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close this bookRoles and Responsibilities, Institutional Landscapes and Curriculum Mindscapes: A Partial View of Teacher Education Policy in South Africa, 1990 - 2000 (CIE, 2002, 40 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentMulti-Site Teacher Education Research Project (MUSTER)
View the documentList of Acronyms
View the document1. Introduction
View the document2. A broad contextual framework
View the document3. Origins of the landscape
View the document4. An overview of curriculum changes
View the document5. Curriculum mindscapes
View the document6. The Norms and Standards for Educators
View the document7. Colleges of Education
View the document8. Towards a new teacher education system
View the document9. Some tentative conclusions
View the document10. Questions for the future
View the documentReferences
View the documentAppendix

5. Curriculum mindscapes

The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act of 1995 laid the foundations for a National Qualification Framework (NQF) and a programme based approach to the regulation of education and training. The NQF has three broad bands: General Education and Training (GET), Further Education and Training (FET), Higher Education and Training (HET). The GET Certificate is placed at Level One of the NQF and is an exit point at Grade 9 of the schooling system. This exit level can also be reached through an Adult Basic Education and Training route. The FET band covers levels 1 to 4 of the NQF. The Further Education and Training Certificate is placed at level 4 and is an exit point at Grade 12 of the schooling system. The FET band includes Grades 10, 11 and 12 of the schooling system and a variety of alternate routes offered by technical schools and colleges, community learning centres and a variety of other public and private providers.

The HET band covers levels 5 to 8 of the NQF, and teacher education programmes are also located on these levels. This programme location reflects the constitutional split in competence between national and provincial governments. Provinces are responsible for public provision in the GET and FET bands. Provision in the HET band is through a variety of "semi-autonomous" public and private providers including the 36 public universities and technikons.

Key role players in education at a national level include the Departments of Education and Labour, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), the Council on Higher Education (CHE), the National Skills Authority (NSA) and the Sectoral Education and Training Authorities (SETAs). Other state departments also play important roles. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has played an active and productive role in developing and promoting environmental education. The Department of Health has played the major role in the Primary School Nutrition Programme and in other important aspects of health education and increasingly in HIV/Aids education and management. Given the funds generated by the Skills Levy Act, the NSA and SETAs will play a crucial role in the FET band and to a lesser extent the HET band.

The Department of Labour had a strong influence on the development of the SAQA Act and the Skills Development Act. Although the Minister of Education was given primary responsibility for SAQA, the content of the Act indicates the strong influence within education policy of the labour movement and the DoL which has had two major consequences: an increasing emphasis on labour relation procedures and mechanisms as a means of implementation; and a strong emphasis on the integration of education and training within an explicit outcomes-based epistemology more usually associated with training. Much of the thinking behind the NQF can be traced in earlier documents such as COSATU's skills development plans, the NEPI Human Resources Development report, and in work done by the National Training Board and the HSRC between 1990 and 1995.

The SAQA Act of 1995 was followed by regulations setting out a complex stakeholder governance approach to the development of learning programmes and qualifications. The Skills Development Act puts in place a similar array of stakeholder bodies to promote skills development throughout the public and private sectors. The SAQA structures include two layers of stakeholder bodies for the development and registration of qualifications: the National Standards Bodies (NSBs) and the Standards Generating Bodies (SGBs). There are twelve NSBs corresponding to the 12 organisational fields of the NQF and a multiplicity of SGBs within each NSB field. There are approximately 30 SETAs. All these stakeholder bodies must have a minimum number of representatives from six key sectors: state, business, labour, critical interest groups, providers, and NGOs

SAQA also has primary responsibility for quality assurance of the learning programmes leading to the registered qualifications. SAQA is putting in place a structure of Education and Training Quality Assurance (ETQA) bodies. Higher Education and Training has approximately 40 bodies involved in quality assurance. The Higher Education Act creates a statuary body, the Higher Education Quality Committee, as a sub-committee of the Council on Higher Education, to take responsibility for the accreditation of higher education providers and their programmes. The HEQC has to work with the DoE, DoL, SAQA, the SETAs and professional bodies (for example the Health Professionals Council) in fulfilling its quality assurance responsibilities. In addition to their skills development responsibilities, SETAs are also ETQAs. This large number of role players with different responsibilities and objectives leads to conflicts of interest which are hard to resolve and undermine the consensus model of stakeholder governance that underlies the new regulatory policy and structures.

Teacher education programmes and their providers are regulated within this broad framework. In regard to teacher education, there are key linkages between these various bodies: the DoE has to operate in partnership with the CHE, SAQA (and NSBs and SGBs), the NSA (and SETAs), SACE, professional bodies, critical interest groups, labour, public and private providers and their associations. In crucial areas, in the public and private sectors, there are key responsibilities that the DoE can discharge if and only if other authorities and bodies have already performed their responsibilities.

The DoE, as the employer of a large number of public educators and primary funder of public provision, has specific functions for which it is responsible include, inter alia:

· allocation of public funding,

· development of national norms and standards

· recognition and evaluation criteria for purposes of employment under the Employment of Educators Act

· development and implementation of a rolling national plan

· regulation of the private and public sectors

In order for the DoE to fulfil these responsibilities in an accountable and transparent manner, certain pre-conditions must be met. These include:

· an effective system for the registration of qualifications and standards through SAQA, the NSBs and SGBs; and,

· an effective system for the accrediting of providers and their programmes through the CHE, in co-operation with SAQA, professional bodies and SETAs for accrediting providers and their programmes within the higher education band of the NQF.

From the perspective of the DoE, a public institution and its programmes will only be considered for funding once the institution and its programmes have been accredited by the CHE and its partners and its qualifications registered by SAQA. The DoE can only perform its "funding" role in a responsible manner if SAQA, the CHE and NSA registration and accreditation bodies and procedures are functional. This is also true of the SETAs which can only fund an employer for a training programme that is registered on the NQF and delivered by a provider accredited by a relevant ETQA.

In regard to private providers, the DoE has responsibility for developing policy and legislation, and for the registration of private providers. Once the Higher Education Act was in place, the DoE had a mechanism for regulating private providers through their registration with the Registrar of Private Higher Education (the Director General of the DoE). This registration process is linked to the qualification registration procedures of SAQA and the quality assurance and accreditation procedures of the CHE. At the end of 1999, the first provisional registrations for private providers were issued. However, the process remains flawed because the Registrar is dependent on SAQA registration and quality assurance structures which, at the end of 2000, are still not operating effectively.

The complex maze of organisational structures, processes and procedures which together make up the various facets of the higher education band of the NQF have to be carefully put together and aligned to ensure coherence, efficiency and effectiveness. It is only once these regulatory structures and bodies are operating in alignment that implementation can move firmly onto the agenda. Unfortunately, the dispersion of responsibilities and division of authority has produced a decision-making gridlock exacerbated by a general lack of human resource capacity in the system; a classic case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. By the end of the decade it was clear that a weak system riddled with ambiguities and overlaps in roles and responsibilities of different authorities was impeding the implementation of an "outcomes-based NQF."

One major source of disagreement lies in different interpretations of what is meant by "curriculum or learning programme" and "teaching and learning", and other key concepts embedded in regulations such as "applied competence," "integrated and applied assessment," "Recognition of Prior Learning," et al. These concepts are given radically different interpretations by the different role-players.

The basic principle of the NQF espoused on many occasions by Samuel Isaacs, the Executive Director of SAQA, is that the qualification road will be built as we go along. In other words, the design and development of national qualifications will be a collective process involving stakeholder representatives at all levels. Central to this vision of "construction" is a strong constructivist epistemology that sees learning as an exercise in "knowledge construction." This epistemological base has been subject to rigorous criticism elsewhere, most recently and illuminatingly by Johan Muller in "Reclaiming Knowledge" (Muller 2000), and in a number of the articles contained in "Changing Curriculum" (Jansen and Christie 1999).

On the constructivist view, knowledge can be learnt in discrete little bits by a learner constructing their own knowledge. An alternative, non-constructivist, view holds that knowledge is acquired through a sustained process of inculcation and initiation into an academic discipline that requires the learner to engage with an educator and subject content. One example of this difference is that constructivists favour discrete "Unit Standards" that have very specific outcomes with weak rules of combination that can be assessed by a checklist based on observation and measurement. By contrast, non-constructivists favour much longer "whole qualifications" that have strong rules of combination and complex outcomes that are assessed in far more subjective and inferential ways.

Such a simple bifurcation tends to caricature, but the differences are sufficient to lead to contestation over the natures and roles of knowledge, assessment, teaching and learning. This contestation is exacerbated by a lack of capacity, with too many roles and responsibilities and not enough skilled people to undertake them competently, as well as there being not enough money or time to commit to a time-consuming and expensive processes of consultation and negotiation, and confusion over a highly complex policy framework.

For our purposes here, we need only note that the vision of lifelong learning of value to all, with maximum access, mobility, portability and the development of "competent learners" has as yet made very little impact on the higher education system. One example of the immense difficulties of putting in place such a complex system of bodies and procedures is provided by higher education qualifications. The goal of the NQF is a set of national HET qualifications that are then provided by public and private providers if accredited to do so by an ETQA. Unfortunately, after five years, there is still no new outcomes-based qualification framework for HET. By 2000, key questions had still not been resolved. Is a Master's degree on level 7 or level 8? Is the technikon Bachelor of Technology on Level 7 or Level 6?

One reason for this immobilisation is the pattern of "stakeholder democracy" that infuses the system resulting in a dispersion or receding of the locus of control within the system. Underlying stakeholder democracy and constructivist epistemologies is a common assumption about truth, reason and consensus. At a risk of caricature, I want to present this in simple form: Truth is a social construction, so if we all agree on something then it is true. Stakeholder forums is a method that enables us to reach the truth/agreement by "rational/logical" debate/discussion. Hence, truth, reason and consensus are interwoven: we reach consensus/agreement on a decision/truth through reasoned agreement within the stakeholder forum and make decisions on this basis.

In a stakeholder structure like SAQA, a failure to reach "agreement or to build the truth" produces no decision. A battleground between contesting stakeholders with competing interests is unlikely to produce the kind of decision-making, executive action and management required to create a viable NQF. This dispersion of control within both the landscape and curricula of teacher education has seriously undermined attempts to implement a highly complex set of policies. By multiplying decision-making bodies and regulatory processes within a context of scarce human and material resources, albeit under the legitimate banners of democracy, equity and redress, South Africa has made reconstruction and transformation of the institutions and curricula of teacher education a very difficult process.