Deputy Minister & Department of Higher Education & Training: 2011 Strategic plan & budget briefing

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

31 May 2011
Chairperson: Ms MW Makgate (North West, ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Higher Education and Training (the Department) presented its Revised Strategic Plan for 2010/11 as well as its 2011 MTEF Budget Allocations. The documents were in line with government’s key priorities of achieving inclusivity and making education accessible to all, achieving a skilled and capable work force and focusing on scarce skills. The work of the five programmes was set out and briefly described. It was noted that the long term vision covered twenty to thirty years, the medium term five years and the short term operational plans applied for one year. Particular areas of focus were outlined as the need to increase student enrolments in scarce skills, in both undergraduate courses as well as post graduate courses, and the need to address and improve teacher education. Particular needs had been identified for Foundation Phase teachers, and the need for specific training in specific subjects at NCV levels, where many educators felt that they had been pressganged into teaching these subjects without sufficient training. There was also a high student intake with very few teachers, who therefore struggled with capacity. The Department also outlined the improvement of student funding via the National Student Financial Aid scheme and the improvement, through a narrower focus, of the National Skills Fund. The establishment of two new universities, in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, was outlined, and it was noted that the task teams would be furnishing reports in July and that both would be constructed at the same time.

The budget showed a fairly substantial increase from the past years, and the Department explained that this took into account certain under-funding of the former Department of Education in the past, although there was still not sufficient funding to allow for the filling of all posts. Only a small percentage was devoted to operational costs. Particular areas of increase were in student enrolments and bursaries.

Members raised concerns about the teacher training colleges, wanting to know where they were situated, and what could be done to control the fact that some private colleges were charging extra fees for examinations. They also highlighted the lack of sport teachers at township schools and the apparent lack of training of lecturers at FETs in certain subjects. A number of queries were raised about the staff complement and the filling of vacancies, as well as the large numbers of acting posts in the Department. Members also warned that keeping “temporary” posts for longer periods seemed to create expectations that the posts would be made permanent. They asked for details about the sharp increases in funding allocated to examinations and enrolments. Questions were also asked about the time frames for filling posts, as well as the time frames for the new universities. Other issues raised included the regional offices, where they would be located, what their function would be and how they would be linked to other departments and their roles defined, particularly in regard to the offices of the Premiers in provinces. The question of funding also arose and Members wished to know what monitoring and control mechanisms were in place to deal with the substantial amounts that were transferred. Other questions related to the recognition of prior learning, what was being done to address the needs for, and the poor results so far in training of artisans, and the links between this Department and other bodies and departments.

Meeting report

Department of Higher Education and Training: Revised Strategic Plan 2010/11 – 2014/15 and 2011 MTEF Budget Allocations
An apology from the Minister of Higher Education and Training was given.

Ms Lulama Mbobo, Acting Director General, Department of Higher Education and Training, noted that the permanent post for Director General of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET or the Department) had been advertised, and Members would be advised as soon as the appointment had been made.

She tabled the Revised Strategic Plan (RSP) and MTEF Budget Allocations, noting that these were in line with government’s key priorities. The Ministry had been tasked with responsibility over a skilled and capable work force growth path. The budget was planned to meet the targets of addressing the most vulnerable and thus would target all forms of inequities in the past. Only a small proportion of the budget would be spent on operational costs. One of the challenges was to ensure that the large amount of funds received was utilised efficiently and effectively. Substantial funding had been allocated to the Department’s institutional base, namely the Further Education and Training (FET) sector, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) as well as to studies conducted in the Northern Cape for the establishment of regional offices.
Mr Feizel Toefy, Chief Director: Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Department of Higher Education and Training, reminded the Committee that the first Strategic Plan had been presented in 2010. DHET was a newly established department, which had effectively brought together two streams of education into one department. The RSP set out the outcomes, targets and budgets.
The RSP would address expanding the system to include more citizens in universities, colleges, adult training centres, learnerships, apprenticeships and other skills based courses. The core vision of the department was to focus on the provision of a skilled labour force, through differentiation within a fully inclusive post schooling system. This would give all South Africans access to relevant post-school education and training. This should also lead to the fulfilment of economic and social goals in an inclusive society. He noted that there was also renewed focus on the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), in order to correct the distortion of the post schooling system and to reduce the bottle neck of scarce skills in the country.
The RSP had been developed within the Human Resources Development Strategy for South Africa (HRDSA). The long term strategic plan covered 20 to 30 years, medium term strategic objectives covered five years and the short term operational plans were for one year.

Mr Toefy outlined the five programmes of the RSP. Programme 1: Administration had been designed to provide operational systems to the Minister and the Deputy Minister. It also provided the support and corporate services for the DHET. It aimed to fulfil the objectives of a functional department with the necessary capacity to deliver on its strategic objectives, and establishment of regional and provincial presence. This programme would deal with administration, Human Resource development (HRD) and coordination of planning and monitoring, university education, vocational and continuing education and training, and skills development. There were at present 1 114 approved posts within the interim structure, of which 895 were funded posts. 699 had been permanently filled and 152 were temporarily filled posts, while 44 permanent posts were vacant, and 80 were being advertised, which included 36 temporarily filled posts.

Mr Toefy noted that the building of infrastructure for regional offices was set to be secured by December 2011. There should be one office, and three core staff, per province. The regional offices would to provide co-ordination, institutional support, community liaison, career advice, answer service delivery queries and facilitate industry partnerships. These regional offices would also link to Provincial Skills Development Forums located in the premier’s office, FET and Adult Education and Training functions located in provincial departments, universities, Department of Labour, and the SETAs. 

Programme two dealt with HRD, planning and monitoring and co-ordination, as well as international relations, legal and legislative services, social inclusion and equity. The key priorities were to build a credible institutional mechanism for skills planning through the development of an integrated information system for the DHET, develop credible planning processes and ensure international co-operation in education and training matters. The education and training system must be fully inclusive of all citizens and career advice and guidance must be provided to all citizens in an inclusive manner.
Targets for institutional mechanisms included a single reporting system, to incorporate Higher Education, FET and Adult Education and Training Information. Some forthcoming legislation was outlined (see attached presentation).

Programme 3: University education provided services in academic planning and management, financial planning and information systems, policy and development and teaching development. It focused on increasing access to high level occupationally-directed programmes, and aimed to increase research, development and innovation, particularly at post-graduate level. Other key priorities of this programme included successful transformation in the university sector, increasing the number of graduates in needed areas, providing a transformative funding model, improving funding via NSFAS, improving access to universities for applicants via a Central Application Service, and developing universities in regions such as Mpumalanga and Northern Cape. Some of the targets for occupationally-directed programme enrolment were set out (see attached presentation). It was envisaged that 1.3 million students would benefit from learning opportunities.

Mr Toefy mentioned that the final report of the task team, which was to make recommendations on models for new universities, was expected in June 2011. The universities should be established by 2014.

Programme 4: FET Sector provided vocational and continuing education and training services, concentrating on planning and institutional support, programmes and qualifications and national examinations and assessments. The key priorities included the management of curricular transformation of the college sector, development of an institutional model, expansion and increasing access to the post-school system, by offering qualifications for those who did not gain university or post-secondary colleges. 40 000 first year students were being placed in programmes to ensure that percentage increased.

Further targets included providing Mathematics and Language curriculum support training for lecturers in 20 FET colleges. 750 lecturers would be trained in three National Certificate vocational targeted programmes. An institutional model on Community Education and Training would be developed. The targets were set out, and it was stressed that this also involved provision of sufficient work books and tutorial material, as well as conducting an academic needs assessment on 40 000 students. It was hoped to increase the performance of learners on the General Education and Training Certificate examinations by 10%.

Programme 5: Development of Skills provided services in SETA coordination, National Skills Fund (NSF), The Secretariat for the National Skills Authority (NSF), Human Resource Development (HRD) and the Institute for the National Development of Learnerships, Employment skills and Labour Assessment (INDLELA). Key priorities included the promotion of quality learning at work and the advancement of the HSRDSA through funding via the NSF, and increasing learning opportunities, both in the private and public sector, through apprenticeships, learnerships and skills courses. Occupationally directed programme targets were set out (see attached presentation), which included trying to increase learnership take-ups to 63%.

Mr Toefy then outlined the budget. The Department’s budget was set to increase at an annual average rate of 12, 4%, from R23,7 billion in 2010/11 to R33,7 billion in 2013/14. This growth was mainly due to the additional funding on transfer items within the FET sector, and additional compensation for examiners and moderators. The university sector (Programme 3) accounted for approximately 83%, and FET sector (Programme 4) for 16%. R50 million for each new university had been set aside. Administration costs were kept low, at only 0, 56% of the total budget. R250 million was set aside for increased student enrolment, and R104 million for conditions of service. R40 million had been set aside for examination services.

Mr Toefy also highlighted budgeted figures for the support of students, split equally between university and FET sectors. NSFAS bursaries of R1.3 million were to be provided for each. After transfers to public entities, about R28 billion remained for the national Department.

Mr Theuns Tredoux, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Higher Education and Training, noted that the National Skills Fund (NSF) was funded in two portions as part of a direct charge. An additional amount, called “Exchequer Contribution” was made available by National Treasury, and it was dealt with by reprioritisation.

Ms B Mncube, (ANC, Gauteng) asked if the new offices in each province would include additional people. She wondered for how long the temporary posts had been in existence, and said that she was concerned that if people were employed for longer than 12 months, this created expectations of permanent employment. She also sought clarity on the number of funded posts.

Ms Mncube questioned if teacher colleges were going to be re-opened and if so, what progress had been made and where they would be situated. She felt that mathematics and science teacher intake must be a priority.

Ms Mncube noted the high failure rate of students at Vocational and Continuing Education and Training sectors. Part of the problem was the very high student numbers, while educators were sufficiently capacitated to deal with them.

Ms Mncube asked where lecturers were being trained, as there were implications for the high failure rate. She also wanted to know what the department planned to do with regard to job creation and creating skills. She asked about the training of sports teachers, noting that in township schools there were no dedicated sports teachers, and asked if there were plans to introduce them.

Ms Mncube questioned the quality of education at SETAS, noting that employers preferred university or university of technology graduates. She wanted to know if the capacity of FET colleges could be strengthened. 

Ms Mncube asked if people were aware of NSF and knew that they could apply for loans.

Mr M de Villiers (DA, Western Cape), asked how the Department planned to help students with their workbooks and tutorial material and if the lecturers would help the students understand and implement these workbooks, with reference to Programme 4.

Mr de Villiers noted that 20 colleges in South Africa would be assisted, but asked about the remaining 30, asking where they were situated.

Mr de Villiers asked what systems were in place to monitor and control funds, and how these were spent on the different items and requirements transferred out of the department.

Mr de Villiers asked for an explanation regarding the sharp increase, for FET, from R900 million to R1.3 billion. He also questioned the spending of money for the new universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, asking if money would be spent in one province at a time. He also questioned the increases for examinations services, from R39 million to R61 million, and for increased student enrolment, from R250 million to R427 million.

Mr T Mashamaite (ANC, Limpopo) asked if the new universities to be built in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape had been started yet, and, if so, what stage they had reached. He also commented that the content of the reports had not been explained to the Committee.

Mr Mashamaite asked if the regional offices would have one office per province, and where it would be located. He asked for further clarification on the staffing, and in which provinces they would be placed, commenting also that a province normally consisted of a number of districts. He asked if this office would be establishing linkages to the Department of Labour, the Premier’s office, and SETAs, and whether it should be effective.

Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) asked for more clarity on the money for the Northern Cape University, which was long overdue. He asked about the plans for free undergraduate studies, and who would pay, as he was concerned that this would place yet another burden on taxpayers.

Mr de Villiers asked how it was intended that the Premier would control people at the regional office.

Ms Mbobo answered questions on the posts and vacancies. She explained that the Department had inherited 1 114 posts from the previous Department of Education, and Department of Labour, when functions were transferred. Some of these were funded, and some were not. Although the new Department had applied for funding for all posts, this was not granted and so the Department was making use of what it could to fill posts. Only some of the positions were being advertised as the Department was still working on the final organisational structure, which would inform the final decision as to which posts would be filled and which would be abolished.

Ms Mbobo then answered questions on the regional offices, explaining that in regard to the location a “visibility analysis” would be conducted to determine the most appropriate location in each of the regions. The plans were still in the preliminary stages. One of the functions of the regional offices would be to establish contact with the Premier’s office, but the two offices would merely work together and there was no question of taking over responsibilities from the Premier.

Dr Bheki Mahlobo, Acting Deputy Director General, Department of Higher Education and Training, explained the training model for educators, conceding that some educators had been unhappy about teaching the NCV. Currently, the Department was training educators directly in subjects, by employing professional trainers. The number to be trained would depend on how many were required, after studies as to what were the weakest subjects requiring the most input.

Dr Mahlobo explained that the FET system was intended to be a multi-purpose system. FET colleges also offered occupational programmes which were accredited by the SETAs, and they would be accredited also for Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). The DHET would also work with the Department of Public Works, particularly in regard to Expanded Public Works Training which was already taking place in some colleges, as well as the NARYSEC programme offered to youth under the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development.

Dr Mahlobo then responded to the questions around access. There were different approaches taken to those who did not achieve university entrance. Some colleges ran foundational phases, working with universities and offering maths and science programmes, for instance, where students could improve their weak points. Another approach was for a student to attend an FET college and obtain an N4, N5 or N6 diploma, or try for an 18 months or 2 year placement in the work place, and then be admitted to the college. The students with an N6 qualification would be accepted into a university programme. Most places of employment had relationships with the colleges.

Dr Mahlobo explained that the work books were an extension of a programme started in 2009 and 2010. These would first be distributed to lecturers, then to students. Lecturers had to support students in their teaching.

Dr Mahlobo explained that the problem of weak Mathematics was a country-wide problem, and support was given to 20 identified colleges. Capacity had been established, where lecturers could be further trained at a focal point at universities. If the Mathematics pass rate could be improved this would lead to more efficient systems.

Dr Mahlobo addressed questions around enrolments and allocations. The R104 million allocation to the FET college sector was intended for the improvement of conditions of service to FET college lecturers. The R250 million allocation was for the sole purpose of artisan development, and this was the main condition attached to the allocation.

Dr Mahlobo then answered the questions around examinations, pointing out that the figures referred to the general examination and training certificate in Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) level 4, and examinations in FET colleges. They did not include examinations in basic education. He further explained that the increase in budget was linked to the former Department of Education’s lack of funding for this function, and the additional amounts now allocated were intended to close gaps.

Mr Mvuyisi Macikama, Chief Director: NSF, Department of Higher Education and Training, answered questions around learnerships and NSF. In the past, there had been heavy reliance on funding by private providers, and this was seen as a potential problem. One of the problems around the quality of graduates from the SETAs was that the SETAs had done their own accreditation and this was now being addressed by a separation of duties. The Quality Council for Trade and Occupations (QCTO) had been established in April 2009 to deal with this problem. The Department was still in the process of ensuring proper linkages with other quality councils, and was trying to become accessible by establishing itself in areas where it could have an impact.

There had been a deliberate move to link SETAs, FET colleges, universities and universities of technology, to deal with the problems around quality of learnerships, as part of the whole skills development system. The Minister would be entering into Service Level Agreements with all 21 SETAs, which would include concrete linkages between the SETAs and the FET system, but not necessarily exclude private providers. This would address the past problems that many students had been unable to graduate as they had completed their theoretical training but could not obtain practical training. The strengthening of the sector skills plans also served as a basis for the training interventions by SETAs, and these plans had to be agreed with the major industry players. In addition, an Artisan Development Task Team had been set up, in view of the severe shortage of all kinds of artisans in the country. NSF had been redirected in its focus, and now was concentrating on the key strategies of government.

Dr Diane Parker, Acting Deputy Director General, Department of Higher Education and Training, answered questions around teacher education. She reminded Members of the summit in 2009, an noted that this had resulted in a process of teacher development, with input from all stakeholders. A new strategic integrated framework for teachers was to be developed, and after its launch in April, it must now be further strengthened. It was necessary to understand and grow the capacity of the current institutions as far as possible, to address the challenges. Only if necessary would new institutions be developed and new campuses opened. This strategic planning framework could also deal with issues such as the ageing work force, assess the needs for certain kinds of teachers, the numbers that had to be developed, and in which phases and subjects. The Department was working closely with the Department of Basic Education to ensure that there was a match between the enrolment of teachers and the actual needs. It had already been seen that Foundation Phase teachers were critical, and this was a specific strategic objective, supported by funding from the European Union Sector Support Project. It was also important to develop capacity of teachers in African languages. By the end of 2014, twenty universities would be offering Foundation Phase teacher training.

Dr Parker addressed the issue of recruitment, and explained that Vundla Lushaka was responsible for basic education. DHET had formed a partnership with this body to enable placements within the university system.

In regard to sports teachers, DHET was in the process of formulating a new qualifications policy for teaching in schools and this policy mentioned sports specialisation as a possibility. Programmes would eventually be offered for sports teachers.

Dr Parker then explained that the spending on new universities would include both universities, in parallel processes. A task team was also working towards submitting reports in June. These reports would assist in formulating a technical framework for a clear plan to move ahead in July. Major work was required, both for legal and governance requirements, as well as the academic architecture. This was not to be seen as an overnight process. However, by the end of the next 15 years, the department would have strong institutions.

Ms Mbobo noted that she did not have information with her on the breakdown of lecturers at colleges, but would send it on to Members.

Mr Firoz Patel, Deputy Director General, Department of Higher Education and Training, spoke to the questions around free education. The mandate from government was to progressively make undergraduate university education free, especially for the poor. The budget demonstrated this commitment to the poor, and was reflected in the increases. There was currently a debate around free education and the question of who would actually pay for it, but it was expected that education must be sponsored by the community, rather than becoming a burden on the poor. It was recognised that where there were scarce and critical skills, young people must be assisted to become expert.

Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training expanded upon the vision of the Department. She highlighted the fact that many young people were currently prevented from receiving a good education and becoming skilled, and the historic imbalances of the past had created huge and very complex problems. It was the responsibility of the DHET to redress this, through service delivery in education.

Mr Theuns Tredoux explained that the monitoring and control of the transfer of funds took place specifically, for FET colleges, public entities and universities, in accordance with the relevant legislation. Universities received grants and subsidies and must submit at least annual reports, as well as annual financial statements. How many reports and statements must be submitted each year was set out in the legislation.

Mr Faber, in a follow up to previous questions, asked if the tax payer was going to pay for the free education at university, or whether there was any other option under consideration.

Mr Mashamaite asked what the time frame was setting up offices in the provinces.

Ms M Moroto (ANC, North West), asked for indications of plans for the different provinces, noting that currently learners from Mpumalanga were having to study in other provinces. She also mentioned that learners did not know where to go for learnerships, and that the private institutions were charging these learners extra money to write exams. She asked if the DHET controlled this.

Mr Patel responded that the first money for the university project was received only in April 2011. The Minister was obliged to consult widely. Therefore, it would be premature to give detail and timeframes for the universities as consultation processes must still take place.

Dr Mahlobo noted, in regard to private colleges, that if a private college applied for and was granted accreditation by the quality assurer, the Department could not argue with this. Only if colleges did not deliver could the national Department revoke licences. In regard to placements, he noted that if the qualification requirement included work-integrated learning, then the student had to be placed in the industry, or would remain unqualified. SETAs were the intermediaries assisting with these students. The Minister had interacted with SETAs and it was agreed that there must be a database for work places to deal with the problem of placement.

Ms Mncube noted that in Gauteng there had been large under spending on the conditional grant for FET. Although the DHET may have some good systems in place, they did not seem to be working optimally on the ground. She was concerned about the underspending as this raised fears that the budgets would be reduced.

Mr Tredoux explained that the national DHET did not have a problem with spending.

Ms Mncube noted that very few adults were able to access FET training and thought that Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) should be in place.

Dr Mahlobo explained that ABET currently was not meeting the needs of the adults. He also explained that there was now a new certificate, in order for adults to learn to read, write and do calculations. A task team had been established to find out what would be the appropriate curriculum for adults. A report on this was due within three months.

Mr Patel further explained that many opinions and thoughts had been expressed, and it may require different methodology to get to the end of the process. In regard to RPL, he noted that there was a commitment to recognising valuable learning. The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) conference on RPL had noted, however, that RPL would not happen automatically, as the structure for it was still lacking.

Mr de Villiers asked why there was only a pass rate of 41% and 45% in the trade tests. He asked why 50% could not be reached.

Mr Macikama mentioned that the Minister had launched a national artisan body, with the intention that it must develop a national framework in order for artisan programmes to be standardised. He admitted that there was still much work to be done here.

The Chairperson asked for the time frames for the filling of posts, and enquired why there were so many “acting” positions. She wanted to know how many critical posts were still vacant. She asked, with regard to page 17, what the targets were.

Ms Mbobo said that that the target date, including for the regional offices’ posts, was 31 August. She added that the DHET was not funded by National Treasury in respect of these offices. She explained that the Director General posts were only advertised on 1 May. 55 posts were filled and there were only 20 unfilled. She explained that 15 posts were advertised and filled, and 5 posts were still unfilled.

The Deputy Minister mentioned that there were all sorts of efforts to pool different resources together, both private and public, to reach inclusivity in education. Although funding would be a challenge it would be possible to achieve this.

Mr Mashamaite asked how the department was going to monitor the possibilities of under spending or overspending.

Mr Tredoux explained that there were separate budgets which were monitored, and each directorate sent a report to the Minister and Deputy Minister. Money could be moved around to address key priorities. A database was also available to national treasury.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for a fruitful interaction, and commented that education could not be politicised.

The meeting was adjourned.


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