National Qualifications Framework Bill, General & Further Education & Training Quality Amendment Bill & Higher Education Amendment Bill: Negotiating Mandates

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

23 September 2008
Chairperson: Mr B Tolo (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Education provided a brief summary of the main purpose of the three Bills before the Committee. The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Bill was a continuation of existing structural development under the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). The intention behind the new legislation was to establish accountability in the implementation of quality assurance initiatives. The new legislative framework provided a unified and definitive structure that addressed the difficulties experienced under the previous SAQA legislation, which had failed to define accountability and roles sufficiently. The new legislation would continue to require SAQA to have a consultative role, but the framework now provided by the NQF Bill would enable a smooth transition. Two Quality Councils would be established under the Minister of Education, and a third Quality Council would fall under the Minister of Labour. This would distinguish the roles and independence of the two Ministers. Quality Councils would give support also to professional bodies. The General and Further Education Training and Quality Assurance Bill was a consequential piece of legislation providing for additional functions of the Quality Councils.

The Provinces then presented their negotiating mandates. Eastern Cape noted several cross-referencing errors that had to be corrected. Gauteng made several recommendations in relation to portability of qualifications, the role of SAQA and for definition of “standards” and responsibilities, as well as noting technical numbering errors. However, Gauteng also broadly supported the Bill. KwaZulu Natal also indicated support, but proposed amendments to clauses 4(2) and financial implications. Limpopo made recommendations for Clauses 4 and 14 but also supported the Bill. Western Cape indicated its support but asked for consideration of the board meetings, the quorum to specified and amendments to clause 15. Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and North West supported the Bill. The Department of Education should give its response to these mandates at a future meeting.

Meeting report

National Qualifications Framework Bill (NQF Bill), General and Further Education and Training Quality Amendment Bill (GFETQA Bill) and Higher Education Amendment Bill (HEA Bill): Department of Education (DoE) briefing
Mr Eben Boshoff, Chief Director of the Department of Education, addressed Members, giving a summary of the NQF and the GFETQA Bills. He stated that the NQF Bill was a continuation of existing structural development under the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). The intention behind the new legislation was to establish accountability in the implementation of quality assurance initiatives. The new legislative framework provided a unified and definitive structure that addressed the difficulties that had been experienced under The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) legislation. The main problem with SAQA had been the inability to clearly determine accountability, as it had failed to fix the responsibility to administer the Act between the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labour. Another problem lay in the multiplicity of standard generating bodies under SAQA, which had led to confusion and complexity in quality assurance and control for qualifications.

The new legislation was not meant to put an end to SAQA. SAQA would continue to exist in a consultative role to provide support to the emerging dispensation now proposed by this legislation. The framework created by the NQF Bill would enable co-ordination with SAQA to ensure a smooth transition. This would require linking strategies that would ensure that any conflicts were avoided, and would promote consistent standards that were aligned with one another in the recognition of qualifications.

The NQF Bill would establish two Quality Councils (QCs) under the Minister of Education, whilst a third Quality Council would fall under the Minister of Labour. This served to distinguish the roles of the two Ministers and to create a framework that would ensure their independence and mutual co-operation. The legislative proposals also advanced the principle of simplicity and would reduce complexity and promote interactivity. The NQF Bill would also provide support and assistance through the Quality Councils to professional bodies in the performance of the quality assurance function. The GFETQA Bill was a consequential piece of legislation that provided for the additional functions of the Quality Councils.

Negotiating Mandates on the National Qualifications Framework Bill
The Chairperson requested members to table their negotiating mandates for the NQF Bill before the Committee.

Ms A Qikani (UDM, Eastern Cape) submitted that the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature’s Committee had noted that the Bill had several cross-referencing errors that had to be corrected before the Bill was adopted.

Mr T Setona (ANC, Free State) submitted the mandate for the Free State Province indicating that their Committee was in favour of the Bill.

Ms F Mazibuko (ANC, Gauteng) read out the mandate from Gauteng Province. She noted that that the Bill had financial implications for the Province. Their Committee recommended that the Bill make provision for the portability and recognition of qualifications at different levels on the NQF between the different councils. Furthermore, the Bill should mandate the different councils to set up the policy frameworks to ensure alignment between the Quality Councils in order to ensure that high standards were maintained. This Committee had also recommended that the word ‘standards’ should be included under definitions, in order to provide articulation between the Education as well as the Training sector.

There were several recommendations around SAQA. Gauteng recommended that the Bill should clarify the role of SAQA in terms of quality assurance, and allow SAQA to give input in terms of quality assurance in consultation with the Quality Councils. In terms of its advocacy role, the Bill should also provide for SAQA to develop a set of NQF navigational tools that would enable learners to understand and make informed choices about the learning pathways they needed to follow in order to reach their career objectives. It also stated that the role of SAQA as set out in Clause 13(n)(i) should be done jointly with the Quality Councils and the words “by a coordinated communication strategy” should be included after “inform the public about the NQF”, in order to ensure that there was a streamlined communication strategy.

The Gauteng Committee also noted that in Clause 9(5)(3)(c) “cooperate in discharging their respective responsibilities under this Act” “and” was not captured in the Bill, and recommended that it be rectified.

The Committee also recommended that the numbering as captured in Page 2 (Amendments Agreed To) should be corrected to reflect the numbering in the Bill, and in this regard numbering errors were listed and corrected (see attached document), for Clauses 4, 5, and 9.

The negotiating position adopted by the Province was that it supported the principle and details of the NQF Bill, subject to the consideration of the issues read out by their delegate.

The mandate of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial legislature followed. This noted that the Provincial Standing Committee supported the Bill, but had also proposed some amendments. It firstly proposed that the phrase “in their personal capacities” in Clause 14(2) should be omitted. It was felt that members should be representing and reporting to recognised structures. In respect of financial implications, contained in the explanatory memorandum on page 21, it was submitted that, in principle, reducing the SAQA’s functions would result in saving which would offset the cost of adding functions to Umaluse and the Council for Higher Education (CHE), but the extent of the offset was not known. There was a concern that this could be one of the factors that would hinder the implementation of the legislation.

Mr M Thetjeng (DA, Limpopo) read out the Limpopo Provincial Legislature’s mandate. Their Committee had made recommendations in respect of Clauses 4 and 14. It suggested that in Clause 4, the notice for the nominations for the appointment of members of the board should be advertised in two local papers in addition to the Government Gazette. Limpopo also suggested that Clause 14(1) (m) should also provide for the verification of qualifications with respect to foreign qualifications. Other than that, the Limpopo’s Committee supported the Bill and conferred a mandate to the NCOP delegates to negotiate in favour of the Bill.

Ms J Masilo (ANC, North West) presented the mandate for Mpumalanga Province, which supported the Bill and conferred a mandate on their delegate to vote in favour of the Bill.

Mr M Sulliman (ANC, Northern Cape) delivered the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature’s mandate, which also was in support of the Bill.

Ms Masilo presented the mandate for the North West Provincial Legislature. This Committee had resolved that the Bill should be published in other official languages, in the public interest and to enable communities to have a clear understanding of its aims, particularly for School Governing Bodies and elderly people.

Mr Tolo responded that the Committee felt that the translation of legislation into official languages was better left to the various Provincial Legislatures, who were expected to have their own policies regarding this issue.

Ms H Lamoela (DA, Western Cape) submitted the mandate for the Western Cape Provincial Legislature, which also indicated support for the Bill. However, it had asked for consideration of its recommendations and concerns. Concern was raised regarding the number of times the SAQA board was required to meet each year. The Committee recommended that the Board should meet at least four times a year and further, that it should endeavour to have more than the minimum required meetings, in light of the disparities within educational institutions and the alignment of the available courses that were being offered. It further noted that the quorum specification for the Board was not clearly spelt out and it was left to the discretion of the Board. The Western Cape Committee therefore recommended that the quorum rule of 50% + 1 should be stipulated in the Bill in order to ensure maximum participation and input. This Committee also recommended that in Clause 15, in line 39 of page 7, the word “three” should be substituted with “two”. The motivation for this was that in light of the minimum requirements of at least four meetings per annum were stipulated, it needed to ensure maximum input and participation from its members, as well as having sufficient numbers to replace members with others that could fulfill that role.

Mr Setona suggested to the Committee that the Department of Education should be asked to give its response to these comments in the mandates at a future date, and this was agreed to by Members.

The meeting was adjourned.

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