Speech of Honourable Minister of Basic Education, Ms. Angie Motshekga

Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at EduWeek Conference/Workshop held at the TicketPro Dome, Johannesburg

15th to 16th June 2018

Programme Director 

Deputy Minister 

Director-General 

World renowned Speakers

Non-Governmental Organisations Leadership 

Universities Leadership 

Organised Labour 

Distinguished Guests 

Ladies and Gentlemen 

It gives me enormous pleasure to address the EduWeek2018 under the theme, “4th Industrial Revolution and how this will impact the landscape of Africa’s education to meet the demands of the future job market.” 

On behalf of the South African Government and people of South Africa, I have a singular pleasure and privilege to officially welcome all of you from all the corners of the African continent, our Mother Land. We say to all of you – Thank you! Please enjoy the warmth and hospitality of our people. 

The EduWeek is the only all-encompassing industry event in the African education sector, bringing together over 100 leading companies and over 4 000 attendees from the African education community. This is truly the people’s parliament of the basic education sector. 

The ultimate objective of this EduWeek2018 is to deal with the urgent need to recalibrate the basic education sector in South Africa and beyond our borders. The grand idea is to propel us to meet the demands of the 4th Industrial Revolution. 

We have come to a deliberate conclusion that the 4th Industrial Revolution offers us an opportunity to re-imagine the curriculum, classroom practices, pedagogics and more. 

We are being called upon to excavate from the well of wisdom of the past in order to meet the ever changing demands of the future. The pieces we excavate must be made to puzzle fit if we are to remain relevant during this current epoch of rapid technological developments. 

As we know the public schooling is under pressure from dwindling fiscal trajectory, and relentless attacks from all corners – academics, private schooling investor community and some right-learning think tanks - the world over. According to one of the South African Fund manager, Mr. Paul Theron from Vestact Group, he believes there is going to be “a listings boom” in private education, “because it’s obvious – unfortunately the state isn’t getting its game together… these (state) schools aren’t going to get better any time soon, so it’s a good opportunity for the private sector.” 

Clearly, we have to up our game. Fast. I am made to believe that all of us here are disciples of public schooling. I am convinced that public schooling is not only for the public good, but must form the backbone of basic education especially in the developing world. Without, public schooling, the majority of our learners from the under-developing countries will be left behind in the hurricane that the 4th Industrial Revolution promises to unleash. 

Therefore, we must stand firm for public schooling because its unique offering is the promotion of common good. These include, among others, preparing youth to become responsible citizens, forging a common culture from peoples of many ethnicities, languages, cultures, and religion. More importantly, public schooling is the only one that has a public mandate to reduce inequality, poverty and unemployment without chasing profits and dividends. 

In his speech to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2018), His Excellency, Honourable President of the Republic of South Africa Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa put emphasis on need to: “…grapple with the impact the 4th industrial revolution is likely to have on our economies – many of which are already vulnerable to external shocks – and our people – many of whom do not have the skills required in a rapidly changing workplace.”

It is important to note that the 4th Industrial Revolution builds on the third, namely, the Digital Revolution since the middle of the last century. It can thus be described as a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and the biological spheres. 

Already there are a number of breakthroughs in a range of fields such as robotics, quantum computing, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, nanotech, and 3D printing etcetera.

The 4th Industrial Revolution has the potential to disrupt, but also positively, it may respond to every industry in every country across the globe, only if citizens are fully prepared to deal with its opportunities and its potential threats.

It was with this window of opportunity in mind that the South African Parliament has taken the lead in an attempt to familiarise itself with the pros and cons of the 4th Industrial Revolution. In October 2017, the South African Parliament sent a multi-party delegation to the Danish Parliament (Folketing), and Danish Board of Technology. The Danes boasts of having one of the best of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure in the world. The South African delegation had an opportunity for to learn from the Danish deployment of ICT in Government, and Education and Parliament of Denmark itself.  Among lessons learnt were inter alia:

  • The enhancement of the capacity of Members of Parliament using ICT policy and governance to conduct oversight, law-making and public participation.
  • Usage of ‘Round Table’ discussions as a platform aimed at involving the public, private sector, ICT industry and state institutions;
  • Using ICT platform to find ways to build and sustain citizen engagement; and 
  • To unearth opportunities that will benefit the public in the spirit of embracing the unavoidable 4th industrial revolution.

As the Department of Basic Education, we are also making international linkages to learn and perhaps find the best practices in the arena of the 4th Industrial Revolution. We are cognisant of the potential threats posed by these rapid technological developments. Economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have pointed out, “the revolution could yield greater inequality, particularly in its potential to disrupt labour markets.” Simply put: “As automation substitutes for labour across the entire economy, the net displacement of workers by machines might exacerbate the gap between returns to capital and returns to labour.” 

On the other hand, it’s possible that the displacement of workers by technology will, in aggregate, result in a net increase in safe and rewarding jobs. We cannot foresee at this point which scenario is likely to emerge, but history suggests that the outcome is likely to be some combination of the two. 

However, I am convinced of one thing—that in the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production. This will give rise to a job market increasingly segregated into “low-skill/low-pay” and “high-skill/high-pay” segments, which in turn will lead to an increase in social tensions. It is therefore incumbent on all of us, Governments, business, different sectors, and partners to take serious cognisance of changes so that we position South Africa and rest of the African continent at the frontline of the global trends.

Programme Director; allow me to make reference to a seminal book written by Lynda Gratton, a Professor of Management Practice at the London School of Economics titled: Shift- The Future of Work is Already Here. Professor Gratton pulled together a team of researchers and a consortium of corporations to study what she calls - five major forces which will shape the future: globalisation, technology, demography, society and energy.

She argues that we must consider emergent and future shifts, such as societal fragmentation and isolation, increased rich-poor gap, increased creativity and reduced consumerism. She also maintains that, “it is wise to develop coping strategies in the face of uncertainty.” She challenges us to re-examine our assumptions by asking three questions: 

  • What are the potential milestones or events that could particularly affect me and those around me? 
  • What are the most significant factors that will influence my working life, and how could these play out?
  • Therefore, what should I be doing in the coming five years to ensure I am on the right path to creating a future proofed career, particularly in view of the turbulent time around?

These questions appear easily adaptable to teams, organizations and institutions, with some creativity. In other words, “how do you ensure your working life is robust, purposeful and valuable?” That you do “meaningful work?” She recommends that we undergo three shifts: 

  • from a shallow generalist to a serial master
  • from an isolated competitor to an innovative connector
  • from a voracious consumer to and impassioned producer

In the nutshell this means - “creativity is not the preserve of a few people doing jobs designated as ‘creative’, but a possibility for many.” We must be mindful of this eventuality - the future is literally a virtual world. It will simultaneous create new relationships while others will be destroyed. The new employees will at the touch of a button receive and respond to instructions in real time. Just like employees, managers will at the touch of a button seek wise counsel from colleagues across the continents. 

I am convinced that no matter the changes in the world of work, one thing will remain vital - investment in human capital will continue to be the cornerstone of the new and emerging economies. 

In a world of the Internet of Things—a networked world of connected devices, objects, and people, it’s important that we analyse and review our basic education system and methodologies so that it can be able to provide the resources for a new type of learner and worker.  

We need a new cohort of teachers who will be armed with new skills that involves Information & Data Literacy. They must muster the tricks of communication & collaboration. They must not be consumers of content, but be savvy enough to create digital content.  They need to learn new tactics of problem solving that may require solving technical problems, identifying technological needs and able to identify digital competence gaps amongst learners. 

Our plans for the 4th Industrial Revolution must involve a curriculum mind shift. This involves developing a curriculum in new Subjects and Programmes that are responsive to the skills for the changing world. Some of these emerging fields include Coding and Robotics, Marine Sciences, Hydro/Aquaponics, Aviation Sciences, Design across the Curriculum, Arts in Mathematics and Science. 

The new curriculum must refocus our learners towards a competence‐based approach that is ICT driven.  

Our approach to teacher development is to capacitate teachers in active pedagogies (play based, gaming, projects etc.). This involves a review of teacher development policy to ensure alignment with competence-based approaches, and to refocus teaching practices towards a more project-based approach. 

Active pedagogies (projects, gaming etc.) must be enhanced to integrate the skills, competencies and development relevant themes in Teacher Development programmes. A blended approach in teaching and learning as well as in teacher development is being adopted.

To ensure institutional readiness, a conditional grant to expand the digitization of the system to deepen the Social Justice principles has been provided. We are currently spearheading the implementation of the Three-Stream Curriculum Model, Entrepreneurship, and the UNESCO International Bureau of Education Framework for, “future skills and competencies.” 

We are working with an array of partners to unlock positive value from the emergence of the 4th Industrial Revolution. These partners include UNESCO, African Union, Brookings Institution, LEGO Foundation, and many others. 

Our end-game is to impart to our youth skills and competencies for the changing world. According to researchers, some of the key skills required include critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity/innovation, collaboration and communication. In this basket of new skills, we must never forget the importance of cementing the relevance of social justice and human rights through basic education.

In conclusion, I can safely say that the foundation to reposition the basic education sector for the 4th Industrial Revolution in South Africa is in place. Our job now is to align all initiatives so that we can be in position to prepare our young people for the skills of the future. 

Programme Director, the steps we take today will form a strong foundation for the future that we imagine. Our future as Africans is interlinked with the rest of the world. We, as humanity are joined at the hip. 

As this ageing generation, we have an enormous responsibility to care for the Planet that we will bequeath to the next generation. We therefore have no choice but have to collaborate in the best possible way for the benefit of the next generation. 

Therefore, we are called upon to be midwives of the future that is yet to be imagined. We must take public schooling here at home and rest of the continent to greater heights. This may seem to be a daunting prospect, but in the words of the global icon and father of the modern day South Africa, the late President, Mr. Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” I wish you well in your deliberations.  

I thank you.