School subjects

Coding and robotics become school subjects in 2023. These are the careers they open up.

“What was considered in demand 10 years ago probably won’t be in demand 10 years from now.” Photo: Getty Images

  • The Department of Basic Education is about to introduce Coding and Robotics as subjects in line with its 2022/2023 Annual Performance Plan.
  • The materials have been tested in primary classes and will be tested in some secondary classes from 2023.
  • Coding and robotics are considered beneficial for careers in software, medicine, military, finance, and game development.
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The South African school curriculum is expected to feature coding and robotics as the newest subjects as the world moves towards more automation and digitalization.

Last year, the Ministry of Basic Education released 18 schools across the country to test the two subjects, with two in each province.

The 2023 school year will see the teaching of subjects from R to 3rd grade and 7th grade. Students in grades 4-6 and grade 8 will pilot the subjects this year, followed by grade 9 in 2023.

The implementation of these subjects aims to better equip students to enter the digital age, and prepare them for future jobs.

What the experts say

No specific details were given as to how the materials were tested and what the program would generally look like. However, Amir Patel, associate professor at the University of Cape Town (UCT) program organizer for the robotics research unit, welcomes the introduction of the topics.

Neetu Ramsaroop, a senior lecturer at the School of Commerce at the University of the Witswatersrands (Wits), suggests that a better approach would be to expose students to the subjects rather than teach them.

“I think some subjects taught in school can be detrimental to the student who wants to do the same in college,” she said, referring specifically to the challenges of unlearning bad techniques and habits.

Although the subjects have clear benefits, it is crucial for the government to ensure schools are well-resourced and teachers are well-equipped to teach them, Patel said.

In its plan, the Department of Basic Education says it will upgrade teachers to teach new subjects, which it plans to do in collaboration with higher education institutions.

Patel said robotics was a good way to show students what they can do with maths and science and said it was important for the government to strengthen maths and science in schools.

Along with math and science, English should also be improved, Ramsaroop said.

Here are some of the careers you can go into

For Wits faculty students, a career in coding is unlikely to be a “stepping stone” to a specific career, programming would be more likely to lead students into business analytics, Ramsaroop says.

These are the careers you might find yourself in with a background in coding, in addition to your typical careers in computer programming or app development.

  • Data Analyst
  • Web developer
  • Software engineer
  • computer software analyst
  • Computer software engineer
  • game developer

Robotics can open you up to any career that requires automation. It could be designing and building self-driving cars, programming washing machines, or working with airplanes.

Many of the mechatronics engineering school students graduate and work in finance and banking, with a handful working in insurance.

Mechatronics at UCT has the highest number of admissions in their engineering faculty, with many high school students applying for the course.

The job opportunities are endless, and some are yet to be discovered in coding and robotics; what is exciting about them is that they are continually evolving. Indeed, the field of robotics has seen increasing growth over the past 10 years, with multiple industries taking an interest in the field.

Careers in robotics can take you into industries such as medicine, manufacturing, the military, and more.

  • Software engineer
  • maintenance technicians
  • Robotic Engineer
  • Automation Engineer
  • Sales Specialist
  • hardware engineer
  • Algorithm Engineers
  • User Experience (UX) Designer

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