South Africa’s education system is leading to an unskilled workforce

The lack of a skilled workforce is rated as the third-most problematic factor for doing business in South Africa – after government bureaucracy and restrictive labour regulations – according to the World Economic Forum.

South Africa’s education system is rated 134 out of 138 in the WEF’s 2016-17 Global Competitiveness Report.

This atrocious rating comes despite spending R 213.7bn on basic education in 2016, or 15% of the total budget.

This is a higher proportion than the US, UK and Germany. Something clearly isn’t working.

According to Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.”

The WEF refers to this phase of humanity’s development as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production. The Second used electric power to create mass production.

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The Third used electronics, information technology and robotics to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century.

It is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

To prepare for the realities of the future workplace and the rapidly changing technological landscape, it is critical for learners to become proficient at future-fit skills such as critical thinking, curiosity, communication and entrepreneurship.

A group of South African educators believe that the solution lies in teaching learners how to become proficient at asking Big Questions.

These are questions that lead the learners on intellectual journeys to pursue answers, rather than simply memorising facts.