A Populist Education System Harms The Econonomy

The day that a nation’s economic needs exceeds the capability of the people, is the day that there has to be a re-evaluation of populist policies.   Whereas these policies have assured victories at the polls in the past, the same policies now haunt South Africa’s socio-political landscape.

Can we still claim that a matriculation certificate (with university exemption) that shows the following attributes is indeed a passport to life success?

  • 50% required to pass two subjects
  • 40% to pass two subjects
  • 30% to pass the two subjects
  • One subject to pass with only proving attendance

About 500 000 sit for the GED Grade 12 exams each year and about 275 000 (55%) qualify to compete for about 156 000 places at tertiary institutions.  This means that 344 000 of Grade 12’s need to get into the job market or need to find alternative avenues to get basic post-school qualifications.

The myth that school leavers with the Grade 12 pass marks show above, can study for degree, diploma or even a certificate must have a rapid sunset.

It is time that populism acknowledges that mediocre expectation at school level harms the people capability that the South African economy needs.


Hospitality Management Studies 2016


Growth Institute announces the launch of a new Hospitality Management Program that is designed to meet the demands of today’s Hospitality Professionals.  The program is linked to qualifications issued by:

  • The Chartered Institute of Tourism and Hospitality
  • Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (under auspices of FASSET)

Combining a series of international Hospitality Management qualifications with a National Diploma (NQF 6) in Business Management equip students to meet the job demands of a Hospitality professional from the onset of his/her studies.

The program can be taken full time or as part of a learnership.  The program offers properties a range of tax benefits and other incentives that make study programs for interns and people on learnership highly affordable.

Properties can recover at least 60% of their investment through a learnership program.

Properties can also have access to benefits form the Youth Employment Scheme, thus making an ROI of 70% or more possible.

On-site training with access to online exam coaches is part of the program offering.

For more details contact us at:


011 534 8449

The True Cost of Training

In our practice, we often encounter views from employees who express their frustration with the fact that training is not regarded as being “part of the budget”. In other cases, requests for training are denied because companies see that as an unnecessary expense. Even when we deal with business managers when asked to propose a training program to them, the cost card or the budget card is played ever so often.

We agree in principle that companies have to be as frugal as possible in regards to expenditure. However, it remains somewhat of a puzzle why companies would diligently pay skills development levies but do not take action to leverage the recovery of the skills development levy through training.

Government’s skills development strategy puts emphasis on equipping as many people as possible with useful qualifications. There are specific directives in terms of tax rebates that can be claimed for training that leads to a qualification. In fact, the skills rebate model, if used properly, translated into the recovery of 80% or more of training costs.

SARS offers entry rebates and exit rebates on training programs that lead to a qualification.

Getting the entry rebate is relatively easy. The exit rebate, on the other hand, is linked to a qualification that must be achieved within a given period. Here lies the problem for many companies.

Not many learners actually finish a qualification. There are many reasons for learners not finishing what they started. The one reason that is in direct control of companies is the way employees are selected for training.

Companies who have strict selection criteria stand a greater chance to qualify for exit tax grants than those that simply want to tick a few compliance boxes.

For more details on optimising tax benefits, contact us for an appointment.

Waking up to the Knowledge Economy

Seeds of Knowledge

For a number of years now, those in political and other leadership positions have boasted about South Africa being a Knowledge Economy.  Whilst it may be true in some contexts, our Global Competitiveness Index tells a different story.  Today, we will briefly explore two factors that we believe are essential to any knowledge economy, namely:

  • A quality education system
  • The ability or capacity to use innovation to the benefit of the economy


There is a myth stating that one only needs raw instinct or natural ability to contribute to a knowledge economy.  This myth holds that so called “street smarts” is more essential than academic learning.  In its most radical form, this myth does not acknowledge the possibility that a knowledge economy could contain a combination of street smarts and academic learning.

In contrast to this myth, we believe that academic grounding provides context, insight and flexible reference frameworks to complement street smarts.  We believe that education systems that compete with the best in the world are what make knowledge economies strong.  Firm foundations in primary education and in secondary education are what the knowledge economy needs.

In this regard, South Africa must take serious introspection and ask how the country can gain a stronger footage in quality education.  Since 2007, the quality of the education system as well as the quality of math and science hovered in the bottom one hundred of the world economies.

Education System

That is no longer good enough!  South Africa has to find ways to break free of the bonds that mediocrity imposes on it.  It can no longer be considered an unpatriotic act or a form of colonialism (as some insist) to excel in education as well as in mathematics and science.


KE Constraints

Since 2007, an inadequately trained workforce has been the topmost or the second most factor that holds back economic development in South Africa.  Then, from 2012, a new factor suddenly emerged: the inability to innovate!  The country is now starting to see the fruits of an education system that still refuses to break out of the bottom 100 in the world.  Slowly, sub-Saharan Africa is overtaking us as was so clearly pointed out at the most recent African Union summit in Sandton.

GCI 2015

In the latest (2014 to 2015) Global competitiveness index, sub-Saharan Africa’s health care and primary education has overtaken that of South Africa.  Other competitiveness factors are closing in and, by the next decade, the once, darling,  Rainbow Nation could be pointed out to be a piece of faded linen that no one wants.


In the near future a new socio-economic revolution is ready to burst forth.  This revolution will not be blaming Apartheid for our downward trends.  It will not blame Colonialism, Euro-Centrism or any other –ism that is so freely bandied about.   It will continue to point to high school diplomas where 35% is considered to be an achievement.  It will point to university degrees where 50% is seen as the pinnacle of excellence.

It will point to a time and a place where education has been sacrificed in an effort to fill ballot boxes.

It will point to a nation wandering in the desert and drinking sand because they do not remember the life-giving property of knowledge.

The Elephant of Opportunity


Never in the history of this country has unemployment been as high as it is.  Never in the history of the country are there so many desperate youth wanting to have an opportunity.   Never in the history of a country are there so many willing to give others a chance.



Why is it then, that those who are offered an opportunity simply shy away from it?  They flee as if an angry elephant wants to take out its wrath on them.  The fact that someone gets and opportunity and not use it, remains a great puzzle of humanity.

It is not often that a company is willing to provide a free education to an unemployed person.  In fact, this opportunity would have been part of a twelve-month internship, after which the candidate would have had a chance to be employed in a full time capacity.  Certainly, an opportunity such as this cannot be missed?




Chris Gardner’s story is told in the movie “Pursuit of Happiness”.  It tells how Chris had to compete at all odds for job as a stockbroker.  Days went by where Chris did not have any hope but he kept on trying and trying – knowing that he needs to persevere if he wants to have a plum opportunity at a world famous firm.  There were days that Chris believed the whole world turned its back on him.  But Chris knew that giving up was not an option.


Google internships are highly sought after.  Though thousand apply to be admitted on an internship, only a few hundred are given the chance.  And, of the few that are given a chance, only a fraction may be lucky enough to be offered a job at Google.

There are many similar stories all around the world where thousand compete for a single opening that may or may not be offered to them.  Yet, it does not discourage those hopefuls to TRY by being the best!  With the exception of a few, candidates that compete for chances such as the Google Internship are highly qualified.  The come out of college or university with very high marks.  In fact, many finished their degrees or diplomas CUM LAUDE.


Being offered a bursary to study for free AND to earn a monthly internship stipend certainly provides some sort of stability to a person that would have been destitute otherwise.  Is some income – no matter how small – not better than no income at all?  Is a free education not better than no education at all?

In Afrikaans there is a saying that could be directly translated as “complaining with white bread in hand”.  There was a time that white bread was the epitome of luxury in Afrikaans culture.  Thus, the saying means that someone who has some luxury (even a modest white bread) will still find time to complain.  Being offered a free education is exactly the same a complaining with white bread in hand.

Recently, Growth Institute offered someone a chance to get an education.  At first, the person was eager to get on board.  But when the person was asked to come in for an interview, all sorts of excuses come out.  Thus, a golden opportunity was wasted.


There seems to be a riddle of entitlement in this country and that it simply erodes all our competitive advantages faster than we can build such competitive advantage.  It is time to realise the age of entitlement is over.  We can choose to move forward by our efforts or to decay in our own unwillingness to try.

Language and Literacy: Benefit or Bane?

Setting the Scene

A recent announcement by the Department of Basic Education stated that the study of indigenous languages will become compulsory in Grade 1 from 2016, onward.  Whilst there is excitement in such am announcement, there is also a degree of alarm that cannot be dismissed.  In fact, there are a number of alarms that need to be considered.

Whilst it is true that a third language capability can indeed break down communication barriers between South African cultures, the singular push for an indigenous language is not going to guarantee a sustainable workplace.  English still remains the world’s commercial and academic language.  Thus an emphasis on English mastery in schools can prepare young minds better for the workplace than can the singular emphasis on a third language.  One also has to ask to what extent must those, who already us an indigenous language as a first language, need to be exposed to English and, perhaps, “Colonial Afrikaans”.

A position such as this is sure to trigger a torrent of diatribe that this country’s sustainability can ill afford.  It is a fact that foundation phases education delivered in the child’s mother tongue better prepares the child for later education phases.  When confronted with complex concepts, one tends to fall back to one’s default language because one can express oneself better in the default language and in a secondary or tertiary language.  And herein lies the value of teaching all South African learners three languages – one indigenous language, English and Afrikaans.

When this author spent considerable time abroad, working on a major international project, the value of three-language mastery became blatantly obvious.  The project team comprised South Africans out of many different language groups.  It was remarkable to observe how team members simply switched from one language to another (say English to basic Zulu) to get points across.  More remarkable was the strong sense of belonging – not alienation – that the group exhibited over other teams on the project.  In that sense, then, the teaching of a third language does hold some merit in the long run.

Lingua Franca

English Literacy

However, English remains the main business language and one must have a mastery thereof to excel anywhere in the workplace or the business world.  Not only must English be mastered in the business world, it must be mastered to ensure success in the academic world.

Academic texts are written predominantly in English so that the text can be used by as wide an audience as possible.  One of the great lessons from the Apartheid era was to show that academia who refuses to consider English as the primary didactic language, do their students a great disservice – especially when they are confronted with an English text.  Those students who were not constantly exposed to English as a didactic language found that their research results – however ground-breaking – became known to only a handful in a country that was isolated from the rest of the world.

Certainly, if our leaders boast that South Africa is a Knowledge Economy, then they should not dismiss the impact that weak mastery of English has on this very same Knowledge Economy that is so boasted about?  Tertiary institutions are daily confronted with students that need to go into a bridging course where English must be re-taught before the student can enter into a formal first year academic program.  We also see how high-potential students fail in their exams simply because they are not able to grasp Grade 8 level English in exam papers!  That is right!  Some courses have their exam drawn up at a Grade 8 English level in the hope that the student will grasp the essence of a question.  Nowadays, there are universities that make the study of English as a first-year level compulsory to all their qualifications.

Still a Numbers Game

Numeracy1 Numeracy2

Another alarm to consider is that of numeracy skills.  The majority of school levels – even when their matriculation certificate says that the passed mathematics with a mark between 50% and 60% cannot do basic workplace oriented calculations.

Students who want to embark commercial studies, technical studies or engineering studies need to master good, old-fashioned arithmetic.  Basic skills to make use of add, subtract, divide and multiply operations are glaringly absent when students are confronted with calculations.  They know how to punch a number of a calculator but they do not understand the basic reasoning behind that action.  Students become bewildered when confronted with mixed operands such as:

Mixed Operands

Growth Institute prepares students for examinations in commercial and technical studies.  The latter (N1, N2 and N3 Theory) shows an ever-widening gap between the mathematical aptitude required for the program and what students are equipped to do in Grade 12.  In the commercial programs (basic accounting, some economics, some tax calculations and some payroll calculations) students are struggling with the basics that they should have mastered in the foundation phases of the school curricula.  To ensure that students succeed in the technical or the commercial studies streams, a special bridging intervention has been designed and put in place.

Like so many other bridging programs, we repeatedly underscore the fact that a lack in numeracy or English skills contribute to the country not being able to make a dent in the scarce skills landscape.  The country needs these scarce skills to remain competitively relevant.  Yet, a refusal or a slack pace to equip students with numeracy and English literacy skills pushes the country further into the outer planets of competitiveness.

It is time that the political reality and the sustainability reality meet one another so that a new national paradigm can emerge.

In Search of Readiness


School leavers need a bridging course before they can attempt to enrol at a university for a degree or diploma.  In addition, those who do not passed Grade 12 with at least a 70% average will NEVER be able to go to university.  Last, those who have only Grade 10 and Grade 11 are forever doomed to be part of a low paid and underqualified workforce.


Whilst it is true that not all school leavers cannot immediately enrol into a university program, there are options available to anyone who thinks that he/she will never be able to go to university.  In fact, anyone who cannot be admitted to a university today can indeed prepare him/her over a period of four years to obtain a professional qualification that will allow that person into a degree program.

Insufficient admission points at the end of Grade 12 do not mean all doors to tertiary education have closed irrevocably.  In addition, a person that passed Grade 10 or Grade 11 actually has an equal chance to obtain a university degree one day as long as they completed a professional qualification with an accredited institution such a Growth Institute.

Growth Institute’s Achiever Program© is linked to professional qualifications in Accounting and Business Administration.  This program allows students to qualify with a National Diploma (NQF 6) within three to four years.  After students obtained their National Diplomas, they can apply to a local university where the can enrol into a bridging program that steers them towards a B Com. Honours degree in Business Management.


The fact is that many students who are presently enrolled at university fall out in the first year.  They become discouraged and live with a belief that they will never be able to obtain a tertiary qualification.  This “Horde of Disillusionment” is one of the biggest contributors to skills shortages in South Africa.

However, students who first enrol into programs such a Growth Institute’s Achiever Program, stand and greater chance to obtain degrees after three to four years’ study at a lower level.  These students have a great sense of accomplishment and achievement.  In addition, they are valuable knowledge assets to an organisation because:

  1. They are often forced to study part-time
  2. They have an opportunity to link theoretical knowledge with practical experience while they study
  3. They are committed students and workers because they have more at stake than their peers who are full time students