New school calendar for South Africa cuts down on holidays

The Department of Basic Education has gazetted the confirmed school calendar for 2024, adding to the calendar for 2023 – published earlier this year.

The 2024 public school calendar starts on 17 January 2024 and ends on 11 December, delivering a total of 203 school days – four more than in 2022 and 2023.

There will also be fewer school holidays in 2024, with the calendar making provision for just 25 days off, compared to 32 days in 2023 and 33 in 2022.

To accomplish this, the 2024 calendar is structured in such a way that the school terms are not interjected by as many public holidays, with schools only losing two days to public holidays – one day each in term two and three. In 2022 and 2023, learners lost eight days to public holidays.

Most public holidays in 2024 will take place during school holidays.

The department has had to make these changes to the calendar to make up for teaching losses felt during the Covid-19 pandemic which severely hampered teaching capacity and learner hours.

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The department estimated that learners in disadvantaged communities especially lost as much as a year’s worth of learning due to a lack of teaching contact time and a rotational learning system.

Further studies revealed that the losses were felt particularly hard in the fields of mathematics and science, as well as in basic language in the foundational phases.

2023 School Calendar

2024 School Calendar

New subjects

The Department of Basic Education has already announced plans to introduce several new school subjects to the curriculum in the coming year.

In its 2022/2023 annual performance plan published in March, the department said this will include full-scale implementation of coding and robotics for Grade R-3 and 7 in the 2023 academic year.

A pilot curriculum for these subjects was initially introduced at some schools in the third term of the 2021 academic year, it said. It plans to expand these tech-focused subjects to other grades in subsequent years.

“The coding and robotics pilot for Grades 4-6 and for Grades 8 is planned for 2022 and will be followed by a Grade 9 pilot in 2023. The full-scale implementation for Grades 4-6 and Grade 8 is planned for 2024, and Grade 9 in 2025,” the department said.

“As coding and robotics is a new initiative, the focus will be on the upskilling of teachers to be trained to teach this new subject in collaboration with higher education institutions.”

The department said that the new subjects form part of a broader push to better prepare South African students for the working world.

“Future careers require people with digital skills that will equip and enable them to function effectively in a digital era. The continued implementation on the teaching of coding and robotics will equip and expose learners to digital literacy, virtual reality, augmented reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things,” it said.

“The sector notes that the future requires individuals who will be able to build robots and other sophisticated machines and to develop algorithms to code these machines.”

Read: These are the best-performing public schools in South Africa

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