Understanding Adult Education and Training (ABET and/or AET)

By dessquire, 30 September, 2010

Understanding Adult Education and Training (AET and/or ABET)

ABET provides for people aged 15 and over who are not engaged in formal schooling and who have an education level of less than grade 9 (Standard 7).

In South Africa in the 1990s, discussions around literacy issues led to the abolition of the term literacy and replaced it with adult basic education and training (ABET). This was an important milestone in redressing some of the previous imbalances and of ensuring adults received a recognised educational qualification and not just literacy training.

I point his out as many HR and training practitioners in companies are not aware, ABET level 4 is in fact a full qualification and does not consist only of numeracy and literacy components. (See SAQA learning areas that follow)

The current demographics relating to adult basic education in South


Using less than nine years of schooling and a cut-off age of 15, it is estimated there are slightly over 12 million adults who have not received a full general education. Of these, 2.9 million are estimated to be totally illiterate. In terms of potential learners there are at most 12.1 million who lack the equivalent of full basic schooling.

Taking a Standard 5 (Grade 7) level as a rough indicator of functional literacy, there are an estimated 7.4 million who fall into this category. This is likely to be an underestimate as industry figures are not exact and are constantly changing.

Variations in basic education levels exist within the categories of "race", sex, and geographic location. "Race" is still the single most powerful variable determining education levels. This unfortunately is a consequence of history and the apartheid system.

The average level of education or the lack thereof follows a very predictable pattern. Taking functional literacy based on a grade 7 (Standard 5) level of education some 33% of Africans are illiterate, 26% of Colored, 12% of Indians and only 1% of Whites.


"As the sun continues to rise to banish the darkness…the new light over our land must show…a nation diligently at work to create a better life for itself."

(President’s inaugural speech)

The South African government has created a clear and well guided legal framework for meeting the national vision. The various Acts and policy documents add life to the following vision for South Africa:

A literate South Africa within which all its citizens have acquired basic education and training: enables effective participation in socio economic and political processes to contribute to reconstruction, development and social transformation.

Some important questions related to ABET that need to be considered

· What do adults need to know?

· What should adults be able to do?

· What values do they need to develop in order to achieve lifelong learning?

· What attributes do they need to acquire in order to actively participate in society and business?

Some answers to consider

· They need to develop the skills that allow them to solve problems and be capable of making decisions. They need to develop critical thinking skills.

· They need a good general education covering at least the basics of science, technology, health and communication.

· The need to develop ethical values and understand the basics of democracy, equality and lifelong learning

Breakdown of SAQA registered learning areas for abet level 4 or NQF level 1

Language, literacy and communication - 20 credits

Mathematical literacy – 16 credits

Arts and culture – 16 credits

Economic and management science - 16 credits

Human and social science – 16 credits

Life orientation – 16 credits

Natural science – 16 credits

Technology 16 credits

Mathematical science -13 credits

Additional language - 16 credits

In addition there are a variety of electives that afford the learner an opportunity to diversify and align learning to the requirements of a specific job.



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