THE education and training sector is undergoing major changes, which has resulted in a lot of speculation regarding its future.

Some good things are happening and are likely to happen over the next few months and years. In particular, I love the idea of a Grade 9 point of exit for a learner who feels that a technical education will be more appropriate than an academic education. Everyone involved in education, training and skills development has, as Theo Garrun, the former Workplace editor, said: “a vital task on their hands and need to change their mindset if they want South African to compete on the global stage”. My appeal is let us work together to get it right once and for all. Raymond Patel, a former CEO of merSETA, speaking at the World Skills Competition in Canada said: “It is clear we spend too much time and effort training the softer skills, while what is needed is an emphasis on the trades and technology based skills that are sorely needed in our economy.”

To get back on track, now is the time for change. Now is the time for all parties to ensure that we deal with current issues in order to take care of future requirements and global developments. We need to get the education, training and skills development effort working for the good of all role-players. However, to do so requires communication by all parties, where all parties start listening to try to understand the other point of view. The future of education and training in South Africa requires an all-inclusive approach where articulation is permitted, but above all encouraged and understood by all. We are in a transition phase and transition requires a large degree of expression.

The following recommendations are made to help improve things:

  • The reopening of all teachers’ training;
  • The training of all teachers based on General Education and Training (GET) and Higher Education and Training (HET) subject matter to ensure that they are properly qualified;
  • The Minister of Basic Education must reintroduce training of all GET learners in reading, writing and arithmetic as a basic minimum, together with other curriculum subject matter. Basic arithmetic should be compulsory, relevant and appropriate to the life skills needs of the learners up to Grade 5. From Grade 5 to 8, a higher level may be chosen as an elective subject;
  • Before completion of the GET band (during Grade 8/9 years), learners should be encouraged by means of open days, exhibitions, professionally conducted career guidance sessions, “bring a child to work” efforts and so on, to make informed decisions in terms of education and career direction. The objective will be to sell the concept and benefits of a technical education at technical, vocational education and training (TVET) colleges as opposed to pursuing an academic education at mainstream schools. The learners and their parents need to be given a much better understanding of the choices available. As Patel pointed out: “We need to impress on our youth that these (trades and technology) are noble careers and a university (academic) education is not always the best route to follow.”
  • The benefits of attending and the professionalism of TVET institutions must be encouraged, promoted and supported. Learners who decide to take this direction on completion of Grade 9 could be subsidised by government as a means of encouraging learners to pursue a technical or trade qualification. Perhaps there could be a 50/50 split between the government and skills levies.
  • The link between TVET colleges and natural progression to universities of technology must be explained and promoted. In addition, articulation related to university of technology subject matter and traditional universities must be established and promoted.
  • At the HET level after Grade 12, learners should be encouraged to take a “gap year” to be spent in a business environment or to undergo a one-year learnership. Companies should be encouraged to facilitate this by tax concessions as we currently have for learnerships. The young school-leaver should receive a subsistence allowance during this period subsidised from the skills levies;
  • The HET level will then carry on based on the chosen career direction making use of universities and universities of technology. The government should subsidise all HET students and consider a higher subsidy for those who enrol in technical or trade-related degree courses.
  • Des Squire is the managing member at AMSI and Associates. Email: des@amsiandassociates.co.za.

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