President Cyril Ramaphosa says last year’s improved matric results must encourage the basic education sector to redouble efforts to address the “extremely serious” problem of learner dropout and youth unemployment.

Speaking at the 2023 Basic Education Sector Lekgotla, he said many learners leaving school before sitting for their matric exams made this year’s lekgotla theme, which focuses on equipping learners with knowledge and skills for a changing world, even more relevant.

“If we can provide learners with more choices and better guidance, we should be able to reduce the proportion of learners that drop out,” Ramaphosa said, highlighting how critical the three-stream education model is. The model encompasses three pathways — academic, technical vocational and technical occupational.

Ramaphosa said he was happy with the progress being made in implementing the model in schools.

“I understand that various technical vocational specialisations have already been introduced in more than 550 schools, and a growing number of schools are piloting the subjects in the technical occupational stream,” he said.

“These subjects include agriculture, maritime and nautical science, electrical, civil and mechanical technologies, among others.”

Ramaphosa believes that technical skills are what South Africa needs.

“These jobs can grow our economy and, importantly, the avenues for entrepreneurship that are so sorely needed can best be achieved by increasing learner access to technical and vocational subjects,” he said.

Rodney Manyike, the director of the Human Resource Development Council, said 90% of the employment opportunities require youth with vocational skills.

“The three-stream model addresses these challenges and supports the country’s skills needs and addresses youth unemployment,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the high numbers of unemployed young people was something no country could afford, “but it is even worse if they are also not in education or training”.

“If the economy is not creating enough jobs at scale to support the growing numbers of unemployed, we have to think creatively and innovatively.”

Albert Nsengiyumva, the executive secretary of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa, said remodelling technical and vocational skills development programmes must meet the demands of the labour market.

“Ways to do this include integrating technology in the programmes and considering digitalisation and the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.

The Deaf Education Principals’ Association (DEPA) believes that through the three-stream approach the South African sign language will be foregrounded.

“This will provide skilled deaf learners the opportunity to become economically independent, reducing the number of individuals that survive on social grants, creating deaf individuals that benefit and contribute to the economy of the country,” DEPA national chairperson Michelle Batchelo said.

Source: Mail & Guardian