Coding, robotics curriculum for Grade R-9 edges forward

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 24 Jul 2020
Minister in the Department of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga.
Minister in the Department of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga.

The training of teachers and subject advisors for the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE’s) coding and robotics curriculum will be conducted online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So said basic education minister Angie Motshekga, tabling her department’s adjusted budget for the 2020/21 financial year during a virtual plenary session this week.

To address SA’s critical skills gap, the DBE has committed to increase skills development and competencies to prepare learners for the fourth industrial revolution.

The coding curriculum forms part of its education priorities, and is envisaged to equip learners in all public schools with skills and competencies for a changing world.

Last year March, the DBE announced it was planning a pilot for a coding and robotics curriculum for grades R to 9. The department also revealed the curriculum would be piloted in 1 000 schools across the country this year.

While news of the curriculum rollout was publicly welcomed, there was some scepticism concerning sufficient teacher training and availability of resources.

Motshekga revealed this week that the development of the curriculum is at an advanced stage. “Despite all the challenges that we're facing under COVID-19, we can say DBE has developed the coding and robotics curriculum for grade R to 9, and it’s being currently repackaged to ensure proper sequencing and seamless progression from one place to the next.

“We are planning that the repackaging process may be completed by the end of July this year, after which that curriculum will be presented to uMalusi for approval.

“We are extremely grateful to ETD SETA [Education, Training and Development sector Skills Education Training Authority], which has assisted us with the necessary resources to be able to train our teachers.”

Turning to strengthening the DBE’s skills development initiatives, Motshekga said the department’s partnership with Ford Motors will see 240 engines donated to technical schools that offer automotive as a subject.

The basic education minister added her department has committed to provide every school with ICT devices, which are loaded with digital content. “DBE, in partnership with the mobile network operators, has completed, at this stage, an audit of all the 477 special schools.

“We are also finalising the implementation plan with the mobile network operators to provide all these schools with devices, connectivity, digital content, as well as ICT integration training for teachers.

“The department, in partnership with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, has identified 152 sites in 76 education facilities, to equip them with a virtual classroom infrastructure.

“Through this initiative, the sector will fully embrace the digital revolution, remote learning, and districts will be able to benefit through curriculum specialists’ streamed lessons on digital platforms.”