Setting new standards in tertiary education


The days of rote learning or learning in a strict, regimental, environment are over at Growth Institute.

We demand that our students stand on their own feet and that they are able to hold their own in a workplace that becomes more relentless by the day.

We have flipped the classroom.  Students are expected to do specific volumes of pre-reading and research before they come to a class.  Lecturers discuss topics in class, asking exploratory questions and spending time to assess which student needs more attention.

Growth Institute believes in the adage that one can lead a horse to water but that it remains the horse’s responsibility to drink.  Since all of our course require practical application, Growth Institute assist students to find placements in a workplace.  These placements are considered to be unpaid internships and the onus is on students to meet specific workplace-based outcomes that are part of the course.

Students who are reluctant to sing up for workplace experience quickly find that they lag behind because the majority of assessments and exams that they have to complete, requires students to quote examples out of their practical workplace experience.

Our experiential approach to learning means that those students who eventually pass their senior levels, are well prepared for the workplace.  They have been exposed to a number of demanding situations and they quickly learn how to build a strong coping support system around them.

We can rightly say that the majority of our students are gutsy, resilient and well-adapted to deal with the workplace.


Literacy: More than just the “Three R’s”


World Literacy Day will be celebrated on 8 September 2019, and it is appropriate to ask, “What is literacy really?”.  Reading, writing and arithmetic is, in our view, only the tip of the Literacy Iceberg.

Growth Institute believes that literacy can only become meaningful when comprehension, insight and wisdom is associated with literacy.  Most South Africans can read, write a sentence or do a basic calculation, but not all have the ability to engage with and extract sustainable meaningful insights from a text or narrative.

Decades of rote learning practices, and neglectful teacher development have come home to roost.

The effect of poor literacy stands out when learners are confronted with exams.  Let’s consider the following experiential examples:

  • The fact that learners attempt to memorise calculations and then complain that the “sums they have studied were not in the exam” is alarming. Learners simply do not know the principles of arithmetic and that is why they are stumped when the same type of calculation, made up of different numbers, is presented to them in an exam.
  • Some “education experts” believe that grammar and spelling is not essential to a language course. Thus, assessors are confronted with exam answers in which words are strung together without any meaning.
  • Poor literacy also means that learners are not able to follow written instructions in exams because some examiners have literacy issues themselves. For example, what does “Write about the effects of economic cycles” mean to a learner?  In addition, an exam question such as “List transactions without money” gives no indication of what the examiner wants to assess.

Some teachers do not know how to teach and some who set exam questions have never been exposed to the role that semantics, grammar and Bloom’s Taxonomy plays in the creation of meaningful assessments.  Poor setting of exam papers or exam questions contribute to high failure rates which, in turn, are interpreted by some as low literacy levels under learners.

To improve literacy rates will demand that the State improves the quality of those who stand in front of a class.  It is time to reconsider the minimum qualifications and requirements to be a teacher.

  • In the Canadian system[1], a three-year post-secondary degree and four semesters of teacher training is required.
  • In India, teachers must have a minimum of a Bachelors Degree and they must meet specific eligibility requirements[2] before they are allowed in a classroom
  • In Kenya, teachers have to complete a one-year post diploma teacher training course before they are allowed to practice[3]. Similar requirements are found in Nigeria[4].
  • Ghana requires that teachers practice under supervision before they are admitted to the profession[5]

Teachers need multiple levels of skills.  Not only do they need to master the content of a specific subject (such as Geography, Mathematics, Accounting, etc.), they must master the ability to transfer that knowledge is such a way that everybody can understand the concepts being taught.

  • Teacher competency – especially the ability to transfer knowledge in English, remains a problem[6]. Mother-tongue education at lower levels remains a complicated matter.
  • Continuous training of teachers[7] becomes a greater imperative than ever.
  • Some teachers in South Africa are eager to have their competencies assessed on a regular basis[8]. Unfortunately, labour unions seem to take a dim view, insisting that teachers’ competencies should not be challenged[9].  More specifically, the idea that teaching is not an essential service[10] must be re-examined.

In the future world of work, economic freedom will only be achieved by those who can extract meaning and insight from the world around them.  The ability to “Ask Why?” and not the ability of mechanistic reading, writing or arithmetic will be the divide between those who will thrive in the new world of work, and those who will fade into a state of competitive irrelevance.

Our education system has to make very hard choices.  Will learners who are exposed to new regimes such a robotics and software coding be able to develop solutions based on insight, or will learners simply go through motions without understanding the value of what they are taught?

The fact is that disciplines such as robotics, software coding, mathematics, physics, science all require high levels of reasoning and language skills from learners.  These subjects depend on the ability to master causalities (“If”, “Then”, “Else”).

There is no more place for rote learning and there is no more place for actions that places the whole education system at risk.













Unemployed grads mass

There are no jobs! But there is work!  What a strange statement to make.

South Africa’s youth is not unique in the sense that it is hard to find a job after graduating with a diploma or with a degree.  Economies on every continent struggle with the “Unemployed Graduate” dilemma.

Whilst it is true that economic cycles and national policies determine the willingness of employers to recruit, there are other perspectives to consider.

Scarce Skills

There is simply an oversupply of qualified persons in certain sectors whilst other sectors have vacancies that have not been filled for years.  The list of scarce skills[1] that the State publishes from time to time, clearly shows a mismatch in what the economy needs, and what people are willing to qualify for.  Unless the youth reconsider their career aspirations and start focusing on what are actually scarce national skills, unemployment will remain.

Yearly, Growth Institute sees Grade 12 learners from more than 500 schools in Gauteng, which means we engage with at least 15 000 Grade 12’s each year.  We are always fascinated by the career expectations that the youth has.  Accounting, Medical Science, Law and Engineering are the careers that are topmost in the minds of many.  Less than 5% of Grade 12’s is willing to consider alternatives until they apply to tertiary institutions and are offered alternatives that may still not address the scarce skills crisis.

Interviews with Life Orientation/Guidance teachers in schools show that less than 12% of teachers are aware of South Africa’s National Scarce Skills needs.  Teachers will have to stay abreast of scarce skills.  However, demands on teachers are such that career guidance fall in the lowest of the teaching day’s priorities.

Parental Influence

The majority of the youth are influenced by their parents and siblings in terms of career choices.  The popular mantra is “You must have a degree, any degree, to get a job!”.  Very few parents consider our scarce skills needs because technical and vocational careers are considered to be inferior.

The fact that a parent is a successful doctor does not mean that the child will be in the same mould.  Parents cannot live their own career aspirations through their children.

Filling Curriculum Gaps

In the last fifteen years the world has changed.  Academic curricula cannot keep up with the demands of the contemporary workplace.  This means that employers focus more on internal training than they ever did in the past.  Industry recognises that academia cannot meet the demand of all the skills variances needed.  Thus, those who are already employed are upskilled on internal programs, diminishing the need for new job entrants.

The Experience Game

Since industries form more or less homogenous clusters of common skills, it is more affordable to recruit experienced workers from other employers than it is to focus on new job entrants.  Most industries claim that it takes two years to equip a new job entrant with additional skills before that person can start to add value.  Give the perceived fast pace of change in the world of work, retooling newcomers is considered an unnecessary expense.

Labour Policy Dogmas

In some sectors there are vacancies that are reserved for specific demographics.  For example, an employer wants a female nanotechnologist of a specific racial classification but finds that there are many other female nanotechnologists from another racial classification available.  Since, the “right person” is not available, the vacancy remains open in perpetuity.  Alternatively, the employer could have someone in the organisation that is interested in the opening but lacks the qualification to apply.  In such a case, why not invest in that employee so that she can become qualified?  It simply does not make sense to keep a vacancy open simply because of some monolithic policy.

The Dawn of Workeracy

Where do all of these challenges leave the youth?  The answer could be found in the idea of workeracy[2].  Using a combination of interests, skills and academic qualifications to create one’s own work, will become more important that hoping to find a job.

The reality is that Millennials have different product and service needs than previous generations.  Who, then, are best suited to design and offer relevant products or services to Millennials?  Certainly not the Baby Boomers or even Generation X.  Millennials understand Millennials and they should therefor create their own work to produce unique services and products for Millennials.

The youth will have to ask themselves:

  • What skills do I have?
  • What needs do I see in my community?
  • How can I use my skills to fulfil specific needs in my community?
  • How can I use my own interests and passions to create products or services that could be useful to others?

Workeracy is not without challenges.  Effort, trial and error is part of the journey towards a culture of workeracy.  The main question to answer is whether the youth is willing to take the leap towards workeracy.



Beware the graduation claim!

fake degree.gif

Beware the graduation claim!

During one of our recent campaigns on Facebook, Growth Institute came across a number of persons wanted to study at our college and who claimed that they studied at a specific university in Johannesburg but that they could not complete their course.  Closer inspection showed that these persons all have failed Grade 10.  Thus, there is a very slim chance that anyone who claimed to have studied at this university, has ever gotten as far as the front gate.

The above misrepresentations were easy to spot because all of them asked whether they could register for one of our courses despite having failed Grade 10.

Employers are often faced with claims that a person has a degree or diploma, only to find out later that it is not the case.  Many employers feel that it is too expensive to do a background check and to verify a person’s qualifications.  They accept a copy of the degree certificate or the diploma at face value.

Seeing that a person has, for example, a degree in Financial Accounting, means nothing.  However, insisting on seeing the candidate’s full academic transcript, can tell a very different story.  All students are issued with a full academic transcript when they complete a tertiary qualification.  That transcript indicates how long a person took to finish a qualification.  It also shows the marks obtained for each subject associated with that qualification.

Therefore, if a person applies for a position as a Financial Accountant and the transcript shows that the candidate barely passed Accounting, it becomes easier to select the best possible candidate for the job.

Some employers insist on giving a candidate a focused aptitude test relating to the job he/she applies for.  Such a test does not have to be complex or elaborate.  By testing some basic skills, employers can quickly can insight into a candidate’s true capability.  For example:

  • Someone who claims to have a degree in Economics should be able to calculate a variance, read and interpret a basic graph or even calculate a percentage.
  • Someone who claims to have a diploma in Tax Accounting, should be able to do some basic VAT calculations such as “I paid R 600 in VAT. What was the original purchase price of the item I bought?”
  • Someone who claims to have a qualification in Project Management, should be able to explain the basic principles of Earned Value and should be able to interpreted Earned Value graphs to detect the overall status of a project.

Employers have the right to question and to assess the claims made by job applicants.  There are far too many cases where false claims are uncovered later.  Going through costly hearings at the CCMA or Labour Court could be avoided if claims about qualifications are treated with greater circumspection.

Old fashioned gut feelings and common sense could make the difference in finding the right candidate and keeping the chancer out of your business.

Why not spend more time to check out claims about qualifications and the capabilities that is expected in a specific job?



South Africa: Education Leadership and Ethics Redefined

Reports that South Africa is in a deep education crisis should not surprise anyone.  It took decades to get to a place where the country is no longer competitively relevant on the world stage.  Years of neglect in terms of education, infrastructure, health and public services now claim its toll, and those who can afford it the least, suffers the most.

The education crisis[1] has shown its ugly head for more than just the past five years.  Since 2007, the Global Competitiveness Index has shown a steady decline in the quality of the South African education system.  The most noticeable decline has been in the primary education and secondary education sectors.

Looking at secondary education, how can a person who has an average of 35% in Grade 12 be considered workplace ready or ready for any tertiary education phase?  The stubborn Stalinist approach to create illusions of success by lowering standards, must be called out as one of the greatest causes of this country’s demise.

Growth Institute engages with many teachers, parents and school learners in a year.  It is obvious that teachers, parents and learners are frustrated with the lackadaisical attitude of some teachers and principals in the school system.  The fact is that the majority of South African learners have no choice as to where they want to receive their school education.  For many learners, school is like a Lottery from Hell.  They do not know the quality of teachers that they are going to have in any given school year[2].  The dignity of learners and teachers alike are at stake.

For years, South Africa’s politicians has allowed education standards to deteriorate so that there could be an argument to show that monopolistic capitalists are the ones that cause the high levels of poverty and unemployment that has become the dictum of our economy.

There are views that the middle class have access to better quality education and that lower classes are kept out of the system[3].  Yet, a communist country such as China, has understood that quality education forms the base of economic vigour[4].

A more important issue is that the effect of State Capture on education has not yet been unpacked.  The billions that have been stolen by a few New Elitists has contributed to an educational system that has a severe lack of funding to fulfill even the most basic education mandates.

Attitudes of leaders regarding the dire state of education, must change[5].  There is a deep mistrust in the State’s capability to act as Custodian in Chief of our education system – especially in view of all the confessions coming out of the Zondo Commission.  Is the State really in a position to make a meaningful difference within the education landscape?  It is time that the State acknowledges the fact that private education providers play a key role in building a national skills base.  The majority of private providers in the education sector are focused in making a difference by providing affordable education solutions to the broadest of spectrum in the economy.

Unless the State keeps on involving private providers and unless the State sees private providers as partners and not as exploiters, knowledge decay will remain a lead contributor to unemployment and poverty.






Self-Study options are like vacuum cleaning the desert

Vacuum clean a beach

Many students believe that they save money by entering into a self-study or distance learning option at college or university.  For many students, self-study and distance learning is similar to vacuum cleaning a beach or a desert.  Where do you start? What approach works best? How do you make sense of complex study material?

The hard fact is that more than 75% of students who embark on a distance learning or on a self-study program, take three times longer to complete a qualification compared to students who have spent some time in a class room.

Self-study options and distance learning options seem attractive.  Who, afterall, do not want to save money on their studies?  The biggest waste factor of self-study and distance learning options is that students do not have access to a lecturer or tutor who can explain concepts in such a way that the student gains valuable insight into the study material.  In addition, many advertise tutoring services but they are not educators.  This means that the self-study student or the distance learning student is exposed to self-appointed tutors who cannot pick up on the basic learning issues that a student may be struggling with.

Growth Institute’s team of lecturers work under the supervision of experienced teachers who have spent years in the classroom.  They can quickly pick up on issues that students struggle with and they know what interventions are best to help each specific student.

Field studies conducted by Growth Institute show that self-study and distance learning students often learnt the mechanics of, for example, a calculation.  However, the logic behind that calculation is often lost.  In subjects that do not deal with calculations, students are still confronted with the ability to apply deductive reasoning and to learn how what they have studied, could be useful to a work situation.

Post school studies – especially the programs offered by Growth Institute – are not easy.  Although students have to master sets of facts and many theory components in each subject.  They actually have to show that they can apply what they learnt to their assignments and to the exams.

How can a student apply knowledge when that student has not been taught how to use logic, so that what they have learnt can be applied to very specific problems?

Students must carefully consider the implications of self-study or distance learning.  It has been shown repeatedly that students underestimate the pressures associated with college studies.  They believe that working out pages and pages of old exam papers will carry them through the course.  They only value of old exam papers is that it shows more or less what type of questions could be expected in an exam.  However, old exam papers do not teach students the reasoning techniques and time management techniques that need in the exam room.

The exam prep workshops offered by Growth Institute have been designed to identify the areas where students struggle and to help students overcome those difficulties.

Why keep on vacuum cleaning the desert if help is available?



Bad Service: Contributing to Operational Losses


Thirty percent of operational losses in a company can be traced back to the Waste of Rework.  This means that the company did a task, caused an error and then had to redo the work a second or third time to correct the error that was caused in the first place.

Waste of Rework is the direct cause of inadequate or poor staff training.  In a hyper-competitive age, customers have the luxury of choice.  They can migrate from one service provider to another with little or no difficulty.  Thinking that customers cannot get out of a contract, is a myth.  All contracts require performance from all who are party to the contract, and malperformance is one of the strongest arguments to have an agreement terminated.

Waste of Rework is a prime example of malperformance and of bad customer service.  No customer wants to be in a position where a provider keeps on making the same mistake on the same task.  That is simply unacceptable.

Often, service providers are quick to blame customers for the mistake made by the service provider.  How can customers be blamed for mistakes made by a provider?

Customer service excellence stands on at least seven pillars.  If one of these pillars are defective, the whole service promise of a company comes under threat.  SMME’s are especially vulnerable to the impacts of questionable customer service level on their businesses.

For the next two months, Growth Institute will focus intensely on helping SMME’s with a basic customer service audit.  Such audit will highlight service-related issues that may be in need to attention.

Book your audit now by sending an email to