In January 2012, I released the Green Paper for Post-school Education and Training as a discussion document. The Green Paper was discussed in various government forums, including Cabinet and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training. It was alsodiscussed at various conferences and seminars by a wide range of stakeholders, many of whom submitted comments to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). These stakeholders included educational institutions, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), employer groupings, trade unions and other organisations and individuals.
All in all, the DHET received nearly 200 submissions in response to the Green Paper, confirmation of a widespread public interest in post-school education and training policy. All submissions were read and considered. Some, not unexpectedly, contradicted one another, and not all the suggestions were incorporated into this White Paper. However, all enriched our deliberations and, we believe, generally helped us to understand the views of stakeholders, to question our own views and to deepen our understanding of the policy issues.
The Green Paper dealt frankly and honestly with the many challenges facing the post-school system. While acknowledging these challenges, this White Paper focuses its attention on the vision we have for the system and the principles governing that vision, as well as the policies which will be developed and implemented over the coming years. It represents government's thinking in the area of higher education and training and is in line with the country's key national policy documents including the National Development Plan, the New Growth Path, the Industrial Policy Action Plan and the draft Human Resource Development Strategy for South Africa.
The aim of this White Paper is to outline a framework that defines the Department's focus and priorities, and that enables it to shape its strategies and plans for the future. Following the adoption of the White Paper by Cabinet, and based on the framework that it provides, the DHET will elaborate a concrete development plan for the period up to 2030. This White Paper is an important document in the development of our higher education and training system. It is a definitive statement of the government's vision for the post-school system, outlining our main priorities and our strategies for achieving them. It is a vision for an integrated system of post-school education and training, with all institutions playing their role as parts of a coherent but differentiated whole. These institutions include the colleges and universities whose main purpose is the direct provision of education and training and, in the case of universities, the conduct of research. They also include institutions that support the education and training process, such as the Sector Education and Training Authorities, the National Skills Fund and the advisory, regulatory and quality assurance bodies such as the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and the Quality Councils.
We envisage a system that is made up of a diverse range of educational institutions and institutional types that will expand considerably over the next twenty years to cater for the millions of people – especially the youth, but also a large number of adults – who need its benefits. It will also be a system that recognises that the right to access an educational viii | White Paper for Post-school Education and Training institution is not enough, and that institutions must provide education of a high quality. The system envisaged must provide paths for articulation between various qualifications, and there should be no dead-ends for students; there should always be a way for someone to improve their qualifications without undue repetition. Meeting the needs of learners of all ages and levels must be a central purpose of the education and training system.
The White Paper also recognises the importance of partnerships between educational institutions and employers. Most students are preparing for careers in the labour market, and practical experience in the world of work is an invaluable part of their training. Even those students who do not find jobs in the formal labour market will benefit from practical workplace experience as they seek alternative ways of earning sustainable livelihoods. Employers must be drawn closer to the education and training process; they are among its major beneficiaries and must contribute to its success.