Bridging programmes for under-prepared college students

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Bongani Nkosi

In its bold bid to assist students entering technical colleges under-prepared, the Department of Higher Education and Training will introduce bridging programmes at the institutions from next year.

For the same reason of under-preparedness, there are also plans to increase the number of students in foundation programmes at universities from 22200 to 36000 next year.

The Council on Higher Education, a statutory body that advises the minister of higher education, recommended a foundation year in 2013 for students starting university.

The report, which also looked into Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) output, said “student under-preparedness was the dominant learning-related cause of the poor performance patterns in higher education”.

The department’s foundation programme at TVETs will kick off with 5000 students next year, it revealed in its annual performance plan. It said foundation education at the colleges would focus on science, technology, engineering, maths, languages and life skills.

Lunga Ngqengelele, the education spokesperson, said on Tuesday that he could not yet comment on the move because relevant officials were not available to provide information.

Responding to criticism that social media users made on Monday against TVETs’ output, a senior curriculum official at the department, Masilu Modiba, maintained that most students entering TVETs needed bridging courses.

“It is a fact that a majority of students coming from high school need support to go through vocational education. The (department) from 2019 will be implementing pre-vocational learning programme (foundation year) (so) we accommodate students who need support before enrolling.

“Therefore, the pre-vocational learning programme will have foundational maths, science and English. The truth is that students need support,” Modiba said.

Yonke Twani, president of the SA Further Education and Training Student Association, said foundation programmes at TVETs were sorely needed.

“Imagine being taken from Grade 9 to a TVET to do NCV public administration. That student does not have a background of that course because in Grade 9 you’re still doing basic education subjects,” Twani said.

This move was originally recommended by a task team that handed over its report to former higher education minister Blade Nzimande.

Chaired by Dr Charles Sheppard, the task team said the government had no choice but to shoulder the costs of foundation education to assist under-prepared students. “In a perfect system, no under-prepared students enter TVET colleges. As South Africa is nowhere near such a state, it is still necessary to remediate some of the failures of the school system,” he said.

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