News24

Struggling FETs face shake-up

2012-01-15 12:15

Johannesburg - South Africa’s beleaguered Further Education and Training (FET) colleges should prepare for a dramatic shake-up to address the country’s dire skills shortages.

This was revealed at the launch of a new Green Paper on Post-School Education by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande last week – two days after the mother of a prospective student was trampled to death at the University of Johannesburg by a crowd desperate to gain access to the institution.

Nzimande announced that the department envisioned a complete transformation of South Africa’s higher education system, currently characterised by enrolment rates at universities that are almost three times as high as those at colleges.

This has resulted in a critical shortage of artisan and mid-level skills in South Africa.

The department now wants to turn the higher education system on its head, planning a six-fold increase in current enrolment of students at colleges and other post-school institutions to reach an eventual total of four million by 2030, with the key focus area being on FET colleges.

Challenges

But the Green Paper also notes the enormity of this challenge:

» The majority of the 50 FET colleges in the country are “mainly weak institutions”;

» At their present capacity, they can “neither absorb significantly larger numbers of students nor achieve acceptable levels of throughput [completion]”;

» The success of the National Certificate (vocational) offered by FET colleges is “generally poor” and only 4% of the class that started the certificate in 2007 completed the qualification in 2009;

» The drop-out rate in colleges is estimated to range between 13% and 25% and about 65% of students are unable to find workplace experience, which is required to complete certain diplomas;

» There is a critical shortage of trained lecturers, with many of those already working in FET colleges having “limited subject content knowledge and little, if any, workplace experience”; and

» The department has to contend with a general public perception of FET colleges as being sub-par institutions when compared to universities.

Perceptions

The Green Paper states that the department intends to transfer more power to college councils which have the capacity to govern themselves, while “weaker colleges will be steered and supported centrally to a greater extent”.

It also proposes the “development of a large number of additional lecturers” and possibly “importing experts from other countries to train lecturers in subject expertise”.

Nzimande said that “persuasion alone” would not change the public’s perception of FET colleges and that incentives were needed.

To this end, bursary provision by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme had been extended to FET colleges and almost quadrupled to R1.2bn during last year.

Nzimande said he also wanted to ensure that all FET colleges had learnerships for students to understand that an FET college education came with 12 months of work experience and a “modest stipend”.

Professor Ian Scott of the Centre for Higher Education at the University of Cape Town said growing the college sector would be a “massive challenge”.

“There are only two possible outcomes [of unplanned growth], one is an increased failure rate and the other is reduced quality standards,” Scott said.

He said it was not impossible to grow the college sector, but that it would require political commitment to implement the plan.

Comments
  • Xavier7034 - 2012-01-15 13:05

    Political commitment - from an already out-of-touch, "Higher-education" Minister? Pull the other one! With all those new colleges in his pie-in-the-sky mind, where do the lecturers come from? Cuba? OK, then they would need to teach Spanish as well.........:-)

      Oneant - 2012-01-15 13:49

      Everything in this country are always being "shaken up", "audited", and "task teamed"... yet... everything remains a screw up. Why is that? What is the common denominator?

      Squeegee - 2012-01-15 13:55

      Money, Oneant, money! Every new initiative opens the door for appointments, printing, tenders, building, etc. etc. Someone will make money, but little else will change.

  • Tshivhombela Fhatuwani - 2012-01-15 13:32

    Importing some more foreigners, where will they go after their contracts end. Saying that there is a shortage of lecturers is just a political statement. How many students have honours and masters and are unemployed and already have subjects expertise. Instead of importing foreigners it would be advisable to lure those who have retired.

      Arnold - 2012-01-15 14:37

      r also admitting that besides the retirees we have a shortage of skilled lecturers.if u r not xenophobic then come with real facts.even the american economy lures talent.

      Tshivhombela Fhatuwani - 2012-01-15 15:16

      @ Arnold, you can call me xenophobic if you want but xenophobic to me is an excuse term. These FET's were not built today if you are not a S. African. They have been there with special attention to groom technical skills and they were temporarily closed. It wouldn not take 40 yrs to groom our own academics instead of importing foreigners unnecessarily. You cannot blame their failures on the lack of skilled lecturers as they just had bad foundation education. You cannot expect these to be good on theories they never passed at secondary level. FET's have become the subject of attraction due to low pass rate in SA.

  • Tshivhombela Fhatuwani - 2012-01-15 13:32

    Importing some more foreigners, where will they go after their contracts end. Saying that there is a shortage of lecturers is just a political statement. How many students have honours and masters and are unemployed and already have subjects expertise. Instead of importing foreigners it would be advisable to lure those who have retired.

  • Max - 2012-01-15 15:25

    When is the ANC going to get rid of this clown?

  • Riegardt Van Heerden - 2012-01-15 16:01

    The right lecturers would make a difference! I am a FET qualified teacher and you try and find out regarding positions available and no-one in the Dept can help or give you an answer! They are weak institutions because they have no idea what's going on in them! Wake up mr. Nzimande! Surround yourself with competent people!

  • Xenswim1 - 2012-01-15 16:06

    OH F**K your pathetic learner ships of no real value. Bring back apprenticeships of five years and proper trade tests. F**K your poor standards FET's that for the most part would not get one a job as a broom mechanic. Bring back the aptitude test. Then the person studying will at least know it has is right for the course. At every turn you uneducated garden boys try to reinvent the wheel. Education and tradesmen are vital to SA return to the old proven ways of running a education system and we can all be proud.

  • Tony - 2012-01-15 21:05

    Hey Blade - you are not that sharp. So I have been waiting for 5 Afirmative Aksheen students that were coming to wek by me for experiencial learning - although they already have a questionable Masters degree. The SETA begged for this.... Its been 7 months now, and I am told they will be with me next week - next week - next week - next .... aw you get the piksha. And instead of importing lecturers, get rid of AA and BBBEE and maybe we will stop EXPORTING good lecturers.... and maybe we can turn this b.s. around.

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