Marietta van Rooyen
At the eQuality Solutions Seminar on Skills Development Compliance, of 1 and 2 December 2005, it became clear that South Africa is approaching crunch time in our education and training systems. The ambiguity and contradictions emanating from the different Acts that govern education and training is now seriously debilitating providers and learners.
One cannot help but wonder if the two departments controlling the skills development and education arena are deliberately sabotaging the rollout of education and training in the country. I do believe that this is not the case, but it is time the problems get sorted out on the highest levels, before too much damage is done. Much of the controversy centers around ignorance on the part of the Department of Education regarding industry- and employer-based learning.
One of the biggest problems providers are faced with, is the conflict situation created by contradictions in the different acts. Since the HE and FET Acts and their regulations were published, those who took the trouble to read them, were aware that the Department of Education insisted on only recognizing the two Education ETQAs, namely CHE and Umalusi as accrediting bodies for providers. This despite that fact that the HE Act refers to "..the applicant to comply with requirements of appropriate ETQA' (S.53(1)(b)(ii)). The Regulations under the Act then refers to "HEQC is the accreditation body for the provider' (R.12). This constitutes a conflict between the Act and the Regulation.
Seeing as the constitution requires providers to be registered with the state and the Department of Education is the statutory body appointed to register providers, they have no choice but to be accredited by Umalusi for FET and HEQC for HE.
This despite the fact that neither of these bodies are equipped to accredit education and training in the broader provider population, which includes industry and other employers. This would not be a problem if we are dealing with formal education, but it simply is not practical in the industry and training area.
The ETQA managers attending the last SAQA ETQA Forum of 2005 were perturbed and amused by the idea that the two Education ETQAs are now expected to accredit the likes of large banks, mining companies and factories for qualifications seated in their respective occupations and professions.
According to Krappie Eloff of the FoodBev Seta, there are several thousand providers accredited with the Seta ETQAs. Most of these providers still do not know about the requirements of the DOE regarding registration of FET providers.
The Seta ETQAs decided to advise their providers offering full programmes to register with the DOE, but they will not advise the providers to be accredited by Umalusi. It is clear from press releases and comments from Umalusi that they see themselves primarily as the quality assurance body for schools and FET Colleges.
The ETQAs have become more efficient in handling the accreditation of their providers. Although there is much room for improving their systems, they have learned much. They started taking monitoring and verification more seriously and realise that this is required to ensure that providers are on the right track, before they reach the certification stage. It would be a great pity to now take this function away from them.
This problem is now the focus of ministerial discussion and strategising. They need to come up with a solution during January 2006. Watch this space for more news.