BRICS education ministers want

BRICS education ministers want to prepare young people for the future

The BRICS education ministers have come to a realisation that equipping young with TVET skills can make a great impact in this forever changing world.

BRICS education ministers want

In the past week, education ministers from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met in Cape Town during the sixth BRICS education meeting to discuss the challenges facing the education system.

What was it all about?

Some of the key talking points at the meeting were to acknowledge afresh, the significant contribution of education towards the overall development goals of BRICS and to welcome the initiatives of BRICS Member States to promote a transformative education agenda that actively addresses 21st century challenges and opportunities, especially regarding the technological changes commonly known as the fourth industrial revolution.

One of the key themes at the meeting was the focus to prepare young people for the fourth industrial revolution.

An important focus, especially since we have about 38.2% of young people unemployed, and we are certainly not preparing anyone for the future when we still have 33.5% of young people aged 15-24 unemployed.

The meeting was hosted by the minister Naledi Pandor.

Technical and vocational education and training

In her short period of being the minister of higher education and training (DHET), Naledi Pandor has on several occasions emphasised the need for TVET colleges to specialise in priority trade skills, a 2019 plan by the DHET. A high number of young people are unemployed because they don’t have qualifications in careers that are in demand.

I have, on many occasions and in some articles talked about the urgent need to respond to the issue of scarce skills in the economy. It is good to see that the BRICS ministers were discussing it.

According to the Statistics on Post-School Education and Training in South Africa: 2016, a total of 111,460 students completed key exit levels (N3, N6 and NC (V) Level 4) in TVET colleges in 2016, translating to a completion rate of 62.2%. There were 39,102 students who completed N3 engineering studies, translating to a completion rate of 65.8%. The completion rate was lower for N6 engineering studies at 61.0% with 12,848 students completed.

The number of students who wrote and completed NC (V) Level 4, N3 and N6 qualifications increased in the 2016 academic year, despite the fact that it significantly dropped between the year 2011 and 2012.

There are a number of reasons why TVET colleges play a vital role in meeting the skills in demand. Firstly, the colleges provide technical and vocational education and training programmes to learners who completed at least Grade 9 at school level – this is important especially when South Africa loses a lot of learners in Grade 10-11, either by dropping out or staying stuck in one Grade for a longer period.

Secondly, there are many jobs that require a certain level of skill but not the university level training. Many of them are ideal for people who are practical or good with their hands.

In the past, more so after apartheid, South Africa’s economic growth has been driven largely by capital-intensive industries such as retail, trade and financial services, rather than productive and labour-intensive sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing – but this was then; the tables have turned.

Today, Agriculture and Manufacturing can be the leading sectors contributing to the GDP, despite the fact that they disappointed in the first quarter of 2018. These are sectors that require people to apply their practical knowledge and skills more than their academics – workers have to be hands-on and TVET colleges can make a huge difference in these sectors.

Thus, there’s a great need to mobilise young people (especially those who dropped out with no alternative) into TVET colleges if we want to respond to the economy.

The BRICS ministers have come to a realisation that equipping young with TVET skills can make a great impact in this forever changing world.