Implications of QCTO OQSF Policy document

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    Yesterday, (3 March 2022) I was asked a question I couldn’t answer, so I investigated.

    This is what I understand, and I look forward to contributions from members – please feel free to add – & I am quite happy if someone tells me I have misunderstood.

    We have previously discussed this question of the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework Policy, 2021 – this is our URL

    But we first need some history to put this question into context.

    We need to go back to March 2020, (just when COVID-19 took off) when the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), gazetted a Revised Policy Framework for the Occupational Qualifications sub-framework (OQSF), under the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act. That is the act – you will remember – that created the three Quality Councils: Umalusi for general and further education, the CHE for higher education. and the QCTO for trades and occupations.

    Then in September of that year, the QCTO gazetted a withdrawal of the policy. In October, the following month, the QCTO published the explanation for the withdrawal. The Minister of Higher Education Science and Innovation was required to gazette a Ministerial Determination on the sub-frameworks, either simultaneously, or concurrently with the OQSF Policy.

    The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) did then publish the Determination of the Sub-frameworks that Comprise the NQF – on the 24 December 2020.

    Given the publication date, you might have missed it, so it is attached for your records.

    Key points from that gazette:
    1) The QCTO sub-framework qualifications levels are afforded specific titles, rising from General Occupational Certificate, to Specialised Occupational Diploma at Level 8. Minimum credits per qualification are 120, and part-qualifications can be registered.
    2) There are sections on articulation, Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), and credit accumulation and transfer.
    3) Legacy qualifications (prior to 2009) have an end date 30 June 2023, with a last date for enrolment 30 June 2024.
    4) Additional end dates are also gazetted for Umalusi.
    5) All qualifications on the NQF must be aligned to the NQF level descriptors by 30 June 2023.

    On 29 October 2021 the DHET gazetted the OQSF Policy, 2021. It is substantially the same as the March 2020 document, but there are changes, items left out, and others added. So, the full document is attached again, and it needs very careful reading. The previous discussion does highlight key points. But I have created this separate discussion as the other is now 3 pages long, but more importantly, I have separated it to raise a critical issue, that was not adequately covered.

    So, I suggest that you read the other discussion first, to refresh your memory, or for the context, and then come back to this one.

    What are the implications of this QCTO OQSF Policy document for implementation of qualifications?

    The issue raised sits in section 5 The Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework. I am not going to copy it here, so you need to download the attachment, and closely read sections 5.1 – 5.4.

    Then answer this question? We used to talk of knowledge, applied skill, and workplace experience, has this changed? Are there now only two components of a qualification?

    Section 5.2 states that the qualifications now consist of “two key components”: “knowledge/theory and application”.

    Application is defined in 5.3.
    The functional combination of the practical component and the workplace component “through skills learning or simulated work experience learning”.

    Now, that implies that the workplace experience is no longer a feature. It can be substituted by “simulated work experience learning”.

    However, for certain qualifications, the three aspects may be separated out again – as specified by industry. Then there will be knowledge/theory, practical, and work experience – as three distinct activities.

    Is this a correct interpretation, we no longer need actual work experience to complete these qualifications?

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    John Arnesen

    Hi Sylvia.
    I agree with your conclusion. This is a key difference from the first ‘new’ OQSF policy document [that was withdrawn]. I believe it’s a good compromise. The policy now only specifies two components plus the EISA.

    Here is their revised definition of an occupational qualification: a qualification associated with a trade, occupation, or profession developed and quality assured under the auspices of the QCTO and consisting of:
    A] Knowledge/theory modules.
    B] Application modules.
    C] External Integrated Summative Assessment.
    [A+B terminology replaces old fundamental, core, and elective terminology]

    Module is a new word to get to grips with. It’s defined as follows: an assessed/assessable unit of learning with a defined outcome and associated credits. [it relaces units standard]

    Application modules is where the big change [from the first document] is. QCTO now talks about application and defines it as follows: the functional combination of the practical component and the workplace component through skills learning or simulated work experience learning.
    For certain categories of occupational qualifications and part-qualifications as specified by industry, the key components may be specified as knowledge/theory, practical, and work experience.

    In this definition, they introduce the term ‘workplace component’. They then define workplace-based learning as follows: the learning achieved through exposure and interactions required to practice, gained while integrating the knowledge, skills and attitudes required in the workplace.

    These are all nuances the post-school ETD sector community need to urgently get their heads around. I hope I have helped in raisng awareness of the new OQSF policy and the urgency to get to grips with it.


    John, thank you, I really appreciate your additional details.
    So we currently may have 4 forms:
    Legacy qualifications, not yet terminated,
    The old “new” OQSF qualifications,
    The new OQSF qualifications that require actual work experience as a third component (similar to above), &
    The new OQSF qualifications that require a workplace component that may be simulated or artificially created in some form.

    The implication for me is that a TVET college can now set up a simulation, & will be able to exit learners with a full qualification – but without the learners having been at an actual work site.


    Hi John,
    Just being pedantic, but surely it should have been:
    work-based = anything simulated or related to artificial creation of “work” for the purpose of learning
    and then
    workplace = at an actual workplace, actual on site learning.

    Christopher Moropa

    Thank you Sylvia for your analysis and also to you John for the additional analysis. I am asking whether in all this new policy changes as well as the new normal introduced by Covid, there could have been any alterations to the mode of tuition. Could we now embark on blended knowledge

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