Posted on: July 26, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

South African professional bodies stand accused of being elite clubs and developing exams, instead of developing skills in learners and fostering best practice.

SA Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) minister Dr Blade Nzimande addressed professional registrars, trade councils and training structures in May and July 2011,to pave the way for ‘pilot’ trial implementation of the draft policy on professional bodies at 10 current registrars, and general adoption in 2010.

None of the prospective occupational health, safety, environment and quality (sheq) professional registration bodies would be part of the initial trial, and among sheq related practices, only the Institute for Work at Height (IWH), led by Brian Randall, has realistic prospects of making the general April 2012 registrar application deadline.

Randall warned sheq membership bodies Saiosh, Iosm and Ohsap, and international ‘ticket’ qualifications like Nebosh, that professionalisation required specific qualifications, linked to designations, inclusive consultation, and that Department of Labour (DOL) skills development functions have all been moved to DHET.

DHET minister Dr Blade Nzimande had warned current registrars of a range of requirements and roles that they would have to fulfill, during addresses in Pretoria, Durban and Midrand in May and July 2011.

“Members of staff in the Department of Higher Education and Training have been researching the nature of collaboration between professional bodies and universities, prompted by my own concern regarding the role of professional councils in widening access and ensuring success of our graduates”, minister Nzimande said.

“The Department of Higher Education and Training was established with the purpose of developing and improving a post school education system which provides a wider variety of and more access to post school education opportunities for youths and adults in South Africa.

Skills growth path

“Government identified 12 outcomes to be met. Outcome 5 is to develop a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path.

“Our concerns relate to creating access, as well ensuring success of graduates… there are a number of underpinning problematic issues pertaining to our post school education system.

“Skills deficits and bottlenecks, especially in priority and scarce skills, contribute to structural constraints to our growth and development path.

Minister Nzimande called for “sectoral strategies and labour market analyses. Blockages and bottlenecks to scarce skills supplies need to be identified and removed.

“The skills production pipeline at intermediate and higher levels must be improved and significantly increased to meet demands of our growing economy. It is imperative that access and articulation in a differentiated post school education system are enhanced, while education and training in scarce skills need to become more integrated.

Professional bodies must collaborate with DHET

“The DHET agreed on a number of outputs, some of particular relevance to developing a relationship and collaborating with professional bodies in a post school education and training system;

• Establishing mechanism through which information regarding supply and demand of skills are communicated as career guidance information.
• Increasing access to intermediate and higher learning opportunities for youths and adults.
• Increasing access to training opportunities to boost the number of qualified artisans and mid-level skills.
• Increasing access, articulation and success in occupationally directed programmes such as engineering, teaching, health sciences and life and physical sciences.

“Achievement of these outputs requires complete cooperation between all stakeholders involved in, and benefiting from, education and training in South Africa, from secondary schools and Further Education and Training colleges to universities, quality councils, professional bodies and the business sector.”

Each profession must develop students

“To what extent is your professional body actively and purposefully developing scarce skills, contributing to enhanced access to training and education opportunities, supporting students engaged in studies towards qualifying for a given profession and ensuring employability of graduates?

“To what extent are your processes of standard setting, programme accreditation and professional registration supporting and improving access to work integrated learning, experiential learning and internships, as well as placement and absorption of graduates into the workplace?

“Apart from the challenges of access and success of black students to appropriate diplomas and degrees at universities and colleges, there are huge obstacles even to those who have succeeded in completing their studies because of the nature and structure of workplace professional training for purposes of registration as a professional.

“Professional workplace training… is structurally and systemically obstructing development of black professionals in South Africa.

“We need to establish the extent to which professional bodies are enhancing or inhibiting development of a professional workforce. We need to have a clear understanding of how professional bodies are contributing to development of professions learners or students in their endeavour to obtain professional qualifications and to register and practice as professionals.

“Pofessional bodies or councils in the South African context must be accredited to one of the three quality councils;
• Council on Higher Education (CHE) [for universities]
• Quality Council on Trade and Occupations (QCTO) [for occupational training]
• UMALUSI [for schools].

“Accreditation of a qualification by one of these quality councils is a prerequisite for a qualification to be offered by an education institution.

“Accreditation of a qualification by a professional body does not constitute the equivalence of accreditation by one of the recognised quality councils in South Africa. DHET does not view any professional body as a quality council.

Professional bodies control practice

“The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) will register professional bodies, which are groups of people in a specific regulated occupation who, are entrusted with maintaining control or oversight of the legitimate practice of the occupation and, have a significant influence on education linked to the professions, and ultimately have the final say as to who it will register as one of its own and who it will reject.

“Professional bodies are usually non-profit organizations, existing to further a particular profession and to protect members of the public as well as interests of its own members, by maintaining and enforcing standards of training and ethics in their profession.

Professional ‘cartels’ must stop

“Professional bodies may also act like a cartel existing for the benefit and protection of its members. Professions may be in need of protection.

“Access to the sacred circle of professional body membership is often jealously guarded… If we accept that professional registration is a prerequisite to practice, are we not perhaps, through professional bodies and councils, artificially securing the availability of the best opportunities for only a few exclusive “members”?

Registrars must not await graduates

“Professional bodies have to establish and develop standards for a profession. In a recent analysis by my Department on the involvement of professional bodies with universities and their graduates it was clear that professional bodies primarily accredit programmes and then consider students for professional registration after they graduated.

“There are, but for the exception of a few, no involvement of professional bodies in the development of students prior to graduation, other than making demands on institutions of what the curriculum content must be for accreditation by themselves. This is a point of serious concern.

“Statutory bodies are required by law to be actively involved in developing professional education and training while non-statutory bodies claim an interest therein. Be they statutory on non-statutory, professional bodies generally perform three primary functions;

• Set up and safeguard public interest
• Represent the interest of the professional practitioners
• Represent their own self-interest in a manner that safeguard their own position as a controlling body in a given profession.

“Herein lays the risk that control, legitimated by public interest, becomes confounded by control based on self-interest.

Statutory boards flawed

“There are two serious flaws in current practices in compiling boards of especially statutory professional bodies; government has little or no representation on these boards, and they consist mostly of white males.

“Statutory and non-statutory professional bodies are in a position to maintain professional registration and accreditation (general membership criteria) at levels which are either completely unattainable or largely unrealistic in the South African context, thereby actively restricting access to professions.

“It is not suggested that professional bodies lower their admission and registration standards, but it is suggested that professional bodies become geared towards actively developing skills and competencies of those en route to professional registration.

“Policy and criteria for recognising professional bodies, and registering professional designations, were published by SAQA in September 2010.
“Professional bodies are required to cooperate with relevant quality council(s) in respect of qualifications and quality assurance in its occupational field, apply to SAQA as a professional body in terms of the NQF Act and apply to SAQA to register a professional designation on the NQF.

“Professional bodies will be required by SAQA to, before registration, protect the interests and professional status of members, including situations that may involve educational institutions, protect public interests, and show evidence of social responsibility and advancing NQF objectives.

“One of these objectives of the NQF is to actively contribute to the redress of past injustices and inequalities in the education and training landscape of South Africa.

“Professional bodies will;
• Set criteria for promoting and monitoring continuing professional development (CPD)
• Maintain information systems compatible with the National Learners’ Records Database (NLRD)
• Involving them with continued development of specialised knowledge.
Evidence of these will be a prerequisite for reregistration after five years.

Professional bodies may not offer training

“No professional body can be a registered or accredited as an education and training provider. A number of statutory professional bodies have actively participated with specific universities in developing professional qualifications to be offered by the institution and designed specifically for the South African context.

“This is commendable and needs to continue within the parameters of the HEQF and criteria for programme accreditation of the CHE. There have been instances where the quality of provision of a qualification at a particular institution was consistently so poor that the professional body approached the DHET to intervene.

“My Department places significant trust in professional bodies to alert the DHET should academic provision seem substandard at any of our institutions.

DHET PIVOT programme

“The DHET introduced Professional, Vocational, Technical and Academic Learning (PIVOT) programmes, aimed at increasing numbers and the relevance of academic, professional and vocational learning.

“The DHET has to strengthen the capacity of the education and training system to provide pivotal programmes to a growing number of young post-school learners, as well as to adults at turning points in their careers.

“These are programmes that generally combine course work at universities, universities of technology and colleges with structured learning at work. This is achieved by means of professional placements, work-integrated learning, apprenticeships, learnerships and internships.

“There must be improved access to, and success at post school learning sites, and structured bridges to the world of work and quality learning upon arrival there. It is here that the active participation of public bodies are required to establish and provide more learnerships, opportunities for work integrated learning and experiential learning as well as providing student and learner mentoring support and mentoring opportunities for members.

“Ultimately contributions to education and training will remain fruitless without the absorption of graduates into the labour market and registering them as members of professional bodies.

“It will require continuous and active collaboration between professional bodies and education institutions in joint efforts towards development of professional skills.

“Reports have been received from certain institutions that students are struggling to graduate due to uncompleted WIL or experiential learning components… professional bodies are not as directly involved in practical work experience prior to graduation as is expected.

“There is also a perceived disparity in the levels of entrance examinations for professional registration and the level of competence of graduates upon exiting a formal education and training programme. These disparities need to be comprehensively researched and addressed as a matter of urgency.

“SAQA has drafted specific criteria for participation and collaboration between education institutions and professional bodies.

“Diversity in post-school options must be increased and vocational colleges promoted as a viable and an attractive alternative. Linkages between formal vocational education and workplace opportunities must be strengthened.

“My Department is in the process of developing a policy framework which provides direction for the types of collaboration agreements that should exist between professional bodies, quality councils, industry and higher education institutions.

“A professional body claiming the right to register and accredit a graduate from a certain institution as one of its recognised professionals, should have in place a solid agreement with a providing institution on what its own responsibilities are in helping the institution to produce an acceptable quality graduate.”

-Source; Extracts from SA DHET minister Blade Nzimande’s address to professional bodies and training structures in Pretoria, Durban and Midrand, in May and July 2011.


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