Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Speech by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs. Angie Motshekga, MP, Delivered on the Occasion of the Planetarium Launch held at the Sci-bono Discovery Auditorium, Gauteng

Programme Director: Deputy Minister: Mr Enver Surty, MP

MEC: Gauteng Department of Education: Mr Panyaza Lesufi 
Head of Department: Gauteng Department of Education: Mr Edward Mosuwe
Change d’ Affaire: The People’s Republic of China: Mr Li Song
Education Attaché: Chinese Embassy in South Africa: Mr Song Bo:
China Educational Instrument and Equipment Corporation (CEIEC): Mr GAO Fan
Director: Chinese Culture and International Education Exchange Centre: Dr Zhilei Lu
Mr David Kramer: CEO: Sci-Bono Discovery Centre
My Colleagues from the Department of Basic Education
Learners from Pretoria Girls High School (Chinese Cultural Dance)
Learners from SASCE

Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a real privilege for me to be at this point of the co-operation agreement between ourselves, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and China – the launch of the Planetarium. This is a small but very important step signifying the importance of the co-operation agreement.

The public discourse of our co-operation with China has been dominated by the introduction of Mandarin in some schools in South Africa, almost to the exclusion of everything else. Perhaps this could be attributed to how we, as government communicated the co-operation agreement with China; or it could be due to shock that we are prone to as humans. Of course this is part of our agreement with China; but there is more to this agreement than just Mandarin, bearing testimony to that is our being here today!

The real shock is what was experienced by three astronauts of the Apollo 10 from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1969 as reported on the Times Live (24 February, 2016) about two weeks ago. They are reported to have heard some “whistling” sounds on the far side of the moon. That must have been scary, especially considering that they were the only ones with life and machinery in that environment.

This is exactly why we are here today; we are increasing chances for our learners to become astronauts. We want them to learn as much as the can from this Planetarium; go to all the sides of the moon and find who or what was “singing” there. Although the “singing” has been explained as interference of radio waves I still want the learners to go find out if there someone or something can actually sing there. That is your first assignment my children!

In the main, we want our learners to learn as much as possible about the celestial bodies – the planets, stars, moons, comets and asteroids. The importance of learning about these is mainly how they affect our own planet and its inhabitants currently, and how they could affect it in future. This sums up the importance of this Planetarium.

Now let me explain some aspects of the co-operation agreement between the Department of Basic Education and China.

Emanating from the signing of the co-operation agreement there has been a number of interactions with the representatives of various institutions in China such as the Chinese Embassy in South Africa and the Chinese Culture and International Education Exchange Centre (CCIEEC). These interactions resulted in some progress as I outline below. The implementation of this agreement entails five areas of focus:

· Curriculum Development and Implementation;

· Mathematics, Science and Technology Education;

· Teacher Training and Development;

· Vocational Education and Training;

· Research and Development to improve training.

I am not going to go into the details on each of these areas, but I will describe each briefly.

Curriculum Development and Implementation

I am sure many educationists and researchers sitting here will agree with me that this is a broad area. This is deliberate so we can both (DBE and China) pick and choose what our respective needs are.

The Gauteng Department of Education is piloting the teaching of the Chinese language in South African Schools, mainly in the Tshwane South District. There are 14 schools which are currently teaching the Chinese language and a list of 13 new schools has been proposed for 2016. Dr Lan Xiaoming, the Chinese language teaching expert is now based in the DBE to develop an institutional framework for Chinese language teaching. This will assist the DBE going forward. The process for formalising the policy for the teaching of Mandarin is at an advanced stage now. I am happy to announce that 2 000 textbooks will be donated by the Chinese government to assist in teaching mandarin in schools until a South African textbook is developed. We are also looking at establishing e-Learning classrooms for the pilot schools teaching Mandarin.

Already, Dr Lu from the Chinese Culture and International Education Exchange Centre (CCIEEC) identified the following challenges experienced in the teaching of Mandarin in 6 primary and 8 secondary schools in Gauteng:

  • Ineffective transport provision and insufficient funding from schools for the transport of teachers to teach Mandarin at afternoon classes; and
  • Learners who are not always motivated because activities occur after school as a result, the subject is not a priority.
Teacher Training and Development

Basically the Chinese government has committed to the following activities and as DBE, we are committed to make them happen. His Excellency Mr Tian Xuejun: Ambassador of the Peoples Republic of China in South Africa promised to:

  • Organise experts to compile Chinese language textbooks that are suited to South African conditions;
  • Send 100 teachers and volunteers every year for the next five years to mentor and support local teachers of Mandarin;
  • Train 200 local Chinese language teachers each year for the next five years through local Confucius Institutes; 
  • Provide Confucius Institutes Scholarships in China (offer two scholarships for full teaching qualifications in China); 
  • Support South African educational institutions to apply for opening of Confucius Institutes/classrooms; and
  • Send the Chinese Language Advisor to work on setting up systems for introduction of teaching of Chinese Language in South African schools. 
  • The Chinese government has also committed two scholarships for the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
Already, the Chinese government has availed two spots in its annual scholarship opportunities offered to South Africa. The DBE is working with the Department of Higher Education and Training to select the two candidates for this scholarship.

There are scholarships for two students for a full teaching qualification in China. The DBE will select two matriculants to take up two spaces. Several other training opportunities will be offered by the Chinese government and the DBE will facilitate the selection of candidates.

Vocational Education and Training

The Chinese education system uses a Three Stream Model. A team from South Africa will be identified to undertake a study tour to China in order to study, visit schools and engage with Chinese counterparts regarding the technical and vocational education streams.

Research and Development to improve training

A Dialogue on Educational Policy and Research between China and South Africa is being planned in partnership with the Chinese National Institute of Education Sciences (CNIES). The main focus of this Dialogue will be the Maths, Science and Technology (MST) education and will entail comparing curricula of the two countries, amongst other issues. A group of Chinese experts in MST education will visit South Africa for this Dialogue. This is where a number of possible research areas will be identified on the work lying ahead. Beyond the sharing of curriculum and research issues, the main objective of this Dialogue is breaking the mould in the co-operation within the (MST) education. This will be an exciting space in various ways.

Mathematics, Science and Technology Education

The Maths, Science and Technology (MST) plan will be finalised soon and the proposal by the CCIEEC will be incorporated into the DBE’s MST plan. It is our focus on the MST education that we are here today launching this very important site of learning Mathematics, Science and Technology. By the way, our Natural Sciences curriculum, His Excellency, does offer astronomy content and other aspects of the Earth Sciences. We are therefore very happy to have this resource for our learners.

In conclusion, it is important for me to mention at this stage that this Planetarium was shipped to South Africa from China. The China Educational Instrument and Equipment Corporation (CEIEC) donated this Planetarium to South Africa as part of the cooperation agreement. The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre was identified as a strategic site to house this Planetarium.

I now declare the Planetarium officially open!

I thank you.

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