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March 10, 2020

Increasing digital education in South Africa

Learning to code is critical in the Digital Age

Ian Houvet, Director, Boxfusion

A good education is a critical foundation for the success of any society. As we move into the Digital Age, with jobs as yet unimagined, the revision of our syllabus is becoming increasingly important in preparing our children for the future.

Digitising the syllabus

It would seem that government is reviewing the relevance of the curriculum to incorporate digital skills. To this end, President Ramaphosa announced during his SONA address in mid-February that coding and robotics has already been introduced at Grade R to Grade 3 level across 200 schools, to be fully implemented across the country by 2022. 

Coding is a language in itself, making the learning of coding a literacy skill that will be essential for ensuring employability in the future. In Africa in particular, it is critical to raise a generation of children who can solve local problems through locally created and coded solutions. 

Not only is coding a literacy skill, but it imparts problem-solving skills to children. This helps them to leverage maths and logic to come up with solutions, not only to coding problems, but to real life scenarios as well. Teaching coding imparts of a mindset of trial and error in children that also has the potential to produce resilience later in life. 

Furthermore, coding is a space that allows children to become creative. When coding, children are required to use logical and computational thinking to solve problems, but they can also create solutions and games for themselves from scratch. This gives them a space to flex their imaginations. 

Distribution of tablets

Besides upgrading the curriculum, providing children with the tools they need to learn with is a second component to ensuring they’re ready for the workplace of the future. In his 2019 address, President Ramaphosa had announced that “Over the next six years, we will provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device.” 

Beginning with historically disadvantaged schools and distributing digital textbooks across the country will allow children to become increasingly familiar with devices that they may not have access to at home and provides them with a platform to learn coding skills on a tablet device.

Going beyond primary education

A final prong to digitising the current curriculum is the creation of more colleges around the country. To that end, President Ramaphosa announced the founding of the Science and Innovation University in the City of Ekurhuleni. 

According to the President, “This will enable young people in that metro to be trained in high-impact and cutting-edge technological innovation for current and future industries.” 

This initiative will serve to address the country’s ICT skills shortage, as well as go some ways to improve youth unemployment by providing graduates with the abilities they will require to participate in the 4IR.

Giving graduates a foot in the door through practical workplace experience is an essential component of this education equation. At Boxfusion, we’re participating in the development of ICT skills through our annual graduate programme, which pulls students directly from universities and places them within our company to ensure that they develop real-world skills and increase their knowledge of coding and software development. 

It is initiatives and public-private partnerships like these which have the potential to secure a future for our youth in the 4IR.