The department of basic education hopes a planned new three-tiered school system will eventually see about 60% of pupils completing technical qualifications, the City Press reported on Sunday.
“People can laugh at [EFF leader Julius] Malema because of [his having studied] woodwork, but woodwork can make you a very successful businessman in the furniture business,” Mathanzima Mweli, the director general at the department told the Sunday newspaper.
Malema’s apparent G for woodwork – on a Standard Grade level – was widely reported on, when his public profile rose during his stint as then-ANC Youth League leader.
According to the department’s plan, expected to be implemented in 58 schools in 2017, schooling would be divided into three streams: Academic, technical vocational and technical occupations.
Pupils would be channeled into a particular stream according to their individual strengths and weaknesses.
“As part of the technical occupational stream, we will introduce 26 subjects, which will include spray-painting, panel-beating, hairdressing, woodwork, glasswork, glazing, welding, upholstery, husbandry (farming) and many more,” Mweli explained.
“Almost all successful hair salons in this country are run by outsiders (non-South Africans)”.
The technical vocational stream would focus on gearing students to become artisans and master certain trades:
“Electrical, mechanical and civil engineering will be the core subjects, with each of them having three sub-subjects….
“According to the national development plan, we need to be producing 30 000 artisans every year by 2030.”
Mweli said that the academic stream would be the equivalent of the current matriculation programme.
He labelled the decision, taken in 1994, to shut down technical high schools, or reduce their subjects from 16 to 4 – as a “scandalous mistake”.
“Many things have been tried. Some of which have taken us backwards.”
Mweli said that the current matriculation qualification did have "currency” and was shown to lead to better employment opportunities.
Nevertheless, he told the newspaper:
“Not every learner has to go to Grade 12 [in the academic stream]. All successful people have not necessarily done Grade 12.”