Windhoek — Namibia has to be careful not to put too much emphasis on having more tertiary graduates, while neglecting trade and craftsmanship training through vocational courses.
There is a need to strike a balance between tertiary education and vocational training in order for the country to become a knowledge-based industrialised nation as envisaged in Vision 2030, said An Kritzinger, the consultant who carried out a study for the Ministry of Education on the demand and supply in Namibia's higher education system. Kritzinger, a researcher from Higher Education Management Africa (HEMA), presented the interim findings at a workshop on higher education in Windhoek yesterday.
Kritzinger's study found that there is a skewed distribution towards high-end vocational, professional and general graduates, gaining on-the-job training through apprenticeships and getting skills that employers actually want and value, compared to lower-end vocational graduates.
She said such a situation could result in a semi-skills shortage, leaving many graduates unemployed. In addition, she fears that if the country produces too many tertiary graduates and pays less attention to vocational education, Namibia could end up with many unemployed tertiary graduates. She also observed that a significant number of those employed have very little education.
"A large 10 percentage is employed in semi-skilled positions with a small portion of the labour force with lower vocational training after Grade 10. We also project 27 000 graduates and expect 44 000 jobs per year by 2030. But the system might over-produce more graduates at tertiary level at the expense of vocational training," she said.
The one-day workshop was held to carry out a comprehensive review of the entire higher education system in Namibia in relation to its contribution to the achievement of Vision 2030. Currently the tertiary Gross Enrolments Rate (GER) for Namibia is relatively low with 11.3 percent compared to other SADC member states. A total number of 35 000 students were enrolled at tertiary institutions last year compared to 20 500 students in 2006.
In 2011, the majority of tertiary students were enrolled at the University of Namibia (Unam) with 47 percent followed by the Polytechnic of Namibia (36 percent) and the International University of Management (IUM) with 14 percent. Unam and the Polytechnic represent almost 83 percent of total tertiary education with a relative larger percentage of enrolments in the social sciences, business, law and education courses. Enrolment in engineering and science is relatively low.
Meanwhile, the Namibia College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) had an intake of 11 000 students last year. However, it is expected that 92 000 students will be enrolled in tertiary education by the year 2030, whereby the number is predicted to increase to 235 000 by 2031. The interim findings also indicate that 54 percent of tertiary enrolments are school-leavers directly from secondary school.
Although 95 percent of Grade 12 learners in Namibia are from public schools, only 12 percent obtain 25 marks and a D symbol in English. The majority, who enter tertiary education with marks below 25 and a D in English, end up taking certificate courses or apply through the mature age entry provision. Kritzinger, said about 20 percent of Namibian students were enrolled at tertiary institutions abroad in 2011. The Minister of Education, Dr Abraham Iyambo is expected to present the report to Cabinet for implementation once the findings have been compiled.