SA gets community colleges

2014-01-16 17:31

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The government is set to establish community colleges around the country to cater for unskilled people and those who did not attend or finish school, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has said.

Nzimande made the announcement at the launch of his department’s white paper on post-school education and training, the country’s first major road map for further education, in Pretoria today.

The white paper introduces a raft of policy interventions aimed at making post-school training and education accessible to all South Africans wishing to further their studies.

The event was attended by principals from private and public colleges, vice-chancellors, education experts and administrators from around the country, many of whom praised the government’s latest initiative to broaden further education.

Nzimande also used the occasion to announce that Further Education and Training (FET) colleges have been renamed Technical Vocational Education and Training colleges.

He said the current tertiary education system did not cater for the needs of the country’s economy and that the white paper addressed issues related to skills shortages.

The document proposes a coherent strategy and policy directions for all universities, private and public colleges, FETs and Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) to enable them to offer broader courses that respond to the needs of the country.

The policy also wants the private sector to play its part by training unskilled people in different fields, and more emphasis has been placed on cooperating with business in future.

Nzimande said he was excited about the introduction of community colleges because they would cater for a population that is not integrated into the post-schooling environment.

According to the document, community colleges will be provided with “adequate infrastructure and a critical mass of full-time staff” drawn from the private sector.

Vocational education and training was one of the highlights of the new policy direction at FETs and Setas.

“The current mix of programmes and qualifications in the FET colleges is complex to administer, difficult for students and parents to understand and often poorly quality-assured,” the white paper reads.

Nzimande said the reason the government wanted to fast-track the transformation of the post-schooling environment was because the economy would not grow unless education was a priority.

“Our education policy interventions are aimed at dealing with the legacy of apartheid to ensure a non-sexist and non-racial education system. But there are still deep-seated inequalities in this country and we cannot continue to have the resistance to transformation that we have faced as government,” said Nzimande.

The government will also establish the SA Institute for Vocational and Continuing Education and Training to provide support to the college sector and develop and innovate curricula.

The institute will also be responsible for upskilling existing staff, providing experts to develop course materials, advising the minister on vocational education and monitoring and evaluating FETs and other public colleges.

The white paper was drafted with the proposals of the National Development Plan in mind and also has targets set for 2030.

The department also aims to increase enrolments at FET colleges from 650 000 in 2013 to 2.5 million by 2030.

Although more than 60% of university enrolments were women and black students, this was not enough to reverse the imbalances of the past, said Nzimande.

Unisa vice-chancellor Mandla Makhanya hailed the launch of the white paper and said South Africa needed the new policy direction now more than ever.

“This is a milestone in the history of post-school education in South Africa, and we should all play a part,” he said.

In the same vein, Mathews Phosa, chairperson of the Unisa Council, urged everyone to commit themselves to playing their roles in implementing the new policy and called for the performance of all education councils to be strictly monitored.

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