What are you doing about graduates, Nzimande asks employers

2012-01-12 13:21

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande has lashed out at “biblical-type lamentations” about the readiness of South African graduates to meet the requirements of the job market.

He was speaking at the launch of the department’s Green Paper for Post-School Education and Training in Pretoria today, when he questioned what employers who complained about the quality of graduates were doing to increase exposure and training.

“I really don’t like to hear a business person going on the radio and lecturing us as to how our institutions are not producing ready-made graduates.

“Employers should be saying: What are we doing to ensure we are producing the right people?”

Nzimande conceded that a major problem in the higher education system was that the “provision of post-school education and training is inadequate in quantity and diversity and, in many but not all instances, quality”.

According to the department’s new green paper, which presents its views on higher education, it plans on dramatically increasing the number of university and college enrolments in South Africa over the next 18 years, with a far greater emphasis being placed on higher education outside of the university system.

Nzimande said the department hoped to raise university enrolments from this year’s 899 000 to 1.5 million in 2030.

The department planned on ensuring that 4 million people were enrolled at colleges and other post-school institutions in 2030, a six-fold increase over the current enrolment figures.

If the department’s vision was to become a reality, it would mean a major shift towards college education.

Nzimande called on interested parties to comment on the new green paper before April next year, when official government policy on education would be formulated.

Nzimande’s announcement came in the wake of a stampede at the University of Johannesburg this week, which resulted in the death of a woman hoping to secure her son a spot at the institution.

He said that while South Africa’s universities were the strongest and most stable forms of higher learning problems remained, particularly at “previously disadvantaged universities” which needed interventions to “improve their infrastructure as well as the quality of their teaching and research”.

Central to government’s vision were the controversial Further Education Training (FET) colleges, which would have to absorb a large proportion of the expanded enrolments.

It was not known how successful the FET colleges were, as the pass rates at these institutions had never been made known by the department.

Nzimande acknowledged that changing the public’s perceptions of the FET colleges as providing a sub-standard education was a major challenge and that incentives to lure students were needed.

“Let us, at the very least, ensure that every FET college should get a learnership ... so that students know the education comes with 12 months’ work experience and a modest stipend,” he said.

Nzimande announced that the department was working on plans to provide free higher education to the poor, after being asked to do so by the ANC.

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