Split opinions on Grade 9 General Education Certificate

The Department of Basic Education says that the plan to certify Grade 9 school leavers will send more learners into technical education and thereby reduce the dropout rates. Archive photo by Mzi Velapi

SADTU says it is still doing its own research on the proposed GET certificate.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) is undecided on the proposed General Education and Training Certificate (GETC) recently announced by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshega. The certificate would be awarded to learners that leave academic schooling on completing Grade 9. Motshega said the plan is to assist the thousands of learners, who leave school without any qualification, to find work in the labour market.

According to the department, this is being done to help learners choose their own curriculum stream, giving them a choice to decide if they want to follow either the academic, technical vocational or technical occupational stream.

Elijah Mhlanga, the Department of Basic Education’s spokesperson, says the GETC is predicated on this 3-stream model. He says this plan aims to send more learners into technical education while reducing the dropout rate. Mhlanga says there will be no changes to the curriculum except for the addition of subjects that focus on practical skills, especially those that are in demand. “Under the technical vocational stream, there was a target of 10,000 artisans per year. The Department has also introduced new subjects – technical mathematics and technical science – which could be referred to as applied mathematics and applied science,” he said.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union’s spokesperson in the Western Cape, Sibongile Kwazi, says they have not taken any position as the union on whether to support or reject the GETC proposal as they are still researching the implications it will have on education in the country. According to Kwazi, the intention to introduce this GETC plan has been in the public domain for the last few years and its concept draft document was developed in 2015. “We were a part of a number of platforms but there was no firm decision taken on it,” she said

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Kwazi says as the union they also need clarity on things like the structure of examinations, the costs involved and the implementation plan. The union feels like the system is not ready for this change and they are also wary that it will increase rather than reduce dropout rates. “Our decision to support or reject the introduction of the GETC will depend on the outcome of the research,” she added.

The principal of Thembelihle High School in Khayelitsha, Bongani Mfikili, says that some learners drop out because of poverty and have to find work. Many of the Grade 9 dropouts, he says, end up driving taxis.

Sinathi Vortuin, a Grade 9 learner at Thembelihle High School, says the GETC is just going to distract learners as they will think that leaving school after Grade 9 is enough of an education. Grade 12 learner, Sisonke Mbewu, believes that the plan is unnecessary and will limit the learners in finding a job.

According to Mhlanga, a study done by the department revealed that learners drop out mostly because the academic stream bores them and they want subjects with practical application – the GETC, he says, will give them that choice.

Sara Black, an education researcher, says she supports the proposal because it will standardise the end of the general education and training phase (Grades R-9) and this will lift the pressure and burden on schools. But, Black warned that the only people that will be disadvantaged are learners from marginalised and disadvantaged backgrounds as they would be channelled into less prestigious and lower paid forms of work. “The certificate itself is a relatively minor change. Students in schools have always been able to leave formal education after Grade 9 if they choose, although with obviously limited options if they did so,” she says.

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