Grade 9 exit plan is not enough

Quality education is vital and there’s need for a shift in nation’s mindset to appreciate the vast opportunities that lie in the vocational route, writes Ariellah Rosenberg.

Pretoria – The Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, in delivering her budget to Parliament last week, announced the Grade 9 school exit plan, which introduces a school-leaving certificate for Grade 9 pupils. Motshekga anticipates that this “certificate would address unemployment and the country’s skills shortages”.

TTP17MATRICS20-19-09-2012-13-09-11-161-Surely something is missing in this plan! How can nine years of schooling help with reducing unemployment when we are producing school-leavers who are mathematically and language illiterate?

This has been substantiated over the past few years by the Grade 9 results in the Annual National Assessments.

Last year, Grade 9 pupils achieved on average 10.8 percent for maths, 48.3 percent for their home language and 34.4 percent for their first additional language.

How will the issuing of this certificate yield better results?

I am not totally opposed to the minister’s announcement, but there are points I think should be taken into consideration with regard to the Grade 9 exit plan.

Since 1994, the Department of Education has implemented many changes. For example, it has managed to increase the Grade 1 enrolment to nearly 100 percent, which is a remarkable achievement.

However, the quality of schooling is poor, as reflected by the Annual National Assessment results, international benchmarking and by our matric results.

South Africa is last in maths education in the world.

The 2008 plan to increase the number of teachers has been successfully implemented, but the quality of entrants into the profession is a cause for concern, as has been pointed out in research published by the Centre for Development and Enterprise in “Teachers in South Africa: Supply and Demand 2013-25”.

If we keep compromising on the quality of education we will continue getting mediocre and below-average outputs.

There is no doubt that, first and foremost, the Department of Education has to ensure that these first nine years of schooling are of a high quality, providing good resources and sound teacher training.

But let’s take it one step further

Looking at the top-performing countries in education, Finland ranks as one of the best. Finland has only nine compulsory years of schooling, but has been one of the role models for quality in education, placed top in international benchmarking assessments, such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timms) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).

This, however, is not where it ends.

In Finland, after nine years of basic education, a pupil, at the age of 16, may select one of two paths, to continue their secondary education on an academic track, or choose a vocational track.

Many countries in the world, where ORT schools operate successfully, implement this type of system and are able to offer vocational routes to their pupils.

In France, for example, ORT high schools meet the dynamic needs of the job market by offering qualification in optics, banking, informatics and other fields.

In the former Soviet Union, ORT has established more than 20 vocational training schools and colleges in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

This places ORT as a leader in delivering career-oriented training in this region.

In December, the Centre for Development and Enterprise published a presentation by Ricardo Hausmann, a Harvard economist, who has been leading an intensive study of the South African economy.

One of the recommendations Hausmann makes is for a higher rate of job creation.

He suggests that due to its significant skills constraints, the country should aim to shift from non-tradable sectors, such as tourism, finance, construction, retail, wholesale and transport, which require highly skilled professionals, to tradable sectors, producing things that are exportable, such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing.

If we were to adopt this recommendation, we would develop a vocational path that would focus on the needs of the market and improve the economy.

It would be a win-win, as it would also reduce the rate of unemployment and increase the labour force.

The exit plan presented by the minister means that those Grade 9 pupils who leave the system at this level would not follow the academic stream for the National Senior Certificate. These pupils could choose from among 26 skills and vocational subjects offered by technical schools that have been upgraded or technical and vocational education colleges.

We should look at this proposal by the minister in a different light – perhaps the approach to this plan should be different.

In my view, any Grade 9 pupil, from whatever social background, should be able to make this choice, based on his or her competency and interest, whether they will follow the academic or vocational route. If a pupil chooses a vocational path it should not be perceived as a poor choice.

This requires a change in the mindset of the nation.

Most South Africans perceive the academic route as the most prestigious and fulfilling path to follow. We should all respect the opportunities that lie in the vocational route.

The vocational path should be appreciated and advocated, as South Africa has a huge shortage of people with these specialised skills.

Both routes should be valued and invested in. Vocational training providers should be upgraded so they offer top quality education and training.

As Hausmann concludes in the Centre for Development and Enterprise report: “South Africa needs skills, and it needs a clear strategy, co-ordinated across many sectors of the state and the economy.

“Only then will the country grow and create jobs that will reduce inequality and eradicate poverty.”

Education is the most important vehicle to reduce poverty and unemployment. It will grow the labour force and provide equality.

If we want to improve the economy and enhance education, there should be a common vision – by all role-players, and not silos, or policies declared sporadically – to ensure pupils receive quality education, ensuring that, whatever their school exit level, they leave literate and numerate.

Article by:- iol News

Scripps National Spelling Bee Names Microsoft and Words With Friends as Official Broadcast Sponsors

The nation’s largest and longest-running educational program is joining with two highly regarded and internationally known consumer brands to sponsor the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee finals live on ESPN.

Microsoft Corp., the worldwide leader in software, services, devices and solutions, and Words With Friends, a mobile app and social game created by Zynga Inc. (Nasdaq: ZNGA), are the official broadcast sponsors of this year’s competition.

“We are fortunate to have two sponsors who share a similar mission with the Scripps National Spelling Bee,” said Paige Kimble, executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. “We all are deeply committed to supporting educational programs. We welcome back Microsoft for its second sponsorship year. Microsoft has had a profound impact on millions of students around the world. Words with Friends engages millions of Wordies to test their vocabulary skills and to challenge other players in the social word game. Through this relationship, we hope to expose more audiences to the exploration of words, spelling and vocabulary.”

national-spelling-bee-finalsMicrosoft has partnered with over 12 million educators to impact more than 207 million students in 240 countries. Microsoft is committed to empowering students with innovative technology to help them develop the 21st century skills needed to excel now and in the future.

“Spelling and grammar are foundational skills that pave the way for effective communication in school and career,” said Margo Day, vice president of U.S. Education, Microsoft. “Microsoft Surface is proud to once again sponsor the Scripps National Spelling Bee to inspire students around the nation to improve their spelling and build the communication skills they’ll need in order to succeed in the future.”

Launched in 2009, and named by Apple as the App Store’s No. 1 free game of all time, Words With Friends continues to be the world’s most popular mobile word game with an estimated 55 million matches being played around the world at any given moment. Words With Friends encourages vocabulary expansion and word discovery through challenging players to create the highest-scoring words while playing against friends, family or random opponents. Millions of spellers, both competitive and not, have used Words With Friends as an exciting and motivating way to build their vocabulary while connecting with others through social word-play.

“We’re proud to team up with The E.W. Scripps Company in recognizing the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee contestants and joining in this global celebration of words,” said Jonathan Knight, vice president of games at Zynga. “Since launching nearly six years ago, Words With Friends has connected millions of people around the world through competitive and fun social word-play, empowering them to increase their vocabulary and discover new words. Through our partnership with the Scripps National Spelling Bee, we are thrilled to support the next generation of passionate spellers and word enthusiasts. We wish them the best of L-U-C-K during the competition.”

As part of its sponsorship, Words With Friends will award the Champion of the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee with a cash prize of$5,000.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee started in 1925 with nine contestants. Today, it is estimated that more than 11 million students participate each year. This is the 88th annual National Spelling Bee.

At Bee Week, international attention will shine on young spellers vying for the coveted title of champion. The Scripps National Spelling Bee will take place May 26-28 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in the Washington, D.C., area. ESPN will broadcast live the Championship Finals on Thursday, May 28, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT.

About the Scripps National Spelling Bee:

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the nation’s largest and longest-running educational program. The purpose of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is to help students improve spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all of their lives. Visit for more information about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E.W. Scripps Company.

About Scripps

The E.W. Scripps Company serves audiences and businesses through a growing portfolio of television, radio and digital media brands. Scripps is one of the nation’s largest independent TV station owners, with 33 television stations in 24 markets and a reach of nearly one in five U.S. households. It also owns 34 radio stations in eight markets. When Scripps and the former Journal Communications merged their broadcast assets in early 2015, they also spun off their respective newspapers, creating a new public company, Journal Media Group. Scripps also runs an expanding collection of local and national digital journalism and information businesses, including mobile video news service Newsy and weather app developer WeatherSphere. Scripps also produces television shows including The List and The Now, runs an award-winning investigative reporting newsroom in Washington, D.C., and serves as the long-time steward of the nation’s largest, most successful and longest-running educational program, the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Founded in 1878, Scripps has held for decades to the motto, “Give light and the people will find their own way.”

Article by:-The E.W. Scripps Company

Word of the day: Queue

Say it: qu-e-ue

Function: Verb

Definition:1. A line or sequence of people or vehicles awaiting their turn to be attended to or to proceed.

2. A  list of data items, commands, etc., stored so as to be retrievable in a definite order, usually the order of insertion.

Etymology: French

Synonyms: Line, Row, Column, Chain

Example:”In the war they had queued for food”