National Audit Finds Further Education and Training College Sector Falling Short

HSRC

The Further Education and Training (FET) college sector is a very important sector, as it is tasked providing vocational and occupational education and training, which in effect, keeps the shortage of skills in check and therefore aids in alleviating unemployment.

However FET in general has performed badly.  The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), which the accountable department for FET, felt it necessary to commission an audit, which  was carried out by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).

The audit of 50 FET colleges in South Africa which focused on each college’s governance, management and efficiency, provided the following insights on the performance of FET, showed the sector to be struggling at all levels of management:

1.     With regard to governance

The results of the audit showed various shortcomings at the three levels of governance – college, provincial and national.

  • College level - The main areas of concern were the large divide in college councillors’ governance skills, a lack of drive for autonomy with none of the colleges adopting college statutes; and a further resignation to conformity with a widespread absence of engagement with the King III principles on corporate governance.
  • Provincial level - There are four main problem areas: A lack of proper governance of the employment contracts of staff; an uneven approval of college’ strategic plans; colleges are being somewhat neglected with a discrepancy in funding; and there are tensions over the way colleges are run due to lack of adequate recognition and overseeing of college functions by provinces.
  • National level - On this level there are three main areas of concern: The number of policy interventions and the speed they have been introduced has led to instability in the sector; the lack of plans accompanying policy interventions has led to different interpretations by colleges; and the dual-accountability employment model utilised has led to tensions among council members and management staff.

2.     With regards to management

In terms of the management issues found by the audit, these ranged from a lack of financial reporting to an ignorance of college labour market involvement with only 18 of the 50 colleges tracking graduates once they left the college system.

3.     With regard to efficiency

Student throughput rates were the main focus of the audit – ie. the percentage of students who successfully complete their studies. These rates were measured on three levels: the National Certificate (Vocational) (NC(V)) with an average of 30 percent throughput rate per annum over a three year period (2007 – 2009); the NATED Report 191 (N) programmes with a 47 percent throughput rate; and other programmes with a 66 percent throughput rate. These numbers are of concern to the DHET’s intention to increase enrolments in the sector in years to come.

4.     Policy Considerations

Due to the findings on the above three areas, key issues have been identified:

  • With the impending shift from provincial to national governance, college councils will effectively be the more restricted equivalent of school governing bodies. To raise the effectiveness of college councils, their members need to be trained in governance roles and in the principles of corporate governance. This will lead to a greater level of autonomy.
  • While all four of the identified provincial governance shortcomings will be addressed through a shift from provincial to national oversight, the DHET will need to ensure the monitoring and evaluation of the college sector addresses the tensions at the provincial and college levels mentioned above.
  • The DHET will also need to stabilise the sector by having a clear determination of the role of FET colleges in the broader educations system.

This article is based on a report entitled: Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges at a Glance in 2010. FET Colleges Audit, May – July 2010, commissioned by the National Board for Further Education and Training, subsumed by the DHET.

 

To read the report, refer to http://www.hsrc.ac.za/Page-195.phtml.

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