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According to the latest PPS Professional Confidence Index (PCI) conducted among over 3 800 South African graduate professionals, 92% of the survey respondents are concerned about the standard of mathematics and science education in South Africa. This has been a concern since the question was first asked in the first quarter of 2015.
Macy Seperepere, Manager: Professional Associations at PPS, states that since 2012 up until the third quarter of 2014, the PPS PCI asked respondents if they were concerned about the lack of maths and science graduates in the country and this question recorded an average response rate of 94%. “As the survey respondents were clearly concerned about the lack of graduates in the science and maths sectors, we wanted to get to the root of the problem. The survey now reveals that the problem not only lies at graduate level, but it starts at educational level in the country’s schools.”
“However, Government has recognised the dire state of mathematics and science education and is taking active steps to improve this,” says Seperepere.
She points to the announcement by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga who said the Department of Education has set aside R1.156bn over the 2016 medium term expenditure framework for the Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) grant, intended to promote the teaching and learning of mathematics, science and technology in schools. “The department is also embarking on initiatives to motivate and recruit young university graduates from maths and science intensive degrees to become teachers.”
Seperepere also points to the Schools of Specialisation initiative which will see the Gauteng Provincial Government establish 27 schools of specialisation between 2016 and 2018, the first of which was launched in Soweto towards the end of May.
Oupa Bodibe, acting spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Education, says that the Schools of Specialisation is an integral part of the National Skills Development Plan, the National Development Plan and Gauteng’s programme of Transformation, Modernisation and Re-industrialisation focusing on educating a small group of top talent (academic and non-academic) learners. “As such these schools will assist in addressing critical skills shortages in South Africa and accelerate the improvement of existing Dinaledi, Technical and Magnet schools in Gauteng.”
Bodibe adds that the schools of specialisation will also serve as laboratories to deepen teaching and learning methods that can be extended to nearby schools, instead of being islands of excellence in a sea of mediocrity.
The plan is to open 28 schools of specialisation across the five regions of Gauteng to offer 5 disciplines Maths, Science and ICT; engineering; Commerce and Entrepreneurship; Sports, and Arts, says Bodibe. “Most funding for these schools will come from the state as we seek to nurture the development of top talent across these disciplines in order to breed South Africa’s future generation of leaders.”
According to Seperepere, unemployment and skills shortages is a very unfortunate reality in South Africa which has to be addressed through effective collaboration between Government, corporates and private organisations. “Corporate South Africa needs quality candidates to be produced by South African tertiary institutions to ensure economic growth. Therefore, it is in the best interest of Corporate SA to support the education sector by offering more internships and scholarships to improve the quality and quantity of graduates who are ready to enter the workforce.”
“In addition to this, an interest in science and mathematics has to be fostered among our children in an effort to increase the number of young adults graduating with the appropriate knowledge and skills needed in key sectors such as science, engineering and medicine to ensure positive economic growth for the country,” concludes Seperepere.