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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The UCT College of Accounting has developed an innovative – and free – teaching platform that will help thousands of students across South Africa master complex accounting and business principles.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) College of Accounting in collaboration with Fasset (Finance and Accounting Services Sector Education and Training Authority) and GetSmarter has launched a new online teaching platform – offering free, multilingual video-based learning on key financial and accounting concepts.

The first of its kind in South Africa, the platform will enable accounting students across the country greater access to teaching on accounting in their mother tongue and aims to boost the number of black graduates entering the profession.

According to the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), transformation in the profession remains sluggish. Despite numerous initiatives and bursary programmes to boost black membership, only 24% of chartered accountants living in SA are black.

The videos are each about 10 minutes in length and provide short and concise explanations of specific concepts within the areas of financial skills, financial reporting and management accounting, explains Associate Professor Jacqui Kew of the UCT College of Accounting. “These are all key foundational concepts necessary to understand both basic and more advanced business and accounting concepts.”

“What makes the project so unique is that the videos are available in Xhosa and Zulu as well as English, to help students whose mother tongue is not English, master complex financial terminology.” Should additional funding become available, she said that additional videos in other languages, such as Sotho, are planned.

“Language barriers are a huge obstacle to many students,” says Associate Professor Kew, pointing out that this is a contributing factor to why so many non-English-speaking students, studying in the field of accountancy, fail to complete degrees. Kew said for many students from disadvantaged backgrounds, learning the language of businessis almost like learning a new language. “For many students, there is a double translation process that needs to happen. They need to understand accounting concepts at the same time as interpreting nuances in the English language. If English is not their first language this makes understanding the accounting concept even more difficult.”

In trying to address this educational challenge, the College decided on a video platform as it is a medium many young people identify with and which allows students to learn at their own pace. Additional benefits to a video platform include that itcan be used by students in multiple years of study and in any geographic location. A further benefit is that the platform will allow research into the efficacy of both online and multi-lingual learning which will enable the College to refine its offering and potentially roll the concept out to other subject areas.

The videos were made possible with funding from the Finance and Accounting Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Fasset) as well as production expertise from GetSmarter, online education pioneers in South Africa. The material was scripted and presented by UCT lecturers and translated into Xhosa and Zulu by accounting lecturers from the Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape and an academic from Wits.

“Education in South Africa should not be in a competitive space, we need to collaborate in order to meet the challenges we are facing,” says Tania Lee from Fasset. “We are delighted to collaborate with UCT and GetSmarter in this way and enable this initiative that will play a key role in addressing the shortage of black accounting professionals in South Africa.”

Rob Paddock, Chief Academic Officer at GetSmarter, commented that, “The Learn Accounting website is a very exciting step forward for us, not only because it gave us the opportunity to work closely with the incredibly talented faculty at UCT’s College of Accounting, but also because these high-quality learning resources are now available for free to everyone.”“This is an innovative approach to learning accounting concepts and opens up the business world to more South Africans,” says Associate Professor Kew.“It is a rich partnership between a government institution, a private technology provider and a university, pulling together our strengths in an effort to show what we can achieve when we are working together.”

To check out the new platform go to http://www.learnaccounting.uct.ac.za. You don’t have to be a student to register and explore – the platform is open to anyone who has an interest in learning more about accounting and finance.


Story By : Carolyn McGibbon