Umalusi & South African Qualification Authority Annual Reports 2006/7: briefing

Basic Education

22 October 2007
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
23 OCTOBER 2007
UMALUSI & SOUTH AFRICAN QUALIFICATION AUTHORITY ANNUAL REPORTS 2006/7: BRIEFING

Chairperson
: Mr S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
South African Qualification Authority Annual Report 2006/7[available at www.saqa.org.za]
South African Qualification Authority presentation
Umalusi Annual Report 2006/7[available shortly at www.umalusi.org.za]
Umalusi presentation


Audio recording of meeting

SUMMARY
Umalusi, the quality assurance body for general and further education and training curricula and examinations, and the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) delivered their 2006/7annual reports. SAQA was about to release reports on trends in higher education, a key national database on learners in higher education; on qualifications in Early Childhood Development; teacher qualifications and their portability; on professional qualifications, and others. SAQA spent 87% of its budget and received its tenth unqualified audit report. Some R4,5 million was budgeted for building a garage and repairs but this would be rolled over to the next financial year.

Members sought clarity on the framework for research into recognition of prior learning, measures in place that ensured rural people to benefit from SAQA initiatives, whether foreign graduates were coming to South Africa to work or to study and bogus colleges which exploited the poor.

Umalsui was proceeding to accredit and monitor public and private providers of training and education and assessment. Both organisations generated income by issuing and verifying certificates and qualifications and received unqualified audit reports. Umalusi’s Management Information System project was improving operational output. Umalusi had received an unqualified audit report. Total income for the year under review was R32,9 million of which R4,9 million was surplus. The surplus would be used in 2007/08.

Members asked Umalusi to explain its efforts to improve the internal control weaknesses cited in its Annual Report, whether it had come across an fake certificates being issued, the financial grant allocated to Umalusi by the Department and the low quality of education in ‘far-flung’ sites which left thousands of young South Africans with no hope of employment.

MINUTES
South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) Annual briefing

Mr Samuel Isaacs, SAQA Executive Officer, summarised the Annual Report for 2006/07. SAQA had been responsive to national challenges. It had registered three vocational qualifications at National Qualification Framework (NQF) Levels 2, 3, and 4 to support the Department’s recapitalisation of FET colleges, and registered qualifications to professionalise the public service. In response to scarce skills, it had initiated a review of trade qualification in manufacturing and engineering; registered internationally comparable qualifications in welding and participated in a national working group to look at scarce skills, including artisans’ career paths.

An analysis of trends in higher education (HE) from 1995 to 2004 had been completed according to the National Learners’ Records Database and launched. This database currently contained the records of 7.5m learners but has capacity for 30m. It is seen increasingly as the key national database for education and training and gives details of 54 work-related fields of study, grouped into five broad fields; and trends per field of study, qualification type and level, population groups and gender. It benefits the labour market and education analysis and decision making as well as academic and employment equity planning.
SAQA had also conducted and published research into early childhood development (ECD) qualifications and recognition of prior learning (RPL) in the year under review. SAQA’s strategic advocacy vehicles include its updates, bulletins, engineering news business brief, CEO magazine, government digest, NQF support line, its website and the NQF gateway.

A research report into professional qualification had been published after establishing a review panel and conducting a workshop with 200 delegates. The review panel had recommended that professional qualifications should be registered on the NQF but there is debate about professional designation in the domain of smaller, non-statutory bodies. The issue is one of access and quality.

As a result of the deliberations of a working group, SAQA had published a report on the recognition of teacher qualification and registration across Commonwealth member states. This report had been presented at the Commonwealth Council of Education Ministers held in Cape Town in December 2006.

The annual colloquium’s theme was “the NQF as a socially inclusive and cohesive system” and international academics had participated in it. SAQA had liaised with and advised similar authorities internationally.
The number of applications to verify qualifications from other countries had increased by 71%. This was a source of income for SAQA. The top countries were Zimbabwe, India, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as expected. In quality assurance (QA), SAQA had progressed form monitoring compliance auditing to auditing performance of Education and Training Qualification Authorities (ETQAs). SAQA carried out targeted monitoring in high risk areas, for example fire-arm and driver training.

Staff performance, recognition, training and development programmes had been implemented. SAQA met its employment equity targets but exceeded the target with respect to white females.

SAQA spent 87% of its budget and received its tenth unqualified audit report. Some R4,5 million was budgeted for building a garage and repairs but this would be rolled over to the next financial year.

A new QA body, the Quality Assurance Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) was being established. The 23 Sector Education and Training Authorities would report to it and care was being taken not to undermine existing arrangements during the transition

Discussion
Mr G Boinamo (DA) commented that it was difficult for rural people to benefit from, for instance, the new welding qualification on offer. He asked whether Zimbabwean and other teachers’ qualifications were recognised in South Africa and whether SAQA’s building was rented or owned.

Mr Isaacs agreed that rural welders could get a qualification if there was a training provider in their area but SASOL, for instance, retested qualified people. Such processes undermined NQF qualifications, Thus, in order to counter that, SAQA had to ensure that the qualification was credible. Many foreign teachers’ qualifications were recognised in South Africa, but that did not mean that they would get a job. The building had been bought and had appreciated six-fold in market value.

Mr R Ntuli (ANC) asked for more details on the framework for research into recognition of prior learning (RPL) and also commented on the frustration that disadvantaged learners experienced with the credits system when enrolling for HE.

Mr Isaacs responded that the difficulty with RPL was that both artisans and professionals did not like people entering the field ‘the easy way’. Universities, for instance, would allow some students to register for their master’s degrees but would not acknowledge the student’s prior learning and award them an honours degree before completing the masters. The system had worked best in the building industry but this had ceased once funding had been used up. There should be better articulation between universities as well.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) wanted to know whether foreign graduates were coming to South Africa to work or to study, what could be done about bogus colleges which exploited the poor. He requested more information on Masters of Business Administration (MBAs) degrees.

Mr Isaacs replied that when first recording the numbers of applications to have foreign qualifications registered, SAQA had not asked the graduates whether they were coming to South Africa to work or to study, so full data was not available. The Department registered private colleges and a list was available on the SAWA website.

Mr B Mosala (ANC) asked for the names of some bodies on the review panel and whether executive meetings had been poorly attended. If so, the parties responsible were misrepresenting their organisations.

Mr Isaacs responded that the engineering council, the nursing council, the chartered Institute of secretaries and the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), for example were all on the panel. He provided exact details of attendance and the valid reasons for non-attendance. Attendance had been good except in the case of the Department’s officials, but they had so many other duties that SAQA would free them form attending.

Ms P Mashangoane (ANC) asked how the speakers for the colloquium had been selected.

Mr Isaacs explained that individuals and not institutions had been selected to address the colloquium on the basis of their having published in the areas of qualifications and social inclusion.

Umalusi briefing
Ms E Rabie, Acting Chief Executive Officer, and Mr Jeremy Thomas, Chief Financial Officer, presented the Annual Report. Umalusi’s mandate lay in the General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act of 2001 and was to act as a quality assurance body to ensure continuous quality enhancement, to develop a QA framework for the general and further education bands of the NQF and to regulate the relationship between the National Department of Education, SAQA and other ETQAs, providers and Umalusi.

Some of its key result areas were to
- Improve and maintain the system for quality assuring assessment for certification;
- Establish and implement a system for evaluation and accreditation for providers;
- Establish and maintain a system to certify and quality assure qualification and curricula and
- Research and development.

Details of the numbers of Senior Certificate (SC) papers and marks moderated (2644), Grade 11 exemplars (86), Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) learning areas (23) and papers (51) and N1-N3 papers (51 were given as well as of continuous assessment at the SC, ABET and N1-N3 and the conduct at examinations at those sites. Common Tasks for Assessment (CTAs) were moderated in 28 learning areas.

Review of the standardisation process for the new National Southern Cape / Karoo and National Certificate for Vocation had begun. Private and independent schools, ABET centres  and FET colleges were monitored and accredited. Accreditation policy documents have been resubmitted to the Minister for approval.

Three applications (one vocational and two ABET) were being supported to be accredited assessment bodies through a development programme. The Beweging vir Christelike Vroue Onderwys (BVCO) had been granted provisional accreditation until September 2007. Nine provincial departments of education and the Independent Examinations Board had been monitored against their improvement plans and policy resubmitted to the office of the Minister.

The framework for quality assurance of qualifications and curriculum had been developed, along with criteria and guidelines. Guidelines, criteria and instruments for the SC and Biology curriculum had been piloted. SC, ABET, N3 and vocational certificates had been issued and 149 000 certificates verified.

A report comparing school and college subjects had been finalised. One comparing study syllabi and exams of Southern Cape / Karoo with equivalents in other African states would be available at the end of October. Reports on ‘item response theory’ and the correlation between continuous assessment (CASS) and examination marks had been commenced. A report on research into fundamentals was available and Umalsui had hosted a Southern African Developing Countries (SADC) conference on assessment in June 2006.

The Management Information System (MIS) project was improving operational output. Amounts of R1.7million and R400 000 had been generated by verification and certification and Umalusi had received an unqualified audit report. The surplus would be used in 2007/08. Staff development would be a priority for 2007/08 and beyond. Total income for the year under review was R32,9 million of which R4,9 million was surplus. This would be incorporated into the 2007/08 budget.

Umalusi was ready to engage the Department and other stakeholders on the improvement of quality in quality assurance foundations for school, college and adult education assessment, curriculum and accreditation. Umalusi welcomed the NQF review finalisation and has begun to consult with the Departments of Education and Labour and other stakeholders.

Discussion
Mr R Van den Heever (ANC) referred to mention of ‘internal control weaknesses’ cited in the Annual Report, and asked whether Umalusi geared to improve on those weaknesses.

Mr Thomas explained that the extra administration caused by the increase in accreditation had resulted in some failures in new systems. The failure had been picked up and rectified and Umalusi was looking at all its systems for weaknesses and managements controls. They had mentioned the matter in the Annual Report because they were facing up to it.

Ms Rabie added that of the 187 ABET centres monitored, the majority were profit-making, ‘one-man shows waiting for tenders’. The NGO sector had decreased in ABET figures.

Mr Boinamo asked if people issued fake certificates and, if so, what Umalusi did about it.

Mr Thomas responded that there had never been a fake Umalusi certificate but faked and manipulated copies were encountered in about 4% of all certificates that Umalusi was asked to verify. Umalusi informed the South African Police Services (SAPS) of the fraud.

Ms
Mashangaoneasked what the table detailing the Department’s financial allocation to Umalsui signified.

Mr Thomas replied that the Department grant had been included in the Annual Report to show that it varied from year to year. It was not made according to any formula, and thus made budgeting difficult.

Mr Mpontshane asked which rural FET college sites Umalusi visited and monitored, because some were very poor. Regarding universities’ admissions tests, he accepted that universities were autonomous and had their own tests, but learners were frustrated by the process. The problem was that the matric certificate lacked credibility.

Ms Rabie agreed that many rural campuses were poor in quality and a report was due at the end of the year to that effect. Some would not be ready to offer new certificate courses at the end of 2007. She agreed that the matric certificate lacked credibility in university admission terms. Higher Education South Africa (HESA) was working on an entrance requirement test. The national system had focused more on access and less on quality. The examination papers were generally good but there were compromises in the areas of marking. CASS addressed the issue of teacher capacity, which would take time to improve.

Mr Boinamo was perturbed at the quality of education in ‘far-flung’ sites where thousands of young South Africans with no hope of employment were enrolled. He wished that ‘something could be done’.

The Chair asked him to supply names of the satellite campuses so that the Committee could also take the matter up.

Mr Ntuli said that CTAs would reflect on the quality of teaching as the mark counted for 20% of the total. If the correlation between the CTA mark and the exam mark was not good, did Umalusi take the matter up with the Department?

Mr Mosala hoped for a follow-up report on Umalusi’s interaction with the Department, especially on the issues that had been discussed at a previous meeting.

The Chair asked for lists of unregistered institutions to be given to the Department and for details of how CASS was affected by the teachers’ strike.

Mr Thomasr and Ms Rabie responded to the questions by stating that provinces were getting better at assessment and Umalusi did make recommendations to the Department regarding low correlation between exam marks and assessment. Umalusi staff had met with the Minister and with the Director-General and relations had improved. Umalusi had been charged with submitting a document on its role and on how the legislation should change to better match its view on how to execute its mandate. The Committee was promised a copy of the document. It was difficult to predict the effect of the strike but it would be more apparent at standardisation.

Mr Mpontshane asked what would happen to learners who failed the forthcoming matric examination and was informed that arrangements would have to be made for them.

The meeting was adjourned.

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