Though the term TVET has been part of the South African educational system for at least two years now, the wholesale reclassification of FET colleges seems to form part of a larger strategic overhaul of the South African post-school educational system as set out in the White Paper.
The renaming of public FET colleges to TVET colleges was a process that started as early as 2012 with the passing of the "Further Education and Training Colleges Amendment Bill" (B24, 2012). This bill included a ratifying clause that redefined the term "college" as used in the South African educational system. Henceforth, a "college" would be: (a) a public [or private further education and training institution] college that is established or declared as-
(i) a technical and vocational education and training college; or
(ii) a community education and training college; or
(b) a private college that is established, declared or registered under this Act
Here the distinction between public FET colleges that would become 'technical and vocational education and training' (TVET) colleges, and private colleges that would remain FET colleges had already been made. The announcement by Blade Nzimande on 15 January 2014, however, made it clear that even private FET colleges would now be re-defined as TVET colleges and that the term FET would consequently fall completely out of use.
Elbie Liebenberg, principal of private distance learning college Oxbridge Academy
, says: "This announcement meant that all FET colleges are now technically already TVET colleges. It now falls on the individual colleges to systematically rename themselves to reflect this official change implemented by the Department of Higher Education and Training." But why do private FET colleges need to change their names at all?
The 2014 DHET White Paper places great emphasis on the growth of TVET colleges: "The DHET's highest priority is to strengthen and expand the public TVET colleges and turn them into attractive institutions of choice for school leavers." The emphasis is, however, not only on increasing enrolments, but also on strengthening the post-school education system as a whole.
The White Paper talks of, amongst other things: involving economic sectors and employers in the education system; reviewing current college curricula; renewing efforts to monitor and enhance the quality of education in college; and bettering the alignment between SETAs, TVETs, universities, and other educational systems. It is especially in terms of this last goal that the picture becomes clear. The White Paper essentially presents a general strategy to turn post-school education in South Africa into a "single, coordinated system" that will be better able to empower school-leaving South Africans and that will strengthen the South African skilled labour force as a whole.
The renaming of private FET colleges can consequently be seen as part of this unifying overhaul, an essential step in bringing them into the fold as well. The Paper mentions how the renaming of private FETs will bring these institutes "[i]n line with the public colleges."
But why were all the colleges not left FETs if there was a need for uniformity? Why were public colleges renamed to TVET colleges in the first place? The answer given by the DHET in the White Paper reads:This name better reflects [public colleges'] nature and better defines their main role in the diversified post-school education and training system.
To better understand this shift to TVET, one should also look at why it was first introduced in the 2012 "Further Education and Training Colleges Act Amendment Bill." In the summary of this amendment bill meeting, it is clearly stated that the purpose of the re-defining of the word "college" to include TVET was meant to help:bring SA more in line with the international approach, while keeping the distinctive nature of the programme mix and qualifications at colleges specialising in technical and vocational education.
The shift to TVET was in large part meant to align our national educational system with an international trend in post-school education. What exactly is TVET?
Unlike FET, which is a term established by the South African Department of Higher Education and Training, TVET is an international term. TVET, or Technical and Vocational Education and Training, was born from the 1999 UNESCO Second International Congress on Technical and Vocational Education in Seoul. The congress went on to establish the UNEVOC-INEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, which would drive TVET as a global educational initiative.
TVET focuses on the "acquisition of knowledge and skills for the world of work," according to the UNESCO-UNEVOC website. This term encompasses, and draws on the elements of, historical educational terms such as 'Apprenticeship Training', 'Vocational Education', 'Technical Education', 'Workplace Education', and more. For all practical purposes then, it can be seen as encompassing the principles of South African's 'Further Education and Development' as well.
It is because of the natural alignment of FET and TVET that the shift announced by Blade Nzimande can be seen as a re-labelling of already established colleges, rather than any kind of paradigm shift. At a TVET roundtable discussion during the Third UNESCO-UNEVOC Technical and Vocational Education and Training Conference in 2012 in Shanghai, China, Blade Nzimande said: "South Africa perfectly reflects this trend with recently developed policies that emphasise the strengthening of the effectiveness of FET colleges and SETAs, reinvigorating artisan training, and building partnerships between educational institutions and employers." He added: "TVET policies should be related to economic development policies in general as well as to industrial and other related sectors' policies."
The purpose of the TVET initiative is to strengthen the role that public and private colleges play in further developing South Africa and allowing the South African labour force to better participate in the economy. Private FET colleges like Oxbridge Academy
have long since taken it upon themselves to drive similar initiatives. Oxbridge Academy's Elbie Liebenberg says that, "We have always placed a great emphasis on vocational training aimed at helping our students get the skills they need to go out into the job market and position themselves as skilled - rather than dispensable - labour. It's about increasing their value as employees and thus contributing to South African societal and economic growth." Oxbridge Academy is one of South Africa's leading distance learning colleges, dedicated to offering high quality training to all South Africans. Oxbridge Academy offers a range of vocational courses like OHS, Engineering Studies, and HR Management aimed at giving South Africans greater access to self-empowerment through post-school education. To find out more you can visit www.oxbridgeacademy.edu.za, or call 021 1100 200.