DURBAN, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Tuesday night that select schools would be piloting subjects such as robotics this year and if successful, the subjects could be rolled-out to public schools as early as 2021.

The minister made the announcement at the Vodacom Dome in Midrand, Johannesburg, after she had announced that the country’s national pass rate for 2019 was 81.3%, an increase from the 78.2% achieved in 2018.

Motshekga said the department was embarking on a process of measuring skills and competencies needed for the changing world and how this would affect curriculums in public schools.

Present on stage alongside the country’s top achievers was a robot called “Pepper”, a semi-humanoid machine manufactured by SoftBank Robotics.

Pepper, who was given an opportunity to speak, told the audience that the department would soon be unveiling its own artificial intelligence (AI) virtual assistant.

I am here to inspire the youth of South Africa to build the first South African robot to solve South African problems. I can’t wait for you to meet my newest relative working at the department of basic education, Zora, an AI-powered virtual being with abilities to serve as a teacher assistant and a personal tutor to the learners in the coding and robotics curriculum that is being piloted this year, said Pepper.

Motshekga said the new curriculum would be tested at 100 schools in 2020 and rolled out in 2021.

We are partnering with Pepper and all the other partners in the sector that are helping us in firstly developing the curriculum, training our people and resourcing that curriculum that we need to implement, Motshekga said.

We also have to make sure there are entrepreneurship programmes in schools and that schools continue with specialisationsuch as maritime studies, agriculture and other specialised areasensuring that our curriculum is decolonised.

She said there was a greater need for standardised assessments in grades 3,6 and 9 and that grade 9 pupils were to be given a general education certificate.

We have to decisively work on quality and efficiency and strengthen our assessment regime so that at every exit level of grade 3,6 and 9 we have standardised assessments, and at grade 9 we give the learners a general education certificate. It is not an exit certificate, but a certificate to assist them to choose a different pathway in the system, said Motshekga.

She said there was a consensus that the department needed to ramp-up early child development.

“There is work underway. We have to make sure the two-year early child development programme comes into play and we need to work with the departments of social development, health, and Local Government to have an integrated early childhood development programme in the country, said Motshekga.

Source: African News Agency