Can private learning institutions lead the way in offering quality ETD? 5

In a Skills Universe message on 23 June 2013 Cas Olivier aired his view that private learning institutions are more flexible than public learning institutions and, as I understand it, private learning institutions should set the example in offering good quality ETD. If one were to research statistics on learning institutions you may well get the impression that he is right. However, as we have seen so often, statistics are not always as accurate as one would have hoped. Furthermore, we sometimes draw conclusions based on statistics that do not really corroborate our arguments. According to the DHET Statistics on Post-School Education and Training in South Africa: 2011

·         62% NC(V) students failed their final exams. This figure, however, might include both private and public FET Colleges.

·         SETA initiated learnerships achieved 161% of its target for 2011. One would assume that this is largely due to private learning interventions, but we know that public learning institutions, especially public FET Colleges, are increasingly becoming involved in SETA learning projects.

·         The average graduation rate for public higher education institutions is said to be 15% for undergraduate degrees and diplomas. At the same time and for the same period the undergraduate success rate in public higher education institutions is claimed to be 74% (79% for contact learning and 69% for distance learning). This does not make sense, in spite of the detail explanations given on how the statistics were calculated.

If one were to add up the learners enrolled with private learning institutions for 2011 (Private FET Colleges + Private AET Centres + SETA initiated learnerships and other learning programmes + artisans), then the total is something like 288 764, which is quite a significant number of people. So, at least in this respect one can safely conclude that private learning institutions are making an important contribution to preparing people for employment. This, however, still does not mean that private learning institutions are in any respect better than public learning institutions. If we were to analyse how employers and the community perceive learning in institutions, then the “truth” becomes even more elusive.

So, what do you think? Are private learning institutions more flexible than public learning institutions?

Dr Hannes Nel, MD Mentornet


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About Hannes Nel

CEO and owner of Mentornet (Pty) Ltd. Academic background: B. Mil.; BA Honnours; MBL; D. Com; D. Phil Published 10 books with two more in the pipeline.

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5 thoughts on “Can private learning institutions lead the way in offering quality ETD?

  • Cas Olivier

    Steve, I agree with your comments and you added some substance to the discussion by your practical examples. It added value to the discussion.

    Your classification is helpful which means we need ‘teaching quality benchmarks’ to guide us.


    I think the issue is not ‘who can do it more swiftly’ anymore, but THAT it is needed and HOW it should be addressed.



  • Steve Short

    Hmmmm… I can’t offer statistics to either support or contest the view aired by Cas.  However, private institutions certainly seem to be more incentivised to be flexible and deliver a product (qualified learners) of high quality. Think about it… if they don’t make the bottom line (enough business to survive), they are down the tubes… it’s only the ones who continually strive for a competitive edge who are able to remain sustainable. 

    Conversely, FET Colleges are having millions thrown their way… what incentive do they have to rise above the rest or, for that matter, to compete with private institutions?  Although my views are primarily based on perception (and are thus subjective), I would like to throw the following into the “debate pot”. 

    1. There are providers out there who (to coin the analagy by Cas) do the “wrong things wrong”.  I have attended learning programmes, which amounted to nothing more than protfolio building exercises… very little aside from that was learnt – horrible material (riddled with typo’s and other errors) and “facilitators” simply reading from a script.  These providers land state tenders on questionable grounds, go through the motions and pocket the money. 
    2. Others, however, continually set standards of excellence and with great teaching and/or material.  If I am paying for the training. Last year I completed a diploma with one such provider.  I had some very significant challenges at the time and, had it not been for their willigness to accommodate my needs, I would have had to wait for another year to complete the summative assessment.
    3. An associate of mine has shared his experiences with a FET (his employees completed their learnership via them) in the Western Cape… it was a horror story of note.  He had constant battles trying to get results and comms between the SETA and the FET in question seemed to be dysfuntional.  Aside from the results issue, he told me that there were also challenges with lecturers arriving late for class (or not at all) and the quality of the training.  He argued (rightfully) that he had no other choice than using the FET in question in order to receive the funding. 

    Ultimately the reason d’etre of any provider is to meet the requirements of the industry… I would therefore go back to the original proposition by Cas – namely; “private institutions are more flexible”.  My perception is that SOME of them are AND they back this up by setting and maintaining standards of excellence.  What I would like to see, is are criteria (not just compliency) for BEST PRACTICE.  Rate ALL providers (including FET’s) against these criteria and score them – for arguments sake *** = premium provider that sets a benchmark for the industry; ** = provider meets minimum industry standards; and * = provisional eccreditation…”  State funding (for learnerships, etc) should then be proportionally granted for the rating.  That way the playing fields are levelled and everyone (including) FET’s are incentivised to achieve BEST PRACTICE.

    Failing an excellence based scoring system for providers, my perception is that selected private learning institutions are significantly more flexible that public learning institutions.  Ultimately, the acid test is not simply statistics of numbers of learners who are successful, but how (a) successfully the learning is transferred into the workplace; (b) flexible the provider is; and (c) successful the provider is in providing a benchmark for training in the sector/industry.  I know where I would go for training and where I would send my employees.  Thanks for the post 🙂

  • Cas Olivier

    Hannes, since this post of yours is not attracting any comments so far, I may change my initial view.

    To get back to the core issue: Should providers (including myself) be doing the right things right then the statistics as you rightfully indicated would look much better. There can only be three reasons for the status quo, namely programme designers and trainers do:

    1. The right things wrong, meaning the programmes and material are great but the teaching not; or
    2. The wrong things right, meaning the programmes and material are not great and the training subsequently follows such programmes; or
    3. The wrong things wrong, meaning the programmes, material and teaching are not up to standard.


    So getting back to my initial view: Who would be the first between public or private providers to recognize and address the above challenge?

    I support your much needed initiative.