The 2019 Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences Technical Teacher class during their recent graduation ceremony.
Welcoming graduates and other guests, Prof Stanley Mukhola, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Teaching, Learning and Technology said, “There is a saying that you cannot teach if you yourself are scared to learn. This is the fifth cohort of 37 academics – 32 from TUT, 4 from the University of Mpumalanga and an nGAP lecturer from CPUT – who were trained under this highly sought-after partnership, with the objective to improve student success at our universities.”
According to Prof Mukhola, it is compulsory for nGAP academics (New Generation of Academics) and voluntary for other academics to register for the programme, "However, the competition to register institutionally and nationally from other institutions has been overwhelming. We already have the sixth cohort of 35 academics from CPUT, DUT, Univen, TUT and UMP registered for the programme starting in April 2020,” he said.
He added that TUT has also embarked on a new initiative with the Finnish to start a train-the-trainer programme to ensure TUT becomes independent in training our own staff before the current MoA ends. “The South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) has evaluated the programme at NQF 8,” he said.
“The results from various studies have demonstrated that academics, who have a grounding in their disciplines as well as in pedagogical skills, make better teachers and contribute immensely to the improvement of student success in higher education. This is important for our University, considering the amount of unpreparedness of the majority of students when they enrol at TUT," he continued.
"Most of the South African policy instruments relating to higher education refer to equity of student access and student access. Arrangements like the one with the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences will enable us to achieve these crucial goals aimed at transforming our higher education system,” Prof Mukhola added.
In her congratulatory address, Counsellor for Higher Education and Research at the Finnish Embassy, Ms L Soiri, emphasised the importance of international collaboration, especially in higher education. “It is all about understanding each other’s realities and adapting the models and practices of one society to the realities of another. Haaga-Helia and TUT have done exactly that in this partnership and we have done it very successfully.”
“The Finnish school system receives global credit for the excellent training we provide. Interesting enough, it is not about money because we do not spend exorbitant amounts of money on education, but we devote a lot of time and attention on the quality and status of technical and vocational training. Because of that, half of the Finnish youth of a certain age, now choose technical or vocational training. Technical vocations are highly respected in our country. It is a choice, not something you do when you have not qualified for something else,” she continued.
She added that the two countries could share some lessons as well. “One such lesson is that continuous adaptation is needed in the development of education. Like Finland, South Africa has gone through profound transformation and change over the past 25 years. Although continuous adaptation is not always easy, the aim is to equip young people and students with hands-on skills to deal with ever changing industry demands. The competence of our students is not measured only for the sake of measurement; it is measured against the demands of industry and modern life.”
Touching on technological changes and the changing world landscape, she said, “In Finland we talk about technological change and development however, in South Africa it is called the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which demands a lot in terms of innovation and creativity from the educated younger generation. Through the pedagogical skills you have now acquired, you definitely have the best possible tools to pass these skills and education on to the next generation to enable them to use their creativity and innovation to become the children of the 4IR.”
In conclusion, she advised graduates not to stop learning. “Equally, your own learning should not stop here either. In Finland, we have a strong focus on life-long learning and no professional person is ever too old to learn. It is not rare to see senior people sitting among young people in lectures in our various tertiary institutions. Education is a blessing. Please use the tools and skills you have acquired to improve the lives of those you love, your students and the communities in which you live.”