There is still hope for science and technology education in SA

The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (Saasta) has not given up on ensuring young learners choose science and maths for better career options.

There has been a growing concern with South Africa’s science and maths performance that has been highlighted with the recent release of matric results.

There has been a growing concern with South Africa’s academic performance that has been highlighted with the recent release of matric results which showed the national pass rate drop from

75.8% in 2014 to 70.7% in 2015.

In response to the state of schools in South Africa, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has said that the country’s education system was a “national catastrophe”.

South Africa regularly features among the lowest-ranked countries in terms of science and maths education.

At the Southern African Association for Research into Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (SAARMSTE) conference in Pretoria this month, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor

urged young students to pursue science and maths or risk becoming redundant in the future.

However, Saasta would continue to colloborate with local organizations in the new financial year to create a long­term improvement in science and technology education in the country.

“The Role Modelling program helps learners a lot. We expose the learners to people in science, engineering and technology (SET) professions,” said Onica Phayane, project coordinator of Saasta’s Role Modelling program.

“They don’t become a geologist because it sounds nice, but they actually see what a geologist does in the mines for instance,” said Phayane.

The Role Modelling program, which is supported by the Department of Basic Education, is a colloboration between Saasta and science based NGOs, such as Outlook Foundation.

The program has brought SET professionals to encourage young learners to take up science and maths to improve their career options.

Phayane explained it’s important because often learners don’t know what they want to do and give up maths and science as subjects.

“You get learners that get to Grade 11 and say they want to study engineering, but only have maths literacy,” Phayane explained, who added that it’s important to get young learners to choose maths and science from Grade eight and nine already.

The Role Modelling program would draw SET professionals from the local community who want to give back.

Phayane emphasized the importance of people who were from the same communities as the learners: “You want the learners to associate with someone from their own community because it encourages them to believe that they can also become successful like that.”

Phayane said that the effects were notable as many students go back to these NGO’s after they’ve successfully graduated with science and maths.

“They return to these organizations after they’ve graduated because the NGO helped them in their career and they understand how important the guidance of the role models were,” said Phayane.

Saasta also has a Primary School Science Intervention Program that would conduct annual workshops to mentor educators.

The program placed emphasis on three provinces (the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu­Natal and Mpumalanga) as Phayane explained: “We are unable to reach certain districts.”

Despite this Phayane was determined that it was still possible to develop science and technology in South Africa.

“Science and technology is still the way to go,” said Phayane.

– African News Agency (ANA)