News Roundup

Reviewing education, skills and innovation studies


The HSRC's programme on Education, Science and Skills Development has embarked on an ongoing process of reviewing developments in education, skills development and innovation in a newsletter titled RESDI (Review of Education, Skills Development and Innovation) .

The first edition (November 2009) of RESDI provides an overview of developments in education before and after the 2009 election; it considers risks and opportunities in the shift of the sector education and training authorities (SETAs) from the department of labour to the department of higher education and training; and looks at regional innovation systems and strategies.

On the topic of education, Dr Tshilidzi Netshaitangani gives a broad overview of the major challenges in education, the latest developments and policies. She looks at the splitting the national department of education into the department of basic education and the department of higher education and training; the debate around outcomes-based education (OBE), the curriculum review; and the Education Roadmap, which is aimed at improving quality in schools, school support and societal initiatives.

The newsletter also looks at the department of higher education, the universities' racism report, and the tasks lined up for this department.

In the section on the shift of the SETAs to the department of higher education and training, Ms Jocelyn Vass says the joining together of three complex systems of university, college and SETA systems increases the potential for much needed coordination and articulation between further education, higher education and work-place skills development.

In an overview of regional innovation, Professor Jo Lorentzen discussed the evolution of South Africa's innovation system, the role of governments in facilitating and supporting innovation, and the department of science and technology's Framework for Engagement in Regional Innovation Systems Development.

To receive a copy of RESDI, e-mail

From left to right: Dr Tshilidzi Netshitangani, Ms Jocelyn Vass and Professor Jo Lorentzen.


HSRC pockets gold in the training, research and development sector



The gold award in the category for Best Reputation: Training, Research and Development Sector, as voted by the citizens of South Africa, was awarded to the HSRC on 26 October at a function in Johannesburg by the Brand Leadership Academy, an independent organisation that promotes public sector excellence.

The Public Sector Excellence Reputation Index is based on 13 service delivery attributes and measures awareness, associations and excellence in communication, leadership, effectiveness, citizen engagement and service orientation across the various spheres of government (national, provincial and local), government agencies and state-owned entities.

According to the organisers, the survey is a representative, national sample weighted to represent the 2008 mid-year population estimates from StatsSA.

The sample for this first study was 1 500 adults aged 18 years and older across the country. An adaptation of TNS research survey's corporate reputation model was developed for this survey, involving asking people to identify the levels of government, government departments and parastatals of which they were aware.

Next they were asked to say with which departments or organisation they associated with attributers such as trust, leadership, delivery on promises, managing tax payers' money, good staff, effective communication, uplifting of communities, using modern technologies and helping to create jobs. These were balanced with negative attributes such as ‘corrupt and slow and bureaucratic', and ‘does not treat everyone equally'.

The overall winners across all categories, the Grand Prix, Best Reputation, went to SARS (platinum), the SA Post Office (gold), Telkom (silver) and the South African Reserve Bank (bronze). In the government department section, the Grand Prix, Best Reputation was awarded to Social Development (platinum), Finance (gold), Basic Education (silver) and Arts and Culture (bronze).

The full list of winners is available on the TNS website at .

Skills shortages in the key professions analysed in new book



The recent action by health professionals in South Africa, protesting against low salaries and poor working conditions, highlighted reasons for the frequent emigration of key figures from the medical sector. But this is not the only professional field that is facing shortages.


South Africa's skills shortages are widely regarded as key factors preventing the achievement of the country's targeted 6% growth rate. These shortages, of professionals and artisans in particular, need to be seen in relation to a number of issues that arise from the country's apartheid history, as well as post-apartheid attempts to rectify historical imbalances. They also need to be considered in relation to international skills shortages and the global market.

A new study, Skills Shortages in South Africa: Case Studies of Key Professions (HSRC Press) edited by Johan Erasmus and Mignonne Breier, explores the question of shortage in ten different occupational fields in South Africa, against a local political/historical backdrop and within an international context.

Local trends which have been seen to have influenced skills shortages in South Africa include an embattled education system, which is still struggling to overcome decades of dysfunction under apartheid; the decline of the apprenticeship system, which has led to a shortage of artisans; loss of senior capacity as a result of affirmative action; and loss due to poor working conditions (specifically medical personnel).

International factors include a ‘pull and push' scenario which favours the mobilisation of skilled professionals who are encouraged to work anywhere in the world - but often at the cost of developing countries. International recruitment alleviates shortages in recipient countries, but exacerbates them in donor countries, which are often developing countries that cannot compete in terms of satisfactory salaries and working conditions.

However, despite the widespread recognition that South Africa has severe skills shortages in certain key areas, there is still debate as to the nature and extent of these shortages. It is for this reason that the studies reported in this book were conducted, across ten key professional fields: management, social work, engineering, medicine, law, information and communications technology, schooling, city planning and artisan trades.

The studies show the complexity of the concept of skills shortage and the difficulties associated with trying to quantify shortages.

These studies emanate from a study on sector and related skills requirements commissioned by the South African department of labour in 2006. It forms part of a wider research project on scarce and critical skills related to the National Skills Development Strategy and the National Industrial Policy Framework of 2007, for which the HSRC led a research consortium comprising the Development Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town and the Sociology of Work Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Copies are available from leading booksellers nationally, and from the online bookshop at

HSRC education expert appointed as advisor to minister



Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga has appointed Professor Linda Chisholm, a research director in the HSRC's Education, Science and Skills Development research programme as a special advisor. Prof. Chisholm will be seconded to the department from 1 November 2009.


Prof. Chisholm holds an MA in history from the University of London, and a PhD in history from the University of the Witwatersrand. Before joining the HSRC in May 2002, she was chair and professor of education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. In 2000 she served as chair of the Ministerial Review Committee on Curriculum 2005 with the ministry of education, and was involved in the subsequent revision of the curriculum, resulting in the National Curriculum Statement for Grades R-9. Until 1999, she was director of the Wits Education Policy Unit.

Her research has focused on education and development, and the historical, contemporary and comparative aspects of education policy and curriculum in South Africa and the region. She is currently working on teacher supply and demand, teacher education and development, and skills training and development with a special focus on further education and training colleges.

Prof. Chisholm's impressive publication record includes the authoring and co-authoring of several books and monographs, and more than 50 journal articles and chapters in books. A list of her publications is available on

Outcomes-based education woes


Outcomes-based education (OBE), poses a major challenge for teachers, not only in grasping the concept, but also in interpreting it to school learners.

In a study of two township schools in Mamelodi, Pretoria, Bongi Sithole of the Centre for Education Quality looked at how two township schools in Pretoria manage the curriculum.

He found that much needs to be done to prepare teachers to correctly implement the new curriculum and that support system for educators, learning resources and learner support material should be made a priority.

The aims of the study was to explore the extent to which educators understand the values and principles of the new curriculum, their preparedness to implement it and to discover their personal understanding, views and experiences regarding the new curriculum.

The research respondents were teachers between the ages 25-55. Their experience in the teaching profession varied between three to 30 years.

During the research, an overwhelming majority (90%) of teachers said they had not yet started implementing the new OBE curriculum by 2007 because they did not understand the curriculum's vision. The remaining 10% could not give a convincing response that they were implementing the new curriculum.

Most teachers interviewed were unenthusiastic about the curriculum and felt frustrated. A huge frustration was that language associated with OBE is complex, confusing and contradictory. Teachers also felt they were not adequately consulted before the curriculum was implemented.

The case study showed that most teachers had not been trained to implement OBE. Teachers who were sent on OBE workshops felt that one workshop was inadequate and not enough to start implementing the new curriculum.

Teachers who were sent on OBE workshops were expected to train fellow teachers. But fellow teachers said that those who were sent to the workshops did not seem to have understood what was taught at the workshops and passed on distorted information. The research also showed that teachers' training started late in 1997 and this negatively impacted on the implementation date of January 1998.

Teachers also said their teaching space and resources were limited, and as a result, they felt disempowered.

HSRC reports highest financial turnover yet


  From left, Prof. Dan Ncayiyana, advisor to the CEO, Prof. Linda Richter, who chaired the launch, Dr Olive Shisana, Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Dr Joe Phaahla and Dr Mark Orkin, previous CEO of the HSRC.

The HSRC realised a total turnover of R325.3 million in 2008/09 compared to R261.6 million in 2007/08, which is the highest the organisation has ever achieved. This represents an increase of 24.4%, or R63.7 million, over the 2007/08 financial year.

External research income amounted to R153.4 million, compared to R114.1 million in 2007/08, which reflects an increase of 34.4%.

‘The HSRC has continued to receive funding support from international sources. The contribution from the parliamentary grant made a further contribution to the overall sound financial position of the HSRC,' said Dr Olive Shisana, CEO, at the launch of the HSRC's 2008/09 annual report on 12 October.

‘Our ability to raise internationally sourced funds is evidence of the confidence that donors globally have in the organisation. It has helped bring foreign exchange into the country while also contributing to growing the research and development resources for the country.

‘This is critical to ensure that South Africa contributes meaningfully to national and global knowledge creation and ensuring the sustainability of our humanities research,' Dr Shisana said.

To this should be added that the HSRC has attained its best performance to date as measured by the objective indicators agreed between the organisation and the minister of science and technology. It achieved 11 out of the 14 targets set in the agreement.

Publication rate

Touching on a few highlights, Shisana said the HSRC publication rate in internationally accredited journals, an important measure of academic performance, has increased dramatically to 1.51 per senior researcher, exceeding the already high target of 1.3 set at the beginning of the period under review.

Even more pleasing is the publication rate among junior researchers - at an average of 0.81 - also exceeding expectations.

Research for the public benefit

Over the past financial year, the HSRC undertook a wide variety of 188 research projects, of which the overwhelming majority is aimed at benefiting the public. Research priorities are set to inform policy and planning of poverty reduction strategies, growing the economy, job creation, education quality, the acceleration of service delivery, crime reduction, youth development, HIV and AIDS research and analysing the country's research and development strategies and system of innovation.

More information on these projects is available in the 2008/09 annual report