The much-talked about general education certificate(GEC), a Grade 9 certificate for learners aimed at addressing the mismatch between available skills and competencies and labour market needs, featured today on the agenda of the Portfolio Committee of Basic Education.

The Department of Basic Education was in Parliament to brief the committee on the various aspects of the certificate. The introduction of such a certificate was well-received by the majority of political parties serving on the multi-party committee. Many of them stated that this will be a step forward for those learners who do not manage to attain Grade 12.

The committee heard that there is a high dropout rate before Grade 12, peaking in grades 10 and 11 with 15,2% in 2012. A third of young people aged 15-24 (3.4 million) are not in employment, education or training (NEET) and two million of these have not finished Grade 12. There is no standardised assessment and a qualification to usher learners into different pathways at the end of compulsory schooling.

The purpose of the qualification will be to provide a foundation certificate for learners in the GEC band, to acknowledge the competencies gained from 10 years of formal schooling at the end of Grade 9. Achieving the GEC will allow learners to access three learning pathways. Firstly, to continue with an academic route through the completion of a schooling programme, the National Curriculum Statement (NCS), culminating in the achievement of the National Senior Certificate at NQF Level 4. Secondly, to choose a vocational route through completion of the National Certificate: Vocational Qualifications at NQF Levels 2, 3 and 4, which contain vocational specialisations. Thirdly, to access occupational specific qualifications at NQF Level 2, which consist of knowledge, skills and workplace experience and learning.

The GEC qualification aims to give recognition to learners who achieve and meet the necessary requirements specified in the NCS for the end of the General Education and Training (GET) phase. The GET provides a solid foundation of general education learning, which is the basis for access to further education and training learning and qualifications, and will allow the student to develop an ability to become a lifelong learner. It further prepares learners to function better in society and the workplace, provide synergy between the NCS learning content and the qualification outcomes and assessment criteria, thereby improving the quality of education and providing the learner with a qualification acknowledging the successful completion of his/her period of compulsory schooling.

Committee Chairperson Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba said the presentation received provided clarity, as media reports had caused confusion and uncertainty. “Today the committee received the clarity it needed. It was also clear that the programme had the support of most political parties that serve on our multi-party committee.”

Committee Member Ms Marie Sukers said in support of the GEC that this could address unemployment and unemployability for those learners that “think with their hands”. She said this will in turn address other social ills that go hand in hand with youth unemployment, such as gangsterism and substance abuse.

Rajaa Azzakani
15 October 2019