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Factors influencing programme completion of National Certificate (Vocational) students at a college in the Western Cape, South Africa
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Since its inception in 2007, the National Certificate (Vocational) (NC(V)) programme offered at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in South Africa, has experienced low programme completion and high drop-out rates. Acknowledging the importance of investigating factors that influence high drop-out and low programme completion rates, this study uses an alternative approach to the research problem. This study focuses on the factors that have influenced the decision of final year Level 4 NC(V) Business Studies students to complete their programme during 2017 at a selected TVET college, located in the Western Cape, South Africa. The study was guided by understanding and combining two student retention theories and models, namely those of Vincent Tinto and John Bean. The study is positioned in a critical research paradigm. By applying a mixed methods approach, the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative methods are used. The mixed methods approach is motivated by sequential and converged data contribution, employing both rating-scale and exploratory questionnaire methods of data collection. Applying random sampling and a 99% confidence level, an n=62 sample was identified from an N=63 population, from which 46 consented to participate in the initial quantitative study. Purposive and convenience sampling derived a converging n=6 sample, of which three participated in the qualitative study. The population and sample was derived from two Business Studies NC(V) programmes at the selected TVET college campus. Computer-aided spreadsheet software was used to collate and analyse quantitative data and qualitative responses were summarised and collated, using computer-aided word-processing software. Frequent responses or themes were identified in participant responses. Secondary data indicated a 46% retention rate of the study population since their enrolment in 2015. Analysed data indicated that the factors influencing the decision to complete the NC(V) programme include, amongst others, financial assistance, progression to higher education, employment prospects within their vocation, well-informed career guidance, lecturer support and patience, embarrassment about failure, parent and family support, and college environment compared to high school. The four main factors, ranked in order of importance, were, teaching quality/style, friendly teachers, general social interaction and then friends. Recommendations for potential improvement of student retention and NC(V) programme completion are provided, based on the factors within direct control of the TVET college.