National Qualifications Frameworks under spotlight at conference in Ethiopia
By Tumelo Modisane
Researchers from Ethiopia, other parts of Africa and around the world gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to present their research findings into the dynamics of National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) in their respective countries. Mr Ron Tuck, an internationally recognised NQF expert, was the keynote speaker at the conference.
This international conference, the first of its kind in Ethiopia, was held from 10 – 11 June 2014. The conference objective was to establish an international forum on critical issues related to NQFs and education policies in Ethiopia, and the implications and impact thereof globally.
The theme of the conference was “Developing the National Qualifications Framework: Lessons, practices and challenges.” The core themes included:
- The role of NQFs in enhancing access, equity, relevance and quality of education and training;
- Approaches for building linkages between industries (the labour market) and education and training through NQFs;
- The provision of Credit Accumulation and Transfer Systems (CATS) in learning pathways;
- The practice of qualifications development in the Ethiopian education and training system;
- The role of education institutions in the implementation of the NQFs;
- Policy environment towards the development and implementation of the NQF in Ethiopia; and
- International perspectives on NQF development and implementation.
The conference was organised by the Education Strategy Center supported by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). Three SAQA staff members presented at the conference. SAQA and the Ethiopian Ministry of Education have had a relationship since 2008 when SAQA was contracted by the Ministry to work with the Ethiopian National Qualifications Framework (ENQF) Taskforce. The objective was to develop a conceptual framework and implementation plan for the development of an Ethiopian NQF. Therefore SAQA’s participation in the conference is an extension of this working relationship.
Speaking at the conference, SAQA Deputy CEO Dr Julie Reddy said that establishing and developing NQFs requires both system and attitude changes. Dr Reddy added that the South African experience has shown that those working towards implementing NQFs should not underestimate the importance of active stakeholder and role-player engagement and participation. She further highlighted the value in establishing international networks and relationships.
Ms Carina Oelofsen, Deputy Director in the National Learners’ Records Database (NLRD) Directorate at SAQA spoke about the development of a Management Information System. SAQA’s NLRD Directorate played an important role in assisting with the initial stages of the development of a Management Information System (MIS) for the ENQF. This was done through workshops and discussions on inputs, outputs, processes and workflows. The NLRD assisted in the conceptual specification to create a common understanding of the ENQF-MIS.
Dr James Keevy, Director International Liaison at SAQA, who has been working with the NQF Taskforce from the outset, reflected on the development of the ENQF. Dr Keevy noted that the ENQF was a reforming type of an NQF. A reforming NQF improves on an existing system; it strengthens coherence, relevance, quality and establishes pathways; and it changes the division of roles and responsibilities of stakeholders.
The ENQF development process comprises three phases. The development phase included system analysis, consultations, benchmarking, capacity building, gender mainstreaming, and piloting qualification registration. This was followed by the implementation phase that entails promulgation of the ENQF regulation, creating a comprehensive information management system, creating awareness about the ENQF, provisional registration of qualifications, full registration of qualifications, identification of implementation challenges, and giving career advice.
The third phase will focus on monitoring and evaluation. The purpose of this phase will be to supervise, support, monitor and evaluate the implementation of the ENQF. Dr Keevy noted that the ENQF has already resulted in changes to the existing system in Ethiopia. There has been curriculum reform in secondary education with the inclusion of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) competencies. There is a quality assurance body for general education as well as the implementation of outcomes-based pedagogy. The quality assurance role of the Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA) has also been expanded.
Dr Keevy concluded by saying that he is looking forward to the promulgation of the ENQF Regulations as well as an increase in implementation capacity. He said that good progress has been made since the initial work in 2007 and that the impact of the ENQF is becoming a reality.
Four facts about the ENQF
- It is an instrument for the regulation of the development, classification and comparison of Ethiopian qualifications and for the recognition of learning in terms of agreed upon national standards.
- It is a linked framework made up of three sub-frameworks namely General Education (GE), Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and Higher Education (HE). It serves as an umbrella overarching these sub-frameworks.
- It serves as a platform for communication and collaboration between sub-frameworks.
- It is made explicit through the levels descriptors and qualifications descriptors and guiding principles on qualifications registration, quality assurance, award of qualifications, assessment, credit arrangement and qualifications pathways.
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