Structures of SAQA and what is their purpose
The NQF standards setting and quality assurance processes embrace two basic tenets:
Knowledge, relevant for the current world, is created through partnerships between and amongst varied groupings in society, from academics and researchers to business, from workers to professional experts, from government to community organisations, from learners to professors i.e. knowledge creation is no longer the preserve of narrowly-defined groups of ‘experts’;
The national system of education must balance the need for quality education for all its citizens with the need for flexibility to cater for the wide-ranging circumstances that face learners and the wide-ranging options in what constitutes relevant education and qualifications i.e. a balance between society’s needs and the needs of the individual.
The first of these tenets is addressed in the structures that SAQA has in place. SAQA itself is made up of representatives from education and training stakeholders in South Africa. Membership of the NSBs also reflects these new partnerships in the creation of knowledge – the NSBs are made up of representatives from six national stakeholder bodies with a key interest in the field: State departments, organised Business, organised Labour, providers of education and traing, critical interest groups and community/learners organisations. Traditionally few of these partners have sat down together to discuss education and training needs for the country. Furthermore, members of the SGBs are nominated from key education and training stakeholder interest groups in the sub-field, again recognising that relevant knowledge creation is brought about through discussion on a broader front.
The NQF’s commitment to outcomes-based education and training as the means for bringing about systemic change in the nature of the education and training system in South Africa addresses the second tenet. By describing national standards and qualifications in terms of learning outcomes through a participatory process, the NQF is placing the national demands in respect of quality, before the citizens of the country. No longer can the nation tolerate a situation where the range of competence that exists between holders of the same qualification is so wide that the employers of the qualifying students cannot be sure of what the competences are; no longer can the nation tolerate discrimination against learners on the basis of perceptions of what their competences are; no longer can the nation afford to ignore global standards in qualifications. In short, the learning outcomes, standards and qualifications, must be clear so that there is no doubt as to what is expected of qualifying learners.
By the creation of Education and Training Quality Assurance bodies (ETQAs), SAQA has recognised that delivery of the standards and qualifications is the preserve of the professional providers and learners and other key stakeholders in the field. Different qualifications and standards will make different demands on curriculum development and delivery, on assessment and teaching. SAQA’s concern is not in ensuring that all providers follow a national programme of delivery but rather in ensuring that the learners who are awarded a registered NQF-qualification or standard are able to demonstrate the learning outcomes of the qualification or standard in accordance with the described criteria and requirements. SAQA therefore will not register learning programmes on the NQF; however ETQAs will evaluate the learning programmes of different providers in a process of accreditation, thereby assuring learners and other users of the system that any learner who has been deemed successful after participating in that learning programme, has displayed the learning outcomes required for that qualification or standard. The best group for ensuring that this will be the case, is a body made up of representatives of stakeholders, active in the area of the qualification or standard i.e. the ETQA which has that area as its primary focus. For that reason, in respect of its quality assurance functions, an ETQA must have national stakeholder representation at decision-making level, which representation shall ensure public accountability and transparency.
SAQA has two ‘arms’ i.e. Standards Setting and Quality Assurance. The sub-structures in the standards setting arm are the National Standards Bodies (NSBs) and the Standards Generating Bodies (SGBs), while the sub-structures in the quality assurance arm are the Education and Training Quality Assurance bodies (ETQAs). SAQA may choose to appoint moderating bodies if it deems it necessary. The functions of SAQA are set out in the SAQA Act and have already been outlined above. The functions of the NSBs and SGBs are set out in the Regulations under the South African Qualifications Authority Act (Act No. 58 of 1995): NSBs, Government Gazette No. 18787 (28 March) while the criteria for accreditation and the functions of the ETQAs as well as providers of education are set out in the Regulations under the South African Qualifications Authority Act (Act No. 58 of 1995): ETQAs, Government Gazette No. 19231 (8 September).
In the NQF all learning is organised into twelve fields. SAQA has established twelve NSBs, one for each organising field. The twelve organising fields are as follows:
- NSB 01: Agriculture and Nature Conservation
NSB 02: Culture and Arts
NSB 03: Business, Commerce and Management Studies
NSB 04: Communication Studies and Language
NSB 05: Education, Training and Development
NSB 06: Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology
NSB 07: Human and Social Studies
NSB 08: Law, Military Science and Security
NSB 09: Health Science and Social Services
NSB 10: Physical, Mathematical, Computer and Life Sciences
NSB 11: Services
NSB 12: Physical Planning and Construction