File photo: African News Agency (ANA)
File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Grade 9 exit plan storm rages on

By Bongani Nkosi Time of article published Oct 7, 2019

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Through its plan to confer certificates on learners after completing Grade 9, the state looks set to divert thousands to a college system with vast inefficiencies, and that is unattractive to learners and their parents.

The Department of Basic Education has confirmed that its General Education Certificate (GEC) will result in more learners being channelled to the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.

“It entails that if you want to go there you can go. You can go to a TVET or a private college with a certificate which has been examined nationally, not just a report from your own school,” said Elijah Mhlanga, the department’s spokesperson.

“We’re also re-purposing our own schools. We’ve got focused schools already that are offering technical subjects.

“It’s not that we’re relying on TVET colleges. It’s a combination of the two,” Mhlanga added.

Asked if the state intended to increase the number of learners at TVET colleges through the GEC, Mhlanga said: “That’s the whole purpose. By so doing you’re avoiding people going to university to get degrees that they can’t use.”

But there was nothing new in the plan to channel learners who have passed Grade 9 to the technical colleges. The country’s 50 TVET colleges, which have more than 260 campuses, were already designed to do this.

They take in learners willing to pursue the National Certificate Vocational (NCV), equivalent to the National Senior Certificate.

However, this option is unattractive to learners and parents, despite providing an alternative to those not academically inclined.

The Star can reveal a decline in the number of learners at TVETs studying for NCVs over the years. The majority of the 700000 students were enrolled for National Accredited Technical Education Diploma courses, which required a matric certificate.

Also, the dropout and pass rates in the NCV programme were a concern for the Department of Higher Education and Training. TVETs fall under the department, which is headed by Minister Blade Nzimande.

The SA College Principals Organisation (Sacpo) told Parliament recently that one of the challenges facing the TVET sector was that the number of learners taking up NCV was dwindling.

Its president, Sanele Mlotshwa, said that while the NCV saw growth after 2007, the numbers have declined.

“The programme is there and expecting those learners to leave school after Grade 9 and come to colleges, but they don’t,” he said.

A 2019 report from Nzimande’s department has revealed that the NCV has seen a “considerable dropout” rate.

The Post-School Education and Training Monitor Report, which the department produced for the first time this year, followed the NCV from Level 2 in 2013 until the last year.

While 72033 students wrote the NCV exams for Level 2 in 2013, 40404 wrote the NCV Level 3 exam in 2014 and “only 25645” wrote Level 4 in 2015. NCV Level 4 is the equivalent of matric. “At most only 36% of those who wrote NCV Level 2 exams in 2013 wrote the Level 4 exams two years later,” said the report.

“For the cohort starting in 2014, 41% wrote the NCV Level 4 two years later, reflecting some improvement over time, though these figures point to considerable dropout.”

The report also revealed that the pass rates for NCV Level 4 programmes declined from 43% in 2013 to 31.4% in 2016.

Mlotshwa said the move to channel more learners to TVETs was to help colleges improve their performance. 


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