Delivering her budget vote in National Assembly on Thursday, Pandor said it was important her department dedicated attention to the technological revolution taking place.
“We’re in the age of the pervasive influence of emerging technologies and artificial intelligence, and need responsive skills, a development research focus and investment to benefit fully,” she said.
Pandor said she would form a multi-stakeholder task team to advise on how they should take up the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution.
“I am aware that several universities have invested in research areas that explore boundaries beyond our current understanding of a range of processes and technologies.”
Briefing the media earlier, Pandor said there was a need to acknowledge and respond to a range of emerging technologies in society, and to prepare the youth for the resultant impact in science and the social domain.
“That readiness has to be institutional, but also human resources.” This, she said, meant looking into what was done in terms of research, teaching and skills production.
“We are fairly well invested at postgraduate-level, but there may be a lot more to do at undergraduate level,” she said.
Pandor also said the department wanted to turn TVET colleges into institutions of choice for millions of young people.
The sector had been allocated R5.2 billion, and more than 458 000 college students would benefit.
“In line with responding to new technology demands, we are modernising our colleges to ensure they contribute to employment creation and enterprise development in South Africa,” she said.
Deputy Minister Buti Manamela said their intention was to ensure graduates were equipped to be ready for the world of work, and also for them to be entrepreneurs.
“This is an emphasis of TVET and community and education training colleges, as a platform within which we give graduates functional skills for them to join the world of work,” Manamela said.
Pandor said there was a need to construct undergraduate programmes not related to particular sectors or disciplines. “We need to be multi-disciplinary in the way we construct our undergraduate programme,” she said.
She also announced that R934m had been allocated for university capacity development programmes to benefit 26 universities.
The programme was aimed at curriculum development, and development of students and staff. It also supported decolonisation initiatives.
“Decolonisation means different things to different people, but it’s possibly primarily a curriculum and an institutional culture issue,” Pandor said.
Deputy director-general for university education Diane Parker said each university would have its own programme.
Parker said under the staff development programme, the focus would be on staff, teaching and research development.
“That is quite an extensive programme that covers a number of areas - from identifying young people who have potential at being academics, through to supporting academics in the system,” she said.
The NFP’s Nhlanhla Khubisa said thriving democracies invested greatly in quality education.
“We need a well-planned, integrated and co-ordinated education system. It doesn’t begin at higher education level,” Khubisa said.
“It begins with basic education. The foundation must be correct,” he said, adding that the country’s rating in maths literacy showed it was not prepared.