There were fewer registrations for Ministerial-approved programmes at technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges for the 2023 academic year, at 497 032, than there were in 2022, when there were 508 000.
This is worrying, given the National Development Plan (NDP) target to ensure 2.5-million TVET registrations by 2030, Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Dr Blade Nzimande said on January 24.
"Our TVET colleges planned headcount enrolment for 2023 is 497 032 for the Ministerial-approved programmes, with an additional 59 383 headcount enrolment for programmes that are funded through other funding sources, thus bringing the total planned TVET enrolment for the academic year 2023 to 556 415," he stated.
Additionally, the 508 000 enrolments into Ministerial-funded programmes at TVET colleges in the 2022 academic year was itself lower than the enrolments funded by the State and TVET colleges in the 2021 academic year.
Further, the total number of candidates, at 133 442, who wrote the November 2022 National Vocational Certificate Level 2 to 4 examinations, decreased by 4 909, or 3.7%, compared with the 2021 figure.
"This is a matter of concern to the department, as our country needs much greater throughput from this crucial sector," he emphasised.
Encouragingly, the TVET report indicated that 72.1% of the candidates who wrote the November 2022 exams were female, and 27.9% were male.
"This illustrates that our work is helping to affirm the place of women in our post-school education and training sector, but we are concerned about what seems to be an ongoing decline in male participation in the programme.
"This particular decline [in male participation] requires our attention, and addressing it will form part of efforts that we are launching this year," said Nzimande.
"We are working hard with our plans to ensure that we accelerate the growth of our TVET sector. We will use the inadequate resources we have available and explore creative and innovative ways to accelerate the growth of the TVET sector.
"However, we can proudly report that the image of TVET colleges is changing in the country and they are no longer considered second choices. Many of the TVET courses are offered only at these colleges and most of our TVET colleges are full to the brim every year," he boasted.
Meanwhile, the DHET is standardising TVET registration and admission processes, which will also include standardisation of the processes of issuing of certificates.
"This standardisation process will also help us to migrate from manual to online registration processes in all our TVET colleges. Significantly, this has led to growth in student numbers on several colleges that have embraced the use of technology in their enrolment processes, and has reduced the number of walk-ins at these colleges," added Nzimande.
The rural Limpopo province is the leading province in terms of online registration for TVET colleges, he noted.
"This is something we must build on in other provinces, as many of our youth have access to smart phones [with which to complete online registration processes]."
Further, ten TVET colleges will also be introducing a new programme in robotics in the current academic year.
"This is part of our curriculum transformation strategy for the TVET sector in ensuring that our colleges remain responsive to the needs of a changing economy," he highlighted.
SKILLS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES
The National Skills Fund (NSF) will fund 107 000 workplace-based learning opportunities in 2023, including learnerships in various sectors of the economy. This will be increased to 110 500 workplace-based learning opportunities from April 1.
These opportunities will mainly be aimed at benefitting young people between the ages of 15 to 24, and the 2022 matriculants will greatly benefit from this, Nzimande said.
The department's current target on skills programmes in various sectors of the economy is to have 149 000 beneficiaries.
For artisanal trades, the target is 23 000 beneficiaries. The department remains on track in terms of funding artisanal development programmes, and the NSF will continue to fund them, he added.
These programmes will make use of accredited skills development providers. The NSF will post new requests for proposal from qualifying skills development providers to carry out and support the placement of learners for work integrated learning, in particular targeting the not in employment, education or training group, he added.
Further, the skills development funding efforts will release an estimated R3-billion from the NSF to support beneficiaries in agricultural, digital and information technology programmes and skills in small business development. These investments exclude the DHET's investment in artisan development and other support skills development programmes.
"Central to the NSF skills development funding programme in the 2023/24 financial year will be the acceleration of skills development funding through massification in agricultural, digital and information technology programmes and skills in small business development and entrepreneurship, in partnership with other government departments," Nzimande said.
All these skills development programmes will be coordinated through the District Development Model.
Meanwhile, community colleges will introduce digital literacy programmes through a partnership with the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa for community college lecturers.
"We will also be progressively introducing skills, occupational learnerships and nonformal programmes at community colleges through funding support from the NSF and sector education and training authorities," Nzimande said.
The aim is to change the focus of community colleges from the formerly adult-only-focused education courses to include skills development programmes for people who left school early or who did not finish their schooling to enable them to acquire new skills or improve their capabilities in particular skills, he noted.
These will be in addition to the senior matric and second-chance offerings at these colleges, provided in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, to people who failed matric or want to improve their scores in specific subjects.
Enrolments at public universities for the 2023 academic year were projected at 1.1-million, which is 41 545 higher than the prior year, with 655 427 female and 412 428 male students.
"This indicates that our university sector is steadily growing," said Nzimande.
Importantly, 208 299 first-time enrolments were projected, of which 69 069 will be within scarce-skills areas, including 17 085 in engineering, 17 584 in life and physical sciences, 985 in animal sciences, 209 in veterinary sciences, 10 418 in human health and 22 788 in teacher education courses.
"I must applaud our universities for their achievement in exceeding the targets for the veterinary science, animal sciences and teacher education areas," he noted.
However, most of the courses in the scarce-skills areas require a matric mathematics pass rate of at least 60%, and some require a minimum 60% pass rate in mathematics and science.
"We do not have nearly enough in every cohort of matriculants that achieve a 60% minimum pass rate in mathematics and science.
"Therefore, the Department of Science and Innovation has developed collaborations with provincial departments of education to support mathematics, science and technology education, aimed at ensuring that we increase the number of learners passing Grade 12 mathematics, science and technology," he said.
Additionally, to ensure the entire public sector university system is developed, the DHET is intensifying the implementation of the university capacity development programme to improve student success and the quality of teaching, learning and research to support curriculum renewal in all universities.
The DHET has begun to consider the use of blended learning models as an alternative to accommodate more students.
Nzimande has commissioned the Council on Higher Education to conduct a study on blended learning, which will aim to increase learning and teaching through physical and online distance means.
"This mode of delivery will enable more access to higher education. This may assist with achieving the NDP goal of 1.6-million enrolments in our universities by 2030," he noted.