Today was Day Two of our orientation at the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary (SMMS), and our Registrar gave us some insightful information on how the academic component of SMMS came to being, having to navigate through a mountain of forms required by three different government bodies - the Department of Education (which registers institutions), the Council for Higher Education (which registers programmes), and the South African Qualifications Authority (which registers individual qualifications).
Clearly there's a whole lot more to setting up an academic instution than simply opening your doors and declaring yourself "ready to teach". Academic, staffing, finances - these are but three of the many criteria that need to be met.
But soon the discussion came to the granting of credits for partially-completed qualifications under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) framework, and this became quite heated - mainly because our group of seminarians is in a transition phase as the Methodist Church implements its new ministerial training requirements, which incorporates three years of residential seminary training, which also means that a number of us have partially-completed qualifications, mostly from TEE College. With the implementation of the new programme, SMMS has registered its own theology degree and diploma programmes, which the MCSA's Education for Ministry and Mission Unit will in future require all new seminarians without completed first qualifications to complete.
However, many of us in the "transition" group have been studying through TEE (which was required by the MCSA before SMMS was established). And the fact that one can only be granted a maximum of 50% of the credits of an uncompleted qualification based on RPL towards another qualification - which is a legal requirement, not a seminary rule - many of us are facing additional time to complete our undergraduate studies, simply because, legally, SMMS is unable to grant us the full number of credits completed at TEEC.
So the question is this (I'm referring to the BTh programme as this is the one that impacts me personally - I cannot speak for those who are following the diploma stream): Assuming one is given the option (which seems to be the case - I'll know for certain tomorrow), does one switch mid-stream to the SMMS BTh programme, or complete the TEEC BTh?
Why is this such a dilemma? On the one hand, the SMMS BTh is the better option academically. No criticism to the TEEC qualification, but SMMS's programme would be more "cutting-edge" (having been developed from scratch over the last 18 months) and more oriented to Wesleyan studies (which, you'll agree, is fairly important if you are a Methodist minister in training!). Also, with SMMS's partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (both being part of the Cluster of Schools of Theology), going the SMMS BTh route will probably make entrance to the UKZN's Honours programme more seamless.
On the other hand, switching to the SMMS BTh would entail a further 18 months of study (compared to 12 months to complete the TEEC BTh - the extra time required is due to the RPL limitations). Now you might think, "So what? Six months is no big deal!" And on the face of it, you would be correct - except for the timing of my stay at SMMS. I am expected to be at seminary for two years, which (in my mind) meant: complete degree, 2010; do Honours, 2011. If I were to stay at SMMS for a third year, I would either be able to a Masters in that year, or explore the possibility of starting a PhD through the Commerce faculty (I already have a Masters in financial management, and am looking at the whole question of how theology and economics / financial management influence each other as a likely research topic).
But if I switch, this means that I complete the degree in mid-2011, which would result in either (a) a mid-year registration for Honours, or (b) waiting until the beginning of 2012. If I were to be sent to Circuit at the end of 2011, option (a) would be messy in that I would still have six months to go to complete the Honours (which I would have to do part-time, probably extending the period of study even further), while option (b) would force me to do the entire Honours part-time, unless I spent a third year at SMMS.
Tomorrow we have our interviews to discuss the various academic options available to us. And given that I have been given what is probably a never-to-be-repeated opportunity to be able to further myself academically on a full-time basis, I want to be able to make the most of this opportunity. So please pray that our minds will all be open (me, as well as the SMMS faculty), and that I will make the right decision.
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