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Better Education, State Delivery Needed for NGP Success
Source: Bua News
Source Date: Monday, December 13, 2010
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government, ICT for MDGs, Internet Governance
Country: South Africa
Created: Dec 14, 2010

He believes the South Africa's education system suffers from a lack of trained and disciplined teachers.

One had to tackle this, rather than take the option of reducing matric standards to improve pass rates, he points out.

Despite what some experts have mentioned, Abedian does not believe that the country's language policy (11 official languages) was a key reason why pupils continued to fair badly.

He singled out the example of India which had numerous languages and said "99 percent" of school children who had never spoken English before, get to grips with the language in their first year of schooling.

The country first had to close the gap in pupils poor performance in maths and science, otherwise the New Growth Path's plan to have 50 000 additional artisans by 2015 and 30 000 additional engineers by 2014, was a "drop in the ocean" for what the country needed, he warns.

Dawie Roodt, economist of the Efficient Group, suggested there was too much focus on pupils obtaining a matric, and that a system similar to that in operation in Germany should be adopted, where after obtaining a Grade 10, pupils could choose to undertake a trade apprenticeship rather than continue with their schooling.

Cosatu economist Chris Malikane believes drafters of the New Growth Path may have opted to focus less on how to fix the education system, as they did not view it as an investment priority.

But Neva Makgetla, Deputy Director General for policy at the Department of Economic Development says there was a tendency by many commentators to fall back on education as the solution to unemployment, however she points out that education alone was not a short-term solution to joblessness. "So you need to focus on other means," she adds.

On top of this, the document does not focus a lot on education as it is principally an economic document.

In its discussion document "Perspectives on an inclusive higher job rich growth path for SA by 2025" released last week, Business Unity South Africa (Busa) pointed to five year issues identified by a recent policy forum the association had held, these are:

 - A "back to basics" focus on education which is "world class and placement orientated and accessible to all;
 - More relevant and accessible skills development;
 - A focus on a state which delivers and is monitored;
 - Focus on setting up regional infrastructure;
 - Inclusive wage setting which reflects skills and productivity, "with entry wages facilitating access to employment".

The New Economic Growth Plan, agree most economists, won't work unless a social compact and national vision is crafted where all South Africans work together.

DA shadow minister for trade and industry Tim Harris, who recently criticised the New Growth Plan in an opinion piece in Business Day, calling it a "path to poverty", however, said he believed the call for a social pact between labour, government and business was a much needed intervention.

He points to the example of how a social pact in the 1980s between business and labour in Ireland in the 1980s was successful in transforming the country into a Celtic Tiger for some years.

Though Ireland recently defaulted on its debt, there is much the country could still learn from the European country's move 30-odd years ago.

Harris says a social pact at the time had helped cut corporate taxes and a state-brokered deal had moderate wages and labour regulations, in exchange for job creation and up-skilling of labour.

According to the International Labour Organisation, Ireland was suffering from an unemployment rate of 17 percent and inflation was running at an average of about 12 percent in the decade until 1987. With the lack of employment opportunities and decreasing real wages, emigration was at its highest level since the 1950s.

The trade unions, employers and the government, began negotiating in 1987 which resulted in the first social pact, the Programme for National Recovery (PNR).

Azar Jammine, chief economist of Econometrix, questioned how the New Growth Path fitted in with the National Planning Commission.

But Makgetla says while the New Growth Path was a short-term plan, the National Planning Commission would be tasked with long-term plans.

She says the New Growth Path was not a concrete plan, but rather a discussion document which would lead later to the tabling of some of the proposals mooted in the document's framework. - BuaNews



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