APM – Academic Preparation Modules

For a number of years now the higher education sector has been struggling with a serious challenge: School leavers (even with Matric Exemption) do not have what is needed for the first year of tertiary studies. This is, of course, an over-generalized statement and yet it describes the reality in many universities and private institutions.

The problem doesn’t seem to be specialized knowledge or higher order skills but simple reading, writing and comprehension skills as well as other fairly basic competencies. The problem is termed an “articulation gap” rather than underpreparedness of students although the later term is acknowledged as key factor.

The solution proposed by CHE is to add a year to the regular duration of programmes, i.e. a three-year Bachelor’s degree would require four years of studies. However the first year (“year zero”) would NOT add content to the BTh curriculum but would rather enable the student to catch up on the skills that are required for the three years of the regular BTh. (for more details see “A proposal for undergraduate curriculum reform in South Africa”, CHE Discussion Document, August 2013)

This proposal was submitted in 2013 and has been going nowhere slowly since then. The underlying problem however remains and the latest protests for free education and “Fees must fall” has added pressure to the problem while at the same time distracting from possible solutions.

ESSA is aware of the challenge, even though we are not (yet) directly affected by it. ESSA has traditionally not appealed to young school leavers but has aimed for more mature students. The proposed block release mode further is intended for those who are already involved in ministry and who are more mature.

Whether school leavers never had these skills or whether high school is so far in the past that these skills may have been forgotten, the challenge exists and ESSA is aiming to assist in overcoming it through APM modules.

These Academic Preparation Modules will not be beneficial only to prospective students of ESSA alone but also to any student who may be considering academic studies or even just a more competent interaction with printed materials and other methods of learning and studying.

At the moment ESSA is planning four of these modules which can be taken at various times or stages. Prospective students of ESSA’s BTh programme will be strongly encouraged to participate in the APM’s and participation will be considered within the application process.




The APM’s themselves will focus on four key areas:

  • Academic Literacy

This Module will be structured around the areas of reading, writing, questioning and thinking. The concepts of sources, opinions, alternative (?) facts, narratives, reports and other types of literary elements will be considered. Basic differences in writing, writing styles and writing skills will be compared. We will attempt to develop critical minds and investigate concepts of thought and thinking.

More details can be found here.

  • Electronic Communication

This APM will focus on areas such as emails and best practices regarding electronic communication, as well as web-searches, internet security, social media and reliability, credibility and other aspects of online existence with a special focus on academic studies.

More details can be found here.

  • Spiritual Ministry

This APM will focus on areas such as spiritual disciplines, integrity of character, fellowship & discipleship, accountability and other aspects of spiritual ministry.

More details can be found here.

  • Time Management & personal Disciplines

This APM will focus on areas such as the role & understanding of a minister, the rights & obligations of a servant of Christ, and elective topics raised by students.

More details can be found here.