Angie Motshekga: Skills revolution needed

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said one of the most urgent issues the ANC policy conference needs to discuss is the transformation of the education landscape by promoting technical vocational schools.

She believes that this will help to successfully implement radical economic transformation.

“You can’t have that succeeding unless there is a skills revolution to support it. For me that is the biggest take-home, and I think we have to come out to say we have to review the entire education landscape,” said Motshekga.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian on the sidelines of the party’s policy conference at Nasrec, she said more schools that focused on technical education were needed.

“Currently we have more academic schools that are teaching general [subjects] and very few schools dealing with technical education, which is not the international trend.” 

She said she had recently hosted Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, the Finnish minister of education. Finland’s push towards more technical vocational schools had resulted in the government there facing pressure from parents, who wanted their children to attend these schools rather than academic ones.

“That’s where I think we need to go to, and [to] reduce the number of schools that are doing [solely] academic [subjects],” said Motshekga.

This year, the department of basic education has already piloted what it calls the three-stream model — technical vocational, technical occupational and academic — at 58 schools across the country. It is envisaged that 30 000 artisans will be produced by the technical vocational stream by 2030.

The focus on improving technical vocational education will address the high dropout rate and the skills demands of the economy.

The technical vocational schools will incorporate civil technology, electrical technology, mechanical technology, technical mathematics and technical sciences.

Motshekga noted, however, that it was a “very expensive system”, which is one of the difficulties the department has been having in fully implementing the new model. “There are a lots of consumables; there are skills that we don’t necessarily have, because we teach teachers history, maths and science, so it’s a major shift.

“So I think we must use the next two years to plan and prepare for that major landscape. For me, that’s the big one that we need to discuss here,” she said.

The minister noted that several issues pertaining to education would be discussed at the conference this week. She pointed to the “new radical things”, as crucial to the conference agenda.

“This will mean changing and resourcing differently the education landscape of the system, which means it’s different schools, different skills, different teachers and different resourcing models. So for me,it’s  a big one —we can’t do it immediately, but I think it’s important,” she said.

The M&G reported last month that Motshekga’s department was forging ahead with the implementation of the independent examination council, which will, in part, lead to a single matric examination.

“It has been good that we have been running exams as the state but, also internationally exams are run by independent bodies … it is going to take time but we can use this period towards the next term to prepare for an independent examination body. I think it’s going to be a big takeaway from the conference, because it is new,” Motshekga said. 

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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