Government’s plan to teach coding and AI at South African schools

Government’s plan to teach coding and AI at South African schools

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) has published a government gazette in which it outlines its Digital and Future Skills Strategy.

Key to this strategy, said the DCDT, is driving digital literacy and fluency in South African schools – which it believes can be achieved by evolving the school curriculum to address the important digital skills of the future.

The DCDT said a curriculum development initiative needs to be undertaken to drive these digital skills that is in alignment with the Department of Basic Education’s current curriculum review processes.

It said that the subjects and topics for which students should be prepared include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • 3D printing
  • Algorithms design and use
  • Artificial Intelligence Applications
  • Big data analytics
  • Cybersecurity
  • Digital Content Design
  • Drone applications
  • Gamification
  • Mechatronics and robotics
  • Software engineering

“Curriculum review should give attention to language and mathematics curricula, since these provide foundation knowledge for digital learning,” added the DCDT.

This curriculum review will also need to place particular attention to computation thinking and problem solving; data literacy and analytical skills; and mobile literacy relevant to the increasingly wider range of mobile and digital devices, it said.

“Popularisation of an annual activity, the Computer Olympiad should assist in strengthening digital literacy.”

Upgrading teachers’ digital skills

The DCDT noted that if learners are to be taught digital literacy skills, teachers need to have their digital skills advanced accordingly.

This includes teachers from Grade R to Grade 12 being able to teach coding, CAT, IT, and the fundamentals of various branches of computer science including AI.

Additionally, teachers from Grade R who teach accounting, biology, languages, mathematics, and science subjects must know how to use digital tools and applications in their lessons.

To achieve this, the department said tertiary institutions must ensure future teachers are trained in a wide range of subjects related to digital learning – including coding.

Getting technology into schools

The DCDT also said it is critical that connectivity is increased in schools, as this has undermined many previous technology-focused initiatives.

It noted that giving tablets to teachers and learners is insufficient when they do not have access to Internet-based resources.

“Fast, reliable Internet access will enable a range of new learning modalities, updates, no real familiarity, access to new information, and no research,” said the DCDT.

“A major long-term infrastructure funding programme for schools is needed, with attention to mobile and other wireless network infrastructure, at sufficient levels of connectivity to make online access meaningful in educational terms.”

To achieve this, the DCDT said that the government needs to foster well-structured and well-designed public-private partnerships and the necessary asset funding partnership regulations will need to be prepared specifically for digital infrastructure.

“Opportunities for infrastructure funding partnerships can be formulated through Treasury Regulations, through the proposed Digital Development Fund, and through other infrastructure funding initiatives, such as SIP15,” said the DCDT.