“We are thrilled to be recognised by the Minister for assisting with the development of a Coding & Robotics Curriculum for South African schools,” said ORT SA CEO, Ariellah Rosenberg.

Article by , ITWeb’s business editor. Johannesburg, 13 Mar 2019

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga.

The South African government is developing curricula for coding and robotics for grades R to 9.

So said minister of basic  Angie Motshekga. “To  a sustainable industrialisation and keep pace with the world, South Africa is developing coding as well as robotics curricula to be included in GET [general education and training] from Grade R-9,” said Motshekga.

She said the curricula will  learners with an understanding of coding and robotics, and will develop their skills and competencies to prepare them for the fourth industrial revolution.

“The curricula will ensure our schooling system produces learners with the foundations for future work, and equip them with skills for the changing world,” the minister said.

According to Motshekga, the coding curriculum will develop learners’ ability to solve problems, think critically, and work collaboratively and creatively; function in a digital and information-driven world; apply digital and ICT skills; and transfer these skills to solve everyday problems.

She added that learners will also become a new generation of creative, innovative thinkers that can use coding to express their ideas, and adopt a culture of being self-directed, life-long learners.

The minister added the DBE is also working with civil society, academic institutions and businesses, such as Africa Teen Geeks.

She pointed out that with the support of Africa Teen Geeks, UNISA, North West University, ORT South Africa and Globenet, the DBE developed a framework for coding Grade R-9.

Google, Teen Geeks and other businesses through Africa are supporting the DBE to develop a coding platform that utilises artificial intelligence and machine learning to customise teaching and learning.

Student aptitude

Motshekga said customised teaching is the direct opposite of the one-size-fits-all methodology or philosophy.

“It considers individual student aptitude, learning speed, background, response and other variables. It processes the data in real-time and provides feedback to the teacher, so that the teacher can recognise flagging student attention or poor response immediately, and take corrective actions. This will improve student participation and, in the process, the overall results.”

She explained that machine learning will be able to explain the concepts as well as set goals for individual students.

On the other hand, she added, teachers will be able to track whether the students are able to digest the concepts.

“Based on that feedback, educators can change or modify the methodology, curriculum or topics accordingly. And, the result is more accurate and targeted for individuals. In simple terms, machine learning does the analytics based on individual student data, and makes the decision-making process automatic and uniform.”

She said this coding platform will need to be available in all 11 languages, ensuring rural and township children will be introduced to coding and robotics in their mother tongue, in line with government’s mission to provide an inclusive education accessible to all.

According to Motshekga, the robotics curriculum will have a strong foundation in engineering in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and will enable learners to build and operate robots through programming code.

Building computers

She noted the robotics curriculum will not require any infrastructure or devices, but will need maker spaces to provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent; for example, through cardboard construction activities.

“The projects will become more challenging as the grades progress. In Grade 9, the learners will be taught how to build a computer from scratch. This will not only develop STEM skills, but also contribute to effectively developing children’s creativity, critical thinking, design thinking and digital skills.

“This will ensure SA develops learners who are makers and inventors who will contribute to building an innovative culture in South Africa.”

Motshekga pointed out that teachers are going to be key in teaching this new subject, and the plan is to train at least three teachers in each of the 16 000 primary schools to teach coding.

“The implementation of coding in the system will start with a pilot in 1 000 schools in 2020 in five provinces for Grade 7 to 9,” she concluded.