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Address at the Limpopo FET Colleges Summit, 7 November 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches

 

Address by the Minister of Education, Ms Naledi Pandor, MP, at the Limpopo FET Colleges Summit, Polokwane

7 November 2005

Mr Sello Moloto
Dr Aaron Motsoaladi
Distinguished Guests

In his presentation of the Medium Term Budget Statement in Parliament two weeks ago, Minister Manuel said: “Our search is for a vision that brings South Africans together, investing our shared future, jointly confronting our challenges and celebrating our opportunities, constructing an strategy that will confidently be embraced by business leaders and workers, provinces and cities, civil organisations and community activists.”

He was commenting on the broader challenge of accelerating growth and broadening participation in our economy.

In this regard education sector has a crucial role to play in skills development. Our success in every area of socio-economic activity depends to a great degree in ensuring an expanded educational opportunity for previously disadvantaged South Africans.

A vision that brings South Africans together

Education must reflect a vision directed at increased relevant and focussed opportunities. The government has put in place policies that are specifically designed to address the learning needs of youth and adults in the country. The South African Schools Act and the Further Education and Training Act have transformed the education policy environment. All children have a right to basic education and expanded opportunities for Higher Education access have increased our pool of young graduates and professionals. We have also developed a quality assurance system that allows for equivalence of programmes and student mobility across different institutions.

Mathematics, science and technology have been identified as key economic development drivers for the country. In 2001 the Department of Education developed a focus-school strategy to improve participation rates in these subjects. The strategy was designed around 102 focus schools. In confirmation of our belief that investing in schools with the potential to succeed is sound, we are about to increase the number of focus schools to over 400.

Our vision is based on developing quality in school education. Since 1994 many teachers have upgraded their qualifications and great progress has been made in meeting the challenge of improving the historical lack of infrastructure in the majority of schools. Teacher-pupil ratios have declined and the number of learners schooling under trees is being reduced.

Performance in the Grade 12 exam has improved significantly in recent years. The curriculum has been modernised to make it more relevant to the needs of citizens of a country aiming to achieve sustainable economic and development growth. Government is committed to spending more on learning materials and teacher development as part of larger effort to improve the quality of secondary education via the new curriculum.

The budget for further education and training has been increased to support the material rewriting process required for the effective implementation of new curriculum in grades 10-12. The new curriculum also enhances multilingualism, diversity and respect for different language traditions in a national context and provincial departments of Education are making necessary arrangements to ensure that the language requirements of learners are met at local level. Our policy on religion in education encourages respect for diversity in religion practice and observance. All these changes encapsulate our vision of responsive education system.

Investing in our shared future

In the 2005 budget speech, the Minister of Finance referred to expanding and modernising the Further Education and Training (FET) college sector – and making industry and commerce more strongly involved in the governance of the sector – as one of four principal priorities for the growth of the country. All of you are aware that the government has committed 1,5 billion over the three years for the systematic modernising and developing of the FET college sector.

In this financial year we have been engaged in vigorous planning for the recapitalisation of the colleges. Government has recognised that FET colleges have a strong potential to allow South Africa to develop a skilled profile that would support economic growth and social development. All of you are aware that many young South Africans were previously denied the opportunity to acquire technical and artisan skills.

The transformation of our former technical colleges in to FET colleges has placed us on the path of investing in our shared future

For many young people educational opportunities in the past was seen as a straight line from matric to university. This has left us with a troubling legacy of inadequate engineering and technical skills. Fortunately our government has recognised that we must close this gap and increasingly young people are beginning to see that institutions of economic opportunity and new skills are the FET colleges.

Provincial education departments have also recognised the importance of investing in new skills and new opportunities. There has been considerable growth in spending on FET colleges in the past six years. Our recapitalisation programme will support this investment and strengthen it. We intend to modernise college curricula, to offer new training opportunities to college staff to put in modern training equipment in our colleges so that students are offered high level, relevant, responsive training opportunities.

We also intend to establish links with business to ensure that the programme we develop at the FET level are routed in emerging development in our economy. The process will also include effective support to stunts in the form of careers advice at the school and college level as well as adequate student support services linked to work experience and industry participation.

Beyond these exciting opportunities we encouraging the colleges to agree that we must have differentiation in programmes offered at the colleges. Not all colleges will offer mechanical engineering or industrial engineering or tourism or financial management. Our plan is to develop niche areas of excellence in a wide variety of campuses to ensure that when we offer tourism training we focus in some programmes on bio-diversity and conservation and in other on the acquisition of foreign languages and knowledge of restaurants management and the wine industry.

The same kind of focus has begun to influence our planning in higher education. All of this offers immense opportunities for future students and current college staff.

A wide range of research and analysis supports the process government has initiated. The analyses indicate that even with the outgoing curriculum still in place, FET colleges offer benefits relative to costs that exceed those of ordinary secondary schooling. We should be optimistic about the opportunities offered by and expanded system with a new, revitalise curriculum. The FET college sector is in need of expansion. International comparison show that the technical and vocational education and training sector in South Africa is small relative to ordinary schooling and to university enrolment. We are investing in the sector to ensure a prosperous future for South Africa.

Jointly confronting challenges and celebrating opportunities

To repeat the good spending news on colleges: we almost doubled expenditure on FET colleges between 1998 and 2004. Sustained policy pressure with respect to FET colleges has resulted in an increase in current expenditure in real terms of 92 per cent between 1998 and 2004. This puts colleges in a better position to respond to the skills demands of the economy

Two challenges remain. The first is that the current emphasis on the recapitalisation of the FET colleges must be translated into higher budgets for the sector that are sustainable in the future. Currently, enrolment (in FET terms) in colleges is 3.4 per cent enrolment in secondary schooling. Our belief is that both these figures should rise, given the importance of FET colleges in addressing the skills needs in the country, and given evidence from Labour Force Survey data that benefits relative to costs in FET colleges are high in South Africa.

The second challenge in to boost the current low college enrolments. Low FET college enrolments are arguably a problem in all provinces, with the possible exception of Gauteng Province. However, we are particularly concerned about the exceptionally low enrolment growth rate in the North West Province, because a low enrolment rate is combined with exceptionally low budget growth. The low enrolments are related to the fact that many young people are not fully aware of the opportunities offered by FET colleges and still hold the belief that the best option for skills development is university study.

Constructing a strategy

Government is building an accelerated and shared growth initiative. The Deputy President is driving the initiative. Our aim is to significantly boost our growth over the next five years. The groundswell of opinion in business and trade unions and government is that we can achieve this aim. The national Treasury said in its medium-term budget policy statement last week that the acceleration of new car sales and cement sales pointed to robust economic growth.

Only last week a new report, based on research into Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) registrations, suggested that we were already at 6% and that at least 1 000 new jobs are being created everyday – enough to absorb all new entrants into labour market.[1]

The massive R30bn revenue overrun expected by the Treasury during the current fiscal year, which some economist already expect may be even higher, also points to spirited economic growth.

The FET college programme is a critical to accelerate growth. In the next two years our public FET colleges will receive significant new investment in teaching and learning resources and equipment.

In closing, I need to add that colleges are not poor people’s universities or places for other people’s children. What we will see is a sea-change in perceptions, and a recognition that further education colleges will begin to provide the majority of our young people with solid foundations for meaningful careers. The ladders between further and higher education are there; we need to give our young people the courage to use them and not to feel that the one is the first choice and the other is a last chance. Our accelerated growth strategy requires citizens with a range of skills and we have to invest in better ways of ensuring that our young people are able to make the correct career choices.

What we need to see is a massive and rapid growth in intermediate skills. The colleges have the central role to play in achieving this goal. FET colleges are our answer to expanding employment opportunities for youth and for achieving our target of accelerated growth.

We are on our way to creating a further education and training system ready to equip youth and adults to meet the social and economic needs of the 21st century. The evidence shows that the foundation have been laid for a new kind of college that will be able to meet the needs of industry and communities and to focus on the job creation and skills agenda that are key to South Africa’s future success.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 802

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