By Tania du Toit
Schools that focus more on certain subjects than the “ordinary” mainstream schools have been with us for a long time, for example commercial schools, agricultural schools, trade and/or technical schools. We have also had arts schools at secondary level for a number of decades (Pro Arte, Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School) and with time so-called “sports academies”, as at the University of Pretoria, became part of the school-choice spectrum.
Actually the leaning towards vocational schools in addition to so-called “ordinary” academic schools is nothing new. In most European countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium) and some other countries vocational schooling exists as an established alternative to or option for school education, especially if you already know early on what career you want to follow.
Our own Minister of Basic Training, Angie Motshekga, has lately been driving and underwriting this tendency very prominently and is increasingly promoting an urgent shift in the current school curriculum to (again) include more technical and/or vocational schooling possibilities. She is calling for a wider perspective than mere preparation for study exclusively at universities or colleges. (Older readers may feel that she is actually merely returning to how things were a few decades ago.)
As a start to this initiative a number of new SOS (schools of specialisation) schools have already been opened by the Department of Education in Gauteng since 2015. Perhaps this is a trial run before the initiative is extended to the rest of South Africa in earnest. According to media reports the first number of SOS schools planned for Gauteng alone varies between 25 and 29, with approximately one-third of the planned number already functioning. The majority of these schools are close to townships, with English as the medium of instruction.
Unusual fields of specialisation all of which are in high demand in the labour market are envisaged for these schools. These include agriculture, aviation, engineering, nuclear-power technology, motor-mechanics, naval and marine technology, rail transport, information technology, computer technology, telecommunication, finance and commerce, tourism and hospitality studies, mining, entrepreneurship, pharmaceutical sciences, veterinary medicine, culture, sport, arts and drama.
In 2006 Solidarity began to fill the gap in certain technical professional possibilities by means of their vocational technical college Sol-Tech; this is not a school as such but the structure provides for learners from Grade 10, subject to certain requirements.
The current high rate of unemployment (also among graduates) is one of the strong motivators behind the envisaged offer of more vocational schools. The economy especially will benefit if learners become vocationally and labour-market-ready faster after completion of their studies. Strong partnerships with industrial leaders and private companies are supporting some of these specialist schools through, for example, on-the-job training aspects for these niche curricula, as well as funding and, of course, the ultimate purpose, professional placement.
In this connection Sol-Tech confirms that their graduates are constantly offered good positions even before they have completed their courses.
At the recent opening of the Rhodesfield Aviation School in Kempton Park the MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, emphasised that the future lies in specialisation. If your child knows what type of career he or she wants to follow or shows interest in a specialist field early on, it is perhaps the right time to let your child consider the benefits of a specialist school career as compared to that of an ordinary academic school. Acquaint yourself with the growing number of new available options when you and your child think about a school career. The possibilities are growing each year.
ANC Parliamentary Caucus. “School of specialisation opens in Soweto”: http://caucus.anc.org.za/show.php?ID=4671
Creamer Media’s Engineering News. 26 Februarie 2018. “GDE and IDA launch R7-billion Schools of Specialisation Programme”: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/gde-and-ita-launch-r7-billion-schools-of-specialisation-programme-2016-02-26
Die Hoërskool Wagpos: http://www.wagposhs.co.za/
Eye Witness News. 24 April 2018. “2 Schools specialising in Nuclear Technology launched in Atteridgeville”: https://ewn.co.za/2018/04/24/2-schools-specialising-in-nuclear-technology-launched-in-atteridgeville
Hypertext. 26 Februarie 2016. “Gauteng launches Schools of Specialisation to focus on Maths, Science and Commerce”: https://www.htxt.co.za/2016/02/26/schools-of-specialisation/
IOL News. 31 Julie 2018. ”Gauteng opens Schools specialising in Nuclear Technology”: https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/gauteng/gauteng-opens-schools-specialising-in-nuclear-technology-16333908
Krugersdorp News. 13 Mei 2017. “Local School now offers new Career Paths”: https://krugersdorpnews.co.za/325898/weekend-local-school-now-offers-new-career-paths/
LitNet. Charlie Hofmeyr. 18 Februarie 2015. “Die skool waar gelukkige leerders sukses behaal”: https://www.litnet.co.za/die-skool-waar-gelukkige-leerders-sukses-behaal/
Maroela Media. 18 Januarie 2018. “Motshekga: Daar is te veel akademiese skole”: https://maroelamedia.co.za/nuus/sa-nuus/motshekga-daar-is-te-veel-akademiese-skole/
Radio 702. 24 April 2018. GP Education launches Nuclear Technology Schools of Specialisation”: http://www.702.co.za/articles/301043/gp-education-launches-nuclear-technology-schools-of-specialisation
SABCNews. 31 Julie 2018. “Aviation School launched in Kempton Park”: http://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/aviation-school-launched-in-kempton-park/
Simposium van die SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns. 6 Oktober 2016. “Die Suid-Afrikaanse onderwysstelsel en die visie van die Nasionale Ontwikkelingsplan met betrekking tot inklusiwiteit en die akkommodasie van diversiteit”: http://www.akademie.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Die-SA-Onderwysstelsel.pdf
Sol-Tech. “Word deel van die uitnemende span”: https://sol-tech.co.za/
The South African. 31 July 2018. “Gauteng Government launches specialised Aviation School”: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/gauteng-government-launches-specialised-aviation-school/