South Africa’s Further Education and Training colleges need a radical overhaul in order to become colleges of choice that provide quality foundation programmes focusing on maths and science, says Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.
He added that the government had to see the challenges facing the Further Education and Training (FET) sector as part of a multifaceted process to revamp the entire post-schooling and training system.
“We cannot deal with the colleges in isolation from the challenges in the rest of the education system,” Ndzimande said at the FET College Summit in Johannesburg last week.
The summit brought together education experts to discuss ways of improving the status and effectiveness of South Africa’s FET sector, which has been characterised by low pass rates, poor planning and financial mismanagement.
Improving governance, management
South Africa has about 50 of these state-funded colleges, and the government has for years struggled to revitalise the system, despite spending R1.5-billion on the colleges between 2006 and 2008, upgrading everything from teaching skills to workshops and laboratories.
Nzimande told the gathering that the overhaul of the FET system would focus on improving governance and management capacity, as well as training college lecturers and improving the skills of existing lecturers.
Recognition of prior learning
The department would also finalise a national policy outlining the minimum entry requirements to university study, said Ndzimande, adding that they intended to increase enrolment from the current 400 000 to one-million by 2015.
Nzimande, who will also take over responsibility for the country’s Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas), mentioned that he wanted experienced workers without matric, or matriculants without exemptions, to study at universities.
He said there was a need to recognise prior learning for adults without formal university entrance qualifications to enable them to enter higher education institutions.
FET colleges had to be accessible to both young people and adults, Nzimande said, adding that they were well positioned to contribute to the country’s acute middle-level skills crisis.
“Increased access to FETs would have the social benefit of including young people currently not in education, employment or training in opportunities to participate by studying in work-oriented programmes,” Nzimande said.
Data indicates that of the 2.8-million South Africans between the ages 18 and 24 not in employment, education or training in 2007, two million (about 71%) had not achieved Grade 12. Of these, about 18% had not even progressed beyond primary level.
He said FETs would also need to provide training programmes that were needed in the real world in order to sustain livelihoods for the many who are unemployed.
“The college community therefore, in my view, must expand its horizons and see the world … They must understand that our broad goal is to develop the economy in a way that responds to the needs of all South Africans,” Nzimande said.