In order to complement the work of the Department of Basic Education (DBE), the Department of Science and Technology (DST) launched the Youth into Science Strategy (YiSS) in 2006. The YiSS consists of a number of interventions that are implemented with the primary aim of building human capital with particular reference to the number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professionals, associate professionals and technicians in the country. The aim of the YiSS is to enhance participation, performance and awareness of science and science based careers of school-going youth and undergraduates in STEM. In 2010, the YiSS expanded to include interventions that facilitated work place experience and work placements for youth who graduated from tertiary institutions of learning in the areas of STEM.

The first set of interventions were generally small in scale and, concentrated on what could add value to what was learnt at school. The second set of interventions, viz. labour market interventions, were aimed at providing workplace experience for STEM graduates and University of Technology students. At the same time, the DST also began facilitating workshops and training for Science Centre staff in order to build the capacity of these institutions.  In 2015, the DST produced their Science Engagement Strategy (SES), which highlighted an expanded focus from the youth to incorporating the public.

Given the changes in emphasis from youth in the Youth into Science Strategy to public in the Science Engagement Strategy, a 10 year review report sought to track this evolution and critically reflect on the direction of the programme. This commemorative report focused on interventions and studies that were: school-focused, post-school focused, public focused and institution building.


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This 10 year review focused on the interventions and studies highlighted above, and was framed around two key questions:

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The YiSS and SES have introduced a number of interventions which contribute to (i) STEM human capital development, (ii) improved public awareness of science and (iii) the encouragement of a positive relationship between science and society. The DST has also commissioned a number of research studies focusing on key social aspects that could have an impact on science and technology development in the country. These interventions contribute to achieving the goals of the country’s National Development Plan and the Medium Term Strategic Framework. The role of the DST, through its YiSS programme, has been as an interventionist and intermediary institution which promotes research and science awareness.

The YiSS and SES have developed innovative thought leadership, promoted models of possible interventions, provided a value-add role in establishing mechanisms for wider implementation and access, and played a catalytic (intermediary) role in harnessing resources. Through the YiSS programmes, the DST has partnered with other government departments, initiated strategic partnerships with key stakeholders, and leveraged their position to shape programmes to deliver on their objectives.

The YiSS has set up innovative and successful models for improving human capital development; however the learnings from the YiSS have not been used to upscale the interventions or entice other government entities to replicate these interventions. Although the Talent Development Programme has reached many learners, with an estimated 3500 learners set to participate in Phase 3 (2017 to 2022), this contribution is small when considering the National Development Plan’s target of 450 000 learners leaving the schooling system each year with a mathematics and science pass to participate in STEM tertiary education. The National Youth Service provides a model for offering an opportunity for tertiary level graduates to gain their first work experience, benefiting 1 603 participants between 2008 and 2017. This is a useful model to replicate or upscale in a country with high unemployment levels. The YiSS has also been successful in expanding the reach of the National Science Week (NSW) and is in a strategic position to bring the partners together to deliver the NSW.

The YiSS and SES have produced a number of benefits though the implemented interventions, and have further potential to expand and enhance these interventions. The specific learnings for each of the school, post-school, institution building and public based focused interventions are set out in the full report.

The report “Reddy, V; Juan, A; Arends, F; Hannan, S; Harvey, J. & Zulu, N. 2018. Youth into Science and Science Engagement Programmes (2007-2017): 10 Year Review. Report to the Department of Science and Technology. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council” is available here.

Authors: Ncamisile Zulu, Researcher
             Education and Skills Development research programme of the HSRC
              Sylvia Hannan, Researcher
             Education and Skills Development research programme of the HSRC