Coding, robotics curriculum pilot to finally get going in 2021

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
Johannesburg, 26 Feb 2021

Government’s plans to upskill public school learners in coding and robotics are “making headway”, with a draft of the curriculum soon to be gazetted.

This was revealed by president Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking at the 2021 Basic Education Sector Lekgotla, which is being held under theme: "Equipping learners with knowledge and skills for a changing world".

The Department of Basic Education’s (DBE’s) coding and robotics curriculum is planned to be introduced as a new component of the national schools’ curriculum.

This, as the DBE has committed to increasing skills development and competencies to prepare learners for the fourth industrial revolution. The curriculum forms part of the department’s education priorities, and is envisaged to equip learners in all public schools with skills and competencies for a changing world, and rolled out from grades R to 9.

In his speech, Ramaphosa pointed out the draft coding and robotics curriculum has been submitted to the council for education quality assurance, uMalusi.

“During the course of this year, 200 schools will be piloting the draft curriculum from grades R to 3, and 1 000 schools will be piloting the grade 7 curriculum.”

South Africa has often faced criticism for lagging behind in the critical ICT skills needed for the digital revolution, a challenge Ramaphosa also noted during his keynote address.

He stated: “If we are to meet our developmental goals, we need to provide young people with quality education that prepares them not just for the challenges of the present, but also for the opportunities of the future.

“Not only must we adapt to new ways of learning, but our curricula has to respond to the changes in the world of work.

“In addition to having the right content, technologies and a safe learning environment, we must ensure our young people are grounded in an ethos of learning and industry.”

The president said the higher education sector has raised concerns about the large numbers of learners in subjects for which there is less demand in the economy.

“This challenge begins in the early years – firstly, with subject choices that limit future opportunities for learners, and, secondly, with the poor performance of learners in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

“Equipping learners with the knowledge and skills for a changing world necessitates a relook at these critical subject areas and the curriculum in general.

“If we are to seize the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution, our education system must be reoriented towards its development in our country.”

In terms of who will teach coding and robotics to learners, the DBE told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education recently that incumbent teachers will do the necessary.

“A national training team is expected to be trained in March 2021 and this team will train teachers in April.

“The new curriculum will be taught by existing teachers, after they have been trained. The department will ensure schools are equipped to teach coding and robotics as a subject, and that all equipment and computers will be stored safely and securely.”

In addition: “All nine provinces were given the number of teachers, coordinators and subject advisors to be trained. All provinces provided those teachers. There are to be three teachers per pilot school and all provinces have submitted the list of teachers to be trained from the foundation phase and grade 7. The training model will be both face-to-face and online. The department is working with UNISA in this regard as a training provider.”