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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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SA government eyeing free tuition to boost skills shortages

In a recent cabinet lekgotla the South African government agreed on a number of resolutions to address skills shortages. The lekgotla noted the mismatch between the supply and demand of skills for specific educational categories in the light of the unemployment rate that is expanding.

Deputy Basic Education Minister Enver Surty gave feedback from the lekgotla. He stressed that the labour market is plagued by skills shortages that constrains the country’s economic growth potential. Keeping this in mind the lekotla resolved to take action on various key matters including:

  • examining the possibility of covering the full cost of study for (poor) students in scarce skills areas in all years of study; 
  • guarding against downgrading the social science programme provision;
  • supporting post-graduate students through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to develop a new generation of academics in addition to National Research Foundation initiatives;
  • intensifying efforts to promote research and development in higher education institutions;
  • seeing to it that students that have completed their studies pay back their loans so that other students can also be supported;
  • giving urgent attention to the problem of accommodation in the higher education system (only 18.5 % of students are accommodated in university residences)
  • ensuring that all infrastructure programmes are linked to skills training and workplace experiential learning;
  • strengthening and repositioning Public Service Sector Seta (PSeta) to play a more effective role in skills training for public service
  • seeing to it that all government departments pay skills levies, as required by law;
  • expanding the intake of interns into the public service, municipalities and state-owned enterprises; and
  • utilising training within the public service as largest single employer in the country.

This posting was based on a Sapa article published on Fin24 on 23 august. To read the original Sapa article Click Here!

SA’s Department of Basic Education reveals its ICT plans

South Africa’s Department of Basic Education is aiming to utilise technology as a developmental tool for teacher education as well as integrating it into the school curriculum, Mr Enver Surty, Deputy Minister of Basic Education said recently at a gala dinner in Cape Town, at the Microsoft Partners in Learning Worldwide Innovative Education Forum Awards.

Surty said that an inter-ministerial committee had met at the end of October to sign an agreement that binds the Minister of Basic Education, The Deputy Minister of Basic Education, MECs and the ministers of other departments in the achievement of certain goals. While there was a commitment to the provision of quality basic education, Information Communication Technology (ICT) was highlighted.

The commitment is that by 2015 every learner who has passed grade 3 will have had exposure to ICT.

Surty also referred to the undersea cables linking Africa to the world, and vice versa, and said “technology has been taken to the heart of Africa…”

Currently South Africa has about 26 000 schools, of which only 3  in 10 have access to technology and only 1 in 10 schools has access to the Internet, mainly through dial up connections. The government is trying to roll out the Teacher Laptop Initiative which provides teachers with a R130 subsidy per month towards the purchase of a laptop, but the use of technology in teaching methodology is yet to be formally incorporated into the teacher training curriculum.

Surty then referred to the Microsoft Partners in Learning Programme, through which the Department of Basic Education has received R93 million in free software via a national schools’ agreement. More than 25 000 teachers have been trained using the programme’s Teacher Training curriculum and the aim is to foster the development of 21st century skills among learners.

To read the original article by Primarashni Gower on Mail and Guardian Online Click Here!

South African Education in a mess

Presenting the latest country report in Cape Town last week, SA Institute for Race Relations (SAIRR) chief executive John Kane-Berman claimed that up to 80 % of the country’s public schools are dysfunctional despite a decade of incremental increases in public spending on the education system. The  education system is also failing to produce the skills required for job creation and poverty reduction.

In his presentation, Kane-Berman suggested taking lessons from the 20 best performing public schools, the so-called “centres of excellence in public education”. He also proposed that pupils be taught in their mother tongue, that “bureaucratic foul-ups” such as missing text books be addressed, that discipline be restored by allowing teachers to act against unruly pupils and that school governing bodies be given the power to hire and fire teachers. To read more click here!

Taken from the Daily News, 7 April 2008