AFRISAM SETH LAB

 

What is the SETH Project?

NWU starts school-based training for future engineers

A shortage of technical, engineering and technology skills is threatening the future economic growth of South Africa. So dire has the situation become that the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, has challenged universities to double graduates in these sectors.

Now North West University (NWU) has come up with an innovative problem- and project-based learning strategy which it believes will go a long way to meeting the challenge. The North-West  Department of Basic Education is a valuable partner to the project, which will come on stream in 2013.

The strategy is an initiative of

A shortage of technical, engineering and technology skills is threatening the future economic growth of South Africa. So dire has the situation become that the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, has challenged universities to double graduates in these sectors.

Now North West University (NWU) has come up with an innovative problem- and project-based learning strategy which it believes will go a long way to meeting the challenge. The North-West  Department of Basic Education is a valuable partner to the project, which will come on stream in 2013.

The strategy is an initiative of the Faculty of Engineering, in collaboration with the faculties of Health Sciences; Agriculture, Science and Technology; Natural Sciences; and Education

According to Elza Hattingh, Manager: Recruitment, Selection and Student Affairs, increasing the intake of students is not enough to solve the problem.

“We realise that the issue we are facing is twofold,” she says. “Yes, we need more graduates, but we will not get the intake of students that we need if we do not do something about the extremely low number of school-leavers with adequate scores and relevant skills they need to enrol for the more difficult professional academic programmes.” This problem is most acute in the SETH [Science, Engineering, Technology and Health] fields.

The scale of the problem is evident if one looks at the number of children who have passed through our education system. Only 23% of the 1.6 million children who started grade 1 in 1995 obtained a matric. Only about 2000, or 0.11%, of these students will qualify as engineers.

“This shocking attrition rate is a waste human potential and is one of the reasons why the shortage of engineers is so critical. The same is true for nurses, scientists, SET teachers, and other professionals in the SETH fields,” Hattingh said. “Faced with those figures we knew we had to come up with a workable, sustainable solution. We needed something that would ensure that better engineers would be trained in a shorter time.”

Universities have tried putting money into remedial programmes at university level, or to increase the length of a degree course by adding a foundation year.  But NWU believes this is too little, too late.

“You can’t make an egg hatch any quicker by putting it into boiling water,” Hattingh says. “It takes time and patience to get the result you want.”

Taking the long term view means beginning the training of our future engineers while they are still at school. In order to make that happen, the Faculty of Engineering is establishing a science, engineering, technology and health (SETH) academy at the Ferdinand Postma High School in Potchefstroom.  The SETH-Academy is the culmination of many years of involvement with similar programmes and represents a collaboration between the Faculty and industry and education partners.

NWU expects that the SETH-Academy will contribute to a number of its Key Strategic Objectives. These include:

  • To increase the output of graduate engineering students by at least 30%;
  • To increase cohort throughput from 65% to 80% with 60% completing in four years; and
  • To increase the number of graduates from previously disadvantaged groups and to increase the percentage of female graduates to 30%;
  •  

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the Department of Education and NWU and the programme will start with an intake of learners in Grade 8 in 2013.

Each year another grade will be added so that in five years, the school will be offering SETH classes on all levels. The learners will follow the normal school curriculum but will also be given extra classes in SETH subjects such as applied mathematics. In the afternoons they will take part in an enrichment programme at the university where they will implement the theory they have learned in a practical manner.

The collaboration from industry is an important part of the programme, and will ensure that the learners are mentored

“We hope that many of these learners will enrol at NWU, but we predict that when these learners finish matric they will be prepared for any university in the world,” Hattingh says.

The private sector is cordially invited to contact the NWU for need more information, or if you want  to be involved in this interesting initiative.

the Faculty of Engineering, in collaboration with the faculties of Health Sciences; Agriculture, Science and Technology; Natural Sciences; and Education

According to Elza Hattingh, Manager: Recruitment, Selection and Student Affairs, increasing the intake of students is not enough to solve the problem.

“We realise that the issue we are facing is twofold,” she says. “Yes, we need more graduates, but we will not get the intake of students that we need if we do not do something about the extremely low number of school-leavers with adequate scores and relevant skills they need to enrol for the more difficult professional academic programmes.” This problem is most acute in the SETH [Science, Engineering, Technology and Health] fields.

The scale of the problem is evident if one looks at the number of children who have passed through our education system. Only 23% of the 1.6 million children who started grade 1 in 1995 obtained a matric. Only about 2000, or 0.11%, of these students will qualify as engineers.

“This shocking attrition rate is a waste human potential and is one of the reasons why the shortage of engineers is so critical. The same is true for nurses, scientists, SET teachers, and other professionals in the SETH fields,” Hattingh said. “Faced with those figures we knew we had to come up with a workable, sustainable solution. We needed something that would ensure that better engineers would be trained in a shorter time.”

Universities have tried putting money into remedial programmes at university level, or to increase the length of a degree course by adding a foundation year.  But NWU believes this is too little, too late.

“You can’t make an egg hatch any quicker by putting it into boiling water,” Hattingh says. “It takes time and patience to get the result you want.”

Taking the long term view means beginning the training of our future engineers while they are still at school. In order to make that happen, the Faculty of Engineering is establishing a science, engineering, technology and health (SETH) academy at the Ferdinand Postma High School in Potchefstroom.  The SETH-Academy is the culmination of many years of involvement with similar programmes and represents a collaboration between the Faculty and industry and education partners.

NWU expects that the SETH-Academy will contribute to a number of its Key Strategic Objectives. These include:

  • To increase the output of graduate engineering students by at least 30%;
  • To increase cohort throughput from 65% to 80% with 60% completing in four years; and
  • To increase the number of graduates from previously disadvantaged groups and to increase the percentage of female graduates to 30%;
  •  

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the Department of Education and NWU and the programme will start with an intake of learners in Grade 8 in 2013.

Each year another grade will be added so that in five years, the school will be offering SETH classes on all levels. The learners will follow the normal school curriculum but will also be given extra classes in SETH subjects such as applied mathematics. In the afternoons they will take part in an enrichment programme at the university where they will implement the theory they have learned in a practical manner.

The collaboration from industry is an important part of the programme, and will ensure that the learners are mentored

“We hope that many of these learners will enrol at NWU, but we predict that when these learners finish matric they will be prepared for any university in the world,” Hattingh says.

SETH Academy Report 2016

From NWU news

 

Seth Academy Report November 2016 by Ferdinand Postma on Scribd