Bronx Community College in South Africa
U.S.-South Africa Partnership for Skills Development: April 2009-February 2012
Bronx Community College is a key partner in a new international project aimed at increasing retention and expanding work-force development programs at a dozen Further Education and Training (FET) colleges in South Africa.
Known as the U.S.-South Africa Partnership for Skills Development, the initiative is a three-year, $6.7 million program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Southern Africa Mission. It will enable ACE (American Council on Education), AACC (American Association of Community Colleges), and their partners to strengthen institutional capacity for student services programs and faculty development efforts at South African Further Education and Training colleges. It will provide consultative support through partnerships with the private sector and exchange opportunities with U.S. institutions. BCC will provide support to the 12 selected colleges in three provinces—Limpopo, Northern Cape, and Mpumalanga.
This project is especially meaningful to us at BCC as it enables us to work within the FET sector to address the problem of the low skills levels of students at the outset. This pervasive problem of low skills and low graduation rates has made it extremely difficult for us to be more successful in facilitating articulation pathways between the colleges and the universities—which has been the primary goal of much of our previous work.
During the first six months of the project, nine BCC faculty and administrators participated in site visits to each of the 12 participating FET colleges to learn firsthand about the specific challenges facing the sector and to begin developing relationships with key people at each of the institutions. Following the visits, BCC in conjunction with another PSKD partner, YouthBuild International, prepared an in-depth report detailing institutional strengths and weaknesses at each college and a second report with recommendations for addressing common issues. The recommendations formed the foundation for a Skills Development Workshop that was offered to all FET colleges in the three provinces participating in the project.
The workshop took place in February 2010 at The Ranch in Polokwane, Limpopo, and was attended by about 100 people. BCC teams focused on academic and student support, approaches for improving English literacy, and strategies for improving math instruction and retention. The participating BCC faculty and staff continue to work closely with the FET colleges and in the coming year will plan more in-depth visits to four colleges—two in Limpopo and one each in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. These second visits, scheduled for July-August 2010, will enable the BCC team to help the colleges review their orientation process for incoming students. It will also provide support that will help colleges more effectively place students according to their skills levels and offer appropriate remediation.
Participating BCC faculty have commented that their work in South Africa has resulted in their review and improvement of their own practices here on campus.