If there is one sure way
to address the problems
of Africa, from poverty
to a lack of leadership,
it is through education and
training. Africa needs a common
vision of education and
training to address the needs
of the continent.” So says
Marietta van Rooyen, a member
of the Board of the South
African Qualifications Authority,
the highest educational
authority in that country.
“This common vision needs to be structured in a way that
addresses the individual needs of each country, but also unites
Africa into a single qualifications framework.”
South Africa was fortunate to have the opportunity to redesign
its entire education and training system. All stakeholders
had to agree on the new system, and devise a strategy to set up
the entire structure with all the underpinning legislation.
First, a discussion forum called the Skills Development Initiative
was created. Major stakeholders were organised business
and labour, the
Departments of Education and of Labour, community
organisations, and education and training associations.
Many stakeholders went on study tours to examine education
systems in the rest of the world. South Africa was also awash
with advisers and observers from other countries. In the end it
was the UK system of National Vocational Qualifications and
General National Vocational Qualifications that was found to
approach the ideals of most stakeholder groupings.
Scotland, Australia and New Zealand all had innovative
systems derived from the UK system, with various strengths and
weaknesses. The labour unions and organised business went out
of their way to study and analyse these systems to glean the best
from them and to learn from their application.
By the end of the democratic elections in 1994, stakeholders
in the Skills Development Initiative reached consensus on the
basic principles and objectives of the new education, training
(ETD) system in South Africa.
The three most important principles were:
1. An integrated approach to education and training
2. The principle of accumulating credits toward a qualification
on a National Qualifications Framework (NQF), and
3. The basic format used would be outcomes-based (a variation
on competency-based education and training).
The South African Qualifications Act (No. 58 of 1995) was
the first in a series of Acts based on these discussions. The purpose
was to provide for the development and implementation of
a National Qualifications Framework and the establishment of a
South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
Ten years down the line, South Africa has learnt a great deal
from successes and failures in the implementation of their new
outcomes-based education and training system. Subject-matter
experts have generated thousands of national standards
and qualifications in many occupations. SAQA set up
assurance bodies and accredited them, thereafter monitoring
and auditing these bodies for compliance against the legislation,
regulations and objectives.
“With the call for an African Renaissance and continent-wide
initiatives such as NEPAD and the AU, it has become apparent
that South Africa needs to be integrated into the African
continent,” says Marietta. “What we need is not a South African
but an AFRICAN Qualifications Framework and a coordinating
AFRICAN Qualifications Authority to be able to tap into the resources
and knowledge of the entire continent. We need to share
our experiences of negotiating and setting up transformational
systems with each other.
“Talks are under way between many of the qualifications bodies
in African countries,” she adds. “Our political and business
leaders must support and speed up these discussions. Clearly,
the answer to many of our problems lies in education and training,
and we can only improve and grow our
capacity to educate
and train our people if we all work together.”
Marietta van Rooyen is Chair of the Assessment College of South
Africa, a company that specializes in advising on and setting up
quality education and training systems. She can be contacted on tel.27 11 678 0126 or at [email protected]
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