There has been some frenzied response to the recent pronouncement by the Minister of Basic Education 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, with some questioning whether we will now be encouraging “14 year olds to exit the schooling system to join the world of work”.

Rather than getting caught up in all the hype, the matter should be considered objectively. The introduction of a GEC is not a new phenomenon. It has been around since 1995, was resuscitated in 2008 and has been registered with SAQA as a Level 1 qualification on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

Also, 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).

So what is NAPTOSA’s take on the matter? We welcome the intended introduction of the GEC, albeit guardedly.
 
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.

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.

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 and productive citizen.