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Nelson Mandela University achieves a first - reaches out to business to employ TVET graduates

Oct 4, 2018
Nelson Mandela University achieves a first - reaches out to business to employ TVET graduates

The Nelson Mandela University is the first university in South Africa to offer the Advanced Diploma in Technical and Vocational Teaching (Adv Dip TVT).

It is a diploma programme which, studied over two years, part-time, will provide lecturers in the TVET sector with a professional lecturer’s qualification. The qualification is five years in the making after the government gazetted the policy in 2013.

This comes at a time when, globally, there are huge expectations placed on the technical and vocational sector. In South Africa, government has identified this sector as a national priority, with a goal of having a headcount of 2.5-million students enrolled in TVET colleges by 2030.

There are currently just over 10 000 lecturers in the country, teaching more than 700 000 students across the 50 public TVET colleges. Of concern is the fact that, while these lecturers may be skilled in their respective disciplinary fields, about 50% are professionally unqualified as lecturers.

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education, Dr Muki Moeng, says this innovative programme, which was launched at Nelson Mandela University on Wednesday, adds a new dimension to the work done in the Education Faculty.

“Historically, we have focussed on teacher education only. With this qualification, we are expanding our footprint in education to the TVET sector. It is important for the faculty to move in this direction, because the university is committed to developing post-school adult learning opportunities,” she said.

“We believe that the TVET sector has a huge role to play in post-school education in so far as its possible positive impact on the economy of the country.”

Neville Rudman, who coordinated the development of the Adv Dip TVT in the faculty for the past five years, said he was thrilled that the programme enrols the first cohort next year as it had been a tough journey.

“It is gratifying to finally get to this stage,” he says.

“We received significant European Union funding through the Department of Higher Education and Training. These funds made it possible for us to put together a small team who successfully tackled the challenges of gaining internal acceptance for our unique curriculum framework, first from the Education Faculty, and then from the university’s Senate.

“At national level, we were pleased to gain DHET approval in 2016. We received accreditation from the Council on Higher Education towards the end of 2017 and in March this year the Adv Dip TVT was finally registered by the South African Qualifications Authority.”

About the new Nelson Mandela University Advanced TVT Diploma

Three aspects make this diploma a rather unique offering in the South African context. Firstly, the team explored a model of collaborative connections in the development of the programme; secondly, the team has grounded the programme within an ongoing, sustainable research framework, and, finally, the team included some unique ‘golden threads’ that drive the programme delivery.

The collaborations include international, African and local partners that have added much to the design of the programme. On the international stage Mr Rudman and his colleague, Lucky Maluleke, visited German, British and Scottish vocational institutions and gained significant insightful input, while another colleague, Dr Kathija Yassim, brought back important lessons from her exploration of the vocational sector in Kenya.

Locally, the faculty has entered into memoranda of agreement with the two TVET Colleges that operate in the metro, to ensure that their voices are also present in this new qualification.

“Now that we are about to engage with the first cohort of TVET lecturers, it is critical that we connect with role players from business, commerce and industry, including SMME’s, as well as local and provincial government, who will employ most of the students who emerge from the TVET sector. We believe that lecturers are key to the process of linking the classroom to the world of work,” Rudman said.

He added that in many subject disciplines, role players have left the chasm between the vocational sector and the workplace unexplored for far too long.

“It is in the interests of future employers to get involved here, not only to contribute to lecturer development, but also to help in addressing the shortcomings of sometimes dated curricula.”

A number of research-initiatives drive this qualification.

While Maluleke is currently engaged in his PhD, researching student choice in TVET, Dr Yassim leads the faculty’s TVET research project through the supervision of four Master’s students (current lecturers at Eastcape Midlands TVET College(EMC) as well as two PhD students.

She has created a vibrant community of practice who are exploring the basic tenets of what teaching in a vocational context should look like.

“This research space is relatively new in South Africa. Our research underpins the work we are doing in the Adv Dip TVT, and adds to the legitimacy of the programme. Theory must underpin our practice, and the theories we are exploring, are grounded in humanizing teaching practices.”

There are a number of publications pending, aimed at informing vocational teaching practice in South Africa.

The TVET team has woven into the qualification a number of ‘golden threads’.

Rudman adds: “For us, a golden thread is an idea or a concept that will be present in all our modules … in the same way that a thread of a certain color may be weaved into the body of a piece of cloth or fabric … always visible to the eye, while adding value to the texture of the garment. For us, our humanizing practice is not negotiable. Lecturers must also be empowered to help their students develop creative thinking skills to explore innovative and entrepreneurial spaces. For lecturers in the vocational field, it is not just about teaching content.”

The programme has a significant blended learning component, incorporating a wide range of online computer technologies.

Maluleke believes that“no TVET lecturer may stand in front of a class, if he or she does not have the skill to utilise technologies that open up the world for their students. The fourth industrial revolution is upon us – we need to ensure that our TVET lecturers are capable of exploring these possibilities with their students.”

Throughout the programme, there are constant reminders of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Says Dr Yassim: “People who operate in the TVET sector stand at the core of many matters that have a direct impact on the lives of people and the preservation of the environment. Our lecturers must be able to develop not only minds and hands of their students, but also their hearts. Therein lies the strength of this programme.”

Charl van Heerden, Principal at East Cape Midlands TVET College acknowledges that current TVET lecturers are not necessarily equipped to teach within a vocational sphere.

Quoting from the writings of Jeanne Gamble, a lecturer at UCT, he says: “This qualification, will address the pedagogical deficit of TVET lecturers, assisting them to understand that TVET is linked to knowledge production in the workplace, that requires a method of teaching and training that exceeds the average teaching methods for practice-based learning.”

Khaya Matiso, Principal at Port Elizabeth TVET College echoes this sentiment.

“The new qualification will have important benefits for the TVET sector. Most importantly, it will consolidate the academic partnership between the university and the colleges and contribute in the professionalization of teaching in the colleges.”

Matiso believes that this will have a positive effect on colleges’ throughput rates. He supports the collaborative research initiatives that may emerge from this programme, which he believes will help to make TVET an attractive option for a new generation of students.

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