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Can project-based learning solve unemployment and poverty in South Africa?

South Africa has been struggling with high unemployment and poverty rates for decades. The latest statistics show that the unemployment rate in the country reached a record high of 32.9% in the first quarter of 2023.  

Poverty rates are also alarmingly high, with nearly half of the population living below the poverty line. The situation is particularly dire for the youth, with youth unemployment rates reaching 60%. These figures paint a grim picture of the state of the South African economy and call for urgent action to address the problem.  

One solution that has been gaining traction in recent years is Project-Based Learning (PBL). 

What is Project-Based Learning? 

PBL is a departure from traditional education methods that rely on rote memorization and standardized tests. Instead, the approach emphasizes active, experiential learning through the creation of real-world projects which develop skills that are essential for success in the 21st century. 

“It is about empowering pupils to inquire, discover, research, solve problems, work with one another, and think critically. At our schools we develop this kind of thinking from a young age,” says Future Nation Schools (FNS) CEO and co-founder, Sizwe Nxasana.  

FNS is a network of independent schools which aims to lead the African Education Revolution by providing relevant, futuristic, Africa-focused and technology-enabled education and does so by teaching an enhanced National CAPS curriculum, delivered through Project Based Learning. 

“PBL is using inquiry as a methodology for teaching. The role of the teacher in the classroom is that of facilitator,” says Nxasana. “Therefore, as a teacher you need certain skills to enable that process to happen.” 

How are teachers being supported? 

In line with the National Development Plan, E3, in partnership with the National Department of Basic Education (DBE) are empowering educators to implement Project-Based Learning and other Progressive Learning Methodologies to unlock the competencies learners need for future success. The programme aims to create an E3 village using a WhatsApp group where teachers from different provinces share and showcase their work.  

Through training and ongoing support for teachers, the E3 programme is creating an awareness and developing skills amongst teachers to produce learners who are EDUCATED, EMPLOYABLE and capable of being ENTREPRENEURS. 

Here are some of the ways in which PBL it can make a difference: 

  1. Prepares students for the world of work 

One of the main reasons for high unemployment rates in South Africa is the mismatch between the skills that employers require and the skills that job seekers possess. Many young people are leaving school without the skills and experience necessary to secure a job. PBL prepares students for the world of work by providing them with opportunities to develop the skills that are in demand in the job market. Through PBL, students learn how to work in teams, communicate effectively, think critically, and solve complex problems. These skills are not only essential for the workplace but also for entrepreneurship and innovation. 

  1. Promotes entrepreneurship 

Entrepreneurship has been identified as a key driver of economic growth and job creation in South Africa. However, many young people lack the skills, knowledge, and resources to start and run a business. PBL can help to address this problem by promoting entrepreneurship education. Through PBL, students can develop business ideas, create business plans, and even launch their own businesses. PBL provides students with the opportunity to learn by doing, which is essential for entrepreneurship. 

  1. Fosters community engagement 

Poverty and unemployment are not only individual problems but also community problems. PBL can help to foster community engagement by encouraging students to identify and solve problems in their communities. Through PBL, students can work with community members to address issues such as unemployment, poverty, and social inequality. PBL provides students with the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in their communities and develop a sense of social responsibility. 

  1. Promotes lifelong learning 

In today’s fast-paced world, lifelong learning has become essential for staying competitive in the job market. PBL promotes lifelong learning by encouraging students to take ownership of their learning and develop a love for learning. Through PBL, students learn how to learn, which is a skill that will serve them well throughout their lives. 

By preparing students for the world of work, promoting entrepreneurship, fostering community engagement, and promoting lifelong learning, PBL can help to create a generation of young people who are equipped to tackle the challenges of the 21st century. It is time for educators, policymakers, and stakeholders to embrace PBL as a solution to the pressing problems of unemployment and poverty in South Africa. 

Lynn Brown
Lynn Brown
Lynn is a content marketer that focuses on brand storytelling through digital platforms. Skilled in a background of web development, search engine optimization and content production, Lynn is excited to utilize over 10 years’ experience in digital marketing to help grow the ecosystems that support Africa’s very young entrepreneurs to ensure their success.

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