Change is mooted in education

The proposal to separate education into two departments - one focusing on schooling and the other on further education - might be finalised by next week, ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe said yesterday.

The proposal to separate education into two departments - one focusing on schooling and the other on further education - might be finalised by next week, ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe said yesterday.

"We think a ministry of education is just too big," he told an ANC progressive business forum event in Cape Town.

"It did not give the minister time to focus on the problems facing education. There's a very strong view that we can't just go with business as usual in education, because education is not just about learning," Mantashe said.

He said a child from a poor household, after the first 12 years of schooling, could be the entry point to break the backbone of poverty at a household level. "I'm not talking of a degree; just having matric," he said.

The schooling system needed to be improved.

"If the schooling system doesn't prepare a child for higher education and for entry into the labour market, it is not good enough."

Higher education itself also needed improving. Among other things, 50 percent of students dropped out after the second year, he said.

The higher education infrastructure also did not respond to the issue of scarce skills. One example was that of engineers.

"One of the things we're still paying dearly for is that, if you look into all the former black universities, not a single one has an engineering faculty. Because the education system at the time was talking to the system that was not ready to accept that a black person can be an engineer," he said.

This had to be addressed so that the educational infrastructure generated sufficient engineering graduates in all disciplines. Currently, it generated a surplus of social science graduates.

"Until we deal with that issue, we will always come back to the question of whether graduates respond to the scarce skills, when the system doesn't generate sufficient skills in various critical areas. The reality of the matter is that the education system must be such that it talks to the economic needs," he said.

Asked about the brain drain of professionals leaving the country, Mantashe said one of the results of the global financial crisis was that this trend was reversed.

People followed opportunities, as demonstrated by the large numbers of foreign engineers now working on major construction projects in South Africa, he said.

"We should never say that our professionals must be locked in South Africa." - Sapa

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