Bridging accounting skills gap

Bridging accounting skills gap

Lemohang Rakotsoane

MASERU – FOR a long time industry has fretted over the quality of accountants from local tertiary schools.

The common refrain among business leaders is that graduates are not prepared for the rigours of the business world.

Why the graduates struggle to make the cut in the industry is a subject of much debate. Some blame an overload of the theory in the courses while some point to what they say is a yawning gap between what the schools are teaching and what the industry expects.

The courses, some say, have not moved with the times. And it’s not as if the Council on Higher Education (CHE), the custodian of standards in tertiary education, has not been listening to such criticism.

That explains the agreement CHE signed with the Lesotho Institute of Accountants (LIA) last Thursday. Although not binding, the agreement gives the LIA an opportunity to influence what accounting students are taught in universities and colleges.

That means next time CHE evaluates accounting courses it may request suggestions from the LIA.

The idea is that the corroboration will help schools produce accountants with skills needed by the industry.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, the chairman of the LIA, Moahloli Mphaka, was candid in his assessment of graduates.

“For a long time, Basotho have proved to be good in terms of writing and compiling good documents but poor in implementation,” Mphaka said.

The National Strategic Development Paper (NSDP) and Vision 2020, he said, are clear that we need to improve the education of our people but nothing is being done in that regard.

“Even today our COSC (Cambridge Overseas School Certificate) cannot compete with matric and our graduates are looked down on by their counterparts,” Mphaka said.

“Our students need to complete A Levels before continuing with their tertiary education.”

He added that there is no parity between Lesotho and its neighbour South Africa in terms of education.

“We have not worked hard as a country to get the recognition we deserve.”

“We did not do a continuous review of our systems to enable us to adopt and adapt to changing times hence we have lagged behind.”

“We are still backwards and not advancing in terms of technology and innovation even though the world calls for innovation and connectivity.”

He said the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that they had just signed would not only tackle the issues of lack of skills but will also contribute towards job creation.

“This MOU has a possibility of changing the direction of the country, leading it to economic growth and help our institutions to deliver their mandate which they are currently failing to deliver”.

“Our graduates seek to be employed and after being employed they are comfortable with occupying low positions because they lack a lot of skills”.

“We are doing this to ensure that when they leave institutions of higher learning they are well equipped and ready to participate in the industry not to lag behind because they are incompetent.”

He added that although the agreement is not binding it remains a crucial step towards working together to improve the quality of graduates from tertiary schools.

“There will always be misunderstandings and arguments but we can always sit down and come up with resolutions to issues in hand”.

It is through constant evaluation and monitoring that the MOU will be able to bear the desired fruits, he said.

He said the success of the initiative relies on a joint effort, adding that “together we can win but alone we may not be able to succeed in anything”.

Matjato Moteane, chairman of CHE, said the MOU is long overdue as it is crucial for courses to address the requirements of the industry.

“CHE advises institutions of higher learning to work with professional bodies in order to create a responsive curriculum,” Moteane said.

He explained that the MOU “is a way of formalising the already existing relationship between the two institutions”.

“Our vision with this collaboration is to get full harmonization of studies to point where professional bodies can be able to accredit courses”.

He further said it is their hope that in the near future Basotho will no longer need to take their qualifications to the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) for evaluation.

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