OPINION

Global partnerships

Many Colorful stationery of an assortment

Partnerships are of vital importance in education’s road to recovery, writes Murray de Villiers, General Manager: Africa, Middle East Regional Academic Programme at SAS.

South Africans are losing faith in their education system. The country ranked last out of 144 nations for the quality of its maths and science education; the problem of textbook dumping continues; and universities are not producing enough teachers to keep up with the demand.

But what are we, as society and the public sector, doing about it? The responsibility to educate SA’s children does not lie only with the government. Primary schools, high schools, universities, skills development institutes, businesses and parents should work together to pull South Africa’s education system out of its rut and enable it to produce students who can take this country forward.

The National Development Plan acknowledges that South Africa’s education system needs urgent attention and outlines the role of every stakeholder, from those facilitating early childhood development to those responsible for tertiary education, further education and distance learning, in bringing about change.

Essentially, we need stronger partnerships between all links in the chain as well as mutual accountability. We need to work together towards a common goal of producing high-calibre graduates who possess the appropriate skills to become active contributors to the economy.

Many hands make light work

Universities recognise the importance of high schools in their success. Therefore, more focus should be placed on efforts to reach out to high school learners, whether these are through career days, open days or guest lectures.

Universities also need to collaborate with the private sector, which can provide access to and education in the technologies businesses use today. Such partnerships differentiate teaching and learning programmes.

An example is the Advanced Business Analytics Centre, set up in partnership between SAS and North West University, which gives students the skills to understand the role analytics can play in business’ decision-making processes and prepare students to become executives who can manage that function.

The students work on real industry projects during their studies, therefore they can make a difference on the first day they are hired because they already have the experience, skills and knowledge the business needs.

Universities are expanding to offer industry-directed short courses, in-house training and academic mentorship to graduates. Businesses need to come on board to support this rather than complain that universities are not producing graduates with relevant industry and business skills.

Global partnerships

The next step on South Africa’s partnership-building journey would be to collaborate with global universities on content and ideas, student training and skills development. Local and international universities could partner to offer hybrid and unconventional courses that combine skills from different sectors, such as media and technology – but more on that later in this series.

An Ernst & Young report on the university of the future noted that, while mobility increases competition among universities, it is also influential in creating deeper global partnerships and providing broader access to student talent. While technology will be covered in part two of this series, it’s worth considering the dangers mobility poses to South Africa’s youth and employment levels as it allows businesses to recruit staff from anywhere in the world and allows them to access high-quality skills that may not be available in South Africa.

An African proverb reminds us that it takes a community to raise a child but it seems society has lost that sense of community, choosing rather to bash the government for education problems. Mindsets and education models need to change. Pointing fingers won’t improve South Africa’s numeracy and literacy levels but working together at all levels just might.

Murray de Villiers

Many Colorful stationery of an assortment
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