The delegation of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) presented the National Plan for Post-School Education and Training (NP- PSET), covering its vision for Continuing Education and Training (CET), Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), and Higher Education at the university level.
The delegation of the DHET said that National Treasury (NT) had undertaken a project to cost the White Paper, which had included an international review of revenue and expenditure in PSET; a review of the revenue and expenditure in the South African PSET system; the development of costing models for community colleges, TVET colleges and universities based on White Paper targets, and financing options for the PSET sector. Three scenarios were provided in the report: a status quo scenario, a full policy scenario, and a mixed scenario. The goals of the White Paper was for an expanded, effective and integrated post-school education and training system, such that the post-school system could assist in building a fair, equitable, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa, addressing poverty, inequity, and targeting unemployed youth. The Department outlined its policies and plans for the three sectors, as well as the challenges which it had identified.
Members asked for confirmation that the Department’s plans were affordable; what would be done to train the educators to the standards required; why the NP-PSET was still in the planning stage two years after being approved; whether the CET, which offered courses to Matric level, would not be better located within the Department of Basic Education; if the funding had been made available to take account of the function shift of the agriculture and nursing colleges, which were now the responsibility of the DHET; and had the Department considered what laws might need to be changed once its plans were implemented.
Dr Diane Parker, Deputy-Director General, Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), said that prior to 2009 there was no Post-School Education and Training (PSET) plan, even though the National Plan (NP) had been published in 2001. It was devised to create cohesion in the system and required collaboration with other departments such as the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), as well as the Department of Basic Education (DBE) by means of alignment and eradication of overlapping aspects. Ultimately the NP-PSET was a framework plan, and it had been created to be flexible enough to deal with challenges. Task Teams had been set up last year. These had included officials of other departments and Deputy Director General (DDG) officials across the sectors, such as Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Continuing Education and Training (CET), and Higher Education (university), and they had met on a quarterly basis. The purpose of the Task Teams was to identity cost-cutting issues so that the DHET would not end up with three silos; to resolve gaps or contradictions in the system; to create linkages with pragmatism, and to deal with all of these, given the different fiscal contradicts.
Ms Thandi Lewin, Chief Director, DHET, said that National Treasury (NT) had undertaken a project to cost the White Paper, which included an international review of revenue and expenditure in PSET; a review of the revenue and expenditure in the SA PSET system; the development of costing models for community colleges, TVET Colleges and universities based on White Paper targets, and financing options for the PSET sector. Three scenarios had been provided in the report: a status quo scenario, a full policy scenario, and a mixed scenario. The most expensive was the full policy scenario, which showed substantial growth with significant investment in quality improvements. The mixed scenario provided a more incremental approach to improving both access and quality. Given funding limitations, it offered less ambitious targets and a mix of inputs to increase access and improve quality. The report had recommended cost reduction mechanisms and increased funding to the PSET sector. The assumptions underpinning the costing models were likely to change, particularly in community colleges and TVET Colleges. The National Plan was likely to propose new approaches. Therefore the models would have to be adjusted for different targets and underlying assumptions. The NT costing work was one part of a number of other initiatives already under way in the system, such as exploring fee regulation, student financing in HE and TVET for the missing middle, improvements to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), the funding of TVET and CET colleges, and the Heher Commission.
The goals of the White Paper were for an expanded, effective and integrated post-school education and training system, such that the post-school system could assist in building a fair, equitable, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa (addressing poverty, inequity, and targeting unemployed youth).
Plan for Community Education and Training
- Vision outlined for a new system and clear plan, backed by a strong rationale.
- Community Education and Training should open up diverse life-long learning opportunities for individuals and communities within a community context, so that they can improve their quality of life, progress into other post-school institutions, improve chances of finding work, and start and sustain businesses.
- Developing institutions and developing capacity: institutions of choice.
- Developing something new and improving the current provision as a part of the programme mix.
- Provision for significant numbers of adults and youths, flexibility, community-based, local development and needs, the role of local government, sharing resources and infrastructure, student support, developing capacity - staffing, management and governance, pilots and partnerships (frameworks), information communication technology (ICT), student support and funding.
Plan for TVET sector
- Strong plan and vision for a critical sector that needs planned growth and capacity building.
- The primary purpose of TVET is to provide intermediate skills for the world of work, which refers to formal employment, self-employment or other forms of work. This means providing skills that will enable students to navigate the world of work because they have specific and generic technical and vocational skills.
- Major challenges in the TVET sector are well known, and require planned strategies and growth, with a focus on improving quality and building institutional capacity.
- The major focus of TVET has been on addressing the White Paper (WP) signals of the qualifications “gamut.”
- Building capacity, controlled growth, qualification/programme changes, qualification design issues, framework for enrolment planning, staffing capacity, student support services, workplace access and responsiveness, workplace-based learning, governance and funding.
- This was an important sector for PSET and the country’s development, requiring real focus, with the aim of making TVET colleges institutions of choice.
Plan for Higher Education (HE)
- Reflection on existing policy and plans necessary, as they pre-date the White Paper for PSET.
- Current contextual changes will impact, but highlight political imperative for plan – an overall framework for the development of a university system that we want to see in 2030.
- Plan to include macro-parameters of the system (in relation to other PSET sectors too).
- Differentiation framework
- Funding and costing will have to incorporate current and new work
- The core focus of the HE sector plan was to make the university system more successful, including building capacity of institutions and the system, improving student success, and recognising the importance of staffing.
- Student success, next generation of scholars, transforming the professoriate, research and innovation, distance and technology-enhanced learning, management and leadership capacity, curriculum and programme development, quality assurance and governance issues
Ms Lewin described the policy challenges for the Skills Development Levy and the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) system. Goals had largely not been achieved, good information was not being produced, increased provision and quality in necessary areas was not happening, and there was limited credibility for the system. The skills planning system was weak, with inadequate research capacity, lack of economics, labour market and industry expertise, poor data management, and lack of planning expertise in SETAs. More improved quality research was needed. There was a requirement for better labour market information and skills. The original intentions were to have encouraged employers to expand training and improve quality and relevance. There had been mixed success across different sectors. The system was administratively expensive. Regarding support for education and training in workplaces, too much was spent on short courses and inappropriate qualifications. There were concerns about the poor governance in SETAs.
Main policy challenges:
- Qualifications (responsiveness, relevance, articulation, planning etc.);
- Differentiation: who offers what and where (regional and national responsiveness);
- Curriculum relevance and design;
- Staffing, teaching, learning and professional development;
- Strengthening management and governance;
- Workplace linkages;
- Addressing student success and throughput;
- Articulation - workplace and higher levels;
- Expanded provision and access;
- Re-designing certification and the examination system;
- Adequate financial support for delivery of qualifications and support for improvements.
- Creating a new type of institution established to address opportunities for youths and adults who did not finish, or never attended, school or who could not enter TVET colleges or universities; expansion of second-chance opportunities, skills and re-skilling, sustainable livelihoods;
- Being built off a base of primarily general education and training in the adult education sector; Limited provision, and a marginalised sector;
- Severely under-funded sector, with limited funding available for growth;
- Limited infrastructure and part-time educators;
- Conditions of service not uniform and no long-term planning;
- Need for development of a coherent vision and focus;
- Potential demand was significant; wide range of student and community needs; implications for development of qualifications and programmes;
- Identifying institutional and funding models.
- Expansion while improving quality - i.e. access with success;
- Poor throughput in distance education a challenge;
- Funding challenges - well known and well described elsewhere;
- Developing the capacity of the system in a range of areas, including staffing, curriculum development, student success, teaching and learning, research and innovation;
- Growing scarce skills areas, including science, engineering and technology (SET), improving humanities and social sciences and African languages;
- Public accountability versus institutional autonomy;
- Diversity of provision within a differentiated system - institutional shape and size;
- Making university education more affordable;
- Integration and articulation with the rest of the PSET sector.
Ms Lewin elaborated on the policy goals for each sector that the NP-PSET had hoped to achieve.
The Policy goals for the Community Education and Training (CET) college sector included partnerships with community-owned and private institutions; building on current Public Adult Learning Centre (PALC) offerings to expand programmes and delivery mechanisms; expansion of vocational and skills development programmes and non-formal programmes; improvement of general education programmes and expanding skills and occupational programmes; well-qualified lecturers for a wide range of programmes; extensive student support services; links to public programmes, such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and Community Works Programme (CWP) and work-integrated learning opportunities, and responsiveness to local sustainable development needs. Policy goals for CET also included the possibility of diverse modes of learning and use of technology-enhanced learning; development of pilot community colleges, with adequate time for growth and development over time; how to make use of shared infrastructure; addressing under-funding in the sector, as well as the improvement of the overall governance.
The policy goals of the TVET college sector included the re-naming of Further Education and Training (FET) colleges as TVET colleges, and the implications for their mandate and provision; strengthening the colleges by improving governance and financial management; increased access, with an expansion of enrolments (which had already doubled between 2010 and 2014); improving quality by addressing curricula, staffing and student success; having a more coherent quality assurance regime, as well as an improved role for SETAs in supporting workplace linkages. It also entailed the establishment of the SA Institute for Vocational and Continuing Education and Training (SAIVCET) and improved data and information capacity.
The policy goals for universities by means of the NP-PSET included improved success of students entering universities. There was already significant investment by government, with funding and policy mechanisms being put in place to consolidate areas such as building curriculum development capacity and growing system-level cooperation. Staffing was a significant policy focus area, with the Staffing South African Universities Framework implemented. Quality staffing was critical for student success. Growing enrolments in critical skills areas was a policy goal, providing responsiveness to national skills needs through better skills planning mechanisms and detailed enrolment planning mechanisms. Improving research and innovation in the system included better alignment of Department of Science and Technology (DST) and DHET targets, collaborative projects, national digital library access and other initiatives. Other policy goals included addressing diversity through a differentiation framework; adequate funding for the university system, and a more affordable university system; universities’ role in supporting the growth and development of the whole PSET sector; distance education and technology-enhanced learning; and the governance of the system and monitoring required transformation.
Ms J Killian (ANC) questioned if the task team that had been allocated for funding had also worked on infrastructure, and if so, whether it had been finalised. If a full policy scenario was adopted, had expansion of the PSET sector and its complete transformation been taken into account? It had been stated that the CET sector was severely under-funded, but the objective was for it to become as substantial as the TVET college sector. Yet both posed major funding challenges, because the Government had not focused on funding them as much as the university sector, and the CET was a recent addition to the PSET sector. Looking at the programmes offered by the CET and its target audience, they did not seem to have been prepared solely for the labour market. There was a focus on everything, from general work to basic education. What planning would DHET conduct for the training required? The concern was that the scope of the programmes offered was much too wide. Did the 31% decline in enrolments pertain to the entire PSET sector? Ultimately, the NP-PSET was satisfactory, but there was a need for a push to remove the current lack of trust by civil society in the TVET and CET sectors. There was a need to thoroughly promote those two sectors, but proper advocacy required investment and a new launch altogether. How would such a launch be worked into the NP- PSET plans? It required sober thought, because if it was re-launched there should be a ‘wow’ factor, as opposed to a rehash of what the DHET was already doing.
Ms S Mchunu (ANC) said that the plan of the framework had given the Portfolio Committee a sense of where the PSET sector was and where it was heading. She agreed that more funding should be directed to the TVET college sector, especially for the development of the capacity of lecturers, since those who were meant to train and lecture were insufficiently skilled. What outcome could be expected by establishing TVET colleges and registering students, just for the students to be taught by individuals who required substantial training and lacked the various skills themselves? The implementation of capacity development programmes was urgently required, as it was previously an under-rated challenge. The DHET already had funding mandates in place -- had the NP-PSET taken those mandates into consideration? When the Portfolio Committee had met for training with the National Finance Corporation (NFC), it had been indicated that the DHET was part of an inter-departmental task team to source funding for the PSET sector, but it was not mentioned in the presentation. Thus, was the DHET really part of the interdepartmental task team, and if so, what was their role and what had they contributed to the team? The vision of the CET sector was commendable, given the history of South Africa. Hence it was strongly believed that the CET sector should become an efficient and fully operational sector, but were there loopholes in the manner in which the CET sector had been set up? Oversight visits in Gauteng Province had confirmed that the main priority was on the funding of the sector, but it had not focused on ensuring that the content within its framework was effective. This was essential, because previous presentations had indicated that at least 18 million people could benefit from this sector.
Mr E Siwela (ANC) said that a workshop in August 2014 had showcased the National Plan for the first time. He had assumed that by now the National Plan should be under way, as opposed to being a briefing of a plan to implement a plan. Instead, two years later, a progress report was expected, as some of the NP-PSET goals were already implemented. The oversight visits in Gauteng Province had revealed that students at a CET college were actually repeating Matriculation in three years, which was supposed to be the responsibility of the Department of Basic Education (DBE). Was not the kind of curriculum developed for the college sectors supposed to be suited to the PSET sector, as opposed to a repetition of Matric? Was the DBE on board to try and find those students who were over 18 years old and required Matriculation, because the DHET had complained about under-funding in the PSET sector, when in actual fact these were students who should be the responsibility of the DBE? What plans had the DHET in place to ensure the TVET college sector had skilled, qualified and trained staff members?
Mr C Kekana (ANC) questioned why there had been both a regional and national design of planning of training in the TVET college sector when there were limited resources in the PSET sector, particularly for the TVET college sector? This indicated that there was an issue with planning, because the PSET sector was already under-funded. It should be remembered that the TVET and CET college sectors had been developed to take pressure off the universities, with their daunting influx of prospective applicants. However, what was the rural design of the TVET and CET college sectors? Were the college sectors producing agricultural qualifications -- for instance, crop production for domestic consumption? Were the college sectors even developing with the culture of South Africa and fulfilling its needs? The motivation for asking was that so many prospective students who applied to universities came from rural areas, and if they could not pursue academia at university, would it not be preferable that they diverted to the college sector to acquire relevant skills that could result with a prosperous career? Additionally, regarding the TVET college sector, the design when developing the curriculum posed a concern, because why should every student fulfil a three-year diploma or certification, as opposed to having options of courses that could certify them after six months?
Dr B Bozzoli (DA) asked if R400 million was required for the implementation of the White Paper.
Ms Lewin replied that R400 million was, indeed, required.
Dr Bozzoli then said R400 million served as an ultimatum -- either the White Paper was pursued to completion, which was impractical, or it could be partially pursued by means of down-sizing the White Paper to a modest probability, for which a new version of the White Paper had to be drafted. Another option was to do something else entirely, and to indicate how much of the White Paper could be achieved by the public funding, and to consider the use of private funding to implement a great amount of it. Why was hostility evident towards private higher education institutions (HEIs), whilst Basic Education had many private institutions? She said many early childhood development (ECD) centres required discipline, or should be closed down, but there should be a manner to expand private HEIs in the PSET sector while effectively monitoring it. There should an avenue to sustain the vision, which was a great vision, but through other means than those initially proposed in the White Paper. Also, it was hoped that National Treasury did not document third stream income as revenue for the HEI, because that was seemingly a huge error. For instance, Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) had deemed third party income as capital income for the universities, but it was designated for particular purposes and did not assist with the running of the HEIs. Also, why was CET in this department, because it was school-level education to attain a Matriculation, and so belonged in the DBE? The DBE also had more funds than the DHET. Thus, given the situation that the DBE was better funded and that CET provided school-level courses, it was ill suited for its function to be the responsibility of DHET, as the DBE would be far better organizing it. Lastly, regarding the readjustment of the role of the SETA, which seemed a good idea, there appeared to be criticism of the Minister’s planning of the new roles that had been released in 2015, so how would criticism be avoided with the plan proposed by the DHET today?
Ms M Nkadimeng (ANC) questioned if the funding made available had taken into consideration the function shift of agriculture and nursing, which was now the responsibility of DHET. If not, was the DHET confident that those colleges of agriculture and nursing were sufficiently funded? Since the CET college sector was meant for the DBE, but was now the responsibility of the DHET, had its funding also followed the function shift?
Mr M Mbatha (EFF) commented that a review of the dismantling of the academic system and the intentions it had when compartmentalising, was necessary. For instance, the nursing sector had been partially absorbed into the TVET college sector, while other nursing colleges had not been closed, but were being run by the Department of Health (DoH). What had been the intention when the nursing colleges, agriculture and educator colleges were dismantled into TVET college sector? Clarity of the vision that drove that compartmentalisation should be sought, to understand the way forward. The DHET tended to self- correct the system without understanding the mandate of the past that had brought about that change, as well as its relation to the mandates of the future. In hindsight, if the system had not been disrupted as much as it was, especially for the nursing, agricultural and educator colleges, there would have been a strong education system that encompassed those colleges, and perhaps the inter-connectedness of those sectors with the mainstream university system education, would have been reviewed instead and the education system would not be as expensive as it had become.
One of the reasons why the chaos had surfaced in academia was due to the lack of honesty about decisions made in the past. Admittedly, the reason why the fees of universities had escalated to current levels was because the South African youth had had no other choice for tertiary education. Policy had driven the youth to universities, and coupled with less state funding, the universities embarked on a new era of price hiking. When the student fees were hiked without state intervention to have them capped at a maximum level, it meant that the universities were allowed freedom to tear the tertiary system apart. Lack of state intervention entailed a new era of entrenched social inequality. Had the inequality been mitigated, a large number of students -- not by preference of the universities, but due to the virtue of the system -- would have been registered within the agricultural, nursing and educator college system. If reviewed in hindsight, there should have been a merging of those sectors with tertiary institutions, as opposed to the dismantling that occurred, and it would have resulted in a surplus of teachers, nurses and agricultural technicians in South Africa. The goals for 2030 would have to deal with a backlog of skills that DHET failed to currently possess, with community-driven projects that did not have capacitated individuals.
Also, how would the DHET enforce a way forward when it was in a corner? Without a political wing that made explicit the definitive stance of the country for the financing of the PSET sector, the DHET would make endless presentations to National Treasury without effect. However, to ensure national success, sacrifices should be made, such as in many other countries, where the outcome of their sacrifices was that there were surpluses of their citizens who worked in international spaces. For instance, citizens of Cuba were an example of having been financed by their own country, but worked as citizens of the world, making it a collective better place. There were 375 000 of them, and South Africa did not even come close, apart from a few nurses in Ireland and teachers in Dubai. When South Africans were educated, they should be educated for the world, because it should not be feared that they may emigrate or work overseas, as South Africans should be educated enough to be world-class citizens.
Mr Y Cassim (DA) questioned why the CET was in the DHET when it was meant for the DBE. It highlighted the problem of culling by high schools in South Africa. To ensure higher matriculation pass rate averages, high schools would cull pupils within grade 10, so that the smaller amount of scholars in grade 12 would be easier to pass or put through the system. Culling was not a new problem in the education system, but there had been so much delay in addressing it that the DHET had to deal with the culled pupils growing up and needing an education. The CET college sector then served as a further bureaucratic layer, as opposed to dealing with the catalyst of the problem, which was the ulterior motive conducted by culling and the high schools that were guilty of it. The CET college sector was a duplication of a function that belonged to Basic Education. The DBE already had the bureaucracy set up for it, and whether it was competent or not was a different debate.
The processes of the NP-PSET indicated various stakeholders and role-players -- for example, the steering committee with the DGs, oversight committee and task teams, but there was no reflection of the role of prospective employers, both within public and private institutions, and their input was required. When workplace requirements and articulation were considered, that type of input was not reflected in the structure of this NP-PSET processes, and it meant there was a blind spot. The Department of Small Businesses Development (DSBD) should facilitate input on how young people were able to create small businesses, as registered students at HEI; prospective employers should know how to interpret it and HEI should produce appropriate course material that would result in the relevant the skills required by prospective employers and commercial institutions.
He said there was no consideration of the type of skills that were to be anticipated to be needed for 2030. For example, in five years the economy would be changed and the skill set required for competence would be different too. If there was seriousness about creating an economy that would deal with future demands, had the NP-PSET considered with foresight what type of skills and necessary capacities would be necessary by 2030?
Regarding the school of nursing, where exactly did it fit in the PSET sector? For example, there were nursing qualifications available at universities and pre-nursing qualifications at TVET colleges, besides the nursing colleges that the DoH still administered. There seemed to be lack of harmony among these nursing qualifications, because when nursing students completed courses in primary health at TVET colleges and sought practical experience at hospitals, the hospitals were unable to fit the students into practical experience. Additionally, when those same students, after attaining their primary health qualification, sought further education at the university, the HEI was oblivious to the very existence of the primary health courses and how to harmonize them with their own qualifications on offer. Thus, was the DHET just dividing nursing for the sake of dividing it, or was the prospect of a full nursing career even considered?
The Chairperson said that the Minister had prescribed the National Plan in 2014, and it was now 2016. This was by no means a small exercise, because it dealt the future prospects of South African youth and the future of the economy as well. Of course, there would be margins of error, but what should be established was what had to be put in place. The Portfolio Committee should also consider the other processes of Parliament. The issues that had arisen today should involve a workshop to garner the different thoughts and inputs expressed. Also, there were other provisions of Parliament that could be considered. There were countries that had tried an array of options before reaching success, so it would impractical of the Committee to expect overall success after merely a few minutes of deliberation. The Committee should consider what other processes could be undertaken, such as public hearings. The National Development Plan (NDP) refers to having the support of society to obtain its goals. The incorporation of sub-committees and the processes that follow thereafter made its execution similar to that of a Bill, and it was commendable that the DHET had kick-started such processes, but ultimately the NP-PSET was beyond a Bill. The need to garner the support of society was paramount to ensure that consensus was achieved.
The Chairperson said it was hoped that the DHET had not discounted the information provided by StatsSA, and neither should the research conducted by the Human Scientist Research Council (HSRC) be discredited. In fact, the Portfolio Committee should consider inviting the HSRC in 2017, because they may have vital information regarding academia, and they had a constitutional mandate to report to Parliament. The DHET had not referred to work undertaken by the HSRC. What had also been omitted by the DHET was the reference to legislation that needed to change once the plans were implemented. Surely the plans would affect legislation that was already in operation to accommodate its changes, and if so, which legislation would be affected and what changes were necessary?
Another matter of concern was the high dropout rates that were always communicated in a negative sense. The topic of dropouts should be discussed in relation to the causal factors. For example, a Wits student who derived from Pedi was expected to be on a par with every other student, when that student had a particular language, culture and orientation. Yet this scenario, and the bridge necessary to prevent dropouts, was not included in the NP-PSET. There seemed to be no reference to African languages and indigenous information in the NP-PSET planning.
Regarding the CET colleges, it may seem more appropriate for them to be in Basic Education, but the students were in the DHET now, and the problems that this posed could not be further diverted, because there needed to be accountability from a department to resolve it, and it had become the responsibility of DHET. Also, it seemed that the original intention of the CET colleges and their linkage to the SETAs required review, as SETAs seemed neglected within this planning too.
There were insufficient exit plans regarding all of the participants in the PSET sector -- for instance, no reference to the private HEIs. Another omission was the need for more interns in Parliament and the DHET. Lastly, CET should be discussed in relation to the life-long learning that the White Paper denotes. Life-long learning had not come across in the NP-PSET, nor its relevance in the ever-changing economy. The SETAs should also have been discussed about this in the same context.
It was advisable that the DHET should streamline future presentations so that social justice, equity and the historically disadvantaged would be reflected at the forefront, with the plans to address them and the achievement regarding their resolution thus far. This would eliminate the circular rehearsal of a plan for a plan that would result in a plan. Moreover, the funding of the NP-PSET may be challenging, and if National Treasury could not assist as required, it might require the pursuit of funds on international forums, such as the World Bank or IMF. One of the concerns that the Committee had anticipated having to address was how the DHET was planning to finance the NP-PSET, and the current presentation had not been convincing.
Dr Parker said she appreciated the comments of the Members, because they would be extremely helpful with the development of the plan. She emphasised that the DHET had not presented an outline of the entire plan -- some of the elements of the NP-PSET had been highlighted, but since it was such a huge process there were other aspects that had been omitted. Issues that had been identified as omissions had in fact already been dealt with by the task team, but follow-up responses regarding their resolution could be further liaised with the Portfolio Committee.
She clarified that the White Paper had been published in October 2013 followed by an indication by the Minister of Higher Education and Training in 2014 that the DHET would embark on the development of the new National Plan. Since 2014, the DHET had reviewed the entire White Paper and had proposed processes that would implement it. The fiscus had then considered issues of capacity within the DHET and outsourcing had occurred to address this concern, which had consumed time and only in August 2015 had a Chief Executive been appointed. Hence, although DHET had planned to execute the NP-PEST, the actual work had really begun only in August 2015. The process of identifying the chairpersons and constructing the task teams had required attention first. The point that the Chairperson had made was taken very seriously, as the Department aimed to have a full draft ready for public comment by the end of March 2017, but a half-day workshop with the Portfolio Committee before the public consultation processes began would be appreciated. There was no intention to just publish the NP-PSET in a gazette and expect responses by sending it out. The intentions were to have engagements by means of workshops with the various stakeholder groups in the PSET sector, because input on the plans was essential. The DHET was of the view that the implementation of the plans would be due to support by society, as opposed to it being a departmental concern.
The Department was working with HSRC in the labour market with an intelligence project, and a huge amount of work to understand skills planning was being undertaken with them. The link between what was currently being done and what was required for the future was being incorporated into the plan, although that work with the SHRC had not been explicitly mentioned.
The DHET had engaged with the information provided by StatsSA, particularly navigation of the reports of the financing of the system. The core of the plans was to strengthen and develop systems that would result in academic success, because previously, access had trumped focus over successful put-through. Therefore the HEI and the TVET college sectors had received unprecedented focus on successful ratios of graduates, and as the CET sector became better developed, focus on its successful graduates would be emphasised too. Admittedly, success at the HEI was the crux of the NP-PSET. Currently the TVET college sector had a mandate up to level N4 qualifications, and did not have the responsibility for offering N5 and N6 qualifications onwards. However, TVET colleges should clearly be offering N5 qualifications upwards and be warranted the authority to identify the liaison between the courses and their interpretation, but the DHET had to identify what needed to change in the policy and legislation first.
Dr Parker said that the DHET had had an immense focus on African languages and indigenous knowledge at their last meeting, as well as a focus on language generally. The need for African languages would not be silenced, because it was a critical area. It was necessary to understand that in the future, the CET sector would have only a small portion dedicated to basic adult education, since the motivation was to expand the sector. However, currently the aim was to expose the adult citizens to education, and according to StatsSA, 18 million South Africans could be benefit from it. It would also address the question regarding short courses, because the CET college sector would offer courses that were orientated with specific skills and suited to the demographics. For instance, if in a particular community fence-making was a means of income, the CET college situated in that community would offer fence-making short courses. Another example was baking or tiling. Whichever course it offered, it had to be responsive to the local context.
The CET college may be premised on either a TVET college campus or a university campus, because the DHET was not of the view that new infrastructure should be built for it, since it would be embedded within the local community or municipality, and easily accessible to those in need of it. The infrastructure planning of the funding model had been considered by NT, and it had resulted in two amounts. The first amount covered the operational aspect and the second amount entailed the actual infrastructure. These models encompassed both aspects for the three sectors, as well as what funding would be required by 2030 inclusive of foresight of any shortages, given a normal economical increase and not a regression. However, as highlighted in the beginning, some of the key fundamental assumptions of those models may not be correct. Thus, part of the NP-PSET was to adapt those funding models by means of implementation of the plans and this would devise the sequencing route as referred to by the Chairperson.
This raised the point of the history of the academic system too. The history was already established, and the objective of the DHET was not to undo it, as though self-correcting, but to focus on the challenges that were currently posed, and that entailed creating coherence in the system as well as the development of opportunities in the PSET sector. This also addressed the question of the colleges that were run by other departments and HEIs that were encapsulated in the private sector. Private sector HEIs had been referred to at the outset of the presentation, but then had not been elaborated separately beyond that because private tertiary institutions were definitely considered as part of the overall PSET sector. The private sector required a law that would accommodate it and such a proposition was within the extensive details of the NP-PSET. This was paramount, because the college sector in itself was made of various aspects. For instance, the Higher Education Act would ensure the new higher education colleges, such as agriculture colleges, nursing colleges, emergency care colleges and police colleges, would come under the administration of the DHET.
Currently the nursing and agriculture colleges which were not closed down when the academic system was restructured, were run by the relevant provincial departments. However, a decision had been made by the National Department of Health that the nursing colleges now needed to be integrated through the DHET into the PSET system, with regard to its data and quality assurance. The DHET had a working relationship with the DoH. There existed a Joint Health Sciences Education Committee that meets on a quarterly basis and focuses on collective work to develop professionals for the health sector, and embedded with it is a task team to work through the gamut of qualifications. It was understood that the HEI covered the complete health sciences, and it was administrated by the DHET, whilst the nursing colleges entailed a different level of health sciences, and were administrated by the DoH, so the issue of the unsuitability of the primary health courses that the TVET college sector offered as preceding the nursing courses had been highlighted to the DoH. Whatever the DHET planned for skills development in the health sector, it was the responsibility of DoH to ensure that the candidates would be employed and that there was a linkage with the workplace.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was working with the DHET for a possible transfer of the agricultural colleges to the administration of the DHET, but this could be achieved only after the work conducted by the task team had been ratified by the Cabinet, as it was clear that the agriculture colleges required accreditation and quality assurance by DHET. Also, the agriculture colleges were deemed as higher education colleges, and not TVET colleges, because of the kinds of qualifications that were offered. Higher education colleges required regulation, which the DHET was working towards, because they dealt with undergraduate qualifications, such as N5 to N7 and skills development, but these would not be progressed to post-graduate qualifications at the colleges.
This also answered the query as to why a pursuit was being made in a resource-constrained environment, because it should be understood that each sector in the PSET system had its own purpose and no sector in the system existed as though it was dumping ground for something else. The culture around such misunderstanding needed to be changed. Therefore, introducing the ‘wow’ factor would be achieved by clarifying what each of the sectors in the PSET system was responsible for, the qualifications on offer, how they interacted with each other and what the learning pathways were in the country, so that there were no dead-ends, and a possibility to attain employment through it. The need for investment in the South African youth was taken seriously, and it was felt that the NP-PSET must create a strong framework for it.
Lastly, what the DHET was doing to fund the system was peripheral to the political choices that were required. The DHET could plan, envisage the system and create clear sequencing pathways towards the vision. The funding models devised together with National Treasury, which was on the task team to acquire understanding of the financial implications, was ultimately contingent on the decisions made at the political level.
The Chairperson asked what role NT played in the task team, and what were the political implications involved?
Dr Parker clarified that certain processes required definitive decisions at the political level, as opposed to the departmental level. The Portfolio Committee could indicate to NT what was required by means of landmarks at different times, and specifications for sequencing.
Ms Lewin said that the DHET saw its role as initiating plans for the necessary fiscal decisions to be made. In a sense, if the DHET wanted the CET system, it would be difficult to approach NT directly and request funds for such a system. It would have to propose a plan to elaborate what the CET system would constitute of; why funding was necessary; highlight the importance of the sector; as well as advise pragmatism in a resource-constrained environment and do so by means of sequencing, and this would be achieved by experimenting with the different funding models that the NT offered. However, nothing could ultimately be done without the approval of the Committee for the required funding.
The DHET was clear that there was a need to build capacity within the TVET college system to prohibit mere expansion without substantive qualifications that could not produce quality. Thus, the lecturers within the system required both capacity and to be trained in the right way, as this would result in strong institutions. The real issue was addressing the trust deficit, and that required political muscle to rebuild societal trust. It was hoped this would also be achieved by means of the NP-PSET, which was not an ad hoc project, but a striving for coherence, because the biggest problems in the PSET sector over the years were the ad hoc approaches, with perpetual changes and shifts to TVET colleges. The DHET was currently attempting to entrench solid yet coherent frameworks. Such frameworks, with coherence and sequencing were critical, especially in the TVET college sector, which required consolidation, strengthening and an opportunity to grow substantially.
The consultation process would be critical. Every task team had a work plan, and every work plan had a section that dealt with policy and changes in legislation, particularly legislation that would affect the CET college sector. The role of regional offices was a consideration by the DHET too. Regarding the SETAs, a review had been done after the intensive consultation processes and public comments, which had resulted in a revised SETA document, which may be available in January, although further comment would not be warranted now.
Ms Lewin said there were deliberations on the following issues: hether the TVET colleges were to continue to offer NCV 4; development of the NC technical and the continuation of technical schools, or their absorption into the TVET sector; the accountability of Basic Education and alignment with it as opposed to shutting down schools; and more importantly, the continued offering of education to adults post grade 9. The CET system may now be based on a very weak public adult education system, but the core of the CET system was not only adult-based education, as it was responsive to the needs of youth not yet in employment and of adults who were derived from a range of educational backgrounds. The CET should be considered as a continuation of education instead. Also, the warning given that CET was too diffused was well taken, because the particulars of the CET system were still being robustly discussed within the Department, as it was aware that it could not afford everything, but required a foundation at least. The Task Team was considering foundational learning and its linkages in the PSET sector.
Dr Parker said that the DHET was working on the development of teachers and lecturers at all levels. There was a qualifications policy already in place for TVET, CET and adult education practitioners. There was a policy regarding Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners that was under way. The qualification policies regarding primary and high school educators had been entrenched. A process had been embarked upon regarding the lecturers. Currently, there was a programme funded by the European Union to the extent of approximately R200 million that was divided among the sector to develop the capacity of the system and develop teachers throughout the PSET system. Therefore, there was an on-going process to develop the TVET, CET and school teachers, as well as the teachers of special needs, because it would resolve the issue of capacity within the entire academic system.
Mr Feizal Toefy, Chief Director, DHET clarified that from a planning perspective, the NP-PSET was not a parallel process, but was informed by several other processes too. For example, the NDP process was broken into a four five-year cycles, and currently the planning was in the second five-year cycle that encompassed the Labour Market Intelligence Project, which was forward-thinking regarding future skills that would be required. Thus, a forecast of skills required could be made, assuming the economy would grow at a certain rate. A booklet regarding the anticipated skills had been circulated to the Committee and it should be said that the booklet was updated every two years. The second theme of the Labour Market Intelligence Project had a ten-year forecast of the skills that would be demanded.
The White Paper implementation was compartmentalised as follows – the one-year Annual Performance Plan (APP); the three-year funded plan that was within the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) period, and lastly a five-year strategic plan. The NP-PSET plan fitted into how the White Paper would be achieved, what would it cost and which aspects required prioritisation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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