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South African Skills Development

South African Skills Development

Recognizing the need for improvement within the current labour force, the South African Parliament, in 1998, approved the Skills Development Act within which the definition of a new Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) system was defined. Their aim was a plan whereby a series of Sector Skills Plans was defined, within the framework of the NSDS (National Skills Development Strategy).

Before 2000, there were 33 different SETA’s in various sectors with the South African workforce, their focus being more on apprenticeships rather than the levels of quality found in the materials of the training providers, training within the specified fields of the SETA’s.

Since the inauguration of Skills Development and Outcomes Based Education (OBE), the SETA’s  ETQA’s (Education and Training Quality Authorities) have been tasked with the process of accrediting training providers on both their internal policies and procedures as well as the training materials which will be used in this process. These process are two-fold: one part focussing on the internal quality management system (QMS) of the organisation as a whole, and the other, on the actual training materials and the delivery thereof.

This shift whereby apprenticeships, learnerships, internships  and skills programmes became the main concern for the SETA’s, the focus on the materials had to take a similar change in focus and delivery. The materials no longer only consisted of information in the field of study or interest. It had to adopt a strategy whereby the field related experience had to be incorporated, to accommodate the new adult learners.

With the shift to the OBE manner of delivering training, gone were the days of raw information taught to learners via “handbooks” and teachers drumming information into the learners, in classrooms. An interactive way of transferring knowledge from the experience of classroom facilitators as well as workplace mentors, took its place.

Rather than a constant information presentation session, the transfer now rests on the explanations of concepts, the identification of their uses within the workplace, agreement on the relevance of this information and the necessity of its importance in the workplace. Once the importance of the knowledge is identified, the acceptance of such knowledge is a more streamlined process.

Understanding why the information is needed and important, makes it more interesting to accept, and then apply in the workplace. It is the reading of a concept and then the anticipation of the application thereof in the workplace, in order to see the results, which drives adult learners.

Adults learners, which is where the crux of skills development in South Africa focusses on, are more susceptive to the learning new ideas via problem-based and collaborative approaches, than what they are via the old fashioned didactic learning. Adults require the emphasis to be more focussed on the quality of interaction between the learner and the facilitator within the classroom context. 

For this reason, training materials are now expected to assist with the transfer of knowledge. After being re-developed by training providers and amended in such a way, the materials now act as the intermediary between the learners and their workplace. Tasked with the transfer of knowledge, materials are required to be interactive and draw the learners’ understanding into the concepts which the materials aim to deliver. The materials must now make the link between its’ content and the importance thereof, in the learners’ workplaces.

Malcolm Knowles, an American practitioner and Adult Education theorist, identified six principles of adult learning, they are:

Adults are internally motivated and self-directed. They do not accept the learning interventions as valuable when the information is forced onto them. They need to understand the need of the materials in their current situations, before they will accept it.

Adults bring life experiences and knowledge into the learning process. they enjoy using the knowledge and experience which they have gained during their years’ worth of experience in their fields, or current workplaces, and apply that to their learning experiences.

Adults are highly goal-orientated and moves into a state of “ready-to-learn” when they are able to use the learning process in order to cope in a enhanced satisfactory state with real-life work duties or work related problems.

Adults are extremely relevance-orientated when it comes to the learning process. They must understand the relevance of the information which they will learn, in relation to their desired achievements. This can also be achieved when the learners are given choices regarding their learning, making the learning their decisions and aligning it to their interests.

Adults are very practical and therefore learns easier when actual work experiences are used in the training materials, rather than just pure information. Basing the materials on real life problems as one would encounter within the specific workplace or environment, draws the link to the learners’ recognition of its importance and how it is applicable to their lives and their current work situations.

Adults enjoy the respect of others. They thrive on the respect shown by others when they portray their own knowledge and experience on a topic and are able to reflect on this knowledge for others, who can gain from it. It also gains respect between the individual adult learners, instilling a atmosphere of camaraderie.

Developing training materials now necessitates the inclusion of actual field related experience into the context of training and education, with the focus on creating the link between the adult learners’ need for training and their acceptance of the materials as relevant and useful in their workplace environments.