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The challenges facing higher education in South Africa

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1 The challenges facing higher education in South Africa
Kem Ramdass1, David Kruger2,

2 AUTHORS Kem Ramdass1, David Kruger2,
1Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park Bunting Road Campus, Auckland Park, Johannesburg, 2092 Telephone: , Fax: 2Lecturer, Faculty of Management Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria Campus, Private Bag X680, Pretoria, 0001 Telephone , Fax:

3 Fundamentals The Supply Chain in Education Primary Secondary Tertiary
Contribution of parents Social upbringing Education as a contributor to economic development

4 ABSTRACT There is a major emphasis on the education of the South African people to become responsible, participatory and reflective citizens that contribute to an emerging democracy. Higher education in South Africa is the factor that influences and determines the success of individuals, that has a national and international impact on the country. Thus higher education can contribute to the building of a united, peaceful, and democratic country. This paper sketches the challenges faced by higher education institutions and addresses issues that would improve the status of education in South Africa.

The methodology adopted in the research to highlight some of the issues affecting the SA education system includes a review of secondary data including existing literature and documents, relevant research reports from the department of education inclusive of other government departments, relevant journal articles in education.

6 Background In an era of rapid change that is enforced through technological innovations, globalization, market expansion and mass production, the focus on the most important asset of an organization, human capital is often forgotten. The change should be focused on people – their intellectual abilities, their fear, their cultural background and their ability to add value to the changing societal needs, thereby working together for the common goal of the country. .

7 Introduction Since the 1994 elections, the emphasis has been on the redress of the inequalities of the past. The South African government formulated a programme of restructuring the education system on principles of equity, human rights, democracy and sustainable development.

8 Introduction Against this scenario of change, the South African education system still faces major challenges, with political instability at the forefront of education. This is especially true in terms of the tension between implementing changes that need both time and considerable resources to work their way through, and the close relationship of issues that need to be addressed at the sites of implementation i.e. in the schools, universities, universities of technology and particularly, in the lives of human personnel.

9 Challenges A large percentage of school aged children who still do not attend school beyond the primary level (currently 87 percent attend at the secondary level and only 20 percent at the tertiary level).

10 Challenges The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in South Africa reported that 12 million children live in poverty. Four million of these children are starving and 40% have growth problems. Statistics reveal that 81% experience income and material depravation and many live in informal settlements.

11 Challenges More that 50% live in households where nobody is employed. Approximately 24% are in the wrong grade for their age and 6% are not in school. 24% live in households without both parents (Cohen, 2008). Access to education for all South Africans are available to children 7–15 years and fees are waived according the financial status of parents. However studies and outreach is needed to look at those who have never attended or have been unable to attend school because of lack of financial support (Higgens, 2007).

HIV Aids is having a major impact, not only in SA but throughout the world. It is reducing the supply of qualified teachers and may disrupt schooling for a whole generation of children. Over a period of time, the diminishing investment in human capital may delay social and economic development.

The challenge is to improve the quality of education across the entire value chain. It is important to remember that quality stems from the quality of life experienced by individuals, whereby society instills morals, value, ethical conduct, honesty, integrity, to name but a few positive characteristics.

14 Cont The development of quality principles in the early years of the child, continued in primary, secondary, tertiary education, leads to individual practicing quality principles throughout the work life. The schools are deprived of resources, facilities and qualified teachers. It is extremely unimaginable to have efficiency, effectiveness and quality in education under these circumstances.

15 Cont The quality of education therefore needs to be increased at the primary and secondary level so that it prepares individuals for the tasks which they will receive in higher education. There seems to be a gap between secondary and higher education and the University of Johannesburg is addressing this issue through bridging programmes. If this increase in quality in education occurs, South Africa will produce professional individuals who can contribute to society in positive ways and therefore directly impact on the economy as well as international relations.

16 IMPACT OF MERGERS The mergers of particularly universities and technikons have caused problems in higher education. The first and most important impact is on employees (academics and administrative staff) who have been treated in an inferior manner. There is believe that the university has totally taken over the technikon and the morale has diminished to a level of being non-existent. This affects the entire teaching and learning process and service delivery in organisations.

17 Cont There seems to be an inequitable allocation of work within academic departments, thus causing further frustration.

18 Mergers The university has implemented its processes in the technikon environment. Programmes are phased out due to a lack of lecturers. Service delivery is a matter of concern in HEI’s as they have become much larger to handle and communication through the levels of hierarchy has become difficult.

19 Collaboration It is important to acknowledge that universities do not exist in isolation. The most important stakeholders are industry, the government and civil society. Industry is the primary consumer of talent and technological innovation. The government provides a regulative environment through which HEI’s operate while are also funding HEI’s.

20 Cont Civil society supports HEI’s through students attending universities. Thus there should be a close collaboration between these stakeholders through a virtuous spiral of a sense of shared purpose. However, the dialogue between the state, industry and HEI’s are patchy and uneven, thus characterized by a weak understanding of each other.

21 Academics Talent is attracted and retained through appropriate incentives and rewards and this applies aptly to academia. The challenge of attracting and retaining the best academic talent is a national priority. There is grave concern about the working conditions and the issue of salaries of academics which should be debated nationally and even internationally.

22 Academics It is acknowledged that the remuneration level in academia has not kept pace with other sectors of society. Many academics have migrated to the private sector and sometimes overseas. If this attrition of academics continues because of poor working conditions and salaries, HEI’s face another major challenge. Academia needs to reclaim its status as an attractive, esteemed, prestigious and rewarding career, so that the best talent could be retained. Leadership among all sectors need to understand that academics are the pillars of economic and social development and they deserve recognition and rewards so that SA as a country could improve its current status.

Approximately 50% drop out rate in first year The success rate/graduation rate is approximately 15%, and this is a cause for concern as the skills gap widens. With the consistent reduction in government subsidies, there has been an increase in student fees, thus creating financial constraints on students pursuing higher education.

Especially in HEI’s, the mergers have caused fear and uncertainty among staff. The changing of management structures has placed stress and strain to administrative and academic staff, thus demoralizing them. In order to improve the image of higher education in South Africa, it is imperative that lines of communication be open to develop relationships that would improve the morale of staff.

25 Recommendations Approximately 60% of staff members in the department of economic and management sciences have since left a particular organization to move to other organizations as it became a problem to travel to a new location. Unfortunately, management did not attempt to discuss and attain reasons for the departure of staff.

HEI’s need to develop a plan to develop a new generation of academics as the country is suffering a brain drain and skill shortages where doctoral graduates are too few. Universities are battling to develop sufficient young academics that would replace the ageing academic population. Another issue is the remuneration of academics, which is lower that packages offered by industry.

27 FUNDING HEI’s HEI’s have the most “professional” personnel who need to be remunerated accordingly as salaries are the largest portion of the budget. All resources need to be upgraded within a specified time-span as technology improves for departments to perform their function effectively. Funding of HEI’s need to be investigated to provide an acceptable environment in which work can be accomplished productively.

28 Conclusion The major focus of universities has been on research into fundamental principles of science and mathematics. Universities are generally judged by their research output on issues facing the country. The dilemma facing institutions is the funding formula used to calculate government subsidy for institutions. Costs are escalating but the subsidies are reducing, thus pressuring institutions to reduce costs wherever possible.

29 Conclusion South Africa faces a number of formidable challenges in the years ahead in the realm of higher education. This paper provided an overview of the current challenges experienced within the education system in SA and counteractive plans that should be implemented to address these issues. The challenges encountered by the education department cannot be resolved overnight.

30 Recommendations It starts with parents guiding their children throughout their educational career from pre-primary school until they complete their higher education and become responsible citizens that could add value to society. The entire supply chain in the education system needs to be addressed, where the quality of education becomes a fundamental requirement. Industries regard skills education as a basic requirement for graduates to function effectively. .

31 Recommendations This would result in the provision of better-quality education and training throughout the value chain, thereby contributing to a competitive workforce that would be able to function effectively. The vision of this has been created, but is taking years to become a reality. The creation of a united South Africa with the elimination of political ties is imperative for the success of our country.

32 Recommendations More research needs to be undertaken to determine the success of government initiatives and its effect on the South African people. Governmental organizations need to focus on performance management initiatives to ensure that the human capital employed is delivering on promised tasks. This is a journey that may take another decade or two to establish working relationships among a diversified nation. With a change in behaviour and attitude and the elimination of political ties, South Africa could become the most prosperous nation in the world.

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