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CHE > Media and Publications > Draft Legislation > DHET Green Paper for Post-School Education and Training
April, 2012

Executive Summary

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) was formed in May 2009 as a new department, bringing together all post-school education and training institutions: all higher education institutions, colleges and adult education institutions, formerly with the Department of Education; and the skills levy institutions, formerly under the Department of Labour. This Green Paper aims to conceptualise the nature of the Department and to set out its priorities. Stakeholders and the general public are invited to contribute their views, which will be considered when the White Paper on the post-school system is drafted.

There are many challenges facing post-school education in South Africa. Despite the many advances and gains made since 1994, the system continues to produce and reproduce gender, class, racial and other inequalities with regard to access to educational opportunities and success. One of the greatest challenges facing the system is the large number of young people who face a very bleak future if major changes are not introduced. Equally important, the postschool system is not meeting the needs of the economy and society as a whole. This Green Paper aims to align the post-school education and training system with South Africa’s overall development agenda, with links to various development strategies such as the New Growth Path, the Industrial Policy Action Plan 2, the Human Resource Development Strategy for South Africa 2010-2030, and South Africa’s Ten-Year Innovation Plan. This will allow it to contribute more effectively to the goal of inclusive economic growth and development, and to contribute to fundamentally reducing unemployment and poverty.

The Green Paper provides a vision for a single, coherent, differentiated and highly articulated post-school education and training system. This system will contribute to overcoming the structural challenges facing our society by expanding access to education and training opportunities and increasing equity, as well as achieving high levels of excellence and innovation. Key problem areas which prevent the system from playing its potential role are outlined, and solutions are proposed. In some cases options are presented for discussion. Although progress in transforming the post-school institutions has been made since 1994, the system still bears the marks of apartheid. This manifests itself in inequalities, poor quality of education in former black institutions and lingering discrimination.

A major problem in the system as a whole is that provision of post-school education and training is inadequate in quantity, diversity and, in many but not all instances, quality. Approximately three million young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are not accommodated in either the education and training system or the labour market. This is an appalling waste of human potential, and a potential source of serious social instability.

By 2030, South Africa ought to have a post-school system that provides a range of accessible alternatives for young people. By 2030, we aim to raise university enrolments to 1 500 000 (a projected participation rate of 23%) as opposed to the 2011 enrolments of 899 120 (a 16% participation rate). In addition we aim for 4 000 000 enrolments (approximately a 60% participation rate) in colleges or other post-school institutions such as the proposed community education and training centres discussed below. The DHET must build, resource and support this expanded system.

The key area of focus for expansion must be the public further education and training (FET) college sector. Strengthening and then expanding the colleges will play a central role in building a larger and more vibrant college sector. The first step in expanding the FET colleges will be to focus growth in institutions which are already strong while we focus on improving the quality of the weaker ones. This will be followed by phased and more rapid expansion and diversification throughout the sector. Expansion will be undertaken with care, ensuring that institutions are not overwhelmed by new enrolments. Improved quality – particularly through more effective training of college managers and academic staff and improved student support – will, in any case, improve throughput rates and expand the numbers of qualified people entering the workforce.

Improving the quality of the FET colleges will entail the development of appropriate programmes; upgrading lecturer qualifications; capacity building for management and governance; improved learner support; utilising appropriate information technology systems for both learning and management; and building strong partnerships between colleges and employers in both the public and private sectors. Private further and higher education institutions are disparate in terms of quality, and our quality assurance system is not yet able to regulate them all effectively. This will need to be remedied.

In terms of quality, the universities are the strongest and most stable component of the postschool system. However, even some of these institutions are beset by serious problems and are unable to fulfil our peoples’ expectations. They require special interventions. Even in the university system as a whole, many problems remain with regard to access, staffing, curriculum, management, student funding, other forms of student support, and other areas. The Green Paper outlines key areas for intervention in each area.

Key to strengthening the system is the principle of institutional differentiation, which has long been recognised in policy but has not always been supported through funding. A specific focus is on solving another major problem area identified in the Green Paper – inadequate and insufficient levels of research and innovation. Economic development depends both on innovation and on technology absorption. Solving social and economic problems needs highlevel research and development. The Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) Ten-Year Innovation Plan states that the level of economic growth envisaged by our country requires continual advances in technological innovation and the production of new knowledge. The DHET will work with the DST to ensure increased support for postgraduate study and for senior researchers, as well as a more stable funding model for all educational institutions that conduct research. Improving research capacity will be a major focus for universities. Public and private provision of adult education is very weak. Most public adult learning centres do not have their own premises or full-time staff, and enrolments are low. Workplace-based training is diverse, with excellent training opportunities in some places, but, in general, few opportunities for workplace experience.

The DHET is looking into the establishment of a new institutional type, provisionally called Community Education and Training Centres (CETCs), to address the needs of out-of-school youth and adults. The existing public adult learning centres will be absorbed into this category of institution.

The college sector also includes other public colleges, such as nursing, agricultural, police and other colleges. The DHET will engage other government departments with a view to finding ways to build these colleges into a coherent and accessible system which is well-aligned both internally and with other post-school institutions. Options for how to ensure better coordination with regard to these colleges are outlined in the Green Paper.

An important initiative proposed by the Green Paper is the establishment of a South African Institute for Vocational and Continuing Education and Training (SAIVCET) as a key part of a long-term strategy to build institutional capacity. It is noted that a study will be done soon to further conceptualise and make specific recommendations for the Institute. The Institute’s main function should be to strengthen the vocational and continuing education sector by playing a supporting role to existing institutions, especially the FET colleges and the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).

A central problem which this Green Paper addresses is the lack of coherence within the postschool system as a whole, between basic education and the post-school system, and between the post-school system and the labour market. There is inadequate information about labour market needs and future growth possibilities, and this makes planning and targeting of provision difficult. The levy-grant institutions – the (SETAs) and the National Skills Fund (NSF) – are poorly coordinated with public provision, and very little of the skills-levy funding has been used to pay for education in the public universities and colleges.

Our educational institutions must work more closely together and support each other. Levygrant institutions must fund and support provision in public FET colleges and universities, especially universities of technology. SETAs must also play a crucial role in building relationships between education and the labour market. Improving relationships between education institutions and employers is a priority. The DHET will work to strengthen collaboration between the private and public sectors where appropriate, and between the three spheres of government. It will improve co-ordination between itself and other government departments that are critical to delivering improved post-school education. These include the Departments of Basic Education, Labour, Science and Technology, Trade and Industry, Economic Development and the Treasury.

The foundation of any planning process is the existence of comprehensive, accurate, integrated and effectively analysed data. We need improved planning at sectoral and national levels to ensure that information exists to inform future investment in skills and human resources. The DHET faces a number of challenges in this respect. The existing data on educational institutions is not always accurate, is not comprehensive and was not organised as part of an integrated system. The Department has now embarked on establishing an integrated system of data management among all institutions in the higher education and training system, including data from universities, colleges and adult education facilities, levy-grant institutions, the Quality Councils, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. In addition, systems for analysing and using this data on an ongoing basis must be developed and put into effect.

In order to establish a credible national institutional mechanism for skills planning, the integrated DHET data system needs to be further integrated with data from other government departments, such as the Departments of Labour, Home Affairs, Trade and Industry, Science and Technology, Basic Education, Public Service and Administration, Rural Development and Economic Development, as well as Statistics SA, through a specialist information system. This is a major undertaking, and a model for comprehensive skills planning on a national basis is currently being developed by the DHET and a consortium of research institutions.

A truly integrated education system implies that institutional growth paths are aligned to South Africa’s overall development agenda with direct links to various development strategies such as the New Growth Path, the Industrial Policy Action Plan 2, the Human Resource Development Strategy for South Africa 2010-2030, and South Africa’s Ten-Year Innovation Plan.

Another problem area addressed by this Green Paper is the existing regulatory system which is complex and difficult to understand. The regulation of post-school education in South Africa is governed by an array of legislation and statutory bodies. There is duplication, overlap and, at times, incoherence and inconsistency in the functioning of parts of our system. We must overcome these challenges and the Green Paper outlines key proposals and options in this regard. An important starting point is simplifying the National Qualifications Framework; clear options are outlined.

Our qualifications and quality assurance framework is complex, with overlapping directives and ongoing contestation between different quality assurance bodies in various areas of operation. The primary bodies with a direct role in quality assurance are the three Quality Councils – the Council on Higher Education, Umalusi, and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations. Options are proposed for clarifying their respective areas of jurisdiction.

Proposals are made for strengthening these bodies, including their roles in standards, quality assurance of assessment, and certification where applicable. Some quality assurance bodies have adopted overly complex systems with little to show in terms of safeguarding quality. In some instances there has been a tendency towards ‘contractualisation’ leading to short-term thinking and a tendency towards a ‘contract compliance’ culture which reinforces the focus on quantity and throughput rather than on learning and impact. The regulatory system must be streamlined, to ensure that accreditation and quality assurance requirements strengthen educational institutions, without becoming barriers for them. Non-formal educational provision targeted at specific community needs, as well as on-going professional development, need not always lead to qualifications or be provided through accredited providers.

Proposals are also made to strengthen the levy-grant institutions to make them more effective and, as mentioned above, improve their articulation with the post-school system as a whole. These proposals largely build on the ideas of the National Skills Development Strategy III, which are currently being implemented. Clarification of the mandate of the SETAs is a key priority. Options are presented for improving the use of the levy-grant system and for ensuring that that the work of the NSF complements that of the SETAs.

Addressing these key problem areas will enable us to address ongoing inequalities with regard to socio-economic status, race, gender, geographical location, age, disability, and HIV status. This would also ensure that the post-school system contributes to changing the economy to one that relies more on the value-adding skills of its people than on easily replaceable and cheap unskilled labour.

 

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