In a South Africa desperately seeking to raise the skills levels of the majority of its people, every education initiative is to be welcomed. But to make a profound contribution, new legislation must have competent institutions to implement its initiatives.
Consider the recent promulgation of the new National Qualifying Framework Act (NQFA), which replaces the South African Qualifications Authority (Saqa) Act. The NQFA improves upon the previous Act, most notably in establishing one national qualifying framework supported by three sub-frameworks, each of which falls under the umbrella of its own qualification executive responsible for qualification design and quality assurance.
Consider too the recent amendments to the Higher Education Act, the General and Further Education and Training Act and the Skills Development Act.
Arising from the new legislation is the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), the main role of which is to establish and manage its sub-framework to ensure quality in the following:
- The design and development of occupational qualifications; and
- The delivery, assessment and certification processes required to develop occupational competence. What is impressive about this goal is that the sub-framework has been constructed to meet the labour market’s skills needs.
The QCTO’s responsibilities include:
- Designing and developing occupational standards and qualifications and submitting them to Saqa;
- Ensuring the quality of occupational standards and qualifications and learning in and for the workplace;
- Promoting the objectives of the National Qualifications Framework;
- Liaising with the National Skills Authority on all these standards; and
- Liaising with Saqa and other quality councils and professional bodies responsible for establishing standards and qualifications or the quality assurance of standards and qualifications.
The QCTO establishes a framework within which those involved in skills development can operate more efficiently and respond better to the labour market’s skills needs. This approach hinges on trust — it is expert-driven, not stakeholder-driven — and is based on occupation.
Significantly, the QCTO approach to qualification and curriculum development is that the latter must be formalised through the submission of an application to the QCTO. We are certainly on the right track, but the problem lies in the implementation. This is where competent institutions able to implement such initiatives effectively can play a significant role.
Jackie Carroll is the managing director of Johannesburg-based education specialist, Media Works