According to the National Higher Certificate (NSC) examination report of the department of basic education last year.

This is the very worrying situation in which the South African education sector finds itself. And it faces the government’s strategy to embrace the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) by 2030.

The government has said many times, and this is borne out by the department’s annual performance plan, that there needs to be an investment in curriculum innovation to prepare young people for the jobs of the future.

The plan includes introducing coding and robotics as subjects for children in grades four through six and high school students in grades eight and nine by 2025.

But coding and robotics require a strong foundation in math and science.

In 2013, there were 512 schools without science candidates and in 2021 there were 781, an increase of 269 schools where no matric wrote physical science, again according to the 2021 NSC examination report.

Six provinces saw an increase in the number of non-matric schools writing math exams, either because students were not taking the subject or because the school did not offer the subject.

In 2020, South Africa was ranked 59th out of 63 economies in the Institute for Management Development’s (IMD) World Competitiveness Yearbook – its lowest ranking since the yearbook’s inception.

In the IMD Digital Ranking results, which measure the capacity and readiness of the same economies to adopt digital technology, South Africa was ranked 60th.

Its main overall weaknesses were listed as digital and technological skills, as well as higher education attainment. To compete globally, South Africa must first foster an economy that empowers its citizens with the right skills for the future. This is done by ensuring that our children have access to the two key subjects – maths and science – that make this possible.

The phasing out of maths and science from schools is having a detrimental effect on the ability of young people to compete in the 4IR space. Research shows how doing math and science is critical to success in almost any career. Whether or not technical skills are used, these subjects teach our children to think and solve problems and are useful in allowing them access to higher education courses.

Part of the problem is that schools can’t find teachers for these subjects. But why are we phasing them out without looking for creative solutions?

The solution is there – the use of technology. Access to high-quality content in math and science has never been more accessible than it is now because of technology. Over the past couple of years, we’ve discovered that educational technology can be brought into our homes. During the lockdown, a significant number of children were still able to learn and thrive because technology made it possible.

Before we erase the core subjects that allow our students to be agents in the fourth industrial revolution, we need to look at scalable solutions that can step in when teachers aren’t there. The solution to some of these concerns is to combine digital learning with the school environment.

At, we invest a great deal of our time and resources into our Neo Series, a flexible math and science learning solution that empowers the student, parent/guardian, and educator to support or enhance science, technology, engineering learning and mathematics. experience.

School districts in the United States are using technology as a solution to teacher shortages. This includes experimenting with virtual staffing to fill the need for teachers.

We know virtual schooling can work, the Covid lockdown proved that. Because of technology, virtual staff allows teachers and students to communicate in real time, even if they cannot be in the same place.

Digital support is a great resource in our under-resourced schools. Although technology will never replace good educators, educators who embrace technology are able to provide their students with the subjects they need to get ahead in life.

James Lees is co-founder and managing director of

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.

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