In his presentation at the Third Pan African TVET and FET Colleges Conference in Cape Town on 8 November 2012 Minister Blade Nzimande announced that he will change the collective name of FET (Further Education and Training) Colleges to VET (Vocational Education and Training) Colleges. In addition he pointed out that there is a huge need for transferability of credits and qualifications from FET/VET Colleges to universities. This will promote lifelong learning and improve the status of FET/VET Colleges. The precondition is, of course, that the quality of learning offered by colleges should improve. Yet another consequence of the name change and improved transferability is that the NQF might actually really become an integrated one (which it is not at the moment).
On 6 November 2012 the Irish Minister for Education and Skills announced the formal establishment of Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), an apex quality assurance body in the true sense of the word. QQI is an amalgamated qualifications and quality assurance authority which replaces the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI), the Further Education and Training Awards Council of Ireland (FETAC), The Higher Education Training and Awards Council (HETC) and the Irish Universities Quality Board (UQB) (CEDEFOP web site accessed on 2012/11/13).
The efforts by the Minister of Higher Education and Training to improve the quality and image of FET/VET Colleges and the need for a more integrated NQF makes me wonder if it is not, perhaps, time for us to follow a similar route as Ireland. Let’s face it, the QCTO is struggling to get going, Umalusi is not performing very well especially in terms of assuring quality in ETD and the CHE/HEQC is, in my opinion, doing almost nothing to assure quality in higher education except for the research reports that they publish from time to time. In addition, having a separate body (SAQA) responsible for the registration of qualifications and awards does not make sense. You cannot divorce quality assurance of learning programmes and learning materials from the quality assurance of learning institutions, although I strongly feel that we also should not mix the two activities.
My feeling is that we should have one Apex Quality Assurance Body responsible for vocational learning, higher education and the accreditation of learning institutions. One might make out an argument that school education should be quality assured by a different body, and there are ample good examples that work, for example Finland and Switzerland. I discussed the concept of an Apex Quality Assurance body in both the books that I wrote on quality assurance of ETD, so this is not a new idea.
Dr Hannes Nel, MD Mentornet