The ACDP believes that science, technology and innovation should play a crucial role in driving economic transformation and social upliftment in South Africa.

Raising awareness and increasing the quality of South Africa’s scholarly output in all fields of science, as well as promoting young scientists and women for science activities is a laudable aim, especially if we are to improve our global competitiveness in this area.

We also agree that if we are to see improved human capacity in this sector, the creation and continued growth of a pipeline of students interested in pursuing careers in science, mathematics and engineering is crucial. This will not be possible as long as our education system fails to improve the quality of teaching in maths and science.

While it is encouraging to note that in the area of Higher Education and Training, the 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Report shows that South Africa has slightly improved its ranking for quality of maths and science education from the worst ranked in the world the previous year to 128th position, far more will need to be done to ensure that the level of maths and science education vastly improves.

Consider the example of Singapore, who, through a revised curriculum in the teaching methods of maths was able to change their world ranking for maths and science education from one of the lowest countries in the world, to one of the highest.

Singapore Maths is reputed to be one of the most successful national programmes in the world, according to the Trends in International Maths and Science Study survey (TIMSS), since 1995. The Singapore Maths curriculum and pedagogy is unique and revolutionary in its approach towards the subject, and we highly encourage the departments of Science and Technology and Basic Education to look into introducing a similar curriculum in our schools.

Naturally, teachers of these subjects must be qualified. It is unacceptable that so many of our children are being taught maths and science by teachers with little to no proper credentials.  It is also concerning that some schools reportedly omit teaching mathematics all together. The ACDP believes that maths and science should be compulsory subjects from primary school level if we are to address the skills shortages in our country.

The ACDP further believes that all media, whether radio, television, social platforms or print media should be used towards developing an interest in science, maths, technology and engineering. Statistics compiled by UNESCO reveal that globally, women make up less than 30% of people who are working within these fields.

Our country’s basic education system needs massive improvement when it comes to teaching maths and science so that they become attractive subject choices for more pupils. These important subjects should be taught in primary schools in ways that make them fun and engaging. Qualified teachers must aim to inculcate a love for maths and science among young learners, particularly among girl learners.

I believe the department of Science and Technology, in conjunction with the Department of Basic Education, can pioneer innovative ways to use television as an excellent medium to address stereotypes and change children’s negative attitudes towards maths and science in particular.

Rather than being bombarded with endless dancing programmes on television, young learners should also have access to programmes that show the value of science and innovative thinking, young women scientists and what they contribute to society, and who, in turn, might become role models to young girls who are aspiring to become scientists.

The ACDP will support this budget.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 30: Science and Technology
9 May 2018