The introduction of a General Education Certificate (GEC) in grade 9 will create another generation of young people who are unskilled and ill-equipped to enter the jobs market, the Democratic Alliance says.
In an address to the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) on Thursday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga outlined plans for the certificate and the introduction of other qualifications.
"The first cycle of systemic evaluations in grades 3, 6 and 9 will be finalised by June 2020. The field trial for the general education certificate at the end of Grade 9 is scheduled for completion at the end of July 2020," she said at Sadtu's national congress at Nasrec, near Soweto.
The opposition party, however, believes the plan by the department is "disastrous" and will further disadvantage the poor and the future of South Africa.
"The plan is akin to dusting off Hendrik Verwoerd's education policy, which prescribed that black youth should only receive the kind of education that prepared them for low-skilled and low-paying jobs," DA MP Nomsa Marchesi said.
Instead of forcing young people into an "endless cycle of unemployment and poverty", the government must first improve the syllabuses at basic education and TVET institutions, to ensure that "21st-century training" is offered for young people, she said.On Friday, departmental spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the plan to introduce the certificate did not mean pupils could leave school after completing Grade 9.
Mhlanga said the certificate is based on a three-stream mode that includes the academic pathway, the technical vocational pathway and the technical or occupational pathway.
He said the move was aimed at attracting more students towards technical education.
The DA has written to the chairperson of the portfolio committee on basic education, Bongiwe Pricilla Mbinqo-Gigaba, to request that Motshekga and the department brief Parliament on the full details of the proposed plan.
"It is outrageous that Parliament's basic education committee was not consulted or informed about this decision and the DA is of the view that the minister and her department must be hauled before Parliament to provide the public with the full details of the draft framework."