The misconception on GEC
With that being said, please note that the GEC is not a school leaving certificate and its purpose is not to encourage learners to quit or leave school. However its main purpose as explained is to help learners above all to choose their career paths more precisely using the three streams currently available. These are:
Purpose of GEC
- To continue with an academic route through the completion of the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) in schools, culminating in the achievement of the National Senior Certificate at NQF Level 4.
- To choose a vocational route through completion of the National Certificate: Vocational Qualifications at NQF Levels 2, 3 and 4, which contain vocational specialisations that are offered in TVET Colleges.
- To have access to Occupational specific qualifications at NQF Level 2, 3 and 4, which consist of knowledge, skills and workplace experience and learning, in schools or in other institutions.
The current woes of Grade 9
Grade 9 learners are faced with a number of challenges. These challenges are systemic and solving them will need a change in the system. The failure rate at grade 9 is so appalling that it is swept underneath and not reported on due to the lack of a system that aims to bring about accountability. Grade 12 learners are the main focus of interventions as it provides easy tracking. This is the only time where the system is effectively evaluated and unfortunately it is at a very late stage. Some learners then discover at this stage that they should never have taken the academic route. They go on to enrol at a public FET and start over again the vocational or technical courses resulting in a wastage of time.
This is the current state of Grade 9 learners especially in the public schools:
High failure rate
- High failure rate especially in Mathematics and English. The failure rate is very high on these subjects with some schools recording as high as 95% of learners failing Mathematics. These learners are progressed (pushed) to grade 10 despite the failing.
High learner dropout
- Research has shown that most learners drop out of school in Grade 9. Most drop out due to social ills, failure to meet the pass marks to progress to Grade 10, old age due to repeated repeats and frustration and many other issues.
Why GEC now and its importance
The purpose of awarding a General Education Certificate (GEC) is to equip learners with the values, knowledge and skills that will enable or enhance meaningful participation in society, contribute towards developing sustainable communities, provide a basis for learning in further education and training, and establish a firm foundation for skills develop that will prepare learns for the workplace (SAQA: 2001).
The GEC (Schools) at the end of Grade 9 acknowledges a broad foundation of knowledge and skills as a basis for further learning and study, which could happen in a range of further education institutions. Offering a GEC is not an indication of the exit of learners from a learning pathway in schools but provides better decision-making for and access to further learning after Grade 9.
When will GEC start in schools?
The field trials for GEC are expected to be implemented in 2021 and 2022. It will be implemented in certain arrears to test and adjust anything that needs to be rectified before it is fully launched. The pilot project is also meant to give feedback to the planning team on anything that was not anticipated that needs to be addressed. The official rollout of GEC certificate will be in 2021 and all Grade 9 learners in November 2023 are expected to sit for their first National Certificate called the General Education Certificate (GEC).