Draft Amendment of the NQF Act of 2008

DHET has published a bill to amend the NQF Act. Download

There’s whole lot of stuff related to private and foreign providers. But also a series of clauses related to fraudulent or misrepresented qualifications.

But the most alarming clauses are the following:

32A Obligations to report fraudulent qualifications
All education institutions and employers have a legal obligation to report fraudulent qualifications to SAQA.
32B Obligations to refer qualifications of employees to the SAQA
(1) All employers must refer qualifications of employees to SAQA for validation and verifications; and
(2) The employer must include an acknowledgement form signed by the purported holder of the qualification to publish the outcome of SAQA verification in the public domain in the event of invalid qualifications presented to the employer. ”

So with circa 11 million employees in the formal sector is SAQA going to be up to this task?

The bill also seems to make it easier for private providers and foreign-based providers to become part of the system.

20 years ago – wrappping up the EMP project

20 years ago we were doing a roadshow on the outcomes of the NQF Pilot project for Engineering & Manufacturing Processes. Funded by the Department of Labour it’s goal was to try and provide a test bed for the proposed conceptual basis of the National Qualifications Framework – in this case primarily unit standards.

It had been a stressful process involving many stakeholders who had not engaged previously, professional bodies, unions, business – mostly in the form of trainers, education institutions (what we later started to call education and training providers) and an examination body (the Independent Examination Body).

From time to time I bump into one the alumni of that process – alumni because we all graduated from there having learned so much.

I often run a workshop exercise which asks the question – what was your most powerful learning experience. I always choose this one although it’s touch and go between that and eventually mastering the kink at the end of the main straight at the Lichtenberg race track. A story for another day.

What I learned during this project was to facilitate processes. There were no hand books or guidelines for facilitation. The World Wide Web was new. There was no Google, in fact very few search engines at all. I had to transition from WordPerfect to Microsoft Office, from DOS to Win 3.11.

We had two sets of working groups. One started on a Monday and worked through to 19:30 and then finished up shortly at lunch on the Tuesday. The next set arrived on the Thursday and left Friday pm after a similar long Thursday. Wednesday was recovery day.

I had to learn to manage conflict, steer people in the right direction, recognise when groups were headed for the edge of the cliff. And lead the development of taxonomies for essential embedded knowledge, skills and assessment criteria .

But what a rush – it was learning to race motorbikes all over again, switching from driving to racing.

We focused on learning in the workplace. So it was a pity SAQA never had any real interest in what we learned and achieved. And sadly they still haven’t got the message today, 20 years later. They still haven’t realised their first objective: create an integrated national framework for learning achievements

They still confuse teaching and learning. Poor benighted fools

Activity-based learning modules

I spent time with another client this week developing activity-based learning modules. It was a manufacturing company which is introducing a new apprenticeship.

Even though we had previously used this approach as a starting point we had kept on being dragged back into the content-based approach.

First we heard suggestions such as, “You need to give the learners something.” Then we heard suggestions like, “You’ll have to compile a set of resources for the facilitator,” or “Put together a comprehensive set of x in the training room so the learners don’t have to go a find them in the factory.”

We did succumb to the latter two suggestions and compiled a set of resources. But the facilitators told us quite categorically that they don’t need them, “The guys will know!”

Content-based meant that the facilitators were in charge. Activity-based meant that the learners were in charge and the facilitators merely provided guidance.

So the guidelines to facilitators became phrases such as, ” Make sure that they have created at least 3 categories of x” or “If they don’t find relevant information of the WWW suggest this site, http…”.

In this case we ended up with four documents which made up the module:

  1. Learner guide
  2. Facilitator guide
  3. Assessment instrument
  4. Assessment guide.

15 of the 16 people who arrived as “experts” had never facilitated before. Yet within 20 minutes they had understood and supported the underlying logic of the modules. They were even willing to become facilitators if this was the approach.

I had a similar experience when using activities as the underlying basis of modules in a totally different industry and with a total different set of skills.

There will be more to come in the next few posts

Mindfulness

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a a highly stressed young professional. I suggested using mindfulness to reduce stress levels and described a few techniques she could try.

This, in turn, triggered a memory of a workshop that ‘went wrong’ in the early 2000s.

Freddy had attended a mindfulness ‘bosberaad’ -a meeting in the bush to discuss weighty matters-  and couldn’t stop talking about it. The concept was new. So, too, were the concepts of skills development & workplace learning. I used a pause as Freddy caught breath to get back to group work. I couldn’t get my head around the cognitive dissonance of mindfulness and a bosberaad. So I asked the groups to consider how mindfulness could be applied to workplace learning and skills development.

Initially the groups stuttered along. A couple of groups asked Freddy to explain a point or two and then, suddenly, the groups were firing on cylinders.

By the end of the session the groups were so enthusiastic and eager that each report back became an extended larger group discussion.

The overall conclusion was that skills development and workplace learning were a form of mindful practice. You, the novice,  had to give up thinking like “Blooms taxonomy” and start to pay attention to what was around you. You had to focus on the people, the processes, the interactions and other situational cues and clues. You had to let go of theory and take on a non-judgemental attitude and be present in the moment. During your work experience you had to learn to take in information with your senses.

Then someone asked, “What about reflection?” It was one of the fashion terms of the time (it could still be). At first it was a show-stopper question. But within a few minutes the responses started bubbling up – the energy levels were high and the creative juices were running strong.

Without being present in the moment what could you later actually reflect on? Mindfulness was a precursor to reflection. Without focusing on the “theories-in-use”, as opposed to the “espoused theories” taught in the classroom, you would never be able to decode actual practice.

The discussion shifted the goal posts so far that I couldn’t return to the workshop programme.

Nor did I need to.

 

#FeesMustFall

I chaired a Programme Advisory Committee meeting for the Academy@Work at the University of Johannesburg this afternoon. The A@W programme used to operate across and outside of traditional university boundaries providing access to courses and programmes that didn’t fall into the traditional higher education framework.

The university was requiring that the A@W pull back from the swampy lowlands of real problems to the traditional high ground education programmes (Donald Schön p2). So the A@W team had developed the first Human Resources Development qualifications in South Africa. Interesting. There is a qualification relating to Education, Training and Development. But not for HRD.

But their challenge is to replace revenue generating programmes that fund staff salaries etc. while transitioning to a new landscape.

As part of the discussion we had inputs from the sometimes violent processes at Wits University and the DHET’s forum earlier this week, as well as the proactive approach taken by UJ’s vice chancellor since late 2015. This last one (and other related initiatives) could explain why the levels of protest (and violence) at UJ are far lower than at Wits.

Our meeting eventually focused on how the intellectual property developed by the A@W over the last few years could be transformed into new initiatives and programmes.

The underlying challenge is to find out how higher education could be transformed to meet a wider range of audiences and objectives as well as a broader continuum of learning without compromising its key values.