Yes for Coding and Robotics in schools, now let’s make it a reality for all, says FEDSAS

14/06/2024 - Fedsas

The inclusion of Coding and Robotics into the national school curriculum is a progressive step. It will assist in equipping learners with 21st century skills and preparing them for the 4th industrial revolution.    

 “The FEDSAS Centre for Technology has been engaging with these subjects for almost a decade. The value of these skills cannot be overstated and listing Coding and Robotics for Grades R-9 is a step in the right direction,” says Mr Riaan van der Bergh, Deputy CEO of FEDSAS (the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools) and Manager of the FEDSAS Centre for Technology. 

 Van der Bergh says including these subjects in the curriculum is only the first step. “We are anxious to see the final syllabus as the draft has been around for some time. Progress in these fields can be measured on a weekly basis, so any content should not only be up to date but also updated regularly.”        

One of the big challenges would be funding, especially for no-fee schools and poorer communities. FEDSAS is requesting clarity on this matter from the Department of Basic Education as soon as possible. Access to hardware is also a potential issue. Van der Bergh says experience has taught that most schools will either go without or will have to fund their own equipment. “Schools will have to be vigilant in procurement and not just buy the first or cheapest product. It is crucial for school governing bodies to pay careful attention to the best solution. The Centre for Technology has been guiding FEDSAS members in this regard for years.”

Another challenge, says Van der Bergh, is teacher training and capacity. “At the FEDSAS Centre for Technology our experience is that educators are rarely trained or upskilled in this discipline, which creates a barrier to entry.”      

Through the Centre for Technology, FEDSAS has been active in promoting Coding and Robotics, mostly as an extra-mural and extra-curricular activity. “The Centre for Technology includes corporate members from relevant industries as well. One of our partners, Resolute Robotics, is highly experienced in this space and has supported more than 300 schools in implementing Coding and Robotics. These schools cut across all sectors and quintiles, and support is provided to more than 1500 educators, reaching more than 150 000 learners. A lot of the resources for educators are available for free.” Van der Bergh says there are several service providers in the market that are ready to support schools in this process. 

 “While waiting for guidance from the Department of Basic Education, many schools have already made their own plans to the benefit of learners. While not all learners will become IT specialists, a basic knowledge of the tools for the 21st century is a required for everyone. It is not just a matter of teaching learners about technology; schools should also teach with and through technology. Other subjects such as Maths and Science can also benefit from technology subjects.”

Van der Bergh says with all the buzz and hype around artificial intelligence, the time is also ripe for the Department to open the discussion on the responsible use of AI in education. “AI is not just a newsworthy item, but we see it progressively being used by learners and in some cases by teachers and school administrators. The dangers of AI need to be highlighted but also the value and benefits.”

FEDSAS has always been at the cutting edge of developments that influence school governance and has a range of resources available to assist members. “The future is here and delaying decisions and development will cost the education sector and ultimately the children of South Africa dearly.”

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