31 Jul 2017 laia

Over Half of SA Students Feel Unprepared for Tertiary Education - Survey

The 2017 PPS Student Confidence Index (SCI) survey conducted among nearly 2500 students across South Africa reveals that less than half of respondents felt they were prepared for the transition from secondary school to tertiary education.

Only 49% of respondents felt they were prepared for the transition. This represents an 8% decline from 2016 and marks the first time in three years, since the survey was started, that the percentage has dropped below 50%.

The PPS SCI was conducted among students in their fourth year or above, studying at a public university or university of technology towards a profession-specific degree, such as engineering, medicine, law or accounting. Students answered questionnaires online, face-to-face on campus and via focus groups.

According to Motshabi Nomvethe, Technical Marketing Specialist at PPS, the implications of this lack of preparedness is no doubt contributing to the fact that 47.9% of university students do not complete their degrees, as determined in the latest (2015) report by the Department of Higher Education.

“These results should be a call to action for Government, corporate South Africa, graduate professionals and the students themselves, all of whom need to work in partnership to improve these statistics and ensure that the broader issue of the current skills shortage in the country is addressed.”

She says that there needs to be more engagement by the corporate sector and professional bodies with Government on school curriculums to ensure the divide between secondary and tertiary education levels are reduced.

“For example, the proposal by the Department of Basic Education to drop pass rates and remove mathematics as a compulsory subject could have a negative impact on South Africans’ future skills as many professional degrees require mathematics as a subject for acceptance. This proposal is open for public comment until the 4th of August 2017 and those South Africans who recognise the consequences of this proposal should make their voices heard.”

Corporates and professionals can also contribute by developing innovative solutions to assist students at both secondary and tertiary education level, she adds.

One of the platforms through which graduates can connect with professionals is via the Professionals Connect career portal, says Nomvethe. “Through the collaboration of professional networks, such as universities, companies, recruitment agencies, PPS members and professional associations, the Professionals Connect portal offers a wide range of job and career opportunities exclusively to graduates who register with the portal. The portal provides both graduates and professionals with a user-friendly and secure interface for the purpose of networking, career guidance and finding potential jobs or candidates, all within the graduate professional space.”

She adds that other solutions that could be provided by corporate South Africa could include dedicating funds or employee time to providing extra lessons for students, developing a bridging course between secondary and tertiary education, assisting to provide career guidance or offering school pupils internships during school holidays in order to expose them to the working world. Solutions such as these provide a great way for corporate South Africa and professionals to give back to the communities in which they operate.”

She adds that the accountability also lies with the students themselves. “When they feel they are struggling to get to grips with tertiary education, students need to put in the extra time either by finding out if there are extra classes or assistance being offered by the tertiary institution, forming study groups with other students, looking for assistance from someone in the community (such as a current or ex-student), or even getting a tutor, if they can afford it,” she says.

“With the current skills shortage gripping our country, we need to stand together to reach our united goal of increasing South Africa’s valuable skills base,” concludes Nomvethe.

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