Fewer kids are taking technical subjects. Why?
Decline in number of pupils studying technology subjects poses threat to ‘three-stream’ curriculum model
A decline in the number of pupils studying technology subjects in several provinces is posing a threat to the Department of Basic Education’s bold plan to implement a “three-stream” curriculum model for high school pupils.
Figures recently released by the department to parliament reveal a sharp drop in the number of grade 12 pupils choosing technology subjects between 2015 and last year.
Some of the affected subjects include civil technology, mechanical technology, tourism, hospitality studies, consumer studies and agricultural sciences.
The drop in pupil numbers comes at a time when the department is planning to offer grade 10 to 12 pupils a choice of three curricula – an academic, technical vocational or technical occupational stream.
Technical vocational and technical occupational streams refer broadly to skills training for the labour market. Technical vocational includes construction, woodwork, electronics, automotive, fitting and machining, welding and metalworking.The technical occupational stream includes agricultural studies, arts and crafts, office administration, hairdressing, beauty care and nail technology, hospitality studies and carpentry and joinery. This stream, aimed mainly at disabled pupils, is being piloted at 74 schools this year, with plans to introduce this at all public schools in the future.
In Limpopo and Eastern Cape, where farming is the mainstay of the provincial economy, the number of matric pupils studying agricultural sciences fell by 1,948 and 1,755 respectively between 2015 and last year. Over the same period, KwaZulu-Natal recorded a drop of 2,175 pupils, which was the highest in the country. Agricultural studies is aimed at preparing pupils to become commercial or subsistence farmers.
KwaZulu-Natal also experienced the biggest decline in the number of grade 12 pupils studying tourism which was down by 3,806. The Eastern Cape and Limpopo lost 2,336 and 1,809 pupils respectively between 2015 and last year.
Matric pupils also shunned hospitality studies which could have assisted them to become caterers, events planners, interior designers, tailors and upholsterers. The number of pupils pursuing hospitality studies in Free State plummeted by 1,022 while pupil numbers in Western Cape dropped by 908.Philip Reddy, principal of Glenhaven Secondary in Verulam on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, said a shortage of technology teachers could be the reason why pupils were not opting to choose subjects such as agriclutural sciences and tourism.“If a principal doesn’t have the staff specialising in certain subjects, he can’t offer the course. Show me where [university] students are being trained in agriculture and construction.”
A lecturer in tourism management at the Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape, who wished not to be identified, said, however, that they did not have a problem filling their quota of students for the year.
“We get a consistent intake. We get more applications for places than the number we need.”
He was not able to comment on the reasons for the high number of high school pupils opting not to study technology subjects such as tourism.
Basic Education director-general Mathanzima Mweli said that the total practical mark for subjects falling under the technical occupational stream would now comprise 75% of the exam paper with theory being 25%.
He said a grade nine exit level exam would “anchor and give currency to the three streams” through the issuing of a certificate similar to the one awarded to matric pupils after they pass the final exams.
Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor recently said in an interview with the Sunday Times that she was planning to get the 50 technical vocational education and training colleges to specialise in the offering of certain trades.
She said she was astounded to discover there were “very few” good bricklayers in the country.
“We have a problem of welders in South Africa, so one of the occupations will be welding.”