A new basic education bill has sparked an outcry among some quarters in the country.
The Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill was given the thumbs up in the National Assembly on Thursday.
The controversial bill, which has opposition parties hopping mad, will see School Governing Bodies (SGB) stripped of the power to determine language and admission policies in schools.
Amongst some of the concerns raised by the political parties is the aspect of the bill, which also seeks to regulate home schooling.
According to the bill, the Minister of Basic education may institute regulations relating to the registration and administration of home education.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) says this move will take away the responsibility of parents as the custodians of their children and will lead to home invasions.
Grade R will now be the new compulsory school-starting age and parents who fail to enroll their children for grade R will be formally penalised.
The DA plans on taking the piece of legislation on review.
Education Specialist, Professor Mary Metcalfe, says the capacity to accommodate the cohort of Grade R learners in schools amid overcrowding challenges is one of the things the government needs to consider about the BELA bill.
Metcalfe says the Grade R curriculum has to be appropriate for the level of development of pupils aged between five and six, as this is not an unusual starting age for children.
“The grade R year is seen as an orientation, as a readiness for the formal teaching of literacy and numeracy, but it is much more bringing children into a social environment, learning how to behave in a social environment, which has rules and the need to consider the needs of others.”
The scholar says as far as the bill is concerned, the state needs to ensure that all the resources in the education system are utilised optimally.
Education Activist, Hendrick Makaneta, has welcomed the passing of the bill, saying it will go a long way in assisting the government to improve the country’s education system.
He has hailed the news that government will now have the final say in the determination of language and admission policies, as a step in the right direction.
“If you look at many schools throughout the country, particularly those in affluent suburbs, these schools have always excluded others on the basis of the language policies.”
The bill is now sitting at the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) awaiting concurrence.
Written by: Lindiwe Mpanza