The future of Education - coming soon!

2016-10-29 12:49

This week I saw some more bad news about education, but also what I believe is the first of the good news. This gives some indication on what the future of education will look like in South Africa.

The bad news

Some universities have now "abandoned the academic year". Read about CPUT abandoning face-to-face classes here: CPUT throws in the towel for 2016

We saw more violence when students delivered a memorandum of demands to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, ahead of his medium term budget speech. Police used stun grenades and rubber bullets in the Cape Town CBD, when protests turned violent. See this video: Student Protests in Cape Town CBD

The good news

Our Universities have not given up

Even when abandoning face-to-face classes, our universities are making plans to complete the academic year. Making use of online learning, and moving exams to off-campus venues, or to January 2017. Clearly the universities are not quitting their responsibility to get this cohort of students through this academic year and on to the next one.

Ensuring that the 2016 university students complete their academic year, is critical if you want to take on new first-year students at the start of 2017. Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of school students busy writing their Matric exams... There is no stopping the push of these students wanting to go to University in 2017.

More than 90% of students are getting no fees increase for the second year in a row

With R600 000 income (per household) as the cut-off point for no fees increase, universities like CPUT stated that 90% of students will benefit from this. No, this is not free education. But two years of zero fees increases makes a real impact on the cost of education for students.

If we look at the whole population, earning R600 000 per year or more, is the top 1% of South Africans. So, from this perspective, potentially up to 99% of the population benefits.

Universities starting to join the FeesMustFall movement

The Council of the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) has called on President Jacob Zuma, "urgently to establish a multi-disciplinary deliberative gathering that will explore sustainable funding options for higher education, which must ensure that no student who qualifies academically is excluded for financial reasons".

Looking at the statements we see coming from Wits, it looks like the University and the students are in agreement. And they are realizing that only government can find the money to make education free.

According to the Wits Council: "“There is not sufficient appreciation of the fact that this is a national crisis”. “Access to higher education should not be the preserve of those who can afford it.”

I think most South Africans would be willing to agree with that statement from the Wits Council.

It looks like the Police is getting better at handling student protests

With the protests in Cape Town, we saw pictures of protesting students climbing on police vehicles, without them getting shot at with rubber bullets. Maybe our police force is showing more restraint than they are getting credit for.

Much more money for education

Much more money has been allocated to education in the mini budget. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said government would allocate an additional R17.6 billion to fund higher education over the next three years to 2019. This follows a R5.6 billion added to university subsidies to fund the zero percent fee increase for the 2016 academic year.

Nope, this is not free education. But it shows some real work to address the issue.

The Future of Education

Private Universities are coming to the fore

For many years now we have had private institutions offering degree studies. With some arguments about whether they are allowed to call themselves "Universities". Personally I don't think it matters that much. We all know what a Degree is. And it is easy to check if an education provider is properly registered and accredited to offer that degree.

According to Piet Mouton, CEO of PSG – which holds a 58% stake in the private education Group Curro, they are opening two higher education institutions in 2017, in Midrand and in Pretoria. And they are aiming to open a higher education institution in the Western Cape in the next two to three years.

In our lifetimes we have never seen education made available to everybody who wants it. In terms of accessibility and affordability, we have made enormous progress with school education. And the demand grows faster and faster. As we make school education available to everyone, that creates students who want to study post school.

Neither government, nor private business will ever be able to build enough capacity to meet this pent-up demand. And the better we get at offering eduction at school level, the more demand we create for post-school education. To some extent we become victims of our own success.

Technikons coming back?

Back in the day we had educational institutions called Technikons. They offered post-school education. But they were not Universities.

Then in the restructuring of higher education in the early 2000's these institutions were merged and massaged into "universities".

If you follow the work of the QCTO (Quality Council for Trades and Occupations), you might see how the need for occupational and trade qualifications are now being met by this body. This is something worth watching.

About the Author:

Jan Badenhorst works as the CEO of Skills Academy. Skills Academy offers Home Study Courses to people who never completed Matric, or who cannot get entry into Universities.


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