An evaluation of the criteria and procedures used for selection of occupational therapy students at South African universities.
Joubert, Robin Wendy Elizabeth.
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The existing selection criteria and procedures applied at universities training occupational therapists in South Africa are not meeting the country's need for selecting students who adequately fulfill the demographic mix which represents the South African population. The aims of this research were: to investigate the existing criteria and procedures used for the selection of occupational therapy students; to establish recommendations with regard to how these criteria and procedures can be adapted to allow for more appropriate and equitable selection of students, and to obtain opinions from qualified therapists about those characteristics deemed most important for them to possess in the current South African Health System. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methodology was adopted. A survey was undertaken to obtain basic information and statistics about the numbers of applicants selected, and the existing selection criteria and procedures currently used to select occupational therapy students in South African universities. A series of two focus groups for each of the eight existing universities were carried out i.e. one incorporating the views of lecturers and clinicians and the other the views of students. The purpose of these groups was to obtain existing and emerging views of qualified therapists and students on current selection processes, what could be recommended to make selection fairer for disadvantaged applicants and what specific characteristics of qualified therapists would be most desirable in the current health system. The results indicate that the proportion of African students admitted into occupational therapy degrees is still far below numbers of other race groups, particularly white South Africans. That existing selection criteria and procedures are still dominated by eurocentric influence, particularly in the historically white universities, although there are definite attempts on the part of all occupational therapy training centres to overcome this, and that there are serious problems related to recruitment of African applicants which are partly the cause of the low numbers of African applicants. Characteristics deemed most desirable in qualified occupational therapists included many, most significant were: flexibility, particularly a special ability to be able to adjust to all types of people and cultures which included good communication and interpersonal skills; the ability to be assertive where appropriate; a "life-Iong-Ieamer" attitude including a visionary mentality/attitude; creativity and inriovative thinking; perseverance, determination and good management skills.