Is SA fully embracing 4IR?

“Fear, resistance, skills shortages threaten SA’s 4IR progress – ITWeb

The Fourth Industrial Revolution brings with it a wealth of opportunities for South Africans, and yet, the technical skills 4IR needs are some of the scarcest skills in SA.

Kagiso Trust, one of South Africa’s leading development agencies, recently did a comprehensive research report to aid the understanding of what is required for an economically active citizen during this time of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The research was focused on answering the main research question which was: 

What are the critical factors to advance an economically active citizen during the time of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? 

According to the report :

  1. Insights on Embracing Technology and Digitization

To fully exploit the opportunities presented by digitisation and ensure the survival in the new digital age, companies need to undertake the immense task of preparing for a digital future by transforming their
organisations towards digital maturity. Digital maturity is a state in which the companies achieve digital congruence where the company strategy, structures, culture, processes, people and digital capabilities are aligned towards a set of company goals. South Africa’s industries and opportunities are some of the reasons it ranks top amongst African countries. The opportunity for South Africa to align itself as a leading economy lies in the ability of both the private and public sectors partnering with each other in the exploitation of digitisation and technology. Despite this, South Africa, which is the leading African country on the GCI, is amongst the lowest adopters of technology. Thus, the country needs to improve the participation in digital technologies introduced with the Fourth Industrial Revolution which presents great opportunities for increased economic growth and
societal progress (Baller, et al., 2016). In South Africa there is an urgent need for all citizens to embrace
technology as the future for the digital culture to improve and mature to leverage the opportunities
brought by the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is a non-negotiable imperative for
the development of an an economically active citizen during the time of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

2. Responsive Education System

A responsive education system can be described in terms of its adaptability to the needs of the society it serves at a point in time. Education system was identified as one of the ten critical factors in the development of an economically active citizen during the time of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The focus is on understanding the views on the state of the current education system and then proposed relevant improvements that will strengthen the
education system to produce citizens who will be able to leverage the opportunities associated with the
Fourth Industrial Revolution. Central to the responsive education system is the autonomy of the learner that
must be developed through some kind of legislation to enable the learner to take responsibility for their own

3. Short-term education and training

The findings of the study confirm that the Fourth Industrial Revolution requires a fusion of several skills and multidisciplinary knowledge.These are skills that need to be harnessed by South African citizens so that they are able to effectively participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is
synonymous with the high speed of change and this requiresurgent intervention for the currently semi-skilled employed who can be negatively affected by its technologies, such as artificial intelligence and robotics.
The same interventions are required for the high level of unemployed youth who seek to be economically active. As
such, there is a need for short-term empowerment of the citizens. There were three routes that were identified to acquire the first principles knowledge and skills.

4. SETA Fourth Industrial Revolution Focused

Re-alignment of the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) as they are already well positioned to manage and create learnerships, skills-based programmes, among others, for all the occupations in South Africa.
These SETAs need to be overhauled and be made to focuse their offering on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The
government can put certain measures in place whereby they make sure that the employers, in collaboration with all the other stakeholders, produce courses and programmes that focus on the 4IR within the next 24 months and make access available to the general public. This can be the same approach that government has successfully used
to launch and maintain programmes such as SETA programmes and programmes such as the extended
public works programme(EPWP) which then can ensure that it creates a situation where there is a focus on
developing the skills the country really needs.

5. Strengthen Recognition of Prior Learning Certification

Strengthen the recognition of prior learning. Many people have acquired experience through on-the-job
training whilst in employment and are thus able to apply their knowledge effectively. However, there is a lack of
certification to this effect and this needs to be enhanced so that these people can prove their competency.

6. Accredit Skills Development Fast Tracking Programme

There is an urgent need to promote fast-tracking programmes; there are certain fast-tracking programmes
that are already available and producing good results such as Harambee, WeThinkCode and others. However,
they are not well co-ordinated and the backlog of skills within the country requires that these fast-track
programmes are recognised, regulated, certified and people can have certification of the skills offered through
these programmes. These are some of the elements that can quickly be put in place to make sure that the skills
gap and the first principles knowledge are achieved for citizens within a short space of time. These programmes within the SETAs vary in length from a few days to two years for the WeThink Code course. These programmes can fill the skills gap within a short time. This is critical, as already explained, there is a need for people to be re-skilled as many jobs will be changed or re-invented, especially at the semi-skilled level and many jobs will be lost through automation.

7. Medium and Long Term Education and Training

For the medium and long term, there is a need to restructure early childhood development (ECD), strengthen the basic education curriculum making Science, Technology, Mathematics and Innovation (STEMI), as well as entrepreneurship education, mandatory and to revise the curriculum to be cross disciplinary.

8. Maximise the window of opportunity at Early Childhood Development

Firstly, there was a view that early childhood development is used for educational purposes so that the window of opportunity for children while they are still young being stimulated can be optimised. This should include incorporating the ECD into the Department of Basic Education, with the Department of Social Development playing a critical role. This will ensure that the ECD is educational, rather than being an after care facility because parents are not there, which is the case in most places, especially in the rural areas, and townships in South Africa, and this would require some major overhaul.

9. Curriculum Content Review

There is also an urgent need for the primary and secondary school education curriculum to make STEMI courses
compulsory. This will be an improvement from the current standard where mathematics numeracy is compulsory, as this is not adequate for preparing learners for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. STEMI is central to the future. In addition to this,entrepreneurship education must also be compulsory to enhance entrepreneurial intent and provide grounding for an entrepreneurial career. This will ensure that in South Africa, entrepreneurship is being
inculcated at a young age, and children are exposed to the possibilities of self-employment in addition to being employed. This is critical to improve the potential of SMEs.

“Educational development wise, make technology a compulsory subject, entrepreneurship a compulsory subject, teach our kids about coding and everything about technology.” IPP4

This is critical to ensure that the learners are ready for the future, instead of pushing through a quantity of learners who might be unemployable in the future.

“High school curriculum needs to assess future potential opportunities to channel the potential to the career path at a gr9 stage instead of pupils choosing easy subjects just to pass matric.” IAP2

The main advantages for restructuring the school’s curriculum, according to the respondents, will be that more people will be empowered and be able to participate in the economy actively, they will develop thinking skills, and thus be technologically savvy. The respondents further indicated that schools must focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and the focus of education needs to include technology and entrepreneurship as mandatory subjects. Also critical is to ensure that coding and programming are part of the curriculum at school.

“What we also aim to do is to introduce coding and robotics as basic or school course, so that citizens have future work available to them. We are also aware of the concept of technotopia such as we see in ‘The Venus Project’ in which robotics obviates the need for work.However, we believe that is a long way away.” IGP14

For students to be innovative during the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is critical that they have all the right resources and be exposed to the right technological systems that will develop them as well as educate them. Exposure to technology will give them the basic training and skills and put them in the correct mind-set to actually have a clear understanding of what the 4IR is all about. The respondents indicated that if the students have access to computers and smart phones, they will be on the right track to becoming more innovative and relevant during the time of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but what is the point of having all those gadgets with the high cost of data? They further indicated that learners need access to cheap data and Wi-Fi to help them surf the internet and gather all the information necessary. The respondents strongly believe that if the learning time was extended and the teachers made sure that after every lesson students have a good and clear understanding of the work, that could lead to relevant educated students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In addition to giving lessons, the teachers must also be knowledgeable about what they are teaching the students and be able to explain and apply this practically. Education systems curriculum restructuring must create a module for technology as early as primary school. Children must start learning about technology at a very early stage so that by the time they get to university, they already are knowledgeable and have had enough exposure to technology. It is important that the way schools educate or teach changes to prepare individuals for the future for them to be able to apply knowledge and understanding and not just memorise information and apply as per the textbook, as is currently the case.
The respondents also suggested that the students should be taught to know and understand their skills at an early
age so that by the time they get to tertiary level they know how to apply them in the future.

10. Strengthen and leverage Universities of Technology (UOTS) and Technical and Vocational Education and Training(TVET’S) 

The Universities of Technology and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET’s) are practically
based institutions and they are already set up with a focus on skills, engineering and all the other related subjects,
that is what they were traditionally intended for in the first place: artisan and technician education. Everywhere
around the world people use this leverage, especially universities of technology. Countries, such as Japan and Singapore, have those institutions driving the outcome for practices both entrepreneurial and for ensuring that science and technology-related employment is created, and as such, this is an opportunity for South Africa to ensure
that the universities of technology are strengthened so that they can effectively play a fundamental role within
society within the economy to really drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about the automation of things in which technology plays a major and pivotal role. The respondents see it as critical that the education in UoT’s and TVET colleges is strengthened and developed. More technical schools and tertiary
institutions must be implemented to train and educate the students.

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