Ministerial media briefing on the Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges Turnaround Strategy, Imbizo Media Centre in Parliament, Cape Town
14 Nov 2012
We are meeting here today while Matric learners in our schooling system are writing their final examinations, in preparation to join the Post-School Education and Training (PSET) system. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), has the responsibility for both those who pass their examination, as well as those who will not make it. This Briefing today is intended to specifically brief the nation, through the media, on what we have achieved so far as the Department in turning around Further Education and Training Colleges, as well as what the plans are going into the future. This is one important option to be considered by our youth for PSET.
The DHET has developed, and is now implementing, a comprehensive Turnaround Strategy for all 50 Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges, covering the 264 campuses in the country. The intention is to systematically address key challenges these institutions have been faced with over the years, to achieve sustainable improvements in the quality of teaching and learning. The end-state is to have FET Colleges that will claim their rightful place in contributing to driving the country’s economy, thereby reducing unemployment especially among the youth. We are turning our FET Colleges into institutions of choice!
The Green Paper on Post School Education and Training, which is now in the process of being developed into a White Paper, sets a target of 4 million enrolments in FET Colleges and other non-university post school institutions by 2030. The National Plan for FET Colleges has a target of 1 million enrolments by 2014. The National Development Plan 2030 states the following:
“The FET College System is not effective. It is too small and the output quality is poor. Continuous quality improvement is needed as the system expands. The quality and relevance of courses need urgent attention. When quality starts to improve and the employability of graduates begin to increase, demand for FET services will rise automatically. Simply growing the sector without focusing on quality is likely to be expensive and demoralising for young people, further stigmatising the system.”
This statement in the National Development Plan 2030 talks directly to what we want to achieve through the FET Colleges Turnaround Strategy.
Why a turn-around strategy
2.1 Some of the key challenges facing the FET College sector are the following:
Teaching and learning – low throughput rates, inadequate lecturer qualifications and industry linked experience and a limited Programme Qualification Mix with insufficient programmes relevant to local communities and industry.
Poor financial management systems. Currently there are 20 Colleges that received qualified audits in the 2011 financial year. Lack of or limited capacity in relation to the functions of qualified Chief Financial Officers.
In some instances, there is limited oversight of College management and governance.
The majority of Colleges lack the ability to generate and manage reliable data.
FET College examinations and assessment system continue to be a challenge.
2.2 In addressing these challenges, the strategy is anchored on the following principles:
Managing change: for example, through the function shift process of migrating FET Colleges from a Provincial to a National competence, it will be important to maintain an environment of order and focus while ensuring compliance with emerging legislative and policy changes.
Institutional differentiation: a generalised approach for FET Colleges will not serve national interests the best. The Strategy requires individualised assessment and tailored interventions to respond to specific strengths and weaknesses of each of the 50 Colleges.
Movement from current to desired status: the DHET is repairing and building to solve immediate problems while simultaneously laying out a developmental agenda that will be sustained beyond 2030.
Student performance and success is core to the mandate of Colleges, everything else is in support of teaching and learning.
Strategy-led approach: coordination of the implementation of the Strategy is key, and will drive and determine annual operational plans, budgets and priorities.
Accountability for Performance: no change can be guaranteed unless accountability is assured. Council Charters, performance contracts with Principals and all the way to campus levels will be used to measure performance.
2.3 The focus areas of the Turnaround Strategy are:
Teaching and Learning – improving lecturer qualifications and student pass rates.
Institutional Management and Governance
Improving Quality of Teaching Staff and Systems
Student Support Services
Infrastructure, Facilities and Equipment Management
Partnerships, Linkages and Stakeholder Management
Achievement to date
I am pleased to announce that we have already started the implementation of this Turnaround Strategy, and so far we have achieved the following milestones:
3.1 Legislative environment
The FET Colleges Act 16 of 2006 was amended by the FET Colleges Amendment Act 3 of 2012 mainly to shift the administrative function of Adult Learning Centres and FET Colleges from Provincial Education Departments to the DHET. This also transfers the employment function of Provincial Education Departments' staff in the FET College sections, College management and non-management and support staff from FET Colleges to my Department.
The current legislative framework allows for the migration of FET College Staff to the State where greater oversight and stability is anticipated. The target date for full implementation of the function shift is 1 April 2013. The Department is working very closely with the key stakeholders in managing this important transition.
A migration plan has been developed and thus far cascaded to various stakeholders. Of importance in the migration plan is the transfer of staff in terms of section 197 of the Labour Relations Act. Management (principal and deputy principals) will be transferred to the DHET by the end of 2012/3 financial year. Staff at provinces providing support services will be seconded to the DHET to maintain the services provided while their transfer is finalised. College staff (lecturers and support staff) will be transferred by 1 April 2013 after all requisite legal processes have been finalised.
3.2 Government support for the sector
With the establishment of the DHET in 2009, the possibilities of combining the funding sources of the state and of the skills levy system became possible, giving operational evidence of the strength of combining education and training.
Support to Colleges has grown significantly over the last three years. State funding has increased from R3, 8 billion in 2010 to R4, 8 billion in 2012, representing a 26 per cent increase. In increasing access to Higher Education and Training for financially needy and academically capable students, there has been an increase in the FET Colleges bursary allocation from R318 million in 2010 to R1, 75 billion in 2012, representing an increase of 440 % for the period.
In terms of impact, the number of students (headcount) has grown from 427,435 in 2011 to 657,690 in 2012. This figure includes students in state-funded (NC (V) and Report 191), as well as Occupational Programmes. This represents a 54% increase (230 255) in headcounts over the two years. The significant growth in occupational enrolments of 84% is attributed to increased use of the Colleges for training, which is funded by the National Skills Fund (NSF) and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs). It is anticipated that this will rise slightly in 2013 and then stabilise for a while as the structural alignment of Colleges and SETAs takes further effect.
While funding will remain a key priority for the Department, it will also be closely tied to outputs, and for Colleges that fail to perform satisfactorily, the allocations will be brought into a regulatory framework to ensure that quality and effective teaching and learning takes place without compromise as the sector expands.
3.3 NSF and SETA contribution to FET College expansion
In addition to funding from the Department, the National Skills Fund has responded to the need for increasing access in FET Colleges by providing more funds towards increasing the enrolment of students. This funding represents a massive investment of R2, 5 billion from National Skills Fund and the SETAs, dedicated solely to the 50 FET Colleges for Programme-related activities. This has resulted in the creation of an additional 102,186 student spaces in the NC (V), Report 191, Learnerships, Skills Programmes and Learnerships. Furthermore, SETAs are beginning to play a meaningful role in FET Colleges by influencing some programme offerings to help align them with local community and industry needs. Every College now has a lead SETA, with a cluster of SETAs supporting it. Some examples of excellent collaboration and development can be found with the Services SETA, Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (MERSETA), Health and Welfare Sector Educational Training Authority (LWSETA) and the ETDPSETA, to name but a few. This is having a very positive impact on the range of programmes offered at Colleges and the development of staff.
3.4 DHET/SAICA support CFOs project
In an effort to improve the financial management systems in most of the FET Colleges, the Department has placed 40 Chartered Accounts as “Interim” Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). This has been made possible through a partnership with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) to build the capacity of College CFOs and establish sound financial systems. The joint DHET/SAICA Project has also resulted in the appointment of Human Resources Managers to support Colleges with their Human Resource Management functions. The DHET/SAICA Project will be running for a minimum period of two years.
3.5 Capacity Building
Over the last few years it has become increasingly apparent that the sector has serious gaps in the skills of the areas management and administration. However, it will be important to point out that not all of the Colleges are experiencing such challenges. We do have a number of Colleges that consistently produce high levels of certification and support to their students and staff. For the system as a whole, however, a much more systemic approach to establishing the depth of skills that are necessary for a successful College must be established. Towards this end the Strategy will address the following:
Induction training for new College Council members, which will be based on the roles and responsibilities of the College Council versus management as of 2013.
For a successful implementation of the Turnaround Strategy, College management teams have been trained to better prepare them for the next academic year in terms of Strategic Planning, Annual Performance Plans, Operational Plans and investment planning. To date 300 College Council and provincial personnel have received this training.
Financial management training has been prioritised to deal with the ongoing challenges that Colleges are faced with in meeting their fiduciary obligations. A major investment has been made with the placement of Chief Financial Officers at FET Colleges.
In the Limpopo and Eastern Cape Provinces, a College Improvement Project facilitated by JET Education Services under the authority of the Department is underway. In this Project the focus is on the implementation of the Turnaround Strategy to provide an extensive and comprehensive College development programme for management, support staff, lecturers and College Councils. Lessons learned in this initiative are being used in parallel initiatives driven by the Department in the other Colleges in the country.
The Department has advertised 26 vacant posts of Deputy Principals for academic and corporate services, which will be filled at the beginning of 2013. I have given in-principle approval of a revised generic organisational structure for Colleges with a view to ensuring streamlined functions. This structure is now up for consultation and we intend to have a phased-in approach towards the 2014/2015 Financial Year.
3.6 Curriculum Development and Support
To directly and effectively respond to the numbers of matriculants exiting the schooling system annually, Colleges must consider a range of learning options for these young people. The number of grade 12 learners seeking post school opportunities is exacerbated by two realities:
the first is that our 23 universities can only take in limited numbers of new entrants each year
the second is that, in the present economic climate, the absorptive capacity of the labour market for new job-seekers is painfully low.
To that end, the Turnaround Strategy refers to a diversification of programme offerings to meet the varying interests and needs of students. To achieve this, Colleges have to consider offerings beyond the traditional Report 191 (NATED) and NC (V) programmes. Learnerships, apprenticeships, certified skills programmes and bridging programmes are critical to providing opportunities for upward mobility. The greatest demand is for Higher Certificates, of which there are still too few registered by Higher Education Institutions. To improve access, access to Higher Certificate programmes must be made available in FET Colleges, in collaboration with other Higher Education Institutions of course.
We cannot speak of offering higher levels of qualifications in Colleges without acknowledging that much has to be done about the quality of teaching in these institutions. Apart from the Department’s dedicated attempts in providing ongoing support to and capacity development for lecturers in their day-to-day teaching, we have also, for the first time, taken firm steps towards professionalising Lecturer teaching practice in Vocational Education. In September this year the policy on minimum qualifications for Vocational Educators was published for public comment. Once finalised, this policy will serve as the blueprint for the recruitment and ongoing professional development of Vocational Educators in Colleges, and other similar institutional types that we envisage for the Post-School Education and Training system.
Let me close by talking about the important and often neglected matter of articulation. Articulation within and between the three learning pathways (academic, vocational and occupational) is essential in order to not only advance the objectives of the National Qualifications Framework, but also to ensure that our youth is not subjected to dead-end qualifications. The challenge of poor articulation continues to bedevil our Post-School Education and Training system. While we are engaging with SAQA, Universities, and the Quality Councils to find a long-term solution, I have in the interim initiated a process whereby Higher Certificates must be offered by FET Colleges under the supervision of Universities.
This will require formal agreements between Universities and FET Colleges. This compels institutions to work with and not against each other to enable students to progress along their chosen learning pathways. This approach to articulation has worked successfully in, for example, the United States Community Colleges. I have also come to the conclusion that in order to resolve the challenge of the dwindling numbers of students who take up Maths and Science at University level, the FET Colleges, cooperating with Universities, will offer a foundation programme in Mathematics and Science with will provide access to university for those who have completed senior certificate or NCV with weak Maths and Science marks.
Each of our 50 public FET Colleges, spread across 264 campuses, is expected to use the opportunity offered by the Turnaround process to position themselves within their communities, as well as with industry and the country at large. FET colleges must work closely with their communities and in so doing, also respond creatively to local and regional economic and skills needs. For this Turnaround to succeed in a sustainable manner, we need all our communities, industry and all key stakeholders to be part of this exciting process.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Higher Education and Training
14 Nov 2012
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