Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says the department will table a bill this year that will make two schooling years before Grade 1 compulsory.
The Minister said this when she participated in a debate on the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said when tabling SONA that the investment the country makes now in Early Childhood Development (ECD) and early school learning will yield great economic benefits in the next two decades and beyond.
"We are in the process of declaring the two years prior to Grade 1 compulsory. The Basic Education Amendment Bill, which pronounces on this, will be tabled in Parliament this year," she said.
Motshekga said the Ministries of Social Development and Basic Education are at an advanced stage in moving the Early Childhood Development function from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education, with transitional arrangements already determined.
Under the guidance of the Office of the Chief State Law Advisors, two main proclamations have been drafted. One is a national proclamation to be signed by the President, and the other is a provincial proclamation to be signed by Premiers from each province.
"We are in the process of finalising the National Framework for ECD, which we will release for broad consultations early in the 2020/21 financial year.
"Guided by the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC), we are determining the financial and human resource implications of an integrated ECD programme at local, provincial and national levels.
"We are in the process of conducting a readiness assessment of the DBE [Department of Basic Education] readiness to receive and effectively deliver the ECD function," said Motshekga.
Skilling learners for the future
The Minister said, meanwhile, that the department was making progress in preparing young people for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and to ensure that they are equipped with skills for future jobs.
This comes against the backdrop of a report from the World Economic Forum, which stated that an estimated 60% of the current jobs will disappear in the next 10 years and that new skills will be required to function effectively in the future.
"It is for this reason that we need to ensure that every South African child is equipped with skills, knowledge and competencies required to function effectively in a changing world, during the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution and beyond.
"The department has completed the development of the Coding and Robotics Curriculum for Grades R - 9 with the assistance of experts comprising university lecturers, labour, industry experts, our partners in civil society, and education experts within the sector.
"This exciting curriculum will equip learners with digital skills required for future jobs, and to function effectively in a changing world, and will teach every South African child about artificial intelligence, virtual reality, 3D printing and advanced manufacturing," said Motshekga.
She said the Coding and Robotics Curriculum is being piloted in Grades R - 3.
"Our plan is to fully implement this curriculum in all Foundation Phase schools by 2022."