The minister of higher education and training foresees progressive skills reforms with a new approach to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges in South Africa.
Minister Blade Nzimande was speaking at the TVET Conference, held at Gallagher Estate in Midrand on 18 and 19 November. The theme of the conference was: “Together forging a vibrant Technical and Vocational Education and Training system in South Africa”.
Education is a non-negotiable in South Africa. The Constitution states: “Everyone has a right to a basic education, including adult basic education, and to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.”
South Africa has 50 TVET colleges, but according to Unesco, increasing the appeal of TVET has been noted as a significant policy challenge both nationally and globally. Internationally, there are policy documents suggesting that TVET continues to struggle for parity of esteem with other forms of education.
“Aligning our colleges and their programmes to the world of work is no longer negotiable. This means colleges and employers must collaborate for the prospering of individual citizens as well as the economy,” Nzimande said.
Technical and vocational education and training is concerned with the acquisition of knowledge and skills for the world of work. Historically, there have been a number of terms used to describe elements of the field that are now conceived as comprising TVET. These include: apprenticeship training, vocational education, technical education, technical-vocational education, and occupational education.
Nzimande emphasised the importance of TVET in skills development for economic progress. “The new approach to colleges is much more than a name change for former FET (further education and training) colleges. It signals the beginning of a whole new era for colleges in the development of the country’s post‐school education and training system.
“The name change aligns us well with international practice. It also signals the integrating of formal education with practical training and aligning these to the requirements of occupations.”
Collaboration between business and industry, as well as education and training sectors, was vital for the success of TVET, he said, calling on TVET colleges to build strong links with business and industry. “The critical change the Higher Education Ministry seeks is that link to business and industry. I want colleges to be viewed by employers as delivering quality programmes that meet their needs.”
According to Unesco, qualified and motivated teachers and instructors are key for effective learning and are at the heart of TVET quality. Effective policies and frameworks aimed at professionalising TVET staff and improving their development, living and working conditions are considered essential measures.
In South Africa, the Department of Higher Education and Training seeks to stabilise systems, move the sector from a provincial to a national competence, drive articulation, expand access and make provision for poor students the basis of the turnaround of this sector.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has increased provision for the sector from R318-million in 2009 to R2-billion in 2014. Access has increased from 340 000 students in 2009 to over 800 000 students in 2014.
Yet Unesco points out that South Africa faces a number of challenges in implementing an effective TVET system. These include the lack of quantity, diversity and quality of TVET colleges. The UN agency adds that the government has addressed the problem of quantity by establishing 12 new colleges in rural KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga with the first students enrolling this year.
The diversification of colleges, however, is lagging because of capacity constraints and the lack of coherence and co-operation between educational institutions and the labour market, Unesco adds.
Given this, the co-operation Nzimande is calling for is expected to tackle some challenges in the TVET sector.