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EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
31 October 2006
FURTHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING COLLEGES BILL: INFORMAL CONSIDERATION
Chairperson: Prof S Mayatula (ANC)
Documents handed out
Further Education and Training Colleges Bill [B23B-2006] (Select Committee amendments incorporated)
The Committee went through the most recent amendments of the Further Education and Training Colleges Bill clause by clause. This meeting was an informal consideration after public hearings. The Committee would formally consider the Bill on 3 November 2006.
Clauses 1 – 13
The Committee was in agreement with the wording of the Bill up to Chapter 3, Clause 13.
Ms M Mentor (ANC) requested that the words “and lecturers” be removed from Clause 14, which referred to student representative councils.
In this clause, which referred to disciplinary measures, the Committee requested the insertion of a clause to specifically include the possession and sale of illegal drugs. It was agreed to leave the precise wording to the state law advisor, who mentioned that all colleges would have to draw up their own codes of conduct and would almost certainly include a clause to that effect in any event.
In 17(1) which dealt with admissions policy, Mr A Gaum (ANC) and Ms Mentor requested that the council of a college should determine the admission policy with the approval of the member of the Executive Council (MEC) and not the Head of Department (HOD).
Ms Mentor asked what mechanisms would be used to ensure that the proliferating private colleges did not overshadow public colleges in terms of quality. If the fees at these colleges were unaffordable to the poor, inequalities would increase. Secondly, the aim of learning institutions should be education, not profit – what would happen if private colleges became profit-seeking institutions first, and educational institutions second?
Mr Duncan Hindle, Director-General of the Department of Education, answered this ‘difficult political question” by saying that, in terms of the Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative (ASGISA), South Africa should not send the wrong message by limiting private providers. However, the legislation did protect public colleges through the Bill. Previously, public colleges had been hamstrung by lengthy and onerous consultation requirements before providing training for commerce and industry. The Bill would streamline the process and enable them to respond more swiftly and competitively.
Private colleges were subject to tight quality controls but the intention was not to restrict private provision. If private colleges priced themselves very highly, it was hoped that free market mechanisms would deal with them. Caution should be exercised when comparing private and model-C schools with public ones – some served the poor at minimal cost. Ms Mentor emphasised that the cost of education in South Africa was too high and some public schools’ fees were too high. The cost of Further Education and Training (FET) was very important as it stood between General Education and Training and Higher Education (HE). Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) asked for clarity regarding how quality should be promoted. Ms Mentor, noting that Umalusi would be responsible for quality, asked whether there were internal measures.
Mr Hindle alerted the Committee to Clause 11(1) (b) which stipulated that the academic board of a college was responsible for internal academic monitoring and quality promotion mechanisms.
Ms Mentor said that there was a difference between quality promotion and assurance, which was so important it could not be ignored. She also did not see reference to academic support. There were funding incentives for enrolments but the danger was that large numbers would drop out.
Mr Boshoff stated that the National Education Policy Act of 1996 would provide a framework for the provision of academic support.
The Chair said that a submission from Wits University expressed concern that colleges, if they offered HE, would be defined as HE Institutions (HEIs). He understood that a FET college would have to be linked to an HEI if it offered a degree.
Clauses 42 - 44
Mr Gaum asked what sanctions there were for poor performance by a college.
Ms Mentor enquired if there were time limits for a college to deliver its annual report to the MEC in Clause 44.
Mr Hindle said that consequences for poor performance were dealt with in Clause 46.
Mr Gaum noted that Clause 46 dealt with poor administration, and not really with poor performance. He proposed that the Committee not deal with the matter in the present meeting, but should be alerted to it.
The Chair with the aid of Mr Boshoff, remembered that Clause 26 dealt with the failure of a college to comply with any provision of this Act very thoroughly.
Ms Mentor was concerned that mention of the National Board for FET (NBFET) would necessitate amending the Act when the NBFET was wound down.
The Chair, Mr Hindle and Mr Boshoff assured her that when it became necessary to amend the Act some time in the future, reference to the NBFET could then be deleted.
This clause dealt with transitional arrangements for staff in Chapter 9.
Mr Gaum asked whether the clause meant that staff were indeed being transferred or should it be formulated differently? He was referring to the many concerns expressed regarding this at the public hearings. He proposed that the state law advisors reword Clause 54 (1) and (2) so that Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act applied mutatis mutandis.
Mr Boshoff said that the State interpreted the word ‘appoint’ to mean transfer so appoint could be used instead. Referring to Section 197 meant that it was drawn in but it could be restated as “in accordance with, or subject to, Section 197…”.
Ms Mentor proposed that “appointed or transferred” be used in Clause 54 (1) instead of just “appointed”.
Secondly, Ms Mentor asked for the rationale for retrenchments before mergers.
Mr Boshoff said that when dealing with a public institution which operated within a policy framework where old and new employees would know the mission and intention of the new institution, some programmes would be redundant. Some employees would not want to be part of the new institution and would want a mechanism to terminate their employment. Excess baggage, in the form of unwilling workers, should not be transferred to the new institution. There was no obligation to use the mechanism.
The Chair proposed that Clause 6(13) be deleted if there was no obligation to use it and if the right to use it remained despite its absence. This was agreed upon.
The South African Students’ Congress (SASCO) concern about the terms of office on the NBFET was unnecessary as the NBFET was to be disbanded. For the record, the Chair reminded the Committee, all the unions at the public hearing wanted all the stakeholder organisations eligible for membership of a council (at the invitation of the MEC) to be listed but this request was not granted.
Mr Boshoff explained that this was because it was too difficult to define, for instance, organised labour. Would it be staff associations or unions? Would a human rights group represent the public? Therefore a new section 10 had been inserted.
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) enquired about the appointment of management staff. Would the fact that college management and other staff had different employers not lead to divided loyalties?
Mr Boshoff explained that the intention was to create a link with the Department via the principal and vice-principal but the lower layers of management should be more flexible to allow them to deal with local issues.
Ms Mentor was concerned that the occupational skills being produced by colleges would not be entry-level. She also asked if there were grounds for constructive dismissal anywhere in the Bill.
Mr Hindle said that the Labour Relations Act and other laws forbade constructive dismissal. Ministerial advisor,
Mr M Mulcahy (Ministry of Education delegate) said that there was widespread confusion around the N1, N2 and N3 qualifications and those being phased out because they had delivered poorly. Youngsters would enter college at level 2 of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) but colleges would also offer bridging courses for those who had lower entry level qualifications. Access to college should be meaningful in terms of employment opportunities.
Ms Mentor asked what skills were offered in technical high schools.
Mr Mulcahy said they would offer what they always had offered and more. The Bill did not affect them.
Mr Hindle emphasised that FET colleges should not be Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) centres. Schools would continue to offer qualifications up to level 4 on the NQF.
Prof Mayatula said that there was concern that quality assurance would not apply to workshops and short courses.
Mr Mulcahy said that was one of the challenges to be addressed by FET recapitalisation. Many short courses were redundant and the 11 qualifications set up by the Department had been approved by industry.
Ms Mentor asked how the pegging of standards generating bodies and national standards bodies would be managed in terms of South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) regulations. She knew that the Minister would approve programmes. Mr Mulcahy said that a clause did specify “in line with SAQA requirements”. In any case, Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) and Department offerings would have to be SAQA aligned.
Ms Mentor asked about Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). Mr Hindle said that was a general SAQA provision and nothing in the Act contradicted it. Ms Mentor asked if colleges would have to set up teams of three to handle RPL as HEIs had to. Mr Hindle said that RPL would be included in the norms and standards set by the Minister.
Ms Mentor asked if donations were not supposed to be declared to Treasury.
Mr Boshoff explained that all public institutions were public beneficiaries and the Receiver of Revenue would receive a certificate that a donation had been made in order to make the donation tax-deductible.
Ms Mentor was not satisfied and the Department agreed to insert a clause compelling colleges to make a declaration to Treasury.
In Schedule 3 which amended the Employment of Educators Act of 1998, in Section 6, all references to FET institutions had been deleted at the request of the South African Democratic Teachers Union. It related to the definition of lecturer in Chapter 1 of the Bill – the term ‘departmental office’ would be redundant as no lecturer would be employed at a departmental office. The Chairperson was assured that there were no other such issues that had been overlooked.
Ms Mentor commented that both the Committee and the Department needed to improve their public relations and consult timeously with stakeholders as people had fears that could easily be allayed.
Concluding remarks by Chairperson
The Chair reminded the Committee of the formal consideration of the Further Education and Training Colleges Bill on 3 November and of the debate on 7 November 2006.
The meeting was adjourned.
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