Minister Nzimande addresses Education World Forum in London on improving learning pathways

South Africa's Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, addressed the Education World Forum on the topic "How we can improve learning pathways to optimise the life chances of all students, whether they choose vocational, higher or any other form of education". The full text of his address follows.


London, United Kingdom, 24 May 2022


As everybody knows, South Africa has emerged from a racially segregated, unequal education and training system. Since 1994, we have been working continuously to transform the post-school education and training system to provide everyone in the country with access to quality education and training. There have been strong foci on equality, redress, recognition of prior learning, and enhancing access, progression, quality and transparency.


Under the National Qualifications Framework Act, 2008, the initial focus on access deepened to foci on epistemological access, learning pathways, articulation, and learner transitioning. We have since moved to focus more on diversity and equality; student access, support and success; and accommodating changing student demographics, including working students.


We have introduced flexibility in learning pathways through a collection of policies, structures and practices aimed at broadening access, redress and progression in the system for learning and work.


Our National Qualifications Framework (NQF) was one of the means to integrate the education and training system into one coherent system and to align this system with the values in the new Constitution. The objectives of the NQF still apply to facilitate access to, and mobility and progression in, education and training and career paths, and to accelerate redress, and enhance quality and transparency, for the benefit of individual learners and social and economic development at large.


The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) is mandated to oversee the implementation and further development of the NQF, and to coordinate the three NQF sub-frameworks: the General and Further Education and Training Qualifications Sub-Framework, the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework, and the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework.


I am pleased to report to this meeting today that there has been progress towards achieving the NQF objectives, especially regarding access, redress, quality and transparency. I want to specifically focus on two mechanisms to ensure that learners can access and follow learning pathways, namely, recognition of prior learning (RPL) and articulation.


Long-term research and development reveal that extensive RPL practices and some credit accumulation and transfer (CAT) within and between sub-frameworks is forthcoming. A National Articulation Baseline Study by SAQA and Durban University of Technology shows articulation initiatives that exist between technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges and higher education institutions (HEIs). Research and development have included understanding and supporting learning and work pathways for sustainable development and other emerging fields, and an investigation into student needs for, and the development of, flexible learning and teaching practices.


Our extensive, well-developed policy environment enables coordination of RPL and articulation, and SAQA policies, together with Quality Council counterpart policies, support flexible learning pathways. Learners therefore have options to follow, from school into any of the offerings in our post-school education and training system, namely, universities, TVET colleges and skills development programmes that are also offered by community education and training (CET) colleges, sector education and training authorities (SETAs), and industry.


Since the establishment of the NQF, qualifications, to be registered on the NQF, must be located in articulated learning pathways and must provide for RPL. Professional bodies must provide RPL routes to their professional designations. To study further or work in the country on the basis of foreign qualifications requires submitting these qualifications to SAQA for evaluation for authenticity and allocation to a South African NQF level. SAQA supports refugees and asylum-seekers following such pathways. There is currently a national initiative to strengthen learning pathways.


In South Africa, articulation and learning pathways are understood in at least three ways, as being "systemic", "specific" and "individual". Systemic learning pathways comprise "joined-up" qualifications and/or part-qualifications, professional designations, and other elements that are part of the official system. Specific articulation comprises arrangements such as RPL, CAT, memoranda of understanding, memoranda of agreement, and others that support systemic articulation. Individual learning pathways are in turn supported by flexible responsive systems that enable students to navigate and transition across barriers that they encounter.


We therefore support flexible learning pathways, where a learner has a range of choices. The question remains: How can we improve learning pathways so that each individual can succeed in life and have access to decent work?


Over and above policies, structures and well-developed systems, there is also a need for quality career development services. All citizens must have access to quality career development services that enable them to make informed choices about studies and learning pathways. Our Khetha Career Development Services (CDS) has been in operation since 2010 and offers well-developed information, advice, guidance and counselling services that are free to all. We have a multi-platform system that includes our well-developed National Career Advice Portal that provides information on learning pathways for more than 1 300 careers.


Furthermore, we also have to improve in extended curriculum programmes; "supplemental instruction"; a number of peer-support structures and mentoring programmes; the provision of distance and/or blended learning or e-learning in a variety of forms; supportive infrastructure and timetabling such as part-time, after-hours, weekend and block-release course offerings; the practice of offering particular qualifications as bridges to further learning; and national and institutional CDS as well as other ways of providing flexible learning pathways.


We have also developed tools that support the provision and use of learning pathways in the country. Key instruments are the criteria and processes for registering qualifications and part-qualifications on the NQF; institutional accreditation to offer learning programmes in HEIs; and recognising professional bodies and their professional designations. Lastly, data and the tracking of learning pathways are also key.


In conclusion: We are not there yet. We have to engage and ensure the full alignment of policies and practices at national level. We also have to enhance further systemic articulation in a growing number of sectors. It is important to continue and increase efforts to integrate public and private higher education. Lastly, I want to emphasise the importance of further development of the reporting and data specifications for learning pathways.


We are all working continuously to ensure that no learners are left behind and find themselves at a dead end in their careers.

I thank you.






Issued by:

Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Meiring Naude Road Brummeria Pretoria

Enquiries: Ishmael Mnisi 0660378859


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