The recent pronouncement by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, that the DBE is working on the introduction of multiple qualifications such as the General Education Certificate (GEC) qualification at the end of Grade 9, has resulted in public hysteria, questioning the logic around “14 year olds exiting the schooling system to join the world of work”.
The context to this development is to be found in the DBE’s Priority 4: “Dealing decisively with the quality and efficiency through the implementation of standardised assessments to reduce failure, repetition, and drop-out rates.”
NAPTOSA wishes to remind society of The Constitutional imperative that compulsory basic education is offered until age 15, or the completion of Grade 9, whichever comes first, currently allowing leaners to leave school at this point. However, it must be noted that the ideal is for every learner to complete schooling by acquiring the grade 12 NSC, said Mr Basil Manuel, Executive Director of NAPTOSA.
The GEC is not a new phenomenon. It has been around since 1995 and was resuscitated in 2008 and has been registered with SAQA as a Level 1 qualification on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).
The current educational system is academically focused and does not cater for the interests, aptitudes and abilities of ALL learners, prompting many frustrated learners that are not academically inclined to leave school after the compulsory schooling age/period. The highest school dropout rate is experienced in the senior phase (grades 7-9), added Mr Manuel. It is with this in mind that the intended introduction of the GEC is welcomed by NAPTOSA, albeit guardedly, stated Mr Manuel.
NAPTOSA cautions that the GEC cannot be viewed in isolation of the Three Stream Model that offers Academic, Technical and Vocational education. Considering that resourcing should follow innovations, it is imperative that the Department puts systems in place that will allow learners who elect to move into the Technical and Vocational streams to access such facilities in every area, once this model and the GEC are implemented, stated Mr Manuel.
The GEC is not intended to be an exit certificate for learners but rather a mechanism to assist them to follow an educational stream that resonates with their interests and abilities. More importantly the GEC will assist learners and parents in making informed career pathing choices based on the learners’ academic and cognitive abilities, said Mr Manuel
Mr Manuel noted that while NAPTOSA believes this to be a step in the right direction for our children, the union’s support remains qualified, mainly because there still is a policy vacuum in that the Three Stream Model has not been promulgated. NAPTOSA would like to see this model offered to every community to enable every leaner to become a functional citizen.