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Address at the launch of the National Qualification Framework support link, 6 June 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches

 

Address by the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, at the launch of the National Qualification Framework support link, CSIR Convention Centre, Pretoria

6 June 2005

Director of ceremonies, Mr Samuel Isaacs;
Your Excellency Ms Sandelle Scrimshaw, High Commissioner for Canada;
Prof Shirley Walters, chairperson of SAQA and other members of the Authority;
Dr Danisa Baloyi, chairperson of the National Skills Authority;
Mr Motsumi Makhene, chairperson of the South African College Principals’ Organisation;
Representatives from the Association of FET College Heads, Umalusi, the CHE, ETQAs, and FET colleges;
Members of the NQF support link development team;
Distinguished guests

Since 1994, South Africa has consistently shown that it is serious about transformation and redress in the education sector. The promulgation of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act in 1995 set the reform process in motion with the proposal for a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) that would be a key instrument used by government to transform the education and training system.

In the past ten years South Africa has made significant progress in education transformation at all levels.

Three areas of progress stand out.

First, we have implemented a new approach throughout the entire education and training system. The approach is most evident in the design of a new curriculum in the schooling sector, the reconfiguration of existing qualifications, and the development of new qualifications.

Second, we have increased the number of qualified teachers in the system. Through initiatives such as the NQF-registered National Professional Diploma in Education (NPDE) and many others, we have been able to up skill many teachers. This has helped to create the potential basis for improving quality in our system.

Third, through institutional, legislative, and policy reform we have been able to consolidate a range of previously fragmented systems. In this regard, NQF legislation and policies has been an important lever in the national system that is progressively working towards creating access for all our learners to lifelong learning and education and training opportunities.

A significant area of intervention in the 2005 to 2010 period will be the development of skills through FET colleges. In the next five years our public FET colleges will receive significant new investment in teaching and learning resources and equipment. They will also be engaged in the reorientation of their administrative, governance, management, teaching and academic support systems.

There are two main reasons for this intervention.

First, young people are affected most negatively by unemployment. Young people aged 18 to 35 make up nearly three quarters of our unemployed. No matter how successful we are in creating jobs - and we have been successful - we are not creating enough jobs to keep school leavers off the streets. We also do not have sufficient training opportunities to address their needs. There is great urgency here. Youth unemployment is our greatest challenge and we need to tackle the problem with seriousness, focus, and purpose.

Second, many school leavers do not have marketable skills or extensive training opportunities. The result is the untenable situation of debilitating unemployment and yet around 500 000 job vacancies that cannot be filled.

The field of technical and vocational training has failed our youth in the past. Our further education and training (FET) colleges were chronically under-resourced and few graduates found jobs. Further, the history of apartheid education caused many young people to look to university as their sole source of post-school training.

All the evidence indicates that we cannot allow this situation to continue – we must provide viable opportunities that make a real difference.

Over the past year many of you who are involved in the FET college sector have had cause to celebrate the recognition the sector has received. This attention, however, is the fruit of a long process that began with the national committee on further education and training and culminated in a demanding and ultimately successful merging of 150 technical colleges into 50 FET colleges.

There is a need to ensure that the FET colleges are not only positioned to address the great need for intermediate and high level skills development in the country, but are also capable of doing so.

Over the next five years the FET colleges must begin to demonstrate a capacity and readiness to deliver high quality learning and teaching in critical skills areas.

This is the reason for the new vision for FET over the next five years.
The vision intends to provide young people with attractive alternative opportunities beyond the school system and for adults who are employed and want to acquire new skills.

These grand aspirations are currently difficult to pursue because of the poor range and scope of FET colleges.

Further education is confused by the inclusion of both schools and colleges in this sector. The role of schools is quite distinct from that of colleges and we need to have policy clarity about this distinction. Schools are the mass-based provider of basic and general education for a specific age group from 6 to 18. Within this age group the state provides nine years of compulsory schooling but increasingly it is edging towards twelve years.

Beyond that, further education and training is what we used to call technical and vocational training but is now expanded to address that part of education we term lifelong learning.

I believe that FET should be clearly defined as the sector that provides exactly that – further education. This means opportunities for employment related training, the return to learning for older youth who have dropped out, and a link to our proposed focus schools in the senior level curriculum at schools.

We have to build pathways between further and higher education so that we do not duplicate the ancient hierarchies between academic learning and vocational training.

The global restructuring of employment has raised the demand for intermediate skills. There are new markets to be explored, exploited and won. FET colleges are our answer to expanding employment opportunities for youth.

In this regard the launching of the NQF Support Link is timely indeed.

The support link will allow important communication among all stakeholders, including SAQA, the SETAs and industry, as we set out to implement our new vision of the FET colleges.

I would now like to pose three questions in regard to the new vision for the FET colleges.

First, how are the colleges being re-imagined?

Addressing the challenges faced by the FET colleges has indeed required a feat of imagination. For too long the FET colleges have been treated as little more than special schools with little or no recognition for the contribution that they have made, and are making, towards achieving the national goals of access to lifelong learning and increased education and training opportunities. In particular, the following changes are part of the re-imagination process:

  • The systemic development of the FET colleges lead by the DoE, with support from government and the private sector.
  • The positioning of the FET colleges as a key level for skills development.
  • Increasing the number of students in high-quality vocational programmes.
  • Differentiation of the FET college system according to national and provincial priorities.
  • Developing high-quality modern and responsive FET programme offerings.
  • Focusing on the development and employment needs and opportunities related to major capital development projects over the next ten years.

That is the vision, the plan, or the blueprint.

Second, how will the FET colleges be re-invented or how do we put the plan into practice?

Practical and measurable steps are necessary to implement the changes. Some of these steps include:

  • Completion of the restructuring process that has resulted in the merger of a number of colleges and campuses.
  • A three-year plan for the re-capitalisation of FET colleges based on the FET programmes offered at each college – R1 billion has already been committed towards this process for the 2006/7 and 2007/8 financial years.
  • Re-forming and realigning the current programmes to respond to the skills needs of the country – this will include the development and implementation of modern, relevant and high level qualifications, curricula and programmes.
  • Building a coherent framework of qualifications through the development of programmes that will bridge those offered by schools and by higher education institutions.
  • Increasing the participation and success rates of persons in the age group 16 to 24 in relevant, high quality FET programmes.
  • Improving the number of FET learners achieving high levels of language, mathematics and science proficiency.
  • Developing effective systems, structures, funding norms and human resources to improve delivery of FET programmes.
  • Deepening and strengthening ties with and responsiveness to partners, including SETAs and higher education institutions
  • Supporting FET colleges in providing credible assessments of learning
  • Developing a more responsive programme mix for FET Colleges.

This brings us to my third question.

What role does the NQF Support Link play?

The NQF Support Link is a tool that stakeholders and partners can use to understand the NQF; it allows us to consolidate the progress made with NQF implementation to date.
The Link offers support to NQF development and implementation through the development of applied competency by offering NQF stakeholders new learning opportunities.

Teachers, facilitators, administrators and leaders are challenged to learn more about the NQF – and in so doing, ensure that the NQF is implemented to its fullest extent in various parts of the education and training system, including the FET band.

The NQF Support Link will enable FET colleges to benefit from the advantages that the NQF offers, but more importantly, it will contribute to the accelerated transformation of these colleges.

The subsequent inclusion of other sectors and role players will ensure that the transformation agenda further permeates the whole education and training system.

In closing, let me say with great warmth that the NQF Support Link is an example of how education partnerships can unfold.

Since 1995 the Canada-South Africa Partnership has been an exemplary model of cooperation.

Through the CIDA-SAQA Support Project the foundations and advancement of a strong NQF has been actively pursued on a number of fronts.

Initial technical and financial support for the establishment of the National Learners’ Records Database evolved into a longer-term partnership that has culminated in the development of a mobilising resource for building a common commitment and knowledge base within the NQF architecture and for the further development of the NQF itself – the NQF Support Link.

Through the development and implementation of the NQF, and supporting initiatives such as the NQF Support Link, South Africa has been able to build strong and long-lasting partnerships with the international community.

We also recognise that such partnerships should be mutually beneficial – in this regard we can offer a wealth of experience in NQF implementation.

I trust that the NQF Support Link will become another success story on our way to a fully transformed education and training system in which all our people can have access to lifelong learning, education and training opportunities.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 588

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