The Portfolio Committees on Basic and Higher Education and Training sat jointly to receive a delegation from New Zealand's Parliament. Officials were present from each of the departments to give a broad background to their functions and work. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) described its sustainable development goals towards building an inclusive and equitable quality education and and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. The DBE is comprised of the national department, nine provincial departments, 81 educational districts and around 26 000 schools. There are about 24 060 public schools and 1 681 private schools. The public schools are comprised of Section 20 and Section 21 schools; the latter are the former Model C schools and they have greater financial autonomy. The percentage of learners whom benefitted from the school feeding scheme for 2014 was 79.9% in total and there is a total of 149 teacher centres spread across all provinces. Statistics were given on the number of no -fee schools and learners, with some demographics also being described.
The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) was established as a result of government’s post 2009 election restructuring process. The introduction of the DHET was an approach to education and training, and this Department deals with higher education, vocational education, and all post literacy adult education and workplace skills training. The National Qualifications Framework is divided into three levels, namely; General Education, Further Education and Training and Higher Education. There are 26 public universities in South Africa, with 750 000 students, of whom are enrolled in TVET colleges and 300 000 enrolled in Community Colleges, and the funding of these TVET colleges is the responsibility of the state. In addition, there are two higher education policies which help with the functioning of the sector, namely; the Higher Education Act 101 of 1997, National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) Act of 1999. The DHET’s statutory bodies are the SAQA, CHE, NSFAS, NIHSS, South African Institute for Vocational and Continuing Education and Training and the QCTO. Their functions were briefly described.
Ms Tracey Martin from the New Zealand Select Committee dealing with education matters said an independent government system has been developed for New Zealand’s public schools and it is illegal for the public schools to charge their learners fees, and although they may request donations from parents, they cannot enforce them. The budget for the governance and management of public schools has been a controversial topic in New Zealand. University students also struggle to find employment in their field of study, so there has been a great deal of emphasis on vocational pathways in the last 10 years. A website called Careers New Zealand was created for students to find career advice starting at the age of thirteen. Another problem similar to South Africa is that there is a shortage of maths and science teachers, with the potential teachers being poached away by the IT sector immediately they graduate, so that the New Zealand government has developed programmes which would help with maintaining and keeping the maths and science students. There were attempts to provide immediate career pathways such as apprenticeships for those who were not keen to study further, and there are ongoing debates aimed at improving the schooling experience and marks for the less well-off. In answer to a question whether schooling was geared to industry needs, the delegation described the attempts to get industry involved.
Meeting with delegation from New Zealand Parliament
The Chairperson of the Basic Education Portfolio Committee welcomed the New Zealand Parliamentary delegation. She hoped that the delegates from New Zealand would visit South Africa more because she believed that there is a lot which South Africa could learn from New Zealand.
The Chairperson of the Higher Education and Training Portfolio Committee said the two officials from the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education and Training would be given time to make their presentations and then the delegates from New Zealand would also be given time to address the Committee
Department of Basic Education (DBE) briefing
Mr Matanzima Mweli, Deputy Director General, Department of Basic Education, said the Department’s sustainable development goals were geared towards building an inclusive and equitable quality education, and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. The Department of Basic Education (DBE)'s Action Plan and vision for schooling in 2025 was aligned to the National Development Plan (NDP), both its diagnosis and proposed solutions. These plans were complementary, not competing, as the NDP makes new proposals in some areas, but in others it merely outlines general points of departure to frame and guide reforms in education. The NDP's and the Department’s planned goals are aligned, as both aim to do the following:
- improve literacy, numeracy, and science outcomes
- increase the number of learners eligible to study maths and science based degrees at university,
- improve performance in international comparative studies
- retain more learners.
The Basic Education sector is comprised of the national department, nine provincial departments, 81 educational districts and around 26 000 schools. There are about 24 060 public schools and 1 681 private schools. The public schools are comprised of Section 20 and Section 21 schools; the latter are the former Model C schools and they have greater financial autonomy. The educational statistics for 2015 were as follows: there were 23 905 public schools with 12 248 279 learners and 379 613 qualified teachers in the classrooms. There were 1 786 private schools with 566 194 and 36 480 teachers. The size of the schooling system for 2015 comprised of 12 814 473 learners, 416 093 teachers and 25 691 schools. The provinces with the most number of learners in public schools in 2015 were the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo, and the provinces with the most number of learners in private schools were Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
The percentage of learners who are benefiting from the school feeding scheme for 2014, in the respective provinces, was 79.9% in total. The Eastern Cape had 88.3% of their learners on the feeding scheme, Gauteng province had 63.4%, Western Cape had 65.0% and the Northern Cape had 84.0%. The provinces with the least number of students on feeding schemes were Gauteng, Western Cape, Free State and North West. The number of no-fee learners in 2015 was 9 457 115, and there were 20 965 no fee schools in 2015. The Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo had the most number of no fee learners and the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga had the most no fee schools in 2015.
The programme logic, when it comes to ensuring that there are enough qualified teachers, is to make sure that there is a university system which is able to provide adequate numbers of new teachers to teach in South Africa. The universities in place must be able to produce a sufficient number of quality teachers and those who hold phase and/or teaching subject specialisations that are aligned to the needs of the system. Lastly, it ensures that there is a full range of high quality teacher education programmes in place at universities which are delivered in a manner that produces teachers who are able to function effectively as new teachers in diverse South African contexts. In addition, there are a total of 149 teacher centres spread across all provinces. KwaZulu-Natal has 49 centres, North West has 24 centres, Mpumalanga has 17 centres and the Eastern Cape has 16 centres.
He concluded that there are three streams models for the Department of Basic Education, being academic, technical vocational and technical occupational streams.
Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) briefing
Mr Faizel Toefy, Chief Director, DHET, said the NDP targets to have 1.62 million learners enrolled in universities, 2.5 million learners enrolled in Technical Vocational and Training Colleges (TVET) and 1 million learners enrolled in Community and Educational and Training courses by 2030. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) also plans on implementing the White Paper on Post-School Education and Training, Human Resource Development Strategy for South Africa and the National Skills Development Strategy III, and the Strategic Plan of the Department of Higher Education and Training 2014-2019.
The DHET was established as a result of government’s post 2009 election restructuring process. The introduction of the Department was an approach to education and training under which the DHET deals with higher education, vocational education, and all post literacy adult education and workplace skills training. The Department is also responsible for the country’s Human Resource Development Strategy whose mission is to strengthen the skills and human resource base of the country. The DHET mission is to provide national strategic leadership in support of an integrated Post-School and Training system, towards improved quality of life of SA citizenry. Its value statement is subscribed to integrity, accountability, commitment, responsiveness and continuous learning. The Department plans to undertake its mission through an integrated, articulated, differentiated and fully inclusive post-school system that allows all South Africans to access relevant post-school education and training, in order to fulfil the economic and social goals of participation in an inclusive economy and society. The Department aims to develop capable, well-educated and skilled people who are able to compete in a sustainable, diversified and knowledge intensive economy, and reduce skills bottlenecks, especially in the priority and scarce skills areas.
The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) sets boundaries, principles and guidelines that provide a vision, a philosophical base and an organisational structure for the construction of a qualifications system. The NQF is then divided into three levels, namely; General Education (level 1 schooling up to grade 9 and ABET), Further Education and Training (levels 2-4: Grade 10-12) and Higher Education (levels 5-10). There are 26 public universities in South Africa: six universities of technology, nine comprehensive universities, 11 traditional universities and 77 registered private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). In addition, there are two higher education policies which help with the functioning of the sector, namely; the Higher Education Act 101 of 1997, and National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) Act of 1999. The Higher Education Act forms the basis for the transformation of the higher education sector and the NSFAS Act provides for the granting of loans and bursaries to eligible students at public higher education institutions, and for the administration of such loans and bursaries.
The colleges system comprises of the fifty TVET colleges with over 264 campuses and nine Community Education and Training Colleges with over 3 150 centres. There are 750 000 students enrolled in TVET colleges and 300 000 enrolled in Community Colleges. In addition, the new institutional type called Community Education and Training Colleges (CETC) replaced the Adult Education and Training Centres from 1 April 2015. TVET colleges were established for the purpose of responding to the labour market. They are generally tailored to provide a vocational education and training network finely attuned to the needs of commerce and industry. As such, TVETs are expected to enable students to acquire the necessary skills and practical knowledge. Students who graduate from colleges receive a national certificate or a national technical diploma. The funding of these colleges is the responsibility of the state and the TVET Colleges Act 16 of 2006 provides for the establishment, governance and funding of public TVET colleges.
The National Skills Development Strategy is implemented through agents, such as; Sector Education and Training Authority (SETAs), The National Skills Fund (NSF) and the Institute for the National Development of Learnerships, Employment Skills and Labour Assessments (INDLELA). There are 21 SETAs which cover all sectors of the economy and they have nine functions as set out in the Skills Development Act 1998. Private companies contribute 1% of their total payroll to the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and SETAs receive 80% of this contribution. The NSF is constituted from the remaining 20% of the skills development levy and is used to support projects identified as national priorities in the context of the NSDS. The INDLELA’s primary role is to assess artisans and provide training for artisan trainers and assessors.
The DHET’s statutory bodies were then described as follows:
-South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), which is responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of the NQF
- Council on Higher Education (CHE) advises the Minister on all policy matters related to higher education and accredits private providers and programmes for quality assurance.
- NSFAS deals with bursaries and loans
- National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NHISS) promotes human and social sciences enrolment and research in universities
- Quality Control for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) manages and co-ordinates the qualifications in the occupational qualifications framework in terms of their development, provision, assessment and impact.
The Department is faced with challenges in increasing access, especially for black Africans and especially in Mathematics and science related fields. There are also challenges of the management and governance of TVET colleges, monitoring and evaluation.
New Zealand delegation briefing
Ms Tracey Martin, Member of the Education and Science Select Committee, New Zealand Parliament, said the delegation had been asked to explain the Australian education system by Mr C Kekana (ANC) but the delegates had no knowledge of how the Australian education system works. However, New Zealand had developed over the last 20 years, and an independent government system had been developed for New Zealand’s public schools. It is illegal for the public schools to charge their learners fees, and although those schools can request donations from the parents of the learners but they cannot force a donation, or any fees from those students. The budget for the governance and management of public schools has been a controversial topic in New Zealand.
The matters relating to mathematics and science are also being experienced by the New Zealand government as there is currently a shortage of students with maths and science related skills. The maths teachers are taken by the Information Technology (IT) sector as soon as they graduate, and so the government has developed programmes which would help with maintaining and keeping the maths and science students, through uplifting the status of teachers so that they would consider teaching as an option. New Zealand has some quality issues with regards to the indigenous peoples; their academic outcomes do not measure well against the outcomes of European standards. It has had several programmes over the last few years which focused on improving the understanding of their teachers around the cultural differences in the classroom which are required to enhance and engage which the indigenous students. One programme which was developed was focused around how teachers and student engage with one another for the purpose of creating a relationship. They believed that this would lead to better education.
The quality of teachers has also been an on-going conversation in New Zealand. There is also an issue regarding university students who struggle to find employment in their field of study, so there has been a great deal of emphasis on vocational pathways in the last 10 years. The New Zealand government has also created a website called Careers New Zealand; it has become a requirement under the Ministry of Education that careers advice should be given to all New Zealand students from the age of thirteen. Conversations around different career paths should start taking place before students select their subjects.
The challenge for both South Africa and New Zealand seems to be the advancement of technology, and so foundation students often do not want to go to school, and they are given the option of going into government funded technology educational pathways. One such popular pathway is a career as a car mechanic, but with the advancement of technology in electrical vehicles, this career path could become obsolete. The challenge for all education system is to continue to maintain forums for future planning so that the educational systems are flexible enough.
A member of the New Zealand Parliament added that education is the sector with the second highest budget, which spends about $110 billion each year. He said the starting point for people to get very good careers to is to start with career advice when they are in at ages 11 or 12. The government has also tried to get pre-schoolers to visit educational centres. Their higher education system is comprised of formal universities, prolific vocational politics and apprenticeship schemes.
Mr M Filtane (UDM) asked how is the higher education system in New Zealand synchronised with the industry needs.
Ms Martin replied that there had been attempts to synchronise the two sectors over the past few years. Some businesses had been funded to participate, not only to provide apprenticeships, but also in delivering the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) inside their businesses. There are on-going conversations between the businesses and government departments to make sure that education leads to employment.
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) thanked the delegates from New Zealand for their participation. She thanked them for choosing to visit South Africa and share their knowledge, particularly drawing comparisons on how the two Parliaments can advance their education system. It is unfortunate that the meeting was so short, as there was not enough time for further discussions. She also thanked the organisers of the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.