By Fiona Wakelin

In South Africa, education has long been recognised as a way of promoting equality of opportunities in society, more generally. The Post-School Education and Training (PSET) system, as envisaged in the White Paper for PSET, is expected to be equitable, accessible, and affordable to all sections of the population. South Africa also has binding international obligations in the field of human rights which promote equality and prohibit unfair discrimination. Among these obligations are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 which calls for inclusive and quality equitable education for all, and Goal 5 which aims to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls – Statista

The numbers

South Africa currently has more than 25 000 schools, 23 000 of which are public schools that make provisions for more than 12 million learners. These estimates indicate that, on average, there is one school for every 500 learners.

  • 25 000+ Schools
  • 23 000 Public schools
  • 12 million + Learners
  • 500 Learners per school

Digital learning tools 

Current technological trends emerging for improved quality of education include: 

  • The Democratisation of Education 
  • Virtual Classrooms
  • Nano learning methods 
  • Multi-factor authentication and verification processes for online education platforms
  • Browser tracking solutions to ensure the integrity of online assessments

Minister of Higher Education and Technology, Hon. Blade Nzimande said that the pandemic showed the education sector the importance of supporting augmented and remote learning. Not only did this allow basic and higher education to continue during various levels of lockdown regulations, but it has also seen the sector move towards embracing the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

“At the core of it all – we need education – education and training that keeps pace with the 4IR,” – Minister Nzimande.


Young girl reading a book at a desk

Future jobs youths will take up include data analysts and scientists, AI and machine learning specialists, big data specialists, new technology specialists, and software and applications developers and analysts.

“However, alongside robotics specialists and engineers you will find jobs like people and culture specialists, client information and customer service workers, and client information and customer service workers.” 

“We have to fill the whole spectrum of the job market – we are not going to replace people with machines, we are going to make people better workers using innovative technologies,” – Hon. Nzimande

Digital skills are driving competitiveness in today’s economy – Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges are ideally placed to impart these skills with their focus on preparing students to become functional workers.

Imparting these digital skills is already underway in many TVET colleges. Recently, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and industrial manufacturing company Siemens South Africa entered into a partnership to empower the country’s students with digital skills, working through TVET colleges. This will equip students with critical technical and digital skills, making them more employable, with a focus on data science and advanced IT skills in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Another similar partnership – between Microsoft, the Public Service Sector Education and Training Authority (PSETA), and Afrika Tikkun Services – promises to provide online opportunities for 20 000 young people under the Microsoft Global Skills Initiative.

The initiative has helped over 30 million people in 249 countries and territories, and nearly 300 000 in South Africa, to gain access to digital skills. The programme aims to build digital skills capabilities in South Africa and to improve the employability of the country’s youth in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry.

According to a critical skills survey, conducted by Xpatweb, the most in-demand, ‘scarce’ skills in the country that must factor into the curriculums of our institutions, are: 

  • Health Professions
  • Accounting 
  • Science Professionals 
  • Related Clinical Sciences 
  • Senior Financial Executives
  • C-Suite Executives 
  • Artisans 
  • Media and Marketing Specialists 
  • Foreign language speakers 
  • ICT 
  • Engineers