Universities challenged to improve quality of learning experience

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Johannesburg - Minister for Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande has challenged the universities to play an important role in improving the quality of learning experience provided to students.

Speaking at the 250th seminar at the University of Johannesburg, Faculty of Humanities on Friday, Dr Nzimande said the universities must help orient new students to university life, provide skills and help new students to understand what university was all about and what was expected from them.

"It is likely that much of the failure rate among first year students can be attributed to young people entering the unfamiliar world of the university in which learning demands are quite different to those, which faced them at school where there was a much closer supervision of learners than is possible at university," Dr Nzimande said.

He said one of the biggest problems facing the youth was the poor grounding they got for the post-school world from their schools.

He emphasised that universities have a crucial role in improving the quality of schooling through the part they play in teacher training, both initial teacher education and training and continuing professional teacher development.

"Most of our universities have well developed teacher education faculties or departments and many do excellent work in training teachers and school managers," said Dr Nzimande.

Minister Nzimande further reiterated the importance of mother tongue instruction to improve the quality of learning in universities.

"What is increasingly becoming a scarce skill is African language teaching and research, despite very extensive research evidence that mother tongue instruction improve the quality of learning or our youngest learners, universities have been closing down or cutting back their African language departments," the minister said.

Dr Nzimande said although ageing infrastructure of higher institutions were a challenge for government, he ensured that government was committed not to reduce the money for infrastructure, despite the global economic meltdown.