National Certificate Vocational (NCV) & National Accredited Technical Diploma implementation: Department of Higher Education & Training briefing

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

12 August 2015
Chairperson: Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) briefed the Select Committee on Education and Recreation on the implementation and administration of the National Certificate Vocational (NCV) and National Accredited Technical Diploma (NATED).

The DHET highlighted the main features of the programmes, such as the purpose, design, subjects offered, the structure and administration of each programme. The presentation also included the means by which the assessment and examinations occurred within the programmes, followed by the various implementation challenges the Department faced. The presentation included the DHET’s plans to address the various issues, such as the development of content frameworks to provide clarity of scope for lecturers and examiners, as well as a reduction in the number of exams conducted per academic cycle to improve teaching and the quality of papers.

During discussion, the main issues that arose were related to the qualifications themselves, and how applicable they were to learners in the rural areas. There were concerns over how much weight the qualifications carried after they were obtained, with the view expressed that students could not get into university with them. The Department’s responses to the questions were limited due to on-going forensic investigations, as well as policy reviews.

The Committee adopted a set of minutes and briefly discussed the logistics for an oversight visit to North West and Gauteng provinces scheduled for the following week. 

Meeting report

Preliminary discussion
The chairperson officially opened the meeting with a moment of silence and meditation. She said there were apologies from the Minister of Higher Education and Training, the Deputy-Minister and the Director General, who were attending to a crisis at a school due to disruption and violence.

Mr H Groenewald (DA, North West) said that the Chairperson had mentioned violence and disruption of schools, and suggested that maybe it would be necessary for the Committee to actually visit these areas to see what was really happening. He said it would be to the advantage of children that the Committee viewed what was happening. It was necessary from the parliamentary side that they oversight.

The Chairperson said the situation was very worrying, and Mr Groenewald had brought up a valid point, but they would have to look at their respective programmes, as well as the Committee programme, to see if it would be possible. She shared the view that an oversight visit would be good.

Mr M Khawula (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) said he did not want to debate the issue that South Africa was still a very white country. He said if every time there was an incident based on this issue and the Committee just attended for oversight purposes, they would not be able to keep up. He said the Committee needed a strategy, rather than just going there. One of the strategies he proposed would be to focus on reviewing the issues by province, instead of in bulk.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee deliberate over that particular issue when time permitted.

Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo) added that service delivery was affecting communities, and that was how and why some of these protests had started.

The Chairperson prompted the Committee to get back to the agenda of the day. She said there was a lot of confusion from those not involved, as to what was actually happening. First of all, the introduction of the National Certificate Vocational (NCV) programme was meant to phase out the previous programme, but it was still in effect. Secondly, in terms of the certification of these two processes, she asked if the teachers were qualified -- when one applied for the National Accredited Technical Diploma (NATED) or NCV, what kind of qualification would one need? Were there any workshops within the programme? Was there a relationship between workshops and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs)? Were the qualifications recognized at university? Was there a relationship between the colleges and universities in terms of further studies for those students? Was there a report on the Department’s views on the developmental state and assisting people to build a better life? There were thousands of people with no certificate, but they had a skill, and those people needed to be assisted. Those were some of the issues she said the Department needed to answer in its presentation. Lastly, she asked how much weight the qualification carried for a learner who passed with NCV or the Diploma -- would it carry enough weight for one to get employed right away?

Implementation of National Certificate Vocational (NCV) and National Accredited Technical Diploma (NATED) programmes
Mr Feizal Toefy, Director: Office of the Director General, Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), said that many colleges were taking their intakes for the following years and the communities were entitled to know what was going on. He said the groups had been split into two, and that he would give them an update on that as they went on.

Ms Aruna Singh, Director: Vocational Education and Training (VET) Curriculum, DHET, said there were many key issues that the Chairperson had mentioned which she would try to answer in her presentation. She gave a short overview of the scope of programme offerings in the TVET colleges. The National Certificate Vocational (NCV) was the newer of the two programmes being introduced and there were 19 specialisations across engineering, business, hospitality, tourism services, agriculture, and information and communication technology (ICT). The programme was covering a lot of the economic sub-sectors, and the colleges had been receiving students whose competencies needed to be strengthened, which was something they were not equipped for. Funding was the problem. The greatest demand was for higher certificates, and the numbers there were vast, so the idea was to cater for those numbers. To that extent, she said 12 colleges had entered into partnerships with higher institutions earlier in the year to address the issue of accessibility.

Ms Singh outlined the purpose and design of the NCV, which included allowing learners to access and master skills, knowledge, values and attitudes for lifelong learning; to continue horizontal education and training; to enter higher education; and to pursue self-employment or employment opportunities. It was a combination of theory and practice. The NCV was also aimed primarily at Grade 9 learners who were considered to have already decided on a vocational pathway. The basis of the NCV was to create solid learning foundations and prepare for vocational life.

Some of the challenges faced included the fact that people were always sceptical of a new qualification, and also that the students themselves did not inspire confidence. There were those students who had failed matric or had done very badly, pointing to incredibly weak learning foundations. In order to have failed matric, she said a student would have had to attain 30% or less, which was a cause for concern. Workshops were conducted, and some colleges required them.

On the question of what made the NCV so different from matric, she said that the NCV required three general subjects and one focused subject to be taken by a student on a particular vocation. In that sense, the NCV had a strong component of both the required and vocational study as opposed to matric. She described the programme structure, noting that the last option out of the four was highly vocational – meaning that learners could do what they really wanted to do. That was a flexible option for them. A historical weakness before had been too strong of a focus on external examinations, which had weakened the learning and delivery of the programmes.

She spoke about the assessment and certification of NATED programmes, with the pass requirements generally set at a minimum of 40% required in all subjects, except tourism subjects (60% and 70%). The examination was conducted by National Examinations in the DHET, with five exam cycles per academic year. Certifications were issued out at each level from N1 to N6.

Some of the implementation challenges included the poor quality of first entrants, including those with Matric, inappropriate placement of students into vocational specialisations, and bursary allocations that resulted in the wrong motivation to pursue studies in this qualification. There were also issues of poorly qualified lecturers in the various specialisations, inadequate infrastructure and teaching resources provided by colleges to meet the curriculum needs, and exposure of students to practical learning which was at times inadequate and poorly planned. She said it was so surprising to see how ill prepared some of the lecturers and professionals were. There were poorly qualified lecturers, especially in the area of mathematics, especially because it was compulsory for all students.

Ms Singh said that some of the plans to address those challenges included introducing a policy for minimum professional qualifications for college lecturers, which had been gazetted in June 2013. A teaching and learning plan would be developed to monitor quality improvement and student achievement across the 50 TVET colleges, and partnerships with industry/employers were now constituted as part of TVET colleges’ strategic plans.

Other implementation challenges and complexities faced in National Examinations and Assessment included the frequency of examinations (especially trimester) not allowing sufficient time to get results and register candidates timeously for the new academic period; the consolidation of subject results required across examinations cycles to certificate candidates in the main, as the majority of candidates do not complete a programme in the stipulated timeframe; and issues such as the lack of technical and project management capacity at the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).

Plans to address more of these challenges were shared in brief, covering ideas such as the development of content frameworks for NATED programmes to provide clarity of scope for lecturers and examiners; a reduction in the number of exams conducted per academic cycle to improve teaching and the quality of papers; and lecturers required to be placed in the workplace on a two-year cycle to improve their occupationally-directed competencies.

Mr D Stock (ANC, Northern Cape said he had three main issues he wanted to address. Firstly, on the certification and dropout rate, he noted that the dropout rate was very high and asked what approach they were taking to address the issue. Secondly, there was the challenge for students to be placed in different mining companies, and he wanted to know how the Department would deal with that. Lastly, the issue of poorly qualified lecturers had been a challenge for a while. What was the DHET doing about it?

Mr Groenewald said this had been an eye-opener for him, but he was a bit worried about the qualifications. Students would get these certifications at the end of N1 and N3, but this was merely symbolic because they could not get into university with that. This was a cause for serious concern, because that qualification meant nothing at the end of the day. It was important that the lecturers were adequately qualified, and he asked what the DHET was doing to fix the issue.

Mr Khawula said he noted that programmes were aimed at Grade 9, but that this was a deviation from their mandate because the programme was largely catering to matriculants who had not made it to university. The poor quality of first entrants was another major concern. He asked if this issue was being addressed with the Department of Basic Education, because it did not belong in the DHET. Was this was getting the necessary attention it required? He referred to the problem of access by rural students to the institutions. Furthermore, a lot of the programmes for the rural areas were not sustainable, such as a computer programme which would run for a year and then close down.
On the issue of the lecturers, he said that the conditions of service were a bit different to the ones mentioned before, where some lecturers got benefits which others do not receive. He asked for clarity on that issue.

Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo) said she was very happy that the issue of money had been raised, saying that she had raised this issue before and had asked what the best mechanism they could apply for these students would be. Learners were trained, but when they finished they did not have a place to go. The land in the rural areas belonged to the chiefs, and in those communities there were structures which had to be taken into consideration when implementing these programmes. It was important to involve people in the decisions and to establish what was appropriate to implement.

Mrs T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (Western Cape) referred to the NCV challenges and specifically the bursary allocations. She wanted to know what the DHET had done in response to this. Regarding the quality of the programme, she was of the view that teachers were not nourished and nurtured to produce quality programmes.

The Chairperson asked about the admission requirements for NCV and NATED.  Was there uniformity in all the institutions in terms of whether or not committees had the option to use discretion when selecting students, or was there a guide? On the accreditation of the colleges, she asked what the relationship between the department and the SETAs was, because they were there to assist with such issues. Furthermore, there was a qualification related to apprenticeship -- what was the relationship of NATED to this? On the assessment issues, she said if a student had to pass all seven subjects, but passed five and missed two, would the funding be related to the time spent on the level? Lastly, there were universities preparing college material to assist lecturers to have appropriate training and qualifications. What was the progress there?

Mr Groenewald asked what the salary scales were, as well as the qualifications of the existing lecturers.

Department’s Response
Mr Toefy began the response by saying that in terms of the qualifications of lecturers, the DHET had undertaken a survey to find out what their basic level was, and the results were still being analysed.

On the issue of rural areas and the respective programmes, he said that there was a mismatch mainly because courses were done mostly on what could be subsidised easily, or what favoured the funding. For example, in rural areas they offered business studies to so many students that when it came time to place students it was impossible, especially in rural areas. In terms of advertising and funding, they had been looking for ways to expand the rural area projects, but it had been difficult because colleges did not apply for that level of expansion.

Ms Singh said that the initial dropout rate at the start of the NCV had been much higher, but now they had put in assessment and placement tests to fix that. Based on that, they would channel the people involved into the right or appropriate programmes. If there were gaps in their competencies, they were put in a support programme to strengthen those gaps. Therefore, it had improved over time.

The other big problem was the mathematics issue, and it was systemic around schools.

On the issue of the programme not catering for specific groups, she said Minister Nzimande had made it clear that students should not be turned away under any circumstances. Therefore, the system was catering for all eligible people. However, providing young people with the correct information was a gap that needed to be filled. 

The Chairperson said that the issue of uniformity in terms of admission requirements had not been adequately responded to.

Ms Singh said that colleges were expected to accommodate the students in one way or the other. For Grades 7, 8 and 9, some colleges did use their discretion, but that was at a restricted level. In that sense, it was a bit uneven, but at least the colleges were compelled to give the student some form of education, and to that extent it was fair.

Mr Toefy referred to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). They now had a system where a student could get NSFAS funding only if they attended classes regularly. Students had to attend 80% of classes to receive funding. The Department had put together a forensic team to cross-check the outcome of that, and were awaiting the results. NSFAS had also introduced people-centred models to help involve people.

Ms Mampuru asked why the Department generally did not make follow ups, especially with NSFAS. Maybe as a department they could have a study that could guide them, based on solid results and not individual experiences. They could not just scatter the colleges without knowing what types of skills would suit the learners and their environments, and as such it would be important to conduct some research on the matter.

The Chairperson referred to the targeting Grade 9 students, and said she was personally of the view that Grade 9 seemed too young an age to expect students to consider becoming qualified engineers. She had the utmost respect for engineers and because of that she was curious as to how Grade 9 pupils could go through the process, and come out as engineers. It was her own personal feeling that there was not much information they would have had about becoming engineers.

The Committee they hoped that the forensic investigation would help, because there had to be verification. She knew the process would be very expensive, but it would help with the issue.

Mr Khawula said that this issue had come from Outcomes Based Education (OBE), and it had been found that not all students would be academic - some were practically oriented.

The chairperson thanked the Department and released them from the meeting.

Adoption of minutes and oversight logistics briefing
The Chairperson said the first set of minutes had been passed, but the last set needed to be sorted out. She proceeded to ask Members for queries on each page, and the minutes were officially adopted.

The Chairperson said there was the issue of logistics for their oversight visit. She asked the Committee Secretary, Mr Mzuyanda Dlanga to outline what would be happening.

Mr Dlanga said from 17 to 21 August the Committee would conduct oversight in North West and Gauteng provinces. They were scheduled to stay in Rustenberg and Pretoria for two days each consecutively.

Mr Stock said that he had a concern that he had raised before, that North West and the Northern Cape were not far from one another. It was simpler for him drive there, so there was no need to fly him there. He asked for provision to be made for him, since it was an inconvenience.

The chairperson asked why it was that Members were forced to use the official arrangements when sometimes it was easier to use private transport.

Mr Dlanga apologised, saying he had not been aware of the distances involved. He said there had been situations in which Members abused flexible channels by driving around and then claiming refunds when they made private trips.

The chairperson said she wanted to establish a principle for similar situations only.

The secretary explained the programme for the oversight visit in detail, with all the meetings and briefings scheduled for the four-day trip.

Mr Groenewald suggested that the committee visit the Marikana site -- he thought it would be a good place to visit within the programme of oversight.

The chairperson said they would wait for the Departmental briefing, and would then address the issue accordingly.

The meeting was adjourned. 


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