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SAQA: FETC Policy document

FETC Policy document

Download a copy of the policy from the SAQA website here:
http://saqa.org.za/show.php?id=5412

Executive Summary
Principles
  1. Each full qualification registered at Level 4 on the National Qualifications Framework will be called a Further Education and Training Certificate and shall conform to the broad requirements recommended in this document.
  2. A registered FETC may be constructed from unit standards or it may be registered as a whole qualification, i.e. not constructed from unit standards, in accordance with the requirements of the NSB regulations 8(4).
  3. The primary purpose of the Further Education and Training Certificate is to equip learners with the knowledge, skills and values that will enable meaningful participation in and offer benefits for society as well as providing a basis for continuing learning in higher education and training, and enable learners to be productive and responsible in the workplace.
  4. Each FETC will provide access to various learning pathways, both vertical and horizontal. The scope of access provided by each FETC will be determined by the qualification itself. The underlying principle in the design of an FETC then must be that the qualifying learner has the learning assumed to be in place to embark upon the study of qualifications at a higher level or at the same level but with a different focus, and that through the acquisition of the FETC, a viable learning pathway is created. This underpins the concept that qualification design must favour the principle of ‘dove-tailing’, i.e. exiting from one qualification must lead directly to entry to one or more qualifications at the same or higher level of the NQF.
  5. Each FETC will constitute a minimum of 120 credits with a minimum of 72 credits being obtained at or above level 4 and in the case of certificates of 120 credits, a maximum of 48 credits being obtained at level 3. In keeping with section 8(2) of the NSB regulations, a qualification consisting of less than 120 credits may be considered if it meets the requirements in regulation 8(1) and complies with the objectives of the National Qualifications Framework contained in section 2 of the Act.

5.1 The 20 compulsory credits in Language and Communication must be obtained in one of the eleven official languages provided for by the SA Constitution of 1996 (Act 108 of 1996) at level 4. All holders of an FETC will have achieved the same outcomes as indicated by the 20 compulsory credits but these may be achieved in any one of the eleven official languages.

5.2 To address the need to develop citizens who can participate effectively in a multi-lingual society, a further 20 credits in Language and Communication must be obtained in a second official language at a minimum of level 3. All holders of an FETC will have achieved the same outcomes as indicated by the 20 compulsory credits but these may be achieved in any one of the eleven official languages.

5.3 The 16 credits in Mathematics must be obtained at level 4. The Mathematics outcomes as indicated by the 16 credits may be obtained in different contexts.

  1. Proposers of a qualification can designate specific areas of study or credits as compulsory within that qualification.
  2. Integrated assessment needs to be incorporated appropriately to ensure that the purpose of the qualification is achieved, and such assessment shall use a range of formative and summative assessment such as portfolios, simulations, workplace assessments and also written and oral examinations.
  3. In their submissions, proposers of a FETC must indicate in the rules governing the award of the qualification that the qualification may be achieved in whole or in part through the recognition of prior learning, which concept includes but is not limited to learning outcomes achieved through formal, informal and non-formal learning and work experience. It will be necessary to spell out the criteria for awarding the qualification (or part of it) through RPL.

Discussion
  1. Process for the development of the principles governing the development of Further Education and Training Certificate (FETC) qualifications

1.1 The legal responsibility of SAQA as per the SAQA Act No. 58 of 1995

The functions of the Authority as per the SAQA Act, No. 58 of 1995 are as follows:

The Authority shall

  • Oversee the development of the NQF.
  • Formulate and publish policies and criteria for
  • The registration of bodies responsible for establishing education and training standards or qualifications;
  • The accreditation of bodies responsible for monitoring and auditing achievements in terms of such standards or qualifications.
  • Oversee the implementation of the NQF including
  • Registration or accreditation of bodies referred to above and the assignment of functions to them;
  • The registration of national standards and qualifications;
  • Steps to ensure compliance with provisions for accreditation;
  • Steps to ensure that registered standards and qualifications are internationally comparable.

1.2 The Regulations for National Standards Bodies (NSBs) and for Education and Training Quality Assurance Bodies (ETQAs)

Among the functions of NSBs as listed in the Regulations are the following:

  • Ensure that the work of Standards Generating Bodies (SGBs) meets the requirements for the registration of standards and qualifications as determined by the Authority;
  • Recommend the registration of standards on the NQF to the Authority;
  • Recommend the registration of qualifications to the Authority;
  • Update and review qualifications;
  • Liase with ETQAs regarding the procedures for recommending new standards and qualifications, or amending registered standards and qualifications.

Among the functions of ETQAs as listed in the regulations is the following:

  • Recommend new standards and qualifications to NSBs, for consideration, or modifications to existing standards or qualifications to NSBs for consideration.

In accordance with the Act and the regulations, SAQA through the NSB-SGB structures is responsible for the registration of qualifications. Furthermore the NSBs have the function of liasing with ETQAs regarding the procedures for recommending new standards and qualifications, or amending registered standards and qualifications. Quality Assurance bodies are responsible for assuring the quality of these qualifications. Through liaison with the NSBs they have a direct role to play in recommending new standards and qualifications as well as modifications to existing standards and qualifications to NSBs for consideration. The ETQA structures then are not legally in a position to assume responsibility for recommending standards and qualifications to SAQA, as this is clearly the responsibility of the NSB-SGB structures.

1.3 The development of principles governing the structure of FETC qualifications

In the case of the FETC and GETC, there is likely to be a range of recommendations for such qualifications which cut across all NSBs and SGBs and which attempt to fulfil a variety of needs within the education and training sector at these levels. Provision includes learners in formal schooling, technical colleges, ABET, out-of-school youth programmes and the learners within learnerships and skills programmes of the Department of Labour either at formal training centres or at workplace-based training centres.

The NSB regulations provide very general direction in respect of the structure of these qualifications. However, discussions at the NSB level indicate that further guidance and clarity is needed.

In accordance with the regulations, the bodies responsible for recommending standards and qualifications to the Authority are the NSBs. However, as mentioned above, these qualifications cut across all NSB fields and across a variety of contexts of education provision, and since NSBs and particularly SGBs could be regarded as having sectoral interests, it has been suggested that they are inappropriate structures to make such broad recommendations. Clearly, since SAQA has the responsibility for the development of the NQF, it is appropriate that it oversees the development of the minimum requirements and guiding principles for FETC qualifications.

SAQA undertook this task through a process of narrow consultation with national stakeholders and a process of wide consultation through the publication of a discussion document for public comment. The final date for comment was 27 September 2000.

In the narrow consultation process the following submissions for the FETC were received at the SAQA office:

  • Department of Education: National Curriculum Framework for Further Education and Training (May 2000)
  • SAFCERT: How do we move from the current Senior Certificates to the FETC? Dr Peliwe Lolwana
  • Department of Labour: Proposal for Learnerships and the proposed Learnership Regulations
  • The Matriculation Endorsement and the restructuring of the Senior Certificate: Report of the SAUVCA Task Team.

Submissions were received from the following organisations as a result of the public comment process:

  • Higher education sector

Council for Higher Education
Committee of Technikon Principals
South African University Vice Chancellors Association
Potchefstroom University
Witwatersrand University
University of Pretoria
University of Stellenbosch
UNISA
Rand Afrikaans University

  • Schooling sector

NAPTOSA
SAOU
Western Cape Education Department
KwaZulu-Natal: Examinations Directorate

  • Private Providers sector

APPETD
National Private Colleges

  • Other

National Board for Further Education and Training
Institute of Certified Bookkeepers
COMTEC
Chair: SGB Office Administration

  1. Deficiencies within the current system at the Senior Certificate level

The Department of Education discussion document on FET highlights some of the deficiencies in the current system as follows (page 5):

  • A separation of theory and practice, giving rise to irrelevant programmes that fail to meet the needs of learners and the changing demands of the economy and society, hence contributing to high levels of unemployment;
  • Poorly articulated FET programmes and qualifications for technical colleges and high schools that inhibit learner mobility across programmes and providers/learning sites;
  • Programmes differ widely with respect to quality, standards of provision, outcomes and curricula thus affecting equivalence and portability; and
  • Learners exiting the system and having to repeat passed subjects when they re-enter the system, lead to high levels of inefficiency.
  • Exemption requirements.

It is these deficiencies and other problems that exist in the education and training system that the objectives of the National Qualifications Framework are trying to address. More specifically it is these problems that are being addressed in the principles governing the development of FETC qualifications.

  1. Purpose of the Further Education and Training Certificate

The NSB regulations stipulate that any qualification registered on the NQF ‘is intended to provide qualifying learners with applied competence and a basis for further learning’.

The Report of the Ministerial Investigation into the Senior Certificate notes that the Senior Certificate serves three different purposes, failing to achieve any of them successfully. It serves as a school leaving certificate but is not attained by the majority of learners who leave school. It serves as a university screening mechanism but is only effective as a predictor of success among high scoring students. It serves as an employment screening mechanism but does not address work-related competences and is not perceived by employers as a particularly good indicator of success (1998:10).

In the Department of Education FET discussion document (page 2), the following comment is made: The new system seeks to foster intermediate to high level skills; lay the foundation for entrance to higher education; and facilitate the transition from school to work.

There are two threads that are incorporated in this statement of purpose, i.e. to provide qualifying learners with applied competence to facilitate the transition from school to work and to provide qualifying learners with a basis for further learning. Applied competence means the ability to put into practice in the relevant context the learning outcomes acquired in obtaining a qualification.

On the one hand, the purpose of equipping learners with knowledge and skills that will enable participation in continuing learning in higher education and training implies the acquisition of a diversity of skills. This then impacts on the size, the level of complexity and the range of competencies that the qualification is likely to incorporate. Dr Lolwana terms this a ‘neat for purpose’ qualification – its breadth makes it a neat, ‘catch-all’ qualification. Alternatively, this concept is incorporated in the concept of the ‘exchange value’ of the qualification – its diversity gives it broad exchange value, enabling participation in a wide range of learning and qualifications. Even though the qualification may not be specifically related to any one occupation or job of work, the development of the ability to handle volumes as well as diverse and complex tasks would be expected in a working situation.

On the other hand, a qualification that enables learners to embark upon a productive and responsible role in the workplace, is likely to be more specific in its range of competencies and to have less diversity in its skills and knowledge. It is very focussed, encouraging the development of in-depth skills and knowledge in a given area. Dr Lolwana terms this as a ‘fit for purpose’ qualification. Alternatively, this concept is incorporated in the ‘use value’ of the qualification – its specificity makes it immediately useful in a specific context.

It is important to note that the intention is that all FETC qualifications must enable progression along a valid career path and hence they should enjoy equal social value.

In reality then there will be FETC qualifications which spread across a spectrum from more diverse to more specific. The tension then lies in trying to hold both purposes i.e. use value and exchange value, within a single qualification designation. The question becomes: At what point does diversity become so great that the ‘use value’ of the qualification is lost? Or: At what point does the specificity of the qualification become so closely defined that the ‘exchange value’ of the qualification is lost? In other words, as Dr Lolwana asks: How does one create two kinds of qualifications that are equal? ‘Equal’ here has the specific connotation of usefulness for purpose and social recognition and encapsulates the real challenge for the NQF: The extent to which a single framework can hold both kinds of qualifications.

One could argue that two issues need consideration to ensure ‘equal’ recognition of qualifications. The first issue is the set of rules that govern the structure of the qualification, i.e. the rules of combination. These rules however need to be flexible enough to accommodate the different emphases described above, but at the same time ensure that the qualifications are given equal status within society. The second issue is the political and authoritative decision about the acceptability of the qualification to enable learners to access further learning. This issue goes to the heart of the NQF and its objectives of promoting life-long learning.

The purpose for FETC qualifications incorporates a statement about the social purpose of these qualifications: to equip learners with the knowledge, skills and values that will enable meaningful participation in and offer benefits for society.

This emphasises the fact that the NQF is a social construct, intended to serve the social needs of the South African society as well as the economic needs of the society and the needs of each individual. The values espoused by the Constitution cannot be ignored by the education and training system of this country.

  1. Admission, access, selection and placement in higher education: endorsement requirements

One of the major problems identified in the current Senior Certificate system is the system of endorsement requirements that need to be met in order to gain entry to university education.

4.1 Problems with the current system

The argument for instituting this system is that it is a means of identifying those learners who through the achievement of the Senior Certificate with endorsement, are more likely to succeed in their studies. In this way, valuable resources are not wasted on learners who are unlikely to succeed. Furthermore learners who do not achieve the endorsement requirements are identified as unlikely to be successful, and are thus protected from wasting valuable time that could have been spent more positively elsewhere. These requirements are general and apply to all potential university entrants, regardless of the particular course of study they may intend to follow. It could be argued that they are intended to identify so-called ‘high flyers’, i.e. those with the potential to succeed in a university environment – a test of potential success rather than a test of achieved learning outcomes.

An examination of the endorsement requirements suggests that those learners who wish to attend university, should follow a particular curriculum i.e. the endorsement requirements indicate certain subject combinations and particular grades at which these must be studied. Presumably these requirements exist to ensure that potential university learners study a programme which develops particular skills that are needed for success at university level. Hence once the endorsement requirements have been met, the successful learners are deemed to be adequately prepared for embarking upon a university education.

While research supports the contention that the Senior Certificate with endorsement identifies learners likely to succeed at university for those learners with aggregate scores at the top end of the scale i.e. A, B or C aggregates, the picture is less clear with learners who have aggregates below a C symbol. Indications are that many of the learners who have attained a Senior Certificate with matriculation endorsement still fail at the university level, with first year drop-outs and failure rates being the highest. It would appear then that success at the tertiary level is not dependent on perceived academic ability alone. In addition experience with a number of alternate admission procedures indicates that there are learners who have not achieved the exemption requirements but who have succeeded at the tertiary level, thereby supporting the probability that the current set of exemption requirements is not a reliable indicator of success in higher education.

The high drop-out rate among first year students also suggests that the preparation as evidenced in the curriculum which is dictated by the endorsement requirements, may not be sufficiently appropriate to develop the skills that are necessary for success in academic study at a university. An added problem is that a large percentage of learners at the Senior Certificate level follow a curriculum that is geared towards the fulfilment of the endorsement requirements. If the learner does not achieve the endorsement requirements, the curriculum that has been followed is not especially appropriate for study at other kinds of tertiary institution nor the world of work.

In 1999 only 12% of all Grade 12 candidates who offered the Senior Certificate qualified for entry to universities, i.e. achieved the Senior Certificate with a matriculation endorsement. This percentage does not take into account the high drop-out rates lower down in the system. When these are considered it is closer to 6% of learners who should be in that school leaving cohort that gained a Senior Certificate with exemption. A closer consideration of that cohort indicates an even smaller percentage of learners had Mathematics (either at functional, standard or higher grade) within their qualifying subject package.

The SAUVCA report (page 1, par. 1.2.2) also indicates that success in respect of attainment of the Senior Certificate with endorsement starkly reflects the apartheid legacy, reflecting the conditions of learning and teaching more profoundly than student ability or potential.

While the points already made are pertinent reasons for reviewing the Senior Certificate with endorsement as a means of identifying learners who can proceed with university study, it is useful to establish the significance of the effect of the system of endorsement requirements on a society committed to promoting lifelong learning.

On one hand, the message of the system is clear, i.e. a cohort of learners have been assessed and some are considered to have the necessary ability to succeed in university education. The question must be asked however, as to what the less obvious message is that society is being given through the application of this system. For the learners who do not achieve a Senior Certificate with endorsement, the covert message is that because the indicated requirements have not been achieved, the learner is to all intents and purposes, not capable of continuing study of an academic nature. This coupled with the second veiled message is devastating for any society that is trying to promote lifelong learning among its citizenry. The second veiled message is that further education is divided into two parts: higher education through a university and higher education through some other institution or workplace. Because there are minimum requirements for entry to the university system, society has the perception that ‘clever’ people go to university and the rest go elsewhere. This has the net effect of encouraging learners from an early age to strive for entry to university in order to achieve societal acclamation whether such education is appropriate for them or not. Furthermore it has the effect of detracting from the value of learning achieved at any other site of learning in the higher education and training band.

Furthermore, this system means that the vast majority of the population is not encouraged to pursue further studies. Little opportunity is created within the working world for the attainment of skills that are recognised by traditional institutions of higher education for entry to higher education. School leavers who do not achieve the Senior Certificate with matriculation endorsement are expected to achieve a Senior Certificate with matriculation endorsement before they can consider progressing along a learning pathway in the university sector. Those who pursue studies in other higher education institutions receive limited recognition for their achievements should they wish to enter the university system. Not only does this system encourage education elitism, it is wasteful in that learners repeat areas of study because previous achievement is not recognised. It deters rather than encourages learners who do not have the spare time or resources to spend on studying subjects that do not appear to have any immediate or practical relevance, and which in fact do not necessarily in themselves guarantee success in further study.

The Report of the Ministerial Investigation into the Senior Certificate recognises that the matriculation endorsement requirements provide coherence to the Senior Certificate curriculum. However this coherence relates to qualifications for access to universities but not to higher education in a broader sense. They are not designed to create coherent qualifications for access to careers. Furthermore, they do not provide mechanisms for lateral movement, only vertical movement (1998:13). South Africa’s education and training reforms since 1995 have emphasized that learning is not restricted to formal education institutions and hence higher education must be taken in its broadest sense and not restricted to universities alone.

It is in this last point in the history of the matriculation endorsement requirements that the concept becomes questionable as an appropriate tool in the South African context. As Dr Lolwana points out: the endorsement questions have to do with what is considered to be important for university entrance and who has made that decision.

The current system then of entry to university education being permitted primarily on the attainment of a Senior Certificate with matriculation endorsement is one that inhibits rather than promotes lifelong learning. It is encouraging to see that within the university sector, there appears to be general support for revising, and possibly loosening the requirements for university entrance, making the existing endorsement requirements simpler and more flexible. This suggests that there is a recognition that the current system and requirements may be inappropriate.

If one accepts that this system needs revision, the need arises for the establishment of a system that does promote lifelong learning and validates learners’ achievements irrespective of where the learning has been gained.

4.2 Considerations in establishing a different system

The existence of the Senior Certificate with matriculation endorsement system suggests that there is a point at which a learner can be deemed ready for higher education. In NQF terms this point is the Further Education and Training Certificate. An outcomes-based system which acknowledges the need to openly state the learning assumed to be in place before commencement of study towards a particular qualification stands in opposition to such a notion. In other words, the concept of endorsement requirements poses a problem for the NQF in that it identifies learners for further study on the basis of criteria that may not relate directly to the verifiable competencies that have been achieved and are necessary for further study. Rather it identifies broader learning outcomes that have little or no relationship to the actual experience of the learner or the course of further study that the learner wishes to embark upon. The aggregate requirement illustrates the point well: it does not give any indication of potential or achievement of a learner within a specific area of study. Hence a good science student may be denied access to higher education because of poor performance in the language areas of study (there is a requirement that two languages must be offered at the higher grade level) and this may have affected the aggregate score negatively. Others will argue that the aggregate is an indicator of general ability (i.e. success across a number of disciplines) and in that light is a valuable indicator of success. Again this is only guaranteed in the higher categories. The emphasis on achieving these broader generic outcomes whether at national, regional or institutional level, begins the process of establishing ‘glass ceilings’ while at the same time its reliability and validity are questionable.

One question for those who are looking at the introduction of a different system at this level is the issue of differing levels of social acceptance but more importantly, the establishment of glass ceilings by institutions or groups of institutions indicating that entrance to that level of learning is subject to the achievement of only certain kinds of FETC and not others, as is the current situation in respect of the Senior Certificate with matriculation endorsement.

SAUVCA has made a useful distinction in the use of the terms admission, access, selection and placement. Access and admission operate at the systemic level and are concerned with minimum entry requirements, with admission implying possible screening mechanisms. Selection operates at the institutional level and is concerned with mechanisms to select a specific number of learners from those who have already met access and admission criteria. Placement operates at the level of programmes and hence is field and/or qualification specific. It may be useful to introduce an additional notion for the term ‘access’ and that is the notion of learning assumed to be in place to enable engagement with a particular course of study.

Current discussions within the university sector suggest that ‘coarse’ selection processes could still serve as admission guidelines or indicators to universities, rather than being a statutory requirement (par. 41). A movement away from the concept of endorsement requirements for university entrance has been suggested in the Report of the Ministerial Investigation into the Senior Certificate. It raises the question whether additional requirements should be left to individual institutions or faculties. This, however, poses the possibility of encouraging the establishment of academically elitist institutions who select learners on an arbitrarily determined set of criteria.

However, one must be aware that unless a system adequately addresses the sectoral needs of society’s institutions, there is the very real danger of parallel systems being introduced to address what is perceived as neglected needs. Parallel systems that are perceived as necessary serve only to undermine rather than build a new system. Hence it is critical that sectoral needs are taken seriously and addressed appropriately or acknowledged as not needing specific attention.

It is crucial to discuss the concepts of admission, the expanded notion of access, selection and placement. These related concepts are fundamental in opening up a system and the introduction of regulations in respect of these two concepts could well be real creators of social barriers and glass ceilings.

The concepts of admission, i.e having the right of entry for commencement of study, selection, i.e. admission to a specific institution and placement, i.e. admission to a particular course of study, must be separated. It is current and past practice for the fulfilment of admission criteria to be prerequisites for selection and placement.

In the past, the demand for admission to institutions exceeded the number of places that were available at institutions of tertiary study, hence it was argued, there was a reason for endorsement criteria for university study, which resulted in the exclusion of some applicants. As stated previously, these criteria are largely based on general achievement and not on achievement of specific outcomes of learning within a particular field of learning.

The availability of alternate sites of learning has become a reality in South Africa – distance education, e-learning and learning in alternate learning sites, e.g. formal schooling, technikons, technical colleges, community colleges, workplace training centres, etc. Hence it is becoming less likely that learners will be prevented from learning because of a limited number of places at university institutions. In fact, the number of applications for entry to tertiary institutions in general has dropped, indicating either that learners are not continuing their education or that learners are seeking alternate sites of learning to formal tertiary institutions. The assumption that learning only happens in fulltime instruction in formal institutions of learning is being challenged by the marketplace, where learners are choosing other routes to advance their studies.

Given this scenario, it is essential to promote access to further learning by clearly identifying the learning that needs to be in place to continue studying even within the workplace. It is worth noting that the emphasis in learnerships, a learning initiative of the Department of Labour, is on workplace training and the practical application of acquired skills and knowledge. Between 30% and 70% of the credits for a qualification must be attained within a practical or work-based context. It has been suggested that 70% of what is taught at university is in fact professional training (doctors, lawyers, social workers, teachers, architects, etc) and over 90% of what technikons do currently is para-professional. The point is that there should be pathways from traditionally vocational work-based learning, such as the traditional apprenticeships and the new learnerships, to para-professional and professional learning opportunities – without having to go back and acquire a certificate of general education before proceeding.

The point of this discussion is that where admission to an institution of formal study was a prerequisite for continuing one’s education in the past, this additional barrier to learning is becoming less and less of an issue. The barriers now are posed not necessarily by admission but access: What is the learning assumed to be in place before study at the next level can be undertaken by a learner with any realistic hope of success? Other factors e.g. costs, the necessity to find work to support a family, are more pressing barriers to continuing fulltime learning in a formal institution. These factors in fact encourage the exploration of different possibilities.

The discussion in this paper opens up the following scenario: learners exist across a spectrum from those whose site of learning does not favour practical or ‘hands-on’ experience but encourages the abstract development of concepts (so-called ‘head skills’) to those whose site of learning does not favour the abstract development of concepts but rather focuses on the development of practical skills (so-called practical or vocational skills). One feature of the current system is that there is a separation of theory and practice, giving rise to irrelevant programmes that fail to meet the needs of learners and the changing demands of the economy and society, hence contributing to high levels of unemployment. This is exacerbated by the existence of poorly articulated FET programmes and qualifications for technical colleges and high schools that inhibit learner mobility across programmes and providers/learning sites (DoE FET document).

In the case of the former set of students the reality is that they hold qualifications that enable admission to a wide variety of options for further study, but are unable to do any specific job of work. Often the skills they have developed are so ill-defined or vague that the ‘use’ value of the qualification is questionable. In the case of the latter, the reality is that the skills of the learner are so specific and devoid of application in the abstract that success and admission to further study is extremely limited. The broader skills needed for embarking on further study in a related field are often absent, making the ‘exchange’ value of the qualification questionable.

The true test for standards setters in South Africa and for the quality assurance systems that are put in place is to ensure that the gap between the ‘use’ value and the ‘exchange’ value of a qualification is minimised. The test is to find the requirements that are necessary to ensure that the multiple pathways to further education and training which accommodate these two different aspects, are developed. Furthermore, as Dr Lolwana points out, ‘the most important element is to ensure that all stakeholders agree on these requirements and that there is a periodic review of how the nation is doing and whether or not further modifications are required’. In addition, the principle of transparency of access requirements to a qualification is a fundamental principle of the NQF.

Given the objective of the NQF to facilitate access to, and mobility and progression within education, training and career paths, SAQA is concerned that access and admission requirements should not be unnecessarily exclusive, while recognising that selection and placement criteria are matters that individual institutions will need to attend to should there be over-subscription to the specific institution and/or programme. Furthermore the qualification to be studied will make certain demands in respect of learning assumed to be in place, i.e. programme requirements.

4.3 A solution

The solution to this problem may lie in the rules for registration of a FETC on the NQF. In the SAQA document ‘Criteria and Guidelines for the Evaluation of Standards and Qualifications within the NQF’, there is a requirement for proposers of the qualification to indicate what the requirements are for entry to study of the qualification. Furthermore, the proposers of the qualification are also expected to indicate other qualifications to which the achievement of the particular qualification allows access. In other words, for the broad FETC with a wide range of competencies, the qualifications to which access is permitted may be numerous. However, in the case of the more specific FETC the number of qualifications to which access is possible, may be more limited. Again it must be emphasized that a more focussed FETC does not mean that its depth and complexity are in any way less demanding. It does mean that the number of qualifications to which it grants access is more limited. However, a requirement for registration (or award) of a FETC is that there is a minimum of one or more qualifications to which access is possible. If there is still a question about the viability or the exchange value of the FETC that is being proposed, there may be an additional requirement for proposers to indicate what additional learning would be necessary to expand the scope of qualifications that could be accessed. Considerations of lateral movement may also need to be considered. In other words, any learner who has achieved the outcomes of a particular FETC must be able to engage in study of a qualification that is pegged at level 5 at least, or through the addition of appropriate credits at Level 4 is able to engage in study of a qualification at Level 5 in a different area of learning. Additional access requirements then, are linked to learning assumed to be in place before commencing study in a particular qualification, i.e. they are associated with learning programme requirements and not institutionally-determined admission requirements. The SAUVCA document indicates that many institutions maintain that ‘fine’ selection processes are important at faculty or programme level, and that these should be clearly communicated to prospective students (par. 4.1).

A movement in this direction encourages the concept of progression to be linked to actual achievements within a specific area that lead to further qualifications within that specific area, i.e. the creation of learning pathways that enable a learner to progress systematically from level 1 of the NQF to level 8 within a specific field of learning. The learning pathways will have been created by considering the needs for progression from level to level within the learning field rather than by considering the needs for progression from level to level across a number of learning fields. The pathways are created by ensuring that the links between qualifications are established at their inception and learners are hence not required to start ‘at the beginning’ when they wish to embark on a new qualification within the field. The learning they have gained in their progression along a pathway must be acknowledged and the established pathways must encourage this.

The danger that must be avoided is the restriction of options to such a point that a learner, once within a particular field of study, is unable to branch out to other fields that are more or less related. The lateral movements at each level must also be considered to enable a learner to move between fields appropriately without necessarily having to go back to a lower level in all aspects of learning.

4.4 Dangers

This principle does not mean that by simply being in possession of a FETC, a learner would be permitted admission to any programme at any higher education institution. It must be emphasised that the underpinning principle is that admission to higher education is differentiated according to the qualification or learning pathway one wishes to follow. Progress is determined by having achieved the learning outcomes identified by the learning assumed to be in place, to study the chosen qualification or to follow the desired learning pathway. Through the establishment of this principle, SAQA is shifting the focus of progression in a learning pathway from admission to higher education being differentiated according to institution-type and according to criteria determined by individual institutions, to admission to higher education being differentiated according to the demands of the qualification and/or learning pathway that a learner wishes to study. This means that requirements for progression should be determined at a national level by the qualifications within the learning pathway rather than by an institution-type, or by an institution itself.

In summary then, the acquisition of the FETC broadly provides admission to higher education and training, along designated learning pathways. Admission to a specific programme of study, leading to a particular qualification, may assume additional learning to be in place before a learner can expect success or placement in that programme. The FETC that enables progression to the course of study leading to that particular qualification will in all likelihood differ in skills, content and values from another FETC which leads to a different qualification, along a different learning pathway.

  1. Fundamental learning

One has to ask how it is possible to reduce the gap between the ‘use’ and ‘exchange’ value of qualifications. The answer lies in the basic criteria for registering the qualification:

  • balancing the need for flexibility of learning sites against a minimum set of requirements that enable successful participation in further study and the ability to transfer learnt concepts from one situation to another;
  • balancing the need for developing a nation with practical skills to build the economy against developing a nation that can participate successfully in further learning where there may be a need to develop concepts in the abstract as well as apply them in a practical situation;
  • balancing the need for developing citizens whose personal needs and interests are accommodated against developing citizens who adequately understand and can cope with the multiple and complex demands of our society.

The following paragraphs from section 8 and 9 of the NSB regulations give some definition to the FETC and GETC, and begin to address the question of basic criteria for the registration of a FETC and GETC.

Section 8: Requirements for the registration of qualifications

8(1) A qualification shall-

  1. represent a planned combination of learning outcomes which has a defined purpose or purposes, and which is intended to provide qualifying learners with applied competence and a basis for further learning;
  2. add value to the qualifying learner in terms of enrichment of the person through the: provision of status, recognition, credentials and licensing; enhancement of marketability and employability; and opening-up of access routes to additional education and training;
  3. provide benefits to society and the economy through enhancing citizenship, increasing social and economic productivity, providing specifically skilled/professional people and transforming and redressing legacies of inequity;
  4. comply with the objectives of the National Qualifications Framework contained in section 2 of the Act;
  5. have both specific and critical cross-field outcomes which promote life-long learning;
  6. where applicable, be internationally comparable;
  7. incorporate integrated assessment appropriately to ensure that the purpose of the qualification is achieved, and such assessment shall use a range of formative and summative assessment methods such as portfolios, simulations, work-place assessments, written and oral examinations; and
  8. indicate in the rules governing the award of the qualification that the qualification may be achieved in whole or in part through the recognition of prior learning, which concept includes but is not limited to learning outcomes achieved through formal, informal and non-formal learning and work experience.

8(2)  A total of 120 (one hundred and twenty) or more credits shall be required for registration of a qualification at levels 1 to 8, with a minimum of 72 (seventy-two) credits being obtained at or above the level at which the qualification is registered, and the number and levels of credits constituting the balance (of forty-eight) shall be specified: Provided that a qualification consisting of less than 120 credits may be considered if it meets the requirements in regulation 8(1) and complies with the objectives of the National Qualifications Framework contained in section 2 of the Act.

Section 9(1)

For registration at levels 1 to 4 the following additional requirements shall apply:

  • A minimum of 72 credits is required at or above the level at which the certificate is awarded, which shall consist of fundamental learning, of which at least 20 credits shall be from the field of Communication Studies and Language, and in addition at least 16 credits shall be from the sub-field of Mathematics including numeracy in the case of certificates at level 1.
  • A minimum of 36 credits at level 1 and 52 at levels 2 to 4 which shall be divided between the Core and Elective categories, with each qualification specifying the distribution of credits required in these categories: provided that the range of additional credits shall be broad enough to enable learners to pursue some of their own learning interests.
  • By the year 2002, at least 16 of the 52 credits for certificates at levels 2 to 4 shall be from the sub-fields focussing on Mathematics Literacy.

The FETC marks the highest level of the further education and training band and hence is pegged at Level 4 of the National Qualifications Framework. The FETC, being a national certificate, consists of a minimum of 120 credits. The assumption is that there is learning that must take place at levels below level 4 of the NQF. Learners who achieve the learning outcomes pegged at these levels could be awarded qualifications at the lower levels of the NQF e.g. a National Certificate, Level 3. Such a certificate would consist of a minimum of 120 credits, with a minimum of 72 credits at level 3 or above. Furthermore it would have compulsory credits allocated to fundamental learning in keeping with the requirements set out in the NSB regulations.

The stipulation of a minimum number of credits implies that it is possible for an FETC of more than 120 credits to be registered on the NQF. In that case it would be possible for more than 48 credits to be at NQF level 3 and could even include credits at NQF level 2.

Regulation 8(2) allows for the registration of a qualification consisting of less than 120 credits, if it meets the requirements in regulation 8(1) and complies with the objectives of the National Qualifications Framework contained in section 2 of the Act. Hence it is possible for a FETC qualification of less than 120 credits to be registered on the NQF. It is envisaged that this would be the exception rather than the rule.

The primary reason for including the requirement for 20 credits of a FETC qualification to be in the field of Language and Communication and 16 credits to be from the field of Mathematics is an attempt to bring some coherence to the qualification. Currently there are a number of qualifications at the Senior Certificate level each of which enjoys different levels of social acceptance. The diversity of construction of qualifications from a Senior Certificate with matriculation endorsement to a National Training Certificate encourages these different perceptions about the validity of the achievement and hence intellectual ability of its holder, i.e. the societal grading of the qualifications.

The danger exists that an attempt to create coherence will result in the compulsory requirements for the FETC to be too prescriptive and thereby create artificial barriers to progression as is the case with the Senior Certificate with matriculation endorsement. Too much flexibility however, inevitably results in social judgements about the ‘exchange’ value of certain qualifications and ultimately negatively prejudices the learners who hold the qualification.

The question then arises as to the degree of coherence that should be prescribed or the amount of learning that must be common for all learners in the FET band to ensure that progress to further learning is possible within the variety of contexts. The structure and rules of combination for this qualification then become crucial in ensuring that barriers to access higher education and training are not created. Essential in these considerations is the role of the compulsory credits in Mathematics and Language and Communication.

It is important to emphasize that these two areas of learning provide the key to further learning and hence the complexity and choices of standards are crucial. These have to relate to the purpose of the qualification and the Critical Cross-field Outcomes should be used as the primary measuring stick in the fundamental areas of learning to assess the attainment of the purpose of the qualification as well as to see whether the skills in these areas can be applied in the general arena of the qualification.

5.1 Language and Communication

The SAUVCA report makes the following comment about language: Member universities generally agree that ‘proven ability to communicate at cognitive academic level of proficiency (CALP) in the university medium of instruction’ should remain as part of the endorsement (par. 4.4.2).

The Report of the Ministerial Investigation into the Senior Certificate identifies the following problem: There is evidence that a large proportion of our schools do not give students enough practice in reading – that is to say, in developing critical, selective, analytical and interpretive, reflective analytical and transactional writing skills. This lack of opportunity for practice appears to be particularly prevalent in the teaching of African languages (1998:12). It recommends that assessment of all South African languages should be standardised as a matter of urgency, so that all languages at first and second language level are examined in a comparable way in terms of critical thinking skills and in terms of internal language components.

These two observations emphasise the importance of language in the development of thinking skills. SAQA has therefore indicated that 20 credits are compulsory for Language and Communication. In order to acknowledge the language policy of the country, SAQA has indicated that the 20 compulsory credits in Language and Communication at Level 4 must be obtained in one of the eleven official languages provided for by the SA Constitution of 1996 (Act 108 of 1996).

To enable effective articulation and progression, all holders of an FETC should achieve the same outcomes, as indicated by the 20 compulsory credits, but these may be achieved in any one of the eleven official languages.

The learning outcomes and associated assessment criteria at level 4 must be of the standard required by a learner to participate effectively in higher education and training. Furthermore the learning outcomes and associated assessment criteria will clearly have to take into account the particular needs of all stakeholders in the FETC.

To address the need to develop citizens who can participate effectively in a multi-lingual society, SAQA has indicated that a further 20 credits in Language and Communication must be obtained in a second official language (as provided for by the SA Constitution of 1996) at a minimum of level 3. Again, all holders of an FETC should achieve the same outcomes, as indicated by the 20 compulsory credits, but these may be achieved in any one of the 11 official languages.

The following comments are pertinent in this discussion.

5.1.1. The issue of language in education is a thorny one and opens up questions of access, equity and redress. These considerations are often in opposition to the practical realities of the country and thereby place considerable pressure on politicians and administrators to try and make decisions that are politically acceptable, fair and practical.

5.1.2 The study of second language also raises issues of equity and redress, particularly when the reality in the country is that the majority of learners conduct their studies in a second language, while a few are able to study in their home language. Furthermore, in a country where there are eleven official languages it is politically desirable to insist that learners in formal schooling study a minimum of two official languages. However, when the achievement of outcomes in a second language becomes a requirement for continuing education, particularly when it is not needed for a learner to progress within a desired career path, this has the potential for becoming an unnecessary barrier to further learning. This will need to be monitored to ensure that this is not the case.

5.1.3 There are some who argue that any language recommendations for the FETC should acknowledge the reality that English and Afrikaans are the languages of instruction for most learners and that the resources required to make learning available in all national languages are not available in our country. Taking this reality into account, the FETC requirements should make the study of one of these languages compulsory. However, the question of the language of instruction in schools and other institutions of learning is a political question and should be addressed at that level. It is inappropriate for SAQA to dictate what the policy should be, including timeframes for implementation.

5.1.4 The issue of NQF level addresses the question of complexity of outcomes. It is envisaged that the outcomes for Language and Communication will be the same for the different languages and that the differences in respect of level of study will apply equally in each of the languages. The current distinction between first language and second language is addressed by the distinction in complexity as indicated by different levels on the NQF.

5.1.5. There is some doubt as to whether 20 credits in Language and Communication is sufficient to address the needs of CALP (Cognitive Academic Level of Proficiency). Until there is clarity on what outcomes are envisaged by the 20 credits it is not possible to verify such an assertion. Furthermore an increase or decrease in the number of credits allocated to Language and Communication does not, of itself, address the issue of complexity or quantity. These issues are more likely to be captured in the outcomes themselves.

5.2 Mathematics

SAQA has indicated that the 16 compulsory credits in Mathematics must be obtained at level 4. All holders of an FETC will have achieved the same Mathematics outcomes as indicated by the 16 credits but these may be obtained in different contexts.

The learning outcomes and associated assessment criteria must be of the level required by a learner to participate effectively in society. It should be possible to achieve the outcomes in a variety of learning contexts so that the emphasis is not on the study of concepts in the abstract or more specifically in Mathematics as a subject. Furthermore the learning outcomes and associated assessment criteria will clearly have to take into account the particular needs of all stakeholders in the FETC.

Discussions in this regard will have to take into account the generally low degree of proficiency in Mathematics in our society and the lack of appropriately qualified teachers in the schooling system. It will be the task of curriculum developers to ensure that Mathematics outcomes are included in learning programmes as appropriate. The intention is that the Mathematics credits must support the purpose of the qualification and the Critical Cross-field Outcomes. Mathematics standards at level 4 that are developed by an SGB other than that dedicated to pure Mathematics should be reviewed by NSB 10 to ensure that the nature and quality of the standards are appropriate.

It is important to emphasise that the compulsory credits should contribute positively to learning and not pose an unnecessary barrier to further learning.

5.3 Further credits in Communication and Language and Mathematics

It is clear that different areas of study will require a deeper understanding of the fields of Communication and Language or Mathematics. In these cases, the particular requirements will be included as necessary further credits within the qualification.

The most important consideration in including the compulsory credits in fundamental learning is to ensure coherence and equal acceptance of the FETC qualification regardless of its focus. It is essential then that in deciding what learning is envisaged in the compulsory credits, this principle is not forgotten. It is only in this way that the fundamental learning will remain meaningful and not become a barrier to achievement. The contextualisation of the fundamental learning is also critical to ensure that it remains meaningful for learners within their contexts of learning. Hence in registering an FETC, proposers of the qualification must detail the purpose of the qualification, indicating clearly any additional consideration in respect of the primary purpose indicated above, as well as ensure that the fundamental learning has a relevant and meaningful role to play within the purpose outlined for the qualification.

  1. Rules of combination

6.1 Minimum credits at level 4

Paragraph 8.2 of the NSB regulations states further that a total of 120 or more credits shall be required for registration of a qualification at levels 1 to 8, with a minimum of 72 credits being obtained at or above the level at which the qualification is registered, and the number and levels of credits constituting the balance (of forty-eight) shall be specified: provided that a qualification consisting of less than 120 credits may be considered if it meets the requirements in regulation 8(1) and complies with the objectives of the NQF contained in section 2 of the Act.

Therefore, in terms of the regulations, the requirements that must be fulfilled by a learner before a FETC can be awarded is as follows:

  • 120 credits of which 72 must be at level 4 or above.
  • Of these 72 credits, 20 credits must be in Language and Communication and 16 must be in Mathematics.

The Regulations do not directly address the question of whether there is a minimum level for the remaining 48 credits that do not need to be at level 4 or above. For example, must all 48 credits be at a minimum of level 3, or is there the option of some at level 2 or even level 1?

Differing requirements in respect of the number of credits required at level 4 for an FETC will affect the social acceptability of the qualification – those qualifications with a requirement for 120 credits to be at level 4 will automatically be viewed differently from those which are required to have only 72 credits at level 4.

Another point to be made is that even though a FETC has a minimum of 120 credits, it is highly likely that a learner will accumulate more than 120 credits. Furthermore it is also possible for a learner to achieve more than 72 credits at or above level 4, irrespective of whether the requirements stipulate a minimum of 72. Learners can choose the extent of learning within an area of study by the number of additional credits they choose to study and they can choose the degree of complexity by the NQF level of the credits they choose to study.

In view of the fact that there will be qualifications registered at Levels 2 and 3 of the NQF, the FETC should have a maximum of 48 credits at level 3 of the NQF.

6.2 Core and elective learning

Paragraph 9(b) of the NSB regulations discusses the question of core and elective learning:

  1. A minimum of 36 credits at level 1 and 52 at levels 2 to 4 which shall be divided between the Core and Elective categories, with each qualification specifying the distribution of credits required in these categories: provided that the range of additional credits shall be broad enough to enable learners to pursue some of their own learning interests.

It is unlikely that any blanket ruling on the division of credits across these two categories will serve any positive purpose. The reason for this is that the different purposes of qualifications should ultimately determine the ratio of core and elective learning: In some qualifications it may not be very easy to determine what constitutes core learning as opposed to elective learning while in other qualifications the core learning will dominate the necessary credits, by virtue of the purpose of the qualification. The determination of what constitutes core learning for a qualification and what the elective options are, should rest with the proposers of the qualification.

The Department of Education FET discussion document has identified 10 credits in Life Skills as part of the fundamental learning. This could be designated as core learning for this qualification. The principle that proposers of a certain qualification can designate specific areas of study or credits as compulsory within that qualification is accepted.

6.3 Additional rules of combination

There is a danger in a system of credit accumulation, that credits are accumulated over a period of time, separately at a number of different providers and in that process, although the learner has accumulated all the parts, the overall purpose of the qualification has been lost. In higher education, there is a practice of requiring learners to complete a certain percentage of the qualification requirements or aspects of the qualification within the institution before they will award the qualification – only a limited number of courses from another institutions is taken into consideration. At the Senior Certificate with endorsement there are minimum requirements for the number of subjects that must be offered and passed at one sitting of the examination – the group examination concept. These requirements are attempts at ensuring coherence within the qualification. This issue needs consideration and guidance on how and where the concerns around the ‘shopping basket’ accumulation of credits can be addressed. This is a particular issue for consideration when integrated assessment and recognition of prior learning (RPL) are discussed. The experience of the ETQAs will be invaluable in contributing to these discussions.

  1. Movement through the system

7.1 Progression from further education and training to higher education and training

Progression within the current system is marked by specific critical points. Furthermore there are different practices within the different bands.

To explain: at school, a learner is able to pass to the next standard, without passing certain subject/s. This is problematic in that in the next grade, the learner continues study in the subject that s/he has failed, at the next grade level, i.e. proceeds with new work before fully mastering the concepts, skills and knowledge of the previous grade. However, at the Grade 12 level, before a learner can progress further, s/he must fulfil the requirements for the Senior Certificate with matriculation endorsement. Progress into higher education is only occasionally permitted without fulfilling all requirements and then usually it is only permitted on condition that certain requirements are met within a given space of time. In reality, this means that the Senior Certificate is a ‘halting’ point where progress is stopped until minimum requirements have been achieved, e.g. a candidate must pass a minimum of five subjects and attain a minimum aggregate. In fact progression into university study entails the achievement of more stringent requirements as dictated by the Senior Certificate with matriculation endorsement. In higher education, the process unfolds slightly differently. For example, a student is permitted to continue with his/her studies while still completing another requirement which may have been failed. This differs from the schooling sector, in that the student may not continue study in a subject until prior learning outcomes have been achieved. However, there is still a ‘halting’ point in that a degree or diploma is not awarded until all credits have been fulfilled and hence the learner is likely to be prevented from embarking on further study.

The Department of Education FET discussion document appears to support the notion that a learner may accumulate credits and should certain credits not have been achieved, the learner may enrol concurrently for credits at level 2 and at level 3, for example (page 19). There is also the indication that there is a ‘halting’ point at the FETC level 4. On page 31, the following statement is made: After a learner has obtained the FETC, s/he can proceed towards the achievement of outcomes leading to a certificate or diploma at level 5, subject to HE admission requirements. This policy reflects the process followed in higher education and indicates a shift from past practice.

It may be necessary for SAQA to take a principle stand that progression within a band may be on the basis of accumulation of credits as determined by the providers within a band. However, progression between bands must be based on the achievement of critical qualifications, e.g. progress from ABET to study of a qualification in the further education and training band requires the achievement of a GETC; progress from study at level 3 and below to a qualification in the higher education and training band requires the achievement of a FETC. Alternatively, proposers of qualifications may be asked to indicate the conditions upon which progress to a qualification at a level in the next band is granted. The danger in this is that the flexibility may ultimately undermine the credibility and coherence of the NQF itself.

The question is how to balance progression and access. There is a need to balance flexibility with rationality in the system so that it is possible for institutions to manage learning in a coherent manner. The real challenge may well be in ensuring that institutions are sufficiently flexible.

7.2 Credit accumulation and part awards

The Department of Education FET discussion document suggests that credit accumulation at levels 2 and 3 will be acknowledged by the issuing of credit-based certificates when the minimum compulsory credits have been attained. The accumulated credits will be captured on SAQA’s National Learners’ Records Database (NLRD). This process motivates learners by accrediting achievement as it occurs. The current practice of permitting a learner who has not achieved the outcomes within a particular learning area at a particular level, to continue study in that area at a higher level, simply because s/he has achieved the necessary outcomes in five other learning areas, will be challenged by the introduction of such a system.

Certain other proposers of qualifications that span more than one level are experimenting with the concept of designing the qualification in such a way that credit-based certificates can be issued along the way as the necessary credits are achieved.

  1. Other issues

8.1 Grading

Grading is a deeply embedded systemic issue. It is a feature of provisioning and is not a matter that relates directly to the setting of standards and registration of qualifications. It does, however, relate to issues of selection and placement. Although it is an issue that needs to be discussed and debated more fully, it will not be addressed in this document as it does not directly affect the parameters for construction of the FETC.

8.2 Integrated assessment and recognition of prior learning (RPL)

In the NSB regulations there is the requirement that proposers of qualifications address these two concepts in their submissions.

One of the problems that has faced the system is that the purpose of the Senior Certificate has not been clear. Furthermore, a problem that faces a system that encourages the achievement of a qualification through credit accumulation is that a learner may achieve the required number of credits in the relevant areas of study. However, these credits have been earned over a period of time, at different learning sites, through different assessment modes perhaps even through RPL. Because of the fragmented nature of the learning and assessment, there is no guarantee then that the overall purpose of the qualification has been achieved.

The issue of integrated assessment is addressed in the SAQA publication,Guidelines for the Assessment of NQF registered unit standards and qualifications. This is a complex concept and engagement with it by practitioners will inform further developments and debates. SAQA is in the process of developing a policy document on Recognition of Prior Learning. It is intended that this document will be available during 2001.

  1. Issues of implementation

This document sets out the guiding principles for the development of FETC qualifications. The challenge for the South African education and training system is to ensure that in the implementation of the system, the intended benefits of the system are not lost. Careful consideration must be given as to how one moves a system from the present to the future, i.e. systemic change issues. Even if SAQA accepts qualifications as proposed by different bodies, debated according to agreed principles, the real problem lies with society’s acceptance of their value and implementation in such a way that the full value of the policies are felt. Furthermore successful implementation is reliant on political support for the process, especially in respect of the resources required to make the intended benefits possible.

The national system needs to accommodate the imperative that different sectors will embrace the new system at different times, according to the extent of their readiness to do so. While there are pressing incentives to move into the new system as quickly as possible, the necessity for carefully devised implementation plans that ensure that all necessary pieces of the system are in place before implementation, cannot be ignored. For example, the introduction of new qualifications without the necessary quality assurance processes in place will serve to undermine rather than build the system in that society cannot be assured of the value of the new qualification and the standard of achievement of the learners cannot be guaranteed.

Consideration of more flexible organisational arrangements within the system are likely to have the effect of ‘loosening up’ the system and encouraging life-long learning, e.g. semesterisation of assessment; within the schooling sector, relaxing group examining requirements. However full implementation will require much more elaborate and detailed plans to ensure coherence and full benefit from the system.

On many occasions during this development process, the point was made by a number of stakeholders that deficiencies within the schooling sector as a result of our history, are contributing to a situation where learners who enter the higher education sector are not adequately prepared. Until the quality of provisioning in the schooling sector is improved, the positive impact of these systemic arrangements will not be experienced by learners. It was emphasised that it is not only the quality of provisioning that is a factor, but also the quality of the programmes and the organisation of the programmes into meaningful qualifications that need attention. The rationalisation of subjects offered at the Senior Certificate is the first step towards establishing a simpler system. This will assist in the registration of more appropriate FETC qualifications that can be offered in formal schooling. The development of the appropriate curricula leading to the FETC qualifications offered in schools, requires very careful planning and preparation before implementation.

The necessity for a simple system at the schooling level with a clear and comprehensive career guidance programme cannot be over-emphasised.

A very important aspect of the implementation plan must be a comprehensive communications strategy to ensure that all roleplayers are well-informed of the intentions and requirements under-pinning the principles of the FETC.

  1. Conclusion

It is intended that the underpinning principles will enable the FETC to be a qualification that can respond to a variety of social and economic needs, promoting education provision which:

  • Enhances the possibility for lifelong learning in the context of the limited opportunities which have existed until now;
  • Provides real opportunities for the transfer of learning from educational systems to the world of work so that the potential opportunities for paid work and self employment are considerably strengthened;
  • Provides meaningful access to the higher education system as a whole through a variety of routes and flexible learning pathways and which recognizes the fact of historical disadvantage and the demands of a complex higher education learning environment;
  • Enables learners to understand their role as citizens and enriches their participation in democratic processes;
  • Enables learners from many backgrounds [schooling, work, the unemployed and disadvantaged groups in particular] to take up the opportunities for further learning and through such learning enhance their role in the development of a democratic society.

The point must be emphasised that one of the strengths of the SAQA system is that it is an open system, allowing flexibility for different bodies to put forward the qualifications that serve their needs. The regulations should not be restrictive and drive the system back towards closing pathways rather than opening up pathways. We must remember that access and portability exist in tension – as access is opened up and flexibility is prioritised, the portability of credits from one qualification to another becomes more limited; on the other hand, the more portability of credits is emphasized, the more restrictive and less flexible access becomes. SAQA must ensure that the system does not become restrictive and place artificial barriers to viable pathways.


References
  • National Curriculum Framework for Further Education and Training: Department of Education, May 2000
  • The Matriculation Endorsement and the Re-structuring of the Senior Certificate: SAUVCA Task Team, November 1999
  • Report of the Ministerial Investigation into the Senior Certificate: Chair, Dr M Naidoo, 1998
  • Comments received from the public comment process, as indicated on page 4 fff.