Department of Education on National Qualifications Framework Bill, General & Further Education & Training Quality Assurance Amendment Bill & Higher Education Amendment Bill: briefing

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

26 August 2007
Chairperson: Mr B Tolo (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson welcomed everyone present in the meeting and declared the meeting opened. The chairperson handed over to the Director General of the Department of Education Mr Duncan Hindle.

 

Meeting report

National Qualifications Framework Bill (NQF): Briefing by the Director –General (DG) Mr D Hindle
The D-G began by stating the background of the National Qualifications Framework Bill is the result of a policy statement on enhancing the efficacy and efficiency of the National Qualifications Framework.

It was reported that the NQF seeks to integrate all elements of the education and training system, to enable learners to progress to higher levels from any starting point, and to enable to transfer credits from one part of the system to another.

The DG reported that South African Qualifications Authority Act (SAQA) requires the Minister of Education and labour to achieve agreement with one another on various matters, however these provisions proved to be too cumbersome in practice. The NQF Bill on the other hand requires the two ministers to act collaboratively but prescribes clear spheres of ministerial responsibility.

It was reported that the SAQA Act empowered SAQA to establish substructures that could design standards and qualifications and also undertake quality assurance. The NQF processes were therefore complicated by the proliferation of substructures with overlapping mandates.

It was noted that the regulations drafted in terms of the SAQA Act formalised the concept of the NQF bands as an organising principle namely NQF, General and Further Education and Training and Higher Education and Training band.

The DG reported that the NQF Bill is based on the idea of three education and training sectors, namely General and Further and Training sector , Higher Education and trades and Occupations sector.
The DG reported that the NQF Bill seeks to give the responsibility for implementation of the NQF to three
sectoral Quality Councils (QC’s) which will act in close cooperation with each other and the SAQA. The minister of education is empowered to determine regulations for dealing with the settlement of disputes that may arise, in this way damaging and time consuming deadlocks will be avoided.

The Higher Education Amendment Bill and the General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Bill.
The DG reported that the passage of the NQF Bill requires consequential amendments to a number of Acts, namely, the Higher Education Act, The General and Further Education and Training Act and the Skills Development Act. It was also reported that the most important challenges related to the establishment for three Quality Councils.

The DG reported that Umalusi is to be the Quality Council (QC) General and Further Education and Training. The Council for Higher Education is to become the QC for the Higher Education and that the relevant Acts must be amended to reflect their new status and additional functions as QC’s.

The DG further noted that the NQF Bill is therefore accompanied by Bills to amend the General and Further Education and training Quality Assurance Act of 2001, the Higher Education Act of 1997 and the Skills Development Act of 1998.

Discussion
A member wanted clarity on the seven year process that the DG highlighted and the link between the department of education and labour.

The DG explained that the review was conducted by a task team. The department picked up the challenge of lack of strategic direction. The department is trying to ensure that programmes being offered are credible.

The DG further explained that although there is integration but that integration does not always mean uniformity.

A member wanted to know if the NQF Bill will be addressing the issue of verification of qualifications within the public service.

A response was that the verification is done by private agencies as it relates to fraud, the department is of the view that such function does not fall under SAQA.

Another member raised a concern with regard to private institutions that are not accredited and wanted to know  if there were any mechanisms in place to protect the consumers.

The DG responded by stating that all programmes in private colleges must be accredited by SAQA and the institutions must be registered with the department of education. It was further noted that best protection is awareness. It is the responsibility of the consumers to make sure that they enrol with registered institutions.

A question was raised as whether it was possible for the department of education to regulate fees in private colleges.

The DG reported that the regulating fees would be very difficult for the department as it is more of a contract between the consumer and the private college. The minister has once spoken about regulating the higher education institutions. With regard to verification, it was reported that the department of education as an employer does verify qualifications to its prospective employees. The verification process needs specialists and the department will take up this issue with the department of public services.

The Chairperson thanked the members for attending the meeting.

Ms Bulelwa Tunyiswa special delegate from the Eastern Cape and acting chairperson of the portfolio committee on Education posed a question regarding the translation of the Bill into official languages. The legal advisor for the department of education explained that the NQF Bill has been translated into Isizulu and further explained that the law provides that the Bill may be translated into one official language and that it is the responsibility of the individual province to ensure that Bills are translated into official languages.

The meeting was adjourned.



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