SAQA CEO speaks on turning around the FET sector at education conference
By Tumelo Modisane
"Vocational and occupational education and training is key to taking the economy forward," says Mr Joe Samuels - CEO of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
Mr Samuels was speaking at African Education Week and Career Indaba 2013 held at the Sandton Convention Centre. This is an annual education conference and expo that looks at issues affecting schools, Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, and universities.
The theme of the conference breakaway session was "A Turnaround Strategy for FET Colleges." In the audience were people from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the publishing industry, colleges, universities and universities of technology.
Mr Samuels noted that when developing a turnaround strategy for FET Colleges one must consider inequality, unemployment, and poverty. This is important, he said, as there are three (3) million young people who are not in education, employment, or training.
Drawing on Germany and the Netherlands as examples, Mr Samuels noted that when one trains for the economy, one trains for employment. He highlighted that more than 50% of learners in the German system are in vocational training. This is also the case in the Netherlands. Mr Samuels emphasised that in these countries training is not seen as the responsibility of government only but also of the private sector.
He added that South Africa's historical context leans heavily on the legacy left by the English where an academic qualification is seen as the 'only' qualification that is worthwhile having. So the average South African aspires to have an academic qualification rather than an occupational or vocational qualification. FET Colleges are critical in developing these occupational and vocational skills, he said.
Mr Samuels noted that currently in England there's a major impetus to get people into apprenticeships in order to get occupational skills. This highlights the importance of occupational and vocational skills in meeting the needs of a country's economy.
Using Germany as an example, Mr Samuels told delegates that following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany demonstrated that if a country invests in technical and vocational education the gap between the rich and the poor is reduced. If South Africa is to meet the challenges of inequality, unemployment, and poverty one of the key solutions to this problem is to focus on the development of occupational and vocational qualifications.
On the ground level, Mr Samuels emphasised that colleges must focus on quality qualifications. "A person must have a useable qualification," he said. He added that the organisation responsible for quality assurance in FET Colleges is Umalusi - the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training. Umalusi is responsible for the quality assurance of the National Certificate (Vocational) NC(V) as well as the National Senior Certificate (NSC).
However, because there is little understanding of the quality of the NC(V) one finds that employers ask for an NSC qualification only instead of the NC(V) - even industry does not seem to recognise and take seriously its own NQF registered qualifications. This shows the need for advocacy within industry and in the broader community on the quality of the NC(V) and other occupational qualifications. There should be mobility (articulation) between the General and Further Education and Training Qualification Sub-framework Framework, the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework, and the Higher Education Qualification Sub-Framework.
Also key to turning FET Colleges around is that lecturers need to really understand what industry needs so that their output can meet its needs. There must be capacity building of lecturers. Mr Samuels added that FET Colleges need to get their IT systems right in order to be able to get certificates to students: "If a learner cannot get a certificate then it defeats the possibility of mobility."
In concluding his speech, Mr Samuels said that four years ago there were 300 000 learners at FET Colleges. Now there are 650 000 learners at FET colleges and government has made resources available to the sector. "We need more learners in colleges than in universities - currently there are one (1) million learners at universities," he said. To realise the objective of getting more learners in the colleges three main things must be realised he concluded: "First change the mindset of people about FET Colleges, second ensure that there is quality, and third there must be capacity building for the FET lecturers."
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