In addressing a number of NQF implementation problems, the QCTO provides an opportunity to find viable and powerful solutions, some of which are outlined below:
A quality council that provides a framework for various role-players
The many role-players and structures active in the labour market, such as SETAs, SGBs, providers, assessors and professional bodies, have created a situation that is overcomplex and inefficient. The QCTO provides a coordinating framework to support these role-players so that they can focus on what they do best and give coherence to these activities as a whole.
An improved qualification model that suits occupational learning
Workers need to be competent in three areas of learning in order to be able to practise a particular occupation effectively, namely with regard to the –
- knowledge and theory component
- practical skills component
- work experience component.
The new model values each of these components equally. It differs from the previous qualification model in that it includes a structured work experience component.
A qualifications design process that is responsive to labour market skills needs
As a starting point, the new model analyses the relevant occupations as listed in the Organising Framework for Occupations (OFO), and identifies skills and tasks associated with each occupation and the kind and scope of work experience required to develop competence. This process results in occupational curricula and occupational qualifications that are directly linked to labour-market skills needs.
Curricula for guiding the creation of occupational learning programmes
Each occupational qualification will be derived from an occupational curriculum. The purpose of the curriculum is to simplify and strengthen the development and assessment of the qualification. It specifies the inputs needed by unpacking the occupational profile, and will be used as the basis for the accreditation of providers and the approval of workplaces to offer the work experience component. It will ensure that overlaps across qualifications are recognised, and this will assist learning programme design, materials development and learner mobility.
Reconceptualised unit standards that reflect the three forms of learning
The outcomes are specified in unit standards reflecting each of the curriculum components already mentioned, namely knowledge standards, practical standards and work experience standards. Many of the more generic knowledge and practical standards will appear in a number of different qualifications. A minimum credit value will be set for unit standards to ensure meaningful units of learning.
Qualification assessment specifications for standardising assessments
The QCTO will introduce an external, nationally standardised assessment for each of its occupational qualifications as a prerequisite for certification. A qualification assessment specifications document for each qualification will specify the overall assessment strategy for the external assessment of occupational competence. It will also specify the criteria for the registration of constituent assessors and moderators, and the requirements for accreditation of assessment centres or registration of assessment sites where appropriate. This will put an end to the current variations in the interpretation of standards across sectors and sites.
The QCTO will appoint, or recognise, suitable organisations as quality partners in the design and management of these external assessments.
Revised rules of combination that reflect the differing requirements of different occupations
Learners will have to demonstrate sufficient foundational competence in communication and mathematical literacy to cope with the occupational learning demands and to benefit from the learning process. Additional language, mathematics or knowledge and theory requirements in other subject areas will be determined by the needs of each specific occupation and will be fit-for-purpose. These will be incorporated into the common/core learning requirements of the qualification.
The blanket, ‘fundamental’ requirements that existed before were time-consuming and often resulted in the accumulation of credits that were not relevant to the particular occupation. The new model thus removes a previous barrier and relates the educational requirements to the particular job. ‘Electives’ will be replaced by specialisations.
Multiple ETQAs combined in order to streamline quality-assurance processes
The establishment of the QCTO will significantly increase the efficiency of the current ETQA system, merging twenty-three SETA ETQAs into one. This means that quality-assurance activities can be better coordinated and managed. All occupational unit standards will be quality assured by the QCTO.
A ‘light-touch’ accreditation process that promotes self-improvement
Previously, there was an overemphasis on accreditation as the key to quality assurance. The QCTO will simplify the accreditation process, applying criteria which are stated in each curriculum and are fit-for-purpose for each qualification. The process will begin with self-evaluation and will promote quality improvement. Overlapping accreditation, registration and verification requirements – currently causing major delays and frustrations, and escalating costs (especially for small providers) – will no longer apply.
A balance between flexibility and standardisation in order to achieve credible qualifications
The new model is flexible enough to maximise ‘fitness for purpose’, but includes sufficient standardisation to ensure the credibility of the system.