Towards Quality Assurance and Accreditation
When quality assuring, both internal and external assessment, “We ensure that this is done in accordance with policy, and that all regulations are followed,” says Rakometsi. He adds that, before examinations, Umalusi makes certain that the systems of all the assessment bodies, namely the Independent Examinations Board (IEB), the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education and Training, align with Umalusi’s. At Grade 12, internal assessment at schools constitutes 25% of the final mark. Umalusi moderates these assessments which are combined with the 75% from final examination. Recently, the Council expanded the scope of its quality assurance of assessment by increasing the sample sizes for all the qualifications.
For independent schools and colleges to offer legally recognised qualifications, the law requires that they are accredited. Public colleges and schools, on the other hand, are deemed accredited. “We go the extra mile to check that independent schools offer education at least at the level of public schools, if not better,” reveals Rakometsi. Research plays a critical role in evaluating the curriculum. Umalusi compares the National Senior Certificate – and the National Certificate (Vocational) - against equivalent qualifications in other countries in order to understand and benchmark the standards set in the South African system. “We cannot afford to be complacent and assume that everything we do is right. Education and training constitutes a dynamic space, and one constantly needs to monitor developments,” explains Rakometsi.
He emphasises that standards are a critical issue in education and calls on all stakeholders to join forces to ensure that teaching and learning in schools are of the highest calibre. This can be done through the improvement of teacher education, the provision of resources such as laboratories, libraries, and equipment, and by increasing the time spent on task by teachers and learners in the classroom.
He reveals that ongoing research is evaluating the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) currently, so that Umalusi is able to ensure a smooth transition between the old curriculum and the new when it comes to the 2014 final exams, when the first CAPS learners sit for their final examinations.In addition to the curriculum research, Umalusi’s research unit is considering the quality of assessment of all South Africa’s official languages. Consideration is also being given to the impact of learning through an additional language on academic performance. The research unit is also engaged with the issue of the appropriateness of the standard of the National Senior Certificate, and with considering what measures can be introduced to create high levels of consistency across years, and among assessment bodies.
Two new qualifications will be introduced in South Africa. The National Senior Certificate for Adults (NASCA) targets individuals who cannot attend school, but who wish to complete matric. The qualification is different from the ‘normal’ matric but, if the model on which the NASCA is based translates well in the South African environment, employers will value successful NASCA students and success in the final examinations could potentially allow entry into university, provided that the learner has managed to achieve the required results.
The National Independent Certificate (NIC) is another qualification that will be introduced in the future. In some respects, it is similar to the National Certificate (Vocational) in having a strong vocational slant, but could be studied part-time or through distance education.
Few legislated bodies are able to serve two ministries (the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education and Training) efficiently and effectively, whilst remaining equally relevant to both, Rakometsi argues. Yet, this is precisely what Umalusi strives to achieve. He ascribes such success to regular communication with the ministries’ directors-general in order to render seamless service delivery.
Under Rakometsi’s guidance, the Council has steered many policy issues towards legislation, one of which is the recent gazetting of the accreditation policy. Previously, Umalusi could provide only provisional accreditation, but, under the new policy, full accreditation will be given. “Accreditation will require considerable effort in the near future, especially considering the number of independent schools, FETs and adult-education centres already with provisional accreditation in the country. This is a huge mandate for a small organisation such as ours, but one which we are prepared to fulfil,” a confident Rakometsi states.
Umalusi celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2011 and one of the highlights of that year was hosting an international conference on standards, at which the country’s ‘who’s who’ in education addressed delegates. While the route ahead may not be easily navigable, Rakometsi is of the opinion that the Council has clearly set its sights on supporting credible and sustainable education for all South Africans.
Guardian of Wealth
Umalusi takes care of one of the nation’s most treasured assets - the standards of general and further education and training, hence its name, which means ‘herder’ or ‘shepherd’ - in Nguni culture the person who is the guardian of the family’s wealth.
Assessing for a Better Future
A healthy South African education system requires that the country’s schools, further education and training (FET) colleges and adult-education centres offer curricula of the highest standard to produce well-rounded graduates. Umalusi, the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training, is the body constituted to oversee and assure quality in these educational institutions.
Dr Mafu Rakometsi, the chief executive officer of Umalusi, says that the Council’s role in education is broad, as Umalusi has to be satisfied that qualifications and their curriculum content are pitched at the right level. In addition, the Council is responsible for the quality assurance of assessment for all the qualifications on the General and Further Education and Training Qualifications Sub-framework.
CASE IN POINT | Umalusi
by Andrew Ngozo