School to get vocational curriculum

2014-11-23 15:00

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The department of basic education is introducing a vocational curriculum at some schools to address high dropout rates and the country’s skill shortages.

The curriculum will include such diverse subjects as beauty and nail technology, hairdressing and beauty care, office administration, motor mechanics, sheet metal work, body works, hospitality studies, electrical technology, bricklaying and plumbing, and child care.

It will be introduced in 2016 and will initially be piloted in schools for pupils with special needs. Then, says the department’s spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, the curriculum will be rolled out elsewhere.

“Learners are interested in different things and we want them to know they will find whatever they want in whichever school they go to,” said Mhlanga.

“It is felt that the introduction of opportunities at school level for skills and vocational education and training will make an important contribution to addressing skills shortages in the country and reduce youth unemployment.

“The vocational learning will also shorten the period it takes to train learners who are preparing for artisans’ qualifications.”

Mhlanga said severely intellectually disabled pupils would begin the skills and vocational programme when they were 12 years old.

Others who are struggling academically will start the programme in about Grade 6, he added. The programme will span four years and allow pupils to attain a National Qualifications Framework Level 1 certificate at the end of Grade 9.

“Learners will be able to specialise in a vocational programme from an earlier age, preparing them more effectively for employment. By ensuring that the qualification responds to the requirements of industry, learners will be more readily able to enter the labour market,” said Mhlanga.

South Africa has more than 1?000 technical high schools. Mhlanga said these would remain, but their curriculums would be strengthened.

Vocational education is highly valued elsewhere in the world – Mhlanga cited Singapore, Germany and the Netherlands as examples – and the department believes that introducing the curriculum will reduce the negative stereotypes attached to pupils who pursue this, rather than an academic path.

Several South African studies have found that half of the pupils in this country who start Grade 1 do not make it all the way to matric.

The department hopes a vocational curriculum will address this dropout rate.

“By allowing learners to enter the vocational track from as early as Grade 6, learners will receive more effective support in academic subjects such as language and mathematics,” said Mhlanga.

Officials from the department are in discussions with their counterparts from the department of higher education and training regarding the training of teachers for the new curriculum.

Michael Cosser, an education specialist with the Human Sciences Research Council, said: “It’s a move in the right direction and I’m glad to hear it will be rolled out beyond special schools. We need to develop vocational studies in this country.

“Strong economies in Europe are built on the back of strong technical and vocational education,” said Cosser.

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