Article pertaining to new education framework
in South Africa.
Levelling the Playing Fields:
Guide training in new education dispensation
"The times they are a changing!"
sang the muse of the sixties generation, but the philosophical
words of Dylan are no more relevant than now to South African
job-seekers and students. On June 16th the country celebrated
Freedom Day, previously known as Soweto Day, commemorating the
uprising of the youth in schools on 16 June, 1986. On that day,
scores of students ran riot to protest the inequalities of the
educational system of the apartheid era. The 12-year old Hector
Peterson was an innocent casualty, but his tragic death made him
an instant icon for freedom and change in the education system.
His memory lends impetus to the process whereby the education
structure in South Africa is being changed forever. The Education
Act which set this in motion was promulgated in1993. The effects
of the changes brought about by this Act are reverberating throughout
all educational endeavors in South Africa, including recreational
and professional sports and guide training.
The Education Act make provision for bodies to be
formed to establish the new standards for all avenues of education.
These so-called SGB's[Standard Generating Bodies] are assembled
at the discretion of the minister and on the basis of various
criteria, including recommendations by the public, and they have
the unenviable task of writing the "Unit Standards"
for each and every field of education. In the process, for indeed
it will be an everlasting process of introspection and re-evaluation,
the SGB's are required to consult with a wide a field of exponents.
Standards are written according to a set framework [the National
Qualification Framework] and are pitched at various levels of
education, ranging from 1 [present grade 10 or standard 8] to
4 [Grade 12 or Standard 10]and beyond to 5[diploma], 6[first degree],
7 and 8 [masters and beyond]. Standards are published in the Government
Gazette for public scrutiny and comment. The whole process is
made as transparent as possible and participation by the public
is encouraged. To this effect, THETA [the Tourism, Hospitality,
..] is conducting the Learnership Project which
is part-sponsored by the new training levies and which serves
to bring interest groups and role players to contribute their
knowledge and expertise to the writing of the unit standards.
Recently, various role players in the burgeoning
commercial adventure industries were afforded the opportunity
to meet at the THETA headquarters in Bryanston, Johannesburg to
debate the training requirements for their various activities.
Mountain-biking, mountaineering, fly-fishing, paintball, abseiling,
bungee and paddling sports were all represented, albeit by characters
in unfamiliar guises [overheard: "not since '91 have I worn
shoes for so long
", and this was after the first lunch
break of the first day of a two-day conference!] and territories
[one delegate was spotted with a marine compass planted on the
dashboard of the utility vehicle, maintaining sense of his bearings
in an unfamiliar and featureless, concrete landscape]. It soon
became evident that some activities, notably the various paddling
sports, had organised bodies which over the years had obtained
accreditation from SATOUR for their training courses, but others
were independent, bereft of any organisations. Some turned to
spurious decisions taken at adventure conferences, others took
recourse to their associations. Obscure interest groups such as
the unofficial team-building one determined after two days of
debate, that they may be better represented by another SGB altogether;
one dealing with professional services such as management and
health, not necessarily sport and tourism!
A follow-up meeting was held for the professional
paddling industries and the effectiveness of the process was sorely
tested and its effectiveness demonstrated by the resulting agreed-upon
generic unit standards. Swift-water exponents [previously white
water aficionados], flat water canoe operators [previously still
or open water canoeists] and coastal water kayakers[sea kayaking]
now all share a generic standard to which they can address their
training programmes.. Each discipline retains its unique character,
skills and terminology, but each conforms to an accepted norm
and level of training in respect of conducting a professional
guided experience to their customers. The process of obtaining
such standards was professionally facilitated and no lobby-group
got past an almost poker-faced conflict manager who ensured that
the process remained on course and that it was not scuppered by
past power groups or by previous arrangements of convenience.
Scant regard was paid to claims of extravagant past experiences,
excessive inventory lists of competencies and any maneuvers geared
to interfere with the tried-and tested procedure of obtaining
the unit standards. In the end, satisfactory unit standards were
written for the paddling industry and the participants were suitably
humbled by the process.
With this approach South Africa's educational system
and its tourism and adventure industry will be transformed and
assured of a professional service that can mix with the best.
Justified this may be, considering the cost of freedom and the
leveling of the playing fields.