Executive summary

Unemployment in South Africa remains persistently high, especially for low-skilled youth and adults. Upper secondary education (i.e. the National Senior Certificate) has become a minimum requirement for many jobs, and employers are looking for workers with strong cognitive and technical skills. While educational attainment is on the rise in South Africa, many students still leave initial education without an upper secondary degree. Today, around 19 million South African adults, or 57% of the South African adult population, do not have an upper secondary degree. At the same time, opportunities for adults to participate in training after leaving initial education are scarce. There is a strong need for more and better second chance education and training opportunities for adults who are in need of up-skilling or re-skilling to gain sustained access to jobs.

The notion of Community Education and Training has been around in South Africa for many years, but was made more concrete in the 2013 White Paper for Post-school Education and Training. According to the White Paper, the role of Community Education and Training is to facilitate a cycle of lifelong learning in communities by enabling the development of skills (including literacy, numeracy and vocational skills) to enhance personal, social, family and employment experiences. The ambitious target of one million students in Community Education and Training institutions by 2030, compared to the 273 000 adults enrolled today, highlighted the commitment of the government to make this new training system work. Nonetheless, the current Community Education and Training system remains underdeveloped. The system was kick started by taking over the previous adult (basic) education system that provided second chance secondary education. Not much progress has been made in practice since to expand or improve the system, and limited public funding has been channelled towards it. The system remains plagued by high dropout rates, low quality, limited visibility and poor image. Reaching the target of 1 million students will be hard, and it should be ensured that there is no trade-off between quantity and quality.

The goal of this report is to propose concrete action that could be taken to get the Community Education and Training system going. The report focuses on four topics: i) the role of Community Education and Training, ii) how to finance the system, iii) the alignment of training with community needs, and iv) quality assurance. Throughout the report, international good practice examples are provided to point to potential solutions for the challenges encountered. The key insights from the different chapters are:

  • For Community Education and Training to respond to community needs, it should not only provide academic second chance opportunities and remedial literacy and numeracy programmes, but also vocational skills programmes and non-formal programmes, such as employability, entrepreneurship and life-skills training. Additionally, the delivery sites of Community Education and Training should be places where youth and adults can obtain information about further education and training and labour market opportunities, and where recognition of prior learning can take place.

  • It is unlikely in the short-run that substantial additional central government funding can be mobilised for Community Education and Training, especially in light of the substantial additional funding that has recently been committed to higher education. The funds collected form employers through the skills development levy must be used more effectively, and the National Skills Fund needs to focus more on training opportunities for disadvantaged groups. There needs to be better coordination with other stakeholders that are funding training opportunities (e.g. the provincial and municipal government, the unemployment insurance fund), and these opportunities need to be better promoted and made accessible for low-skilled adults.

  • The Community Education and Training system needs to cooperate closely with local stakeholders from the community, to ensure that the training programmes and services provided in delivery sites respond to real community needs. The delivery sites should have sufficient flexibility to adapt the training offer and content to the needs and realities in their communities. Strong engagement with local community members will also facilitate cooperation in terms of facility sharing and job placements of graduates.

  • Improving the quality of training opportunities at Community Education and Training institutions is crucial if they are to contribute significantly to better livelihoods of participants. Quality should be enhanced by ensuring that teachers have the relevant skills to deliver a diversified set of programmes to adult learners and that management and support staff have the capabilities to fulfil their new and broader roles. Putting in place adequate and transparent quality assurance mechanisms will also be crucial for ensuring high quality provision.

One key message that emerges throughout the report is the need for strong coordination and cooperation between the Community Education and Training system and other relevant stakeholders. Many actors are currently providing or financing training activities of job-seekers and workers, and rather than duplicating what they are already doing, the Community Education and Training system should bring those actors together and better inform youth and adults about existing training opportunities. The Community Education and Training system does not need to re-invent the wheel, rather it should bring transparency into the existing training offer, fill the gaps in this training offer and facilitate access to training for low-skilled adults.

The action steps proposed in this report focus on the short to medium run, keeping in mind the tight budgetary situation of the Community Education and Training system. Much more ambitious actions should be envisaged for the long-run, especially in view of reaching the targets from the White Paper. In addition, improvements to other parts of the education and training system are imperative, particularly in basic education and technical and vocational education and training. It should also be noted that the high unemployment rate in South Africa is not only driven by supply-side factors, and policies to stimulate the demand for labour and improve job quality are crucial to improve employment prospects of the South African population.

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