Newly sworn in Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor says that we need to think about how to expand education in order to meet the “grand ambitions” set out in the National Development Plan and other strategies.
Commenting on the education system as a whole Pandor said “, the architecture is still rather too small for the population that we have.”
However she was optimistic about the potential of the education sector.
“If we as South Africa can harness the wonderful attributes that we do have in the system and make them work for South Africa and the African continent we'll be making a very significant contribution to development.”
The minister reviewed the key challenges facing the sector in a recent Cape Talk interview on the Eusebius Mckaiser show. She addressed concerns surrounding free education, graduate job readiness and the ongoing issues plaguing higher education institutions.
While reports reveal that graduate unemployment is lower than the unemployment levels of the general population, she said that university leaders have an obligation to look at whether their products are relevant.
“universities cannot neglect the world outside them.”
She said that the issue of “absorption” into the workplace after graduation should be one of concern to vice chancellors across the board. And urged them to look at whether students were meeting industry demands.
Another challenge facing universities is that of students not finishing their degrees within the allocated time.
She said this was partly due to an inability to grasp varsity level content in a different language.
Pandor highlighted the need to equip undergrads to be “conversant” in the teaching language.
In order to broaden and diversify study options government will continue to focus its attention on expanding TVET colleges.
“The notion that I should aspire only to a university degree is a wrong one, opportunity does not only lie there.”
She said that the mindset of the public has to be transformed in order to see the opportunities that exist in the TVET sector.
The department aims to improve the calibre of TVET college education in order reverse mindsets and deliver the “technical and vocational skills the country needs.”
“We are going to have a significant contribution to improved infrastructure for the TVET college sector.”
This would see TVET colleges play a training role as well as a placement role in the higher education sector.
Speaking on free education Pandor said that the decision was not a mistake as it had emerged from deliberations that followed the heher commission report and recommendations.
As part of the ministerial task team Pandor explained that the content of the free education model had been thoroughly discussed prior to the announcement. However she did admit that the timing of the announcement “came as a surprise”.
Addressing the issue of the free education budget she said “...the desires that we have are paid for from public revenue”.
She said that the demands for free education were made by the people and therefore would be funded by the public.
She also assured listeners that funding had not been taken from other areas of public education.