5. Government responses - education and training
The new South African government has made a number of important
interventions in the education and training arena. The most important of these
are the following:
5.1 Quality and access
The quality of learning opportunities across the country is low
for the majority of South Africans. To address this problem, the Ministers of
Education and Labour joined forces to introduce a National Qualification
Framework through the South African Qualifications Authority Act (SAQA Act) in
1995. This Act provides for an outcomes-based system where there is an explicit
focus on what has been learned, as measured against socially agreed standards.
The National Qualification Framework (NQF) provides for the
registration of general education as well as occupationally oriented education
and training standards at general, further and higher levels of learning. It is
made up of eight agreed national levels and a range of learning progression
routes. Agreement on standards to be registered is recommended by 12 National
Standards bodies made up of employers, trades unionists, government officials,
professional bodies and education and training providers. This wide social
partnership will enhance labour market as well as formal currency of
Once standards and qualifications are registered, the quality
assurance of the standards is ensured by a second set of established and new
institutions. They register assessors and keep a record of learner achievements.
They also formally accredit providers as competent to train. Quality assurance
bodies will be established across the general preparatory learning system
(schools and universities) as well as to oversee industry-based learning. The
Sector Education and Training Authorities, to be described later, perform this
function for firms in their sector, in partnership with professional bodies who
carry out quality assurance at the tertiary levels.
The model was proposed to enable both young and older learners
to have their current learning recognized through a process of Recognition of
Prior Learning, and then have the opportunity to progress further in learning,
be it in full-time or part-time contexts. The Authority has been accepted by
tertiary institutions as well as industry and is slowly moving to a situation
where standards can be registered and quality of learning providers and
programmes can be assured nationally across the board.
Within the limitations of this presentation it is not
appropriate to describe the wide range of initiatives taken by the government to
improve access to schooling and the quality of that schooling. It must be noted
that a Schools Act has been passed by the Minister of Education, which aims to
effect a holistic transformation of schools. It introduced more autonomous
school governing councils, a culture of learning and teaching, improvements in
the quality of all educational inputs including curriculum (based on SAQA-type
outcomes-based learning models), teacher upgrading and improved teacher/pupil
ratios in the country.
The most radical transformation effected by the government is
the elimination of all racial restrictions on access. All children are now
required to attend school and schools are not permitted to turn away a child on
the grounds of race. There has been a massive movement of black students into
previously white schools in urban areas as these are perceived by many to offer
a better-quality education. Schooling is now compulsory for all children for ten
years, including a preparatory year.
5.3 School-to-work initiatives
The Ministers of Education and Labour have launched
complementary initiatives to improve the range of learning opportunities
available to learners in the post-compulsory learning phase and to enhance the
responsiveness of the learning to the labour market.
The Minister of Education has passed the Further Education and
Training Act. This legislation is focused on years 10, 11 and 12 in the
schooling system and equivalent learning opportunities available in technical
and community colleges. The Act puts in place a system of funding that
guarantees 80 per cent of funds from the state to state-funded institutions.
However, colleges are given 5 per cent incentives to focus on learning outcomes
(NQF) as well as support to the most vulnerable students. But it does require
colleges and other institutions of further education to find 10 per cent of
their own funding. This is intended to improve responsiveness to community and
industry needs for social development and economic growth. Innovation has
already begun - colleges are introducing hives for those moving towards
self-employment, and are beginning to seek to meet the needs of industry and
find income-earning opportunities.
The Minister has also passed the Higher Education Act. This Act
seeks to improve the access of previously disadvantaged groups to higher
education, on the one hand, and to improve the responsiveness of learning to the
needs of the society. The Further Education and Training Act as well as the
Higher Education Act envisage that learning institutions should prepare
three-year rolling plans, composed of a new focus on learning programmes. State
funds will increasingly be weighted towards those programmes which are perceived
as vital to underpin reconstruction and development of the society -mathematics,
science and technology and the like. Both Acts introduce advisory bodies to the
Minister of Education regarding policy and allocation of resources.
5.4 Learning for work, learning at work
The Minister of Labour has introduced two pieces of legislation:
the Skills Development Act and the Skills Development Levies Act. These seek to
improve the quantity and quality of learning for those already in work (be it
self-employment or formal-sector activity) and those seeking to enter the labour
market. The Skills Development Act establishes the National Skills Authority -
NSA - that will advise the Minister on a national skills development strategy
and means for its implementation.
A central vehicle for implementation will be about 30 Sector
Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) to be established across the economy,
e.g. Transport, Tourism, Banking, Construction and the like. These are
employer-trade union-government bodies, charged with the responsibility of
promoting skills development in their sector. SETAs have been designed to
improve the quality of demand-side information on skill needs and priorities.
SETAs will be required to prepare Skills Plans on an annual basis - and these
plans will have to identify skill targets and priorities for productivity and
employment growth. Each SETA will be required to attend to the skill needs of
both large and small employers in the sector. SETAs also provide an opportunity
to diffuse the work of research agencies into industry.
The Skills Development Act also introduces a new framework for
combining structured learning and work experience. Learnerships are being
introduced to promote 'apprenticeship-like' qualifications, but at any level of
the National Qualification Framework and in any field of occupational learning.
SETAs will be responsible for their development and implementation. It is
intended that they will identify areas of employment opportunity or constraint
and then design learnerships to meet the need. These opportunities may be in the
formal or informal segments of industry. Already 217 learners have completed the
first four pilot learnerships in construction and tourism. Learnerships provide
an ideal vehicle for a new and dynamic partnership between initiatives of the
Department of Education and Labour - responsive institutions will provide the
structured learning and SETAs will assist in finding placements for learners.
Learning institutions will be able to secure additional funds from SETAs for
SETAs are required to serve both large, small and emerging firms
in the sector - for example, the Transport SETA will assist taxi drivers to
upgrade as well as large railway companies. It is, however, recognized that
SETAs will tend to be dominated by large firms. Hence the NSA has agreed to
establish a standing sub-committee on SME promotion, on which all SETAs will be
represented. This is what is envisaged. However, the NSA will need to link with
multiple initiatives driven from outside its current area of responsibility.
Some of these include initiatives launched by the National Youth Commission, an
agency setup by legislation48. These programmes include such
initiatives as: the Youth Employment Clearing House, that provides specialized
employment information; Youth Employment Strategy that seeks to generate
synergies across government departments at national and provincial level; Youth
Enterprise Strategy for self-employment; and Research on Youth Economic
Participation and Awareness.
48 National Youth Commission Act, 19 of
The Skills Development Levies Act is designed to put in place
'user charge-type' incentives and thereby to complement the Skills Development
Act. It introduces a 1 per cent private-sector payroll levy. All firms will pay
the levy, but will be able to claim grants for training done from their SETA,
provided the training meets basic quality criteria. The training will
increasingly need to align with the National Qualification Framework, to ensure
quality. Enterprise-wide training plans will leverage block grants back to firms
- but these plans and their implementation will also be quality assured. Firms
will either deliver their own programmes or purchase training from training
SETAs are expected to grow into a major resource for firms.
SETAs may use a prescribed percentage of their levy revenue to assist with the
development of sector skill plans, the design of learnerships, assistance to
firms to develop enterprise skill plans and quality assurance of training. The
standards on the National Qualification Framework will be used for all training
plans. Funds may also be used to support research into trends and shifts locally
and abroad in the sector.
The public sector is also included in all of these initiatives.
Government departments will join the SETA most relevant to their area of work
so, for example, the Department of Transport will join the Transport SETA.
Government departments will also have to develop training plans. However, they
will not pay a levy in the same way - and instead will have to budget 1 per cent
of personnel costs. The public service will also have to conform to training
standards registered on the National Qualification Framework. Only two
public-sector-only SETAs will be established - one for Local Government, and one
for the Public Service.
Implementation of these policies will commence in earnest during
the second term of office of the new democratic government. Already extensive
plans have been laid.
5.5. Learning in the context of job creation
Various government departments have launched job creation
schemes -and these were confirmed and extended at the Job Summit. For young
people the key concern has been securing access to these schemes and ensuring
that some learning takes place within these programmes - including life skills.
The Department of Labour's Employment Services local offices are
increasingly positioning themselves to act as a selection and referral agency
for these schemes. What proportion of which group - young/female/local/person
with disability - is a matter for a local community accord.
In general, programmes such as Youth Brigades or Youth Service
schemes are more geared towards reintegrating young people back into productive
society, and are less focused on the delivery of hard skills. By contrast,
learnerships are strongly focused on occupational skills and aim to gain a
reputation for high-quality