Umalusi, Council on Higher Education and South African Qualifications Authority Annual Reports

Basic Education

10 October 2005
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
11 October 2005
UMALUSI, COUNCIL ON HIGHER EDUCATION AND SOUTH AFRICAN QUALIFICATIONS AUTHORITY ANNUAL REPORTS

Chairperson:
Mr S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Umalusi Annual Report 2004-2005 (available shortly at
www.umalusi.org.za)
Umalusi Financial Report
SAQA Annual Report (available at
www.saqa.org.za)
SAQA presentation
SAQA Framework Impact Study Report:
cycle1 and cycle2
Council on Higher Education Annual Report presentation

SUMMARY
The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) presented their annual report, highlighting the objectives of the National Qualifications Framework, the standards and settings of SAQA, as well as quality assurance. Overall highlights included a Joint Implementation Plan agreement signed by SAQA and the Independent Electoral Commission to generate qualifications and unit standards for various aspects pertaining to elections. Their presentation was followed with reports from the Council on Higher Education and Umalusi

MINUTES
SAQA briefing
Mr Samuel Isaacs, Chief Executive Officer of SAQA, began the briefing by stated that for the eighth year since its inception, SAQA had received a clean audit report. This was something to be proud of. SAQA’s mission had been to ensure the development and implementation of a National Qualifications Framework (NQF), which contributed to the full development of each learner and to the social and economic development of the nation at large.

The objectives of the NQF were to (i) create an integrated national framework, (ii) facilitate access, mobility and progression within education, training and career paths, (iii) enhance the quality of education and training, and (iv) and to accelerate the redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities.

These objectives had met with satisfaction from all constituencies within South Africa.

The organisation’s structure comprised of seven directorates that deal with the deliverables of SAQA, standards settings and development, quality assurance and national learner record database, strategic support, finance and administration, information technology and human resources.

Overall highlights of the organisation included a Joint Implementation Plan agreement signed by SAQA and the Independent Electoral Commission to generate qualifications and unit standards for various aspects pertaining to elections, the qualifications and unit standards developed under the auspices of the Standards Generating Bodies (SGBs) for democracy, human rights, peace and elections. The goal of quality education and training, supported through the auditing of 20 Education and Training Quality Assurance bodies (ETQA)

and the findings of the audit reports, pointed to substantial national improvements in quality management systems.

SAQA generated and registered unit standards and qualifications that are nationally recognised and internationally comparable. A major achievement had been the registration of more qualifications and unit standards in 2004 than all other years combined. These registered standards and qualifications had been responsive to the needs of our economy.

To foster a culture of quality qualifications in education and training, SAQA ensured quality auditing of ETQAs, in order to determine the extent of compliance with statutory obligations. There were 31 education and training quality assurance bodies accredited by SAQA. These had been audited and the strengths and weaknesses identified. This would help SAQA to know where to apply resources and necessary pressure. SAQA had also been monitoring the ETQAs to ensure continuous improvement of the processes that deliver quality qualifications.

There had also been an increase in the demand for the centre for the evaluation of education qualifications from the year 2001/2002 to 2004/2005. Mr Isaacs stated that by the 31st of March 2005, there were 507 new qualifications and 7845 unit standards on the national learners’ records database. The four databases tracked their status from public comment through to registration and showed the 7667 provider based qualifications previously recorded.

There had been a government review by the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labour, of the NQF that reported in 2002. In July 2003 a consultative document had been set up although not complete.

Mr Isaacs stated that SAQA remained committed to the advocacy and communication of the NQF and in support of this commitment a big step of establishing the NQF regional forums had been taken.

Internal and external communication plans had also been revised. SAQA as a recognized Investor In People (IIP) organization ensured that staff were given opportunities for growth and development through exposure to different learning opportunities both within the workplace and by attending courses and conferences.

The regional NQF forums were a platform for stakeholders to discuss NQF issues as further education and training certificates, the fundamentals of NQF qualifications and small medium and micro enterprises.

During the 2004-2005 period servers’ hardware and software were upgraded, a new comprehensive security policy implemented and three project management learners appointed to assist with technical support. Theses Mr Isaacs viewed as important milestones for information technology at SAQA.

Skills development and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) were seen as critical factors in the success of SMME’s in South Africa.

SAQA also supported and played a role in the accreditation of SMME’s that either planned to offer, or were already offering NQF qualifications and/or unit standards.

Among other things supported by SAQA had been the harmonization of qualification in SADC since 1999. The organization is also an active member of the SADC Technical Committee on Cretification (TCCA) tasked to develop a Regional Qualifications Framework (RQF).

SAQA had hosted three conferences and seminars focusing on regional and international qualifications issues. Help was given in developing the concept paper on the EQF approved by SADC Integrated Council of Ministers (ICM) in June 2005 for the phased implementation of the RQF from 2005-2010.

The organization also supported, hosted and interacted with Angola, Seychelles, Lesotho, Botswana, Mauritius, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Gabon, Ireland, Scotland, England, Mexico and China.

In terms of International Qualifications Framework Developments, forty countries already have or are developing NQF’s. Three regional qualifications frameworks were being developed: SADC, Europe and the Caribbean.

Mr Isaacs Highlighted that the European Union was following a similar route to SADC and is working on the implementation of the European Qualifications framework by 2010.

Moving from compliance performance, coherent policy development and implementation, finalization of NQF review and ensuring appropriate funding were seen as challenges that were facing SAQA.

Mr Isaacs finished by quoting Nelson R Mandela when he said: " Make every home, every shack or rickety structure a centre of learning".

Discussion

Mr A H Gaum, (ANC) asked what plans SAQA had as far as schools were concerned to ensure that they had the necessary standards and qualifications to compete internationally.

Mr Isaacs responded that SAQA was responsible for registering national senior certifications and stated that the qualifications were internationally comparable. The real issue was for quality and how the teachers delivered it in schools. There were also three trade unions that were represented and a task team to look at assisting teachers in quality improvement. The learners and the Department of Education were the main role players but SAQA supported them.

The Chair asked Mr Isaacs to speak about the second objective listed at page 2 of the SAQA report.

Mr Isaacs discussed the issue of glass ceilings and used the example of a B Com from university not being enough for one to become a Chartered Accountant. If there was quality across all B Coms, the learner would not have to deal with the problem of there being no automatic recognition for what he had already learned. People who went to private colleges were not allowed access into universities. The problem was that there was a mindset that unless a learner went through a particular institution's program, that institution believed the learner had not received the qualifications necessary. There was a need for quality across the board and uniform standards in higher education. Also, adults needed to have access to education. He recognized there were some problems inherent in this issue. For example, if a person wanted a degree in journalism from particular institutions based on work elsewhere, what fee would the institution charge for that? Would it charge the amount it would have charged someone to obtain the degree at that institution, or would it charge just to cover the cost of assessing whether the degree was appropriate?

The Chair acknowledged the problem and asked SAQA for guidance.

Mr Gaum pointed out the current problem of illiteracy at the lower levels of education and asked if SAQA was involved in assessing the cause of this and what it thought was the source of the problem.

Mr Isaacs stated that SAQA's mandate was grade 9 and higher and did not have much involvement with grades prior to that level. SAQA did have impact on the qualifications of teachers, but that was a secondary impact.

Mr B Mosala (ANC) asked about harmonizing training systems.

Mr Isaacs said they were looking at how qualification frameworks move and said the training systems normally came with the trainers, and in that way the harmonizing of systems occurred. This was happening already in the banking, mining and telecommunications industries for example.

Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked SAQA's thoughts on giving certificates to lawyers and other people in the legal industry who did not have certificates.

Mr Isaacs responded that there had been an oversight in the law and that the evaluation of learners took place at provincial level. This related to the issue of recognizing prior learning and the need to find better ways to assess learners. One way to qualify would be portfolios.

The Chair asked if SAQA had met all the targets for this year.

Mr Isaacs responded that it had done so as much as humanly possible and referred the Chair to the quarterly reports.

UMALUSI’s briefing

Dr Peliwe Lolwana, Chief Executive Officer of Umalusi, started by introducing their Chief Fianacial Officer Mr Jeremy Thomas. She then highlighted that they did not think it necessary to touch on everything that was in the annual report since it had been sent in August to all members of parliament.

Dr Lolwana stated that she would just read over the report and highlight what Umalusi had done and what it still planned to do. She said that Umalusi assured the quality in general and further education and training.

The Council monitored and moderated learner achievement and issued certificates at key points. It also evaluated the providers of education and training, checking whether they had the capacity to deliver and assess qualifications and learning programmes and did this with the expected standards of quality.

The General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act of 2001 guided Umalusi. Although the Council had been able to carry out most of the required tasks with limited financial resources and this together with the uncertainty of the outcome of the review of the NQF hampered progress.

In September 2004 Umalusi started with the evaluation of assessment systems of a chief directorate, and completed the evaluation of nine provincial assessment bodies and two private bodies in May 2005.

The Council could not report on the evaluation yet. 21 members had been deployed to monitor the conduct of the examinations and the marking processes as well as the capturing of results.

The investigation into the Mpumalanga irregularities had been conducted in various phases and took over more than months. A team of 20 independent specialists had assisted Malusi in the probe. In the end the results had however been withheld.

A seminar had been held in September 2002 for examining various issues relating to matric attended by almost 200 persons. The seminar had been attended by stakeholders from public and private assessment bodies, tertiary education and training institutions, labour organizations, private providers and parent bodies.

Dr Lolwana stated that the criteria for all providers had been finalized in the first part of the present financial year and some of these had already been submitted to the Minister for approval as required by the act.

Provisional accreditation for independent private schools, further education training colleges and adult basic education training providers continued. By the end of the financial year 2004/2005, 597 schools had been provisionally accredited.

An evaluation and accreditation committee of Malusi’s Council was established and had met for the first time in November 2004.

During the same year Umalusi’s research and development wing started functioning. A research forum of advisors and experts had also been established and a three-year research plan had been developed.

Also undertaken had been an investigation into the standard of the senior certificate examination and results published.

In the year 2005 two significant seminars had taken place and others were being planned including a conference of all assessment or examination bodies in Southern Africa next year in June.

In total Umalusi had issued nearly 700000 certificates. Also, newly designed was a new certificate that would replace the old South African Council one that was still being used.

Dr Lolwana stated that effective, efficient and transparent financial management and internal control systems had been implemented in terms of section 38 (1j) of the peer review.

Thirty percent of Umalusi’s budget had come from certifications applications and education moderation fees. Forty five percent had come from the department of education. Dr Lolwana described the budget as a measly one compared to what members of the committee had seen in terms of statutory bodies.

The annual report gave a detailed account of its human resources situation, in addition attachment C was an organogram of staff deployment and attachment D reflected the composition of the staff. Attachment E was a report on assets and supply chain management practices.

The way forward from this review was firstly that the uncertainties of Umalusi’s future role and finances had to be solved. It had become clear that the Council could not continue with the accreditation processes without clear indication that funds would be available to undertake and sustain such operations.

Umalusi had been paying attention to the concept of standard and assessment, as this would come and haunt them until a language that is accessible to all was found. There had also been efforts to try figure out where the problem was, but there was no answer.

The understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the assessment bodies was being advanced in an attempt to make the system stronger and credible and a new quality assurance for qualifications and curriculum had been established.

Dr Lolwana stated that Umalusi believed strongly that there should be a meaningful equivalence between the national senior certificate and the FET vocational, otherwise it would not make sense to have these at the same level.

Discussion
The Chair wanted to hear, in light of the lack of certainty with the national qualification framework, what was expected to happen within the next 3 years.

Dr Lolwana advised that the focus was on quality assurance of examinations, but that there was a big problem with the lack of funds for other functions delegated to Umalusi. There was no money for accreditation of small schools.

The Chair asked why there was no budget for these additional functions created by the act.

Mr J Thomas (CFO Umalusi) reported on the increased budget provided by the Department of Education each year from R1.6 million in 2001/02 to a total 12.8 million in 2004/05. These numbers were set forth in Umalusi's annual reports. He said it was hard to with budgeting process obtain additional money for the next year. In 2004/05, the additional funds of 5 million were granted by the Department of Education on March 23, 2005, effectively to apply toward the next year.

Mr P Benade (CFO Department of Education) supported Mr Thomas's statements that it was difficult in the context of the budgeting process to get the additional funding up front. The Department of Education gave the grant late in the year, with approval from the Treasury, to assist Umalusi in the following year since it was too late to spend the funds in the present year. A public entity was allowed to roll money over to the next year as it was not bound by the same restrictions as other governmental entities.

The Chair asked Umalusi to identify functions for which it did not have a budget so that the Committee could address the problem.

Dr Lolwana stated there were two challenges. The first was funding. The second was waiting for resolution of the national qualification framework that was holding up resources.

Mr Boinamo (DA) asked what had happened to the whistleblower in the case of the school Dr Lolwana had discussed, which was sanctioned for allowing learners to rewrite exams in 2005. He said a safety system was needed for whistleblower teachers.

Dr Lolwana advised that Umalusi's function was limited to ensuring standards of examinations and had no authority over teachers.

The Chair asked about the statements at page 12 of the Umalusi report regarding standards of examination certification. Did the universities doubt these?

Dr Lolwana stated Umalusi was trying to articulate what the standards were. For example, Umalusi was determining what the topics were for a biology metric, and it needed input from higher education to measure that.

Mr Gaum (ANC) asked if when there is certainty as to national qualification framework, would there be certainty as to which functions are SAQA's versus Umalusi's? Second, what periods relating to budget numbers were covered at page 4 of Umalusi's report? Third, he was glad to hear Umalusi was playing a role in the articulation of standards. Did Umalusi have a plan of action?

Dr Lolwana stated that there were many other quality assurance entities, in addition to SAQA and Umalusi. Also, there were 70,000 indigent FETCs, which raised the question of what was the relationship between an FETC and a qualification seeker.

Mr Thomas answered Mr Gaum's question regarding page 4 of the report, stating that it covered 2004/05.

Ms P R Mashangoane (ANC) referred to page 3 of the report and Umalusi's design of a new certification to replace the old and asked what she should tell her constituency regarding the certainty of certification.

Dr Lolwana responded that the certification has received adequate review as to quality and will be recognized as comparable in the future. The uncertainty at page 3 of the report spoke to Umalusi's role in the accreditation process and the role of certifications from unaccredited institutions. The government needed protect South Africa's citizens who were going to unaccredited schools that were making promises they could not keep.

The Chair said the Committee needed to know of cases where schools were operating without accreditation, which was a criminal act.

Dr Lolwana stated Umaluis had a duty but insufficient funding for accreditation of all higher education institutions.

The Chair again stated the Committee needs to know about unaccredited institutions operating as accredited so that it could work to stop them. The Chair raised the issue of FET's, which were seen by the President as important, and what to do with colleges where most of the learning time was spent in the workshop rather than the classroom, but where only the classroom was the only accredited part.

Dr Lolwana said the NQF resolution would address this, but until the NQF was worked out there was uncertainty about what to do. Umalusi gave only accreditation for class time because that was its mandate.

The Chair asked for Umalusi's help in giving input to the Committee so that it could articulate problems, accommodations and time frames in two areas: 1) funding, and 2) NQF.

Council on Higher Education briefing

Dr Salim Badat, Chief Executive Officer of CHE, passed to the committee apologies from Mr Saki Macozoma who was unable to make it to the meeting.

He referred the committee to document one, which was a reminder of the status of CHE. He mentioned that CHE had a responsibility to advise the Minister on all higher education policies, it had a responsibility for quality assurance of higher education, to evaluate how government is being responsive to issues and to consult all the stakeholders.

Document two highlighted what was done in the past year and there were five areas where the Minister had sought advice from CHE. These five areas were (i) distance learning, (ii) Enrollment planning, (iii) minimum requirements, (iv) NQF review and (v) the investigation as to how GATTS and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) affected higher education.

Dr Badat stated that CHE had never had serious debate about conception of academic freedom, institutional autonomy as well as public accountability.

Another issue had been that of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme funding public and not private institutions. Another matter was also that of illegal institutions, those that were not credited at all, those that had been provisionally credited and those that were credited but offered more courses than those they were credited for.

Discussion
The Chair asked Dr Badat what mechanism there was to address institutions acting without accreditation.

Dr Badat answered that CHE did not have authority to do anything in such a case, although it knew which institutions were acting without accreditation. CHE subscribed to and monitored newspapers for these unaccredited institutions, but that was as far as it could go.

The Chair stated that the parliamentary members are in a powerful position with respect to this issue because they could talk to such people as the commissioner about it. He asked CHE to identify for the Committee the institutions which are acting without accreditation.

Mr Gaum (ANC) asked if CHE had a proposal, other than the criminal system, for closing down institutions acting without accreditation.

Dr Badat said he did not, because he thought the policies and frameworks were adequate to address the problem. Public institutions were closed down where needed, such as in the case of KwaZulu-Natal MBA program. There were constitutional guarantees for private institutions, so that the process was the same as for public ones. There was nothing wrong with the process, but there needed to be a show of authority that the institutions could be closed down through some inter-governmental mechanism.

The Chair asked Dr Badat to speak more about the key challenges listed in Document 10 of the materials.

Dr Badat stated that regarding the issue of quality in higher education, he urged the Committee to focus on the need for more funding for access to higher education. The current R 10 billion was not enough. He listed five ways to achieve this: 1) an increase in investment in national financial aid for poor students, 2) more money to improve learning and teaching for students under-prepared, through no fault of their own, 3) updating the curriculum to relate to today's students, 4) investing money in the next generation of academics, especially women and blacks, 5) investing in capital infrastructure such as equipment and facilities. He said academics earned far too little.

The Chair expressed surprise that teachers make more than university academics.

Dr Badat stated junior and senior lecturers could not afford to own a house in Cape Town nowadays.

Dr Badat indicated there had been collaboration among SAQA, CHE and Umalusi on some issues. They had not waited on NQF in areas where they had reached a general agreement. For example, they agreed that standard setting should go to Umalusi and CHE because once the standard was set, there was a need for quality assurance and the standards would be revisited in light of quality assurance.

The Chair asked for a joint recommendation from the three organizations with their proposals on the delegation of functions.

Dr Badat said the organisations would be meeting soon and he would raise the idea of a joint recommendation at that meeting

Meeting was adjourned.

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