The Department of Education responded to the concerns that had been raised by the Provincial Committees in their negotiating mandates to the Select Committee. The Chairperson noted that the majority of these concerns were not made in support of any concrete proposals for amendments, save for the technical amendments proposed by
National Qualifications Framework Bill (NQF Bill), General & Further Education & Training Quality Amendment Bill (GFETQA Bill), and Higher Education Amendment Bill (HEA Bill): Department of Education (DOE) responses to comments made in Negotiating Mandates
The Chairperson began by providing a re-cap of the legislative procedure followed to date, noting that the Committee was now at the stage of consideration of the negotiating mandates on the NQF Bill and the GFETQA Bill. He noted that whilst all the Republic’s nine provinces had given their mandates, a few of them had raised certain concerns. The Chairperson questioned the correctness of the practice of submitting mere concerns as opposed to concrete proposals for amendments. However, since it had become a regular practice, the Committee would allow these concerns to be responded to by the Department of Education, although in future this would not be permissible. The purpose of the present meeting was therefore to consider the concerns that had been raised by the provinces in their negotiating mandates. Some provinces that were awaiting the responses to their concerns before they could submit their final mandates so that the proposed legislation could then be finalised.
Ms J Masilo (ANC,
The Chairperson agreed that any concrete proposals for amendments would be dealt with as the Department’s response to them was heard.
Department of Education’s Response to Negotiating Mandates from KwaZulu-Natal
Mr Duncan Hindle, Director-General, Department of Education, presented the Department’s responses to the concerns raised by various provinces in their negotiating mandates to the Select Committee on the NQF Bill. He was assisted in his presentation by Chief Director, Advocate Elan Boshoff and Ms Vivian Carlelse, Deputy Director-General of the DOE.
Mr Hindle expressed his appreciation to the members of the provincial Legislatures and the Select Committee for their sterling contribution throughout the progress of the proposed legislation. He submitted that the NQF Bill and the GFETQA Bill were the product of a review of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) that had been undertaken over a period of seven years. There had been, therefore, an extensive period of discussion and deliberation between the Department and various stakeholders such as the Ministry of Labour. Many of the concerns raised were therefore a repetition of matters that had been discussed already. It was necessary to arrive at some conclusion of these debates as opposed to re-opening them, considering the pressure of time and the need to finalise the legislation.
Mr Hindle responded to two queries that had been raised by the Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) province. In supporting the NQF Bill, the Provincial Standing Committee on NCOP matters had firstly proposed that South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) board members should be representing and reporting to recognised structures. Mr Hindle responded that evidence from practice had shown that the need for mandated representation had been one of the stumbling blocks within the current SAQA Board. The Board had been unable to reach decisions in an effective way because each time they had to defer meetings to acquire mandates. There had been a very strong push; therefore, supported by those working in SAQA, to emphasise an independent structure. Mr Hindle pointed out that the composition of SAQA did give, through the National Assembly process, adequate recognition of certain constituencies, which he listed. There were also provisions around a labour constituency, which was recognized as a particular constituency that would have to feature in the SAQA board.
Secondly, with regard to the Bill’s explanatory memorandum, the KZN provincial legislature had expressed its reservations concerning the issue of financial implications. It stated that in principle reducing SAQA’s functions would result in savings that would offset the cost of adding functions. The extent of the offset was, however, unknown. There was a concern that this was going to be one of the factors that would hinder the implementation of the legislation. Mr Hindle responded that there had already been extensive engagement between SAQA and the two existing Quality Assurance institutions (that would soon become Quality Councils) around the reshuffling of personnel and the delegation of responsibilities. The Department would ensure that the process would not affect the functioning of these bodies.
The representative of the KZN legislature said that as much as KZN did not want to see the work of SAQA hindered in any way, there was a concern that there might not be sufficient opportunity for those constituencies to liaise with their representatives in SAQA. There was a need for some assurance that this danger could be averted.
Mr Hindle responded by making references to the clauses listing the constituencies that the Minister was required to nominate, from which representatives would be selected. He submitted that this process addressed the concerns expressed by KZN.
DOE response to Negotiating Mandates from Gauteng
Mr Hindle observed that most of the concerns raised by the
The Province 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. Mr Hindle submitted that the debate over the use of the word ‘standards’ had come a long way, and had repeatedly been raised at the public hearings. Despite several perspectives around this term, the Department had opted for a definition that referred to ‘part qualifications’. According to the Bill’s definition section, a ‘part qualification’ was an assessed unit of learning that was registered as part of a qualification. This definition had the same meaning as ‘standards’. The Department preferred to use the former term to avoid the introduction of subjective emotive elements that could arise with the use of the word ‘standards’, such as the question of whose ‘standards’ were being applied. The Department was of the view that the term created unnecessary ‘ideological baggage’, should be avoided in legislation, and, because no reference was made to this word in the Bill, it was not necessary to insert a definition.
The province then proposed 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. Mr Hindle pointed out that this was precisely what was being done in the clause that spoke about the objectives of the NQF. It was also clearly specified in the provisions dealing with the functions of SAQA. There were Quality Assurance Frameworks that would be established and they would be registered by SAQA to provide mechanisms by which the Quality Councils would work.
The province suggested that, in terms of their 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 as to the kind of learning pathways they needed to follow in order to reach their career objectives. Mr Hindle commented that SAQA had been advocating this over a long period of time and was keen on the idea, which it planned to implement in several ways. Although there was nothing in the Bill expressly forbidding SAQA from doing this, the Department had some reservations over whether legislation should expressly allow it to do this. He submitted that the Department would want to first obtain an indication of the cost implications of developing these navigational tools, to allow discretion in terms of the budget. A situation where legislation made it mandatory to develop the NQF navigational tools without proper interrogation could lead to negative financial consequences. The use of money was best left to be determined by a business plan as opposed to legislative direction.
Gauteng had then recommended 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. Mr Hindle said that the DOE had no fundamental opposition to this proposal. He was not entirely sure that it required spelling out in the Bill, since SAQA was by nature a coordinating structure that would collaborate with the Quality Councils in most of its functions. The system of collaboration in the Bill would provide for communication strategy and it would thus be unnecessary to specify this in a clause. The Department would endeavour to ensure that SAQA understood the need for a coordinated communication strategy.
Gauteng had also suggested a number of technical amendments and recommended that the numbering as captured in “Page 2 Amendments Agreed To” should be corrected to reflect the numbering in the Bill:
Clause 4 line 45 should read line 44
Clause 5 line 50 should read line 49
Clause 9 1 line 40 should read line 33
Clause 9 2 line 41 should read line 34
Clause 9 3 line 43 should read line 36
Clause 9 4 line 43 should read line 36
Clause 9 5 page 5 should read page 4
Clause 9 5 line 7 should read line 53
The DOE accepted all of these suggested amendments, and resolved to reflect these changes in a revised form of the Bill.
The Chairperson observed that members had not been furnished with a copy of the corrections made to the Bill and requested the Department to make these available as soon as possible.
DOE response to the Limpopo Provincial Legislature’s Mandate
Mr Hindle noted that
There was also a proposal that Clause 13(1) (m) should also provide for the verification of foreign qualifications. The Department responded that this was not in the domain of SAQA, as it was not equipped to verify foreign qualifications and could only evaluate them to determine their comparability with those obtained in
Mr M Thetjeng (DA,
Mr Hindle responded that the verification of qualifications was primarily an employer’s responsibility. SAQA did not possess the kind of expertise required to carry out this function. If the suggestion was that this should be undertaken by a state agency, then this would require a bigger discussion between government and other constituencies such as labour and the private sector. It would certainly be inappropriate for this function to be handled by SAQA.
The Chairperson agreed that the Department of Education should take the matter up, so that at some stage it could be known where this function could be located within government. It was important to speedily close the loopholes that would allow bearers of fraudulently-acquired qualifications to remain undetected in the labour force.
Other members intimated the need to ensure that learners in the education system were protected from the bearers of fraudulent qualifications, as this could negatively impact on the quality of their education. Employers had to be particularly vigilant and had to have reliable mechanisms for the verification of qualifications.
Mr Thetjeng submitted that the current legislative process was an ideal opportunity to consider the implementation of a verification mechanism in the NQF. There were real dangers of fraud that made
Mr M Sulliman (ANC,
Mr Hindle pointed out that the DOE had a policy of verifying qualifications and the danger of fraud was thus covered. He submitted that SAQA did not just serve the public service but also served the private sector. If a verification framework was to be put in this legislation, it would be saying that this must be done for the entire nation and not just for government. The Department would therefore take a position that this matter would be taken up for discussion in government to gather information about current practices in different departments. Once government had made its own resolutions, it would still be necessary to consult with the private sector to enable national consensus on the issue.
The Chairperson agreed that this debate would be deferred for the moment, but should be re-opened early in 2009, when the Department could provide feedback on the thoughts of government on this matter.
DOE response to mandates from the
In its negotiating mandates the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature had highlighted the issue of standard qualifications and the monitoring of private qualifications. The Department submitted that these matters were addressed in the Higher Education Act, GFETQA and the Further Education and Training Act that provided for the registration of private institutions. It was therefore unnecessary that the current Bills cater for the same issues.
Concerns were expressed that SAQA may not have capacity to contribute to the development of the country’s human resources. Mr Hindle pointed to the collaborative relationship with the Quality Councils as an initiative for development.
DOE response to the
The Western Cape had registered its concern regarding conduct of board meetings, their frequency, and the required quorum, which it suggested was not sufficiently spelt out in the Bill. It recommended that the SAQA board convene at least four times during the year and that a quorum of at least 50% plus 1 should be stipulated in the legislation. The DOE responded that the conduct of meetings was well established and was best left to be decided by SAQA, in accordance with their conventions and practices. It would be difficult for legislation to dictate the precise manner in which meetings could be conducted.
The Committee raised other general issues of concern in Education, not specifically related to this Bill, such as the service conditions for relief teachers and problems with schools that had generated huge amounts of debt for utilities such as electricity and water.
Members then agreed that the Provincial Legislatures should be afforded an opportunity to peruse the DOE responses, and the suggested technical amendments to the numbering, before they submitted their final mandates.
It was noted that this should be done in time for the Bill to be finalised before the end of the Parliamentary session.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Responses by the Department of Education on the issues raised by provinces on the following Bills
- Responses by the Department of Education on the issues raised by provinces on the following Bills
- National Qualifications Framework Bill, General & Further Education & Training Quality Amendment Bill, Higher Education Amendmen
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