The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry is seeking an urgent response from businesses and other stakeholders in education and ICT on a recent circular from the Department of Basic Education to standardise software tools for Computer Applications Technology (CAT) and Information Technology (IT) taught in high schools. Circular S9 of 2013 involves the standardisation and use of Microsoft Office only for CAT and Delphi as the only programming language for IT.
“The decision by the Department of Basic Education to standardise on Microsoft Office for CAT and Delphi as the only programming language for IT is a major setback for computing and education in South Africa. It is completely unjustified from a cost perspective and quite baffling in the light of South Africa’s commitment to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). This decision will impact South Africa’s competitiveness and must be reversed or else the entire mainstream public education will become irrelevant,” says Roderick Lim Banda, Chair of the Digital Portfolio Committee of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Bronwen Kausch, COO of the Cape Chamber further notes that: “We are keenly aware that we live in an information age and that ICT is the key to improving language, maths and science and our global competitiveness. This decision is likely to have detrimental consequences for education which will exacerbate the skills crisis for business.”
A long time advocate of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), Keats also points out that the use of Microsoft Office only for CAT, “is anti-competitive, and denies school learners exposure to a variety of viable alternatives, and also denies other companies access to the school environment.”
The Cape Chamber will be hosting a meeting on the 16th of October to discuss how this policy impacts on learners and affects the future competitiveness of the local business environment. This will be a follow up on previous discussions on ICT in education and how industry and commerce can influence South Africa’s basic education policy as education is ultimately intended to equip learners to be employed by business. The Cape Chamber would like to look at possible solutions to improve the state of basic education and to advance the use of technology and development of software skills. We welcome all interested parties and stakeholders to join us for this important discussion.