components of the change is key,” she said.
“Teachers whose current subject specialisations will decline, need to be retrained.”