Equity, Knowledge Production and Participation rate

2014-12-15 20:29

A quick scan of the national landscape on knowledge building and on unlocking the skills potential of South Africa shows a need to refocus all energy towards making higher education work. Our reality reflects the following:

1.SA produces 28 PhD graduates per million of the population while UK =288; US = 201; Australia=264; Korea=187; Brazil = 48

2.World Bank says SA has tripled R&D investment since 1994, but the total number of Full-time equivalent (FTE) researchers increased by only 33%. SA has approximately 1.5 FTE researchers per 1000 employed; countries with similar ratio of R&D to GDP expenditure like Portugal = 4.8 and Italy = 3.6  

3.Current PhD graduates per annum  is sitting at 1420 

(Source: National Planning Commission, 2012)

The analogy above is important because Researchers in R&D are involved in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods, or systems. Thus South Africa's  management of production of new insight is important to the innovation the country will take to the world.

In my internal discourse, when I looked at the question of unlocking talent, my brain thought of an economy known for its skilled workforce. Knowledge production is not a coincidence expected to riddle itself out when we are still debating same issues today as we did 20 years ago. Often times, deservedly so,  criticism is leveled at the High school system for lack of progress there. Given the country's apartheid history, higher education provides opportunities for social mobility and simultaneously strengthens equity, social justice and democracy. In today's knowledge society, higher education underpinned by a strong science and technology innovation system is increasingly important in opening up people's opportunities. (NPC,2012)

The Republic of Korea is known for its ingenuity and its trend setting brands like Samsung, KIA and Hyundai. South Korea over the past four decades has demonstrated incredible growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialised economy. Interesting that in the 1960s, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and that in 1980 its economy was the same size as that of South Africa.

In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion dollar club of world economies, and currently is among the world's 20 largest economies. The South Korean system was initially, characterised by close government and business ties, including directed credit and import restrictions. The government promoted the import of raw materials and technology at the expense of consumer goods, and encouraged savings and investment over consumption.

The table above shows very interesting comparisons between South Korea and South Africa. Both countries have almost equal population sizes, with South Africa having more land. Given the size of the economies South Korea has more Gross National Income per population size at US $20,870 compared to South Africa’s US $6,960. The structures of the two economies are different but the fundamental contrast between the two economies is on the number of post high school tertiary institutions. South Korea has 100 times more institutions than South Africa even with South Africa’s bigger land availability.

Government has a role to play in the creation of information, intelligence or education necessary for the creation of industrialists. This is called a, "Knowledge Economy". Knowledge Economy is an economy in which growth is dependent on the quantity, quality, and accessibility of the information available. If SA were to become a Knowledge Economy, the biggest reform in education would not be the quality of education but access to institutions of learning from high school to under graduate level.

The number of matriculants willing to learn towards a degree should not be affected by the limited number of studying opportunities in current institutions. I respect that the National Development Plan (NDP) has recognized the need to build Universities in Northern Cape and Mpumalanga but I believe we still have room to build 30 more specialized institutions outside the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations (QTCO) scope. We need specialized institution to train new graduates in high speed rail, a specialized, Japanese study field which will drive the NDP's transport integration proposals; we need Post graduate institution in Nuclear energy or alternative Hydrogen option to add to the Eskom’s grid; if Fracking takes over the Karoo, then we need to establish a Karoo based Fracking institution up to PHD levels, after all this is the technology that the American President says it’s going to stop the US dependency on foreign oil.

Lets be Inspired SA!

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