Already, 33.5% of graduates in South Africa aged 15-24 are unemployed. Of those aged 25-34 just 10.2% are unemployed. Without doubt this is a burden to young people, and the Department of Basic Education has often been accused of failing to prepare learners for the future.
In order to build a curriculum that will change the game, we first need to ask ourselves what we need to achieve with our education – is it to guarantee graduates jobs? This is a question that the ministry of education in Finland probably asked themselves before deciding to scrap school subjects.
Our utmost priority should be ensuring that children are free, allowing them to learn by themselves, from their own experiences, simultaneously making sure that we are preparing them for the work market.
Basic numeracy and language are the two basic things children should learn in their early ages at foundation phase.
Teach children the basics of mathematics – numeracy as they call it. This would prepare them for the complex mathematics at upper phases. This numeracy should not favour either mathematics or mathematics literacy, it should be neutral to allow a smooth transition should learners choose either – or we can just do away with mathematics literacy. After all, a number of scarce skills are mathematics related.
Every morning when children get to school they should be reading – Mondays may be for English, Tuesdays may be for home language and so on. In addition, give children some time to play, give them time to explore on their own. It is thus imperative that schools have libraries, giving children a variety of information, not limiting what students can discover – have a book for every field and topic as much as possible, this would give them a chance to feed themselves what they choose, shaping their reasoning skills.
Additionally, during the course of the day, students should learn numeracy, and it should certainly be done every day.
This approach can also be done vice versa, with numeracy in the morning and reading in the afternoon. There’s also room for adding subjects, but it wouldn’t be a good idea to crowd children with too many subjects. The emphasis here is that, in the foundation phase, language and basic numeracy be the centre of everything.
The challenge could be catering for students who for instance, learn Zulu at school but speak Tsonga at home. Even though such cases don’t often happen, the key solution is parental involvement.
When students reach the Senior-FET Phase they will have an idea of what they would like to major in as they grow.
Another issue to look at is the number of subjects in the upper phases. There should be five subjects at a maximum. Currently, students at Senior-FET phases are doing about seven to nine subjects, which is too much and unnecessary.
This is one way I believe these five subjects can be grouped:
Option 1: English, home language, science, mathematics and a talent subject – music, arts etc.
Option 2: English, home language, business studies (putting an emphasis on entrepreneurship), mathematics and a talent subject. In this option, business studies should include basic accounting and economics.
Option 3: English, home language, history, geography and a talent subject.
This kind of change will obviously affect the higher education and training department along with the universities and that’s exactly what needs to happen. This would align the demands of higher learning with the supplies of basic learning. DM