Compulsory schooling from age 5

2014-07-17 00:00

LOWERING the school entry age to five gets a thumbs up in the province — if resources were in place to teach the three million extra pupils.

On Tuesday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said in Parliament government intends to amend the Schools Act to accommodate an earlier entry age. Presenting her 2014/15 budget, she said schooling was to be compulsory between the ages of five and 15.

The move is in line with the National Development Plan of 2012, which emphasises early childhood development for children aged two to four and for four- to five-year-olds, calling for the latter group to be included in the basic education system.

Jaco Deacon, deputy CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas), said his organisation was not against an extra two years of compulsory education, but it had to be quality education from day one, with trained teachers. “The biggest challenge will be resources,” he said. “Currently there are 12 million pupils in the system. With two extra grades, there will be 15 million. Will schools be able to accommodate two extra classes?”

In 2012 when the NDP was finalised it was estimated that an extra two years of formal, compulsory schooling would come with a teacher’s salary bill of at least R5 billion, to which would be added the costs of training teachers, learning materials, school buildings and extra administration.

Deacon pointed out that the reception year, Grade 0, was said to become compulsory from January 2010 but this deadline was moved to Jan­uary 2014 and again to 2019.

He said if two new grades were introduced too early, failure was guaranteed. “First do the planning and get the infrastructure and the teachers in place.” — WR.

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