Rolling out the Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Strategy

From The National Science & Technology Forum Electronic newsletter - February 2001.

Report prepared by Prof M J Kahn, advisor to the Minister of Education.

Many enquiries have been received, requesting a copy of the proceedings of the National Consultative Strategy Conference on SMTE that was held in September 2000. The report was compiled and was submitted to the Department of Education (DoE) by the NSTF late last year. This report is now being edited by the DoE and will be available for wider distribution in about four weeks. Don't worry, we shall announce when it is ready!


We are pleased to note the emphasis given in President Mbeki's State of the Nation Address to efforts intended to turn the education system around:

" welcome progress is being made in the efforts to improve the quality of education, including the provision of infrastructure, consolidating the culture of learning and teaching, and introducing Adult Basic Education. However, much more needs to be done to improve our skills base.

In this regard, Government has approved a Human Resource Development Strategy that will enable us to launch an accelerated skills development programme for those areas that are critical to a more competitive economy.

Immigration laws and procedures will be reviewed urgently to enable us to attract skills into our country. Improvements in maths and science education will also be prioritised."

Through last year we worked with the major stakeholders in education - teachers, officials, trade unions, subject associations, higher education and NGOs to scope out a strategy to improve participation and performance in school science, mathematics and technology. The strategy has both short and medium term objectives. It has an immediate thrust toward grades 10 to 12, longer-term development of the General Education and Training Band, and a strong focus on educator development.

The Council of Education Ministers on 12 February approved the first stage of this strategy for roll out in 2001/2002.  Specifically the following will be effected:

  1. One hundred 'focus' schools that specialize in senior secondary mathematics and physical science will be resourced in 2001/2. The objective is by 2004 to at least double the number of Higher Grade passes in the gateway subjects attained by learners from the disadvantaged communities. These schools will be distributed pro rata across the Provinces and located in a number of the nodal points as well as other sites of particular need. The interventions at school level will include clustering of learners, the provision of fully qualified teachers, out of hours tuition, provision of infrastructure and collaboration with NGOs and higher education institutions.

  2. Further provision will be made for the implementation of the Technology learning area in Grades 7 to 9 of Curriculum 2005. The objective is to develop support service competence in Technology and to train a corps of Technology teacher trainers in 2001/2. This will allow the large-scale training of teachers for Technology in 2002/3. This certificated training programme will also upgrade teacher competence in science and mathematics and offer the opportunity for teachers to acquire computer literacy, thereby raising the quality of science, mathematics and technology at Grades 7 to 9.

  3. Direct support to teachers of Technology will be provided through the supply of curriculum materials for teacher and learner alike in Grades 7 to 9.

  4. A large pilot project to strengthen the teaching of science and mathematics across Grades 4 to 6 is already under way. The objective is to upgrade 150 teachers per Province through a programme of certificated in service education that will be offered by service providers such as universities and technikons.

  5. The backlog of under-qualified teachers in all subjects will be addressed through the new National Professional Diploma for Educators.

  6. In order further to strengthen the quality of the examinations, common examinations will be conducted in Accounting, Biology, Mathematics, Physical Science, and English Second Language as of November 2001.

The Ministry is also working to access funding for the provision of dedicated bursaries for science, mathematics and technology educators.

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