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Call to make history compulsory subject

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As South Africans celebrate youth month, advocacy group Equal Education is calling for history to be made compulsory for Grade 4 to 12 pupils, and for a review of the history curriculum.

The group’s two-day national teaching and learning summit, which was held in Joburg under the theme “40 Years Since ‘76, the struggle for quality education continues”, concluded on Sunday with the release of a draft education charter.

“Education is a contested rather than a neutral space and we thus call for history to be compulsory in Grades 4 to 12, in all learning areas,” said the group’s general secretary Tshepo Motsepe, in a speech at the summit on Friday.

The Department of Basic Education has also been mulling the possibility of making history a compulsory subject.

In December, during the history round-table discussion, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, said the department had not made a determination about the status of history as a compulsory subject “as yet”.

She said the department was investigating the possibility of strengthening the history curriculum “in a bid to make it compatible with the global changes and the new discoveries about the past”.

“Our endeavours are informed by the need to recalibrate the history curriculum and to distil for our learners the most useful topics to be covered. I must emphasise that we are in no way attempting to rewrite history for the benefit of the new ruling elites.

“A task team has been established to, among other things, investigate how best to implement history as a compulsory subject in Grades 10 to 12.”

The SA Democratic Teachers Union has for several years called for the teaching of history to be compulsory.

Motsepe said the charter would be based on several principles including that Equal Education remains committed to the provision of suitable school infrastructure to the poor, and that the quintile system for the funding of schools be abolished.

At the summit, Equal Education also proposed that the literacy and numeracy results for children in Grades 1 to 3 be made public in a similar way in which the matric results are published.

In his speech, Motsepe said Early Childhood Development should immediately be placed under the auspices of the Department of Basic Education rather than the Department of Social Development.

The group also called for township and rural schools to be prioritised in terms of the provisioning of maths teachers and resources, and demanded a cap on the number of pupils doing maths literacy as a subject.

The summit was attended by more than 250 Equal Education members and representatives of government and teacher unions.

On Twitter the group stated that its members in the provinces would be consulted on the charter. It would then be ratified in September.

The group said the summit was an opportunity for Equal Education and key education stakeholders to assess the progress made in the basic education sector over the last four decades. The summit examined the challenges and strategised on a way forward.

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