South Africas Higher Education System

Topics: Higher education, Education, Secondary education Pages: 6 (1838 words) Published: March 13, 2013

South Africa’s current higher education system is classified as: “medium knowledge producing, with low participation and high attrition rates, with insufficient capacity for adequate skills production and having a small ‘number of institutions which are in chronic crisis mode’.” (Badsha, N 2011. p4). A major concern regarding universities is the under-preparedness of students and the subsequent high dropout and graduation rates. I aim to outline and address the reasons behind students low performance rates, academic failure and their motives behind withdrawing from a tertiary institution. I will discuss a number of issues our country’s educational system has to deal with and how implementing a 4year degree program could be the best solution to save our nation from damnation.

Since 1994 our country’s main focus has been emphasized on redressing the inequalities of the past. Higher education institutions have been restructured to follow programs, based on values of equality and democracy. Higher education in South Africa is a factor that determines the success of an individual and in the bigger picture, the nation as a whole. As a developing country, it is crucial that the South African youth acquire satisfactory qualifications and skills so that they can contribute to building a unified democratic country. The major things holding South Africa behind are the challenges within its higher education system.

“People with higher education have the lowest unemployment rates. On the demand side, employers in the country consistently identify the lack of skilled workers as one of their greatest concerns.” (Fisher & Scott 2011. P1). There is a great demand by the country’s economy to produce high level skilled workers specifically in the engineering, scientific and technological fields. Unfortunately there are an undersupply of graduates with these skills and more importantly a shortage of students enrolling for these high-in-demand fields. Many students dream of entering these careers but are unable to, as a result of the poor quality education they received throughout primary and secondary levels. The desire to become a scientist is there, but the results and financial aid needed to pursue these careers are not. The poor success rates of graduates in these fields are unquestionably a result of the poor quality of schooling. Teacher training for the primary and secondary levels are dismal, teachers lack the appropriate skills needed to educate leaners, thus causing learners to receive bad results. These learners who depend on teachers for an education are either left ineligible to qualify for university acceptance or cannot cope at university once they are accepted.

A large number of students who achieve a NSC have very low scores in key subjects that the universities see as important. Fisher and Scott agree that the access and success of a student is dependent on their performance in subjects, particularly mathematics and physical science. Once again this is a result of the flawed training of teachers. The field is barren with regards to their standards, to be qualified as a teacher one needs to receive a set of qualified skills and extensive experience, but many of South African teachers go into the field unprepared or with an unfinished experience course.

Another major problem that our youth is faced with is the lack of preparation they get before entering a higher education institution. Students are unaware of the post-school world and get thrown into the deep end, without any directional help from their secondary schools. The lack of readiness can cause a lot confusion and frustration amongst the youth, and results in alarming drop-out rates and degrees to be completed over a longer period of time. Fisher and Scott support the idea by stating that student under-preparedness can be seen in high repetition and dropout rates, extended completion times and other...

References: • Badsha, N. & Cloete, N. (2011) Higher Education: Contribution for the NPC’s National Development Plan (Cape Town: CHET) Available:
• Fisher, G. and I. Scott (2011). Closing the Skills and Technology Gap in South Africa, Background Paper 3: The Role of Higher Education in Closing the Skills Gap in South Africa, The World Bank, Human Development Group, Africa Region.
• Nzimande, B. (2009). Nzimande on the challenges facing higher education. University of Johannesburg. Available at:
• Ramdass, K. & Kruger, D. The challenges facing higher education in South Africa. University of Johannesburg. Available at:
• UNESCO. (1967). Apartheid: its effects on education, science, culture and information. Paris: Imprimeries Reunies de Chambery.
• Fisher, G. and I. Scott (2011). Closing the Skills and Technology Gap in South Africa, Background Paper 3: The Role of Higher Education in Closing the Skills Gap in South Africa, The World Bank, Human Development Group, Africa Region.
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