Understanding the ZNQF: Part Two

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THE objectives of the Zimbabwe National Qualification Framework (ZNQF) include providing a contemporary framework that:
– Situates the diversity of Zimbabwean education and training in the present and the future;
– Contributes to national economic performance;
– Supports the development and maintenance of pathways which provide access to qualification and assist people to move easily and readily between education and training sectors;
– Regulates and ensures quality in education and training;
– Enhances national and international mobility of graduates and workers through increased recognition of the value and comparability of Zimbabwean qualifications;
– Provides a model for transparency in comparison of qualifications and
– Increases coherence between education output and needs of the labour market.
In the final analysis, the motive to develop the ZNQF can be summarised as hinging upon achieving three outcomes; namely:
– Development of an integrated ZNQF;
– Domestication of the ratified harmonised SADC QF;
– Heeding the call by the African Union (AU) on harmonisation of education and training in its Agenda 2063.
Importance of the ZNQF
Demand for access: Greater social demand for higher and tertiary education and for equity of access has generated an increasing emphasis on the creation of articulation and mobility pathways for learners throughout the education and training divide.
To this end, a number of countries worldwide and indeed in the SADC region have developed integrated national qualifications frameworks (NQFs) to facilitate access, mobility and progression within education, training and employment.
Central to the construction of an NQF is a co-ordinated approach to education and training among formal institutions and the workplace.
This aims to ameliorate traditional tensions between disciplines-based learning, which occurs mainly in institutions and work-based learning, which occurs mainly in the workplace, but includes professional practice.
To this end, the qualifications framework defines levels of qualification against which outcomes-based qualifications and standards can be pegged.
This seeks to create equivalences upon which credit accumulation and transfer can occur.
National policy
Articulation has received far less policy attention in Zimbabwe than differentiation.
Even though almost all countries and even local stakeholders acknowledge the need for articulation as a means of producing a more efficient tertiary education system and a less fragmented labour force, the practices in Zimbabwe indicate otherwise.
Only five-out-of-nine training Ministries in Zimbabwe offer accredited programmes and standards-based qualifications but even in those few cases where formal articulation routes exist, little evidence of articulation can be found.
This is likely to be the result of limited institutional capacities within the tertiary education system.
Engendering articulation is quite a complicated process for many institutions because it involves multiple institutional actors, multiple subsets of the educational system and system-wide student information systems. This is one of the major reasons currently articulation of learners, even across state universities, has not been achieved in Zimbabwe, let alone across polytechnics and universities as well as across polytechnics and Vocational Training Centres.
Internal governance structures
The internal structures of institutions have tended to inhibit articulation among and between institutional types.
The universities are under no obligation to articulate with polytechnics.
This is because of their legal autonomy and the way they jealously safeguard that autonomy.
Consequently, they tend to view articulation, even among themselves, as a managerial nuisance that is best avoided.
Industry and the labour market
The Ministry stakeholder engagement meetings between January 1 2018 to date, turned up no evidence that the labour market, in general, or industry in particular, is driving articulation.
On the contrary, industry may inhibit articulation with its tendency to partner with specific institutions.
The market, on the other hand, seems to be indifferent to articulation so long as it obtains these skills that it needs.
However, trade unions and workers, associations are keen on having the NQF in place as this ensures fairness and removes subjective qualification equivalences at the workplaces.
Because of this last fact, personnel from industry and commerce actively participated through their professional bodies in setting up and defining the level descriptors for the qualifications they superintended over.
Issues for ZNQF policy
consideration
Given the positive stakeholder buy-in shown by all the Ministry stakeholder engagement meetings as well as active participation of all line Ministries offering qualifications in Zimbabwe, the Ministry has achieved the following actions:
l The Zimbabwe National Alignment Committee has worked with ZIMCHE and the Directorate of Quality Assurance and Standards to establish a mutually acceptable and easily readable credit transfer system to improve articulation within the entire higher and tertiary education sector.
The Committee on the QF has facilitated all professional bodies specifying minimum credit requirements for the different levels, by developing generic level descriptors, and by crafting instruments for measuring and classifying learning outcomes and competencies within the ZNQF. However, it should be noted that this process does not imply the ‘uniformisation’ of the courses, but rather the creation of convergence in the recognition of qualification achievement levels.
l The Zimbabwe National Alignment Committee on the ZNQF has encouraged increased access in a targeted way through both institutional and programmatic differentiation in order to meet development goals.
The process is aimed at maximising the diversity of offerings, cost effectiveness and access as well as ensuring that the binary divide is made flexible and maintained through appropriate regulation to control academic and vocational drift.
The report will show the unanimous endorsement of establishment of the Ministry’s strong centralised national policy framework for effective qualification regulatory role for all qualifications in Zimbabwe for both currently accredited and unaccredited courses offered by other line ministries cited in this report.
l Change public perception of superiority of university education over TVET through; (a) publicly clarifying complementary roles and identities of higher and tertiary education institutions; (b) encouraging and rewarding collaboration; and (c) creating unified supervision and stakeholder cluster bodies by establishing a Zimbabwe National Qualifications Framework through a participatory programmatic approach.
l The establishment of a coherent skills mix between TVET and university education that ensures articulation of learners from polytechnics to university through B.Tech degree programmes offered by universities as opposed to just having ‘knowledge’ degrees.
The Ministry has ensured that in pursuit of an integrated qualification portal system for Zimbabwe’s education and training divide, the formal articulation channel system will continue to ensure retention of differentiation and diversity of programmes.

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