16/01/2014. Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande speaks during the launch of the White Paper on Post School Education at Unisa. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria - The Department Of Higher Education and Training wants to introduce a new college system for youths and adults who don’t qualify for technical and vocational education and training colleges.

Further education and training colleges have been renamed technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.

According to the White Paper in Education and Training: Building, an Expanded, Effective and Integrated Post-school System – which was approved by cabinet in November – the institutions will be known as community colleges. According to the document, “they will be multi-campus institutions which group together a number of existing public adult learning centres (PALCs)”.

“They will be provided with adequate infrastructure and a critical mass of full-time staff, and will be expanded by adding new campuses where this is necessitated by increasing enrolments and programmes.”

The 2011 census figures show that 3.2 million young people aged between 15 and 24 years are not in school or employment. Only about 523 000 of these had primary school education or less, while 1.5 million had education levels lower than Grade 10.

These youths and adults that currently attend PALCs and the Department of Basic Education’s Kha Ri Gude mass literacy programme will be some of the people targeted by the colleges. “… it must be admitted that the opportunities for adults and post-school youth have been insufficient and their quality has generally been poor”.

“PALCs are the only state-funded institutions that offer general education to adults, and their efforts have been inadequate,” the document reads.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said although they were going to be public institutions, they would be able to enter into partnerships with private education and training centres. The community colleges will build on the current offerings of the PALCs to expand vocational and skills development programmes and non-formal programmes like care for the aged and skills for self-employment in a range of areas.

Formal programmes will include the General Education and Training Certificate and Senior Certificate programmes currently offered and the proposed new national senior certificate for adults and skills programmes funded by Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) and the National Skills Fund.

Nzimande said: “We plead with institutions to play their part. We need a lot of research done to be able to support these institutions. A lot of Abet centres are closing down in most universities. How can we allow these centres to close down?”

The colleges will be run by the department and governed by ministerial appointees and community representatives to ensure they respond to local needs. Nine colleges will be piloted – one in each province – each starting with a cluster of PALCs to monitor staffing requirements, as well as curriculum and funding requirements.

Godwin Khoza, chief executive of the National Education Collaboration Trust, said: “The introduction of community colleges is a bold but necessary step.

“It is also important that the department is piloting them before so proper research can be done.”

To ensure that the TVET and community colleges are run well, the South African Institute Vocational and Continuing Education and Training will be established.

Among other things, the institute will look into is the development of curriculum in the colleges and advising the minister on policy regarding prior learning.

The curriculum at TVETs will also be reviewed by both the departments of Basic Education and Higher Education and Training.

Nzimande said the department wanted to increase enrolments at TVETs to 1 million by next year and 2.5 million by 2030.

Another 12 campuses for TVETs will be opened next year.

Colleges are not the only institutions that will be under scrutiny – Setas will be looked at as well. The department wants to gather accurate data on the Setas and companies will be expected to submit a comprehensive report annually, which will include information on current skills levels.

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500 000 TVET students by 2030 is the goal

* Nzimande said contact education should not be the only option for students. The White Paper for Post-school Education and Training says universities and universities of technology will be encouraged to expand distance learning for vocational oriented diploma programmes. The department will also investigate the possibility of offering distance learning at technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.

* The throughput of students at higher education institutions has to be improved. The graduation rate among undergraduate students in South Africa’s 23 public universities is 15 percent. The rate for master’s students is 20 percent and for doctoral students 12 percent, according to the department’s statistical report.

* A feasibility study will be undertaken on graduate community service.

* On access for students with disabilities, Nzimande said: “We offered bursaries for students to go to FET colleges and only 50 percent of them took them up. When we investigated with their organisations, they said the colleges were not ready to deal with people with disabilities.”

The department will now develop a framework that will require post-school institutions to develop plans to integrate students with disabilities.

* It is estimated that by 2030, private TVET colleges will have an enrolment of about 500 000. The department says currently the data on the colleges in inaccurate, incomplete and scattered.

The department will now “undertake a thorough review of the regulation and quality assurance of private providers”.

* The Ministerial Oversight Committee on Transformation in South African Universities has been established to ensure “attention remains focused on the need to overcome discrimination in universities and to advise the minister…”

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