Blackstone ties FE-training knot

February 26, 1999

Significant British involvement in South African further education and training is likely following a visit by Labour education and employment minister Baroness Blackstone and a high-powered education delegation.

Although unstated, it is understood that British aid to further education is part of the social responsibility promises made in recent trade deals between the two countries.

The delegation, which included Brian Fender, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Ruth Gee of British Training International and Rob Meakin of the GEC, met South African education and labour officials in a round-table discussion on lifelong learning organised by the British Council.

The aim was to share experience on education access, quality and qualifications, and to explore possible areas of collaboration. There are already many active higher education links - 16 British universities and colleges, for instance, are in a Job Scene exhibition travelling South Africa.

Lady Blackstone said it had quickly become apparent that there was a "great need to build a very strong further education system to provide the intermediate skills the economy most needs".

She believes business-education partnerships - well developed in Britain but in their infancy here - could be promoted through co-operation between the two sectors in the two countries.

Big changes to further education are on the way in South Africa.

A policy framework was set out last year that will integrate a highly fragmented system, slot further education into a national qualifications framework and encourage the provision of further education in schools.

The challenge, as always, is to implement the reforms with few financial or human resources.

Chabani Manganyi, director-general of the education department, identified several key areas, where Britain is well placed to help: improved management capacity; education-business partnerships; and efficient management and financial systems.

Ways forward were summed up by Glen Fisher of the National Business Initiative in Johannesburg. One was to develop partnership projects between education and business in the two countries. There was also real scope for Britain to promote equity by helping to train a new generation of managers, especially black and women, for further education.

A third area was technical assistance, and a fourth was initiating dialogue between the two countries through, for instance, high-level conferences that help raise understanding of the importance of further education to South Africa.

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