New school certificate could help limit dropping out of school
An estimated 500,000 more learners dropped out of school during the Covid-19 pandemic, bringing dropout to its highest level in 20 years. We know that most young people who leave the school system without completing their education will struggle to find decent jobs. And only 1% of those who leave school without a matrix certificate hold a non-school certificate or diploma because most places in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges go to people who already have a matrix certificate.
Without referrals to unlock opportunities, they will join the ranks of unemployed youth and discouraged job seekers with few tools at their disposal to convince employers of their skills.
A long-standing abandonment and certification crisis – exacerbated by disruptions from a global pandemic – have brought South Africa to a crossroads. As a country, we cannot go on as usual; we need to make dropout prevention an explicit goal of our school system. This means prioritizing early school leaving in education policies and frameworks, and developing new approaches to support young people who lack qualifications.
Grade 9 marks the end of compulsory education and a well-structured certificate formalizing this point in a child’s learning journey could open up different avenues, especially for those who would otherwise drop out before completing enrollment.
The new draft general education certificate (GEC) policy, published by the Department of Basic Education (DBE), aims to unlock three pathways – academic, vocational and vocational. This means that learners with a formal grade 9 certificate can choose to complete their education at a traditional university or technical school, or they can enroll in a TVET college to gain technical skill or gain professional learning. in a working environment.
But, if poorly implemented, the GEC could have the negative effect of legitimizing the banal phenomenon of leaving school without a matrix certificate or equivalent skill level, not unlocking work or study opportunities for out-of-school learners.
We need to ensure that policies take into account the experiences of young people on the way to completing their education. In practice, this means that the GEC must be designed to specifically address the gaps in our education system that lead to dropout and low levels of certification.
Gap n Â° 1: Monitoring and prevention
Structuring dropout prevention into the scaffolding of our basic education system begins with collecting the right kind of data on individual learners so that we can intervene before they drop out.
But we don’t have complete and precise data data on the individual pathways of learners through different pathways, including post-school pathways. Most of the data at the school level is aggregated.
To be effective, the policy should require precise tracking and tracking, using a unique identifier for each learner, to track the journey of GEC holders as they move towards education and training opportunities, whether in school or in TVET colleges.
Gap # 2: Access to trails
Although the draft policy aims to help learners access new learning and career paths, it does not specify what additional support this entails at the school level. This kind of detail is important given that learners who complete grade 9 currently have the option of going to a technical high school or TVET college and studying further, but most learners do not follow these pathways. . This tells us that they are not receiving the support or information necessary to do so.
The national qualifications framework is complex and poorly understood. To make informed choices, learners must receive precise and practical information on the various streams and the nearest places of study that offer the courses they wish to take. There are only 190 public technical high schools in the country. Given the limited coverage of technical high schools, many learners are likely to explore opportunities in TVET. Schools should have lists of TVET college options available for learners in their local districts, as many may be too young to travel to cities far from home.
The draft policy should clearly describe how learners from underfunded households will be financially supported to enter vocational and vocational streams, given that free schools represent 80% of schools. The policy should also detail how two government departments (DBE and the Department of Higher Education and Training) will work together to make this path accessible.
Gap # 3: Recurring Gaps
It is estimated that only 40% of learners in schools in quintiles 1 to 3 are the right age for their grade. This shows that most young people repeat the year. The intention of the current progression policy to alleviate the problem of over-aged learners does not appear to be producing the expected results.
Learners who have progressed are transferred to the next level even if they do not meet the conditions for success. When displaced, they should be given support to master concepts they missed in previous years, but this is not possible in many schools due to capacity constraints.
To alleviate this problem, the draft policy should include clear protocols for schools to provide advanced learners with effective support and a meaningful opportunity to correct.
Gap # 4: practical value
A young person with a high school diploma is more likely to find a job, even without further education. In order for the GEC to improve a young person’s chances of finding a job, in the absence of a diploma, it must be valued by the labor market.
The basic education department must have a plan to ensure that employers understand and value this qualification. The private sector should be part of the consultation process for developing this policy and be made aware of the value and skills that are part of the GEC curriculum.
The draft policy requires buy-in from young people, post-school institutions and potential employers. In addition, a monitoring and evaluation framework should highlight how the policy is fulfilling its mandate.
A young person’s school career is not always a straight one: some get stuck, others fall behind and others fall completely through the cracks.
The GEC has the potential to unlock new opportunities for learners who would otherwise be unlikely to learn, earn money, and contribute to social and economic life. To truly improve the chances of young people, the GEC should address the complexities of their lived experiences.
We cannot risk failing another generation. We need to find ways to fill the gaps in their path to completing school and finding employment. A holistic approach to the implementation of GEC is one way to stabilize this journey.
Rahima Essop is Communications and Advocacy Manager for the Zero Dropout Campaign, Merle Mansfield is the Program Director for the Zero Dropout Campaign and Kristal Duncan-Williams is the Project Manager for Youth Capital.