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Education will be the key to the SKA rollout

In a recent article by Duncan Alfreds, he stressed the critical importance of education standards to the rollout of science programmes, as well as the need to accelerate the development of technical skills that will be needed for South Africa to deliver its share of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope to be erected in the Northern Cape Province.  

Currently the South African education sector does not deliver graduates with the critical skills to help in the rollout of the project

70.2 % of students out of a total of 496 090 passed matric in 2011, and of these only 24.3 % obtained a university entrance.

Prof Nithaya Chetty, Group Executive of Astronomy at the National Research Foundation (NRF), and researcher at the University of Pretoria, stressed in an interview with News24 that although universities are seeing an increase in number of applications their abilities are below par, especially mathematical skills, which will be essential if the country wants to reach  its targets. He feels there should be accelerated programmes to teach technical skills to ensure that there are support staff in place to support engineers in projects like the SKA.

To read more go to Duncan Alfreds’ article on News 24 by Clicking Here!

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R15 billion set aside for Further Education and Training Colleges

South African Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has set aside R15-billion to increase the number of students attending South Africa’s Further Education and Training Colleges. This is part of a plan to improve the quality of education at FET colleges so that they become the tertiary institutions of choice. The plan also includes an agreement with retired accountants to step in as CFOs at these institutions.

Nzimande wants the  FET student population to grow from the current 400 000 to 4 million by 2030.

To read more go to the article on East Coast Radio Newswatch by Clicking Here!

Access to Education in South Africa has improved – Nzimande

Access to education has improved over the past 17 years, Higher Education minister Blade Nzimande said recently in parliament.

“Approximately 96 percent of children now gain access to school in South Africa,” Nzimande said during debate in the National Assembly on President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address.

Nzimande said that in 2009 the gross enrolment ratio for Grades 1 to 12 stood at 92 percent. In higher education the total enrolments was nearing 90,000, which means the throughput rate has been improving, although it still has a long way to go.

The biggest challenge identified by the Department of Basic Education [DBE] according to Nzimande is the improvement of the quality of education, while nearly all of the Department of Basic Education’s current interventions are aimed at achieving this.

Dr Nzimande cited the improvement of learning outcomes in Maths, Science and Literacy as the biggest priority of the department, which is in line with Zuma’s directive on the three Ts –teachers, text and time.

The “improved” 2010 matric results proved that the schooling system was on a much better footing, he said.

Minister Nzimande then focussed on Higher Education and said the Department of Higher Education and Training had made “significant strides” in the past year in the field of higher education and training to tackle the challenge of creating a post school system that was responsive to the needs of youths and adults.

The adoption of the National Skills Development Strategy had been the anchor of government’s intervention on the skills development front, according to him.

Nzimande emphasized that South African universities needed to be nurtured, and must continue to provide high quality teaching, research, innovation and community service activities and to progressively improve their capacities.

“But”, Nzimande said, “we are working to ensure that these universities become more accessible and place student interests at the centre of their activities.”

Assistance would be given to institutions that need special attention, like those in rural areas, to help them build capacity to provide quality education. Task teams are also working hard to prepare for the establishment of universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.

To read the original Sapa article on NewsTime Click Here!

South Africa’s new National Skills Development Strategy

South Africa’s Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande recently unveiled the country’s third National Skills Development Strategy, a strategy for the next 5 years. It will be implemented through South Africa’s skills development structures (21 sector education and training authorities, SETAs) in the coming months, but universities will have important roles to play.

The aim of the National Skills Development Strategy III, NSDS3 is:

• To improve the skills development system so as to be more responsive to labour market needs and social equity requirements.
• To integrate workplace training and theoretical learning
• To improve the skills level of graduates of secondary and tertiary education
• To address skills shortages in artisanal, technical and professional fields
• To reduce the over-emphasis on NQF level 1-3 learnerships
• To equip those in the workforce with sufficient technological skills
• To improve co-operation between universities, further education and training colleges and sector education and training authorities (SETA)
• To support economic growth and development through viable skills development
• To develop sufficient skills for rural development

The NSDS3 will be formally deployed on April 1.

To read more go to Munyaradzi Makoni’s article on University World News by Clicking Here!

To read Dr Blade Nzimande’s press release Click Here!

To download the National Skills Development Strategy III (NSDS3) Document Click Here!

President Jacob Zuma places education and skills development at the centre of the South African government’s policies

South African President Jacob Zuma, placed education and skills development at the centre of the South African government’s policies in his State of the Nation Address on 11 February 2010. He announced a number of key activities that will be undertaken to achieve this.

In the government’s 2010 programme, it wants to improve the ability of children to read, write and count in the foundation years. 
The government wants learners and teachers to be in school, in class, on time, learning and teaching for seven hours a day. Teachers will be assisted by providing detailed daily lesson plans. Students will be provided with easy-to-use workbooks in all 11 languages.

Zuma also announced that from this year onwards, all grade 3, 6 and 9 students will write literacy and numeracy tests that are independently moderated. The aim is to increase the pass rate for these tests from the current average of between 35 and 40% to at least 60% by 2014. Results will be sent to parents to track progress.

In addition, each of the country’s 27 000 schools will be assessed by officials from the Department of Basic Education. This will be recorded in an auditable written report.

The government aims to increase the number of matric students who are eligible for university admission to 175 000 a year by 2014,  he continued.
He urged parents to cooperate with the government in making this a success. He also welcomed last month’s statement by the three teacher unions, NAPTOSA, SADTU and SAOU, reaffirming their commitment to the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign from the beginning of 2010.

Zuma further stressed the need to invest in the youth to ensure a skilled and capable workforce to support growth and job creation. He then announced a plan to increase the training of 16-25 year olds in further education and training facilities to provide a second chance at education, for those who do not qualify for university.

The government is working with higher education institutions to ensure that eligible students obtain financial assistance, through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, he said.

He also announced that the government has set ambitious targets for skills development, to produce additional engineers and technicians, and to increase the number of qualified mathematics and science teachers.

Zuma also stressed that the number of youth who enter learnerships in the private and public sectors, should be increased.

To read the full State of the Nation Address on IOL Click Here!