Concepts in Standards Setting.
This section will address the key ideas underlying standards setting, as well as the framework for standards set by the NQF. The key ideas that underlie standards setting are as follows:
An Outcomes-based Paradigm
In the construction of the NQF, outcomes (standards) have been separated from inputs (learning programs). This is illustrated in Figure 1 below:
Standards setting in this new framework is about the part above the dotted line – the standard.
What lies below the line is largely the business of professional providers and their clients. Of course, this is where the importance of the interactions between the parts of the NQF becomes clear. The provision of quality learning is the business of the framework, and in particular of special quality assurance (QA) structures called Education and Training Quality Assurance Bodies (ETQAs), which will be responsible for overseeing this aspect. But the setting of standards is about outcomes, and this paradigm shift to distinguishing between outcomes and inputs is central to understanding the NQF. Many people still confuse standards with their own learning programs and think that standards setting is about recording or registering their learning programs.
The learning system South Africa is moving towards will no be one in which learning programs are registered on the NQF. Instead, quality will be a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, there will be national standards (qualifications and unit standards) against which learning will be offered, while on the other hand there will be ETQA processes, which will accredited provider who offer this learning, These two processes together will encompass quality, and allow for freedom of innovation in the delivery of learning programs.
Setting standards for assessment
Setting standards is a primary tool for ensuring that people are recognized for learning achievements on an objective and transparent basis. By reaching agreements as to the standards required, and by communicating these standards to learners, trainers, educators and assessors, we then have a basis for making assessment judgement in a way that is fair, open, reliable and consistent.
Democratisation of Learning and Recognition
The setting of standards is about making the creation of knowledge more democratic. The new way of generating standards within the NQF is based on an assumption that the diverse groupings can sit down together, talk rationally about issues broader than their own agendas, and finally come up with social contracts that will build a 21st century system of education and training.
SAQA is largely composed of stakeholder structures. The Authority itself is made up of representatives of every South African stakeholder in Education and Training. The NSBs also reflect a new way of operating through partnerships. This constitutes a new set of partners in South African Education and Training. Traditionally, few of these partners have ever sat down and spoken to one another about Education and Training, and yet now, under the auspices of SAQA legislation, these partnerships have become an integral part of the new system.
SGBs are also charged with composing themselves through the forging of partnerships amongst key stakeholder interest groups. Again, this is a new approach for many of those who will be involved.