NQA and the state of educational affairs

THE Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA), an education regulatory institution established 15 years ago to rationalise foreign acquired qualifications, is now part of the global community.

The institution, whose birth was necessitated by the streaming back of Namibians from across the world, where they had gone to study during the liberation struggle, was established with the sole mandate to synchronise foreign academic qualifications with the local educational system.

This facility has resulted in the creation of strategic links with countries in the SADC region and the rest of the globe making Namibian qualifications recognisable.

According to the Director of NQA, Franz Gertze, the institution has made major strides in providing quality assurance in both Namibian qualifications for learners and the public and private educational institutions.

“We were created under an Act of Parliament in 1996. It is very important to mention that we are heavily subsidised by government and we are eager to see educational quality improve in the country,” says Gertze.

Gertze also notes that within their 15 years of existence, the institution has made reasonable progress in ensuring Namibian education and qualifications are in sync with other countries within the SADC region and internationally by using the institution as a benchmark.

“We have done our best in the region and we have seen other countries coming to get our expertise and learn how we have managed so far. We are currently helping other countries like Swaziland, Angola and Botswana to establish the same institutions in their countries.”

The institution is affiliated to different international qualification regulatory authorities including the Technical Committee of Southern African Qualifications Framework (TCSAQF).

TCSAQF is tasked with promoting mutual recognition for SADC educational qualifications and aims to come up with qualifications recognised within all the member states.

NQA is also a member of the International Network of Quality Assurance Agency in higher education and the Commonwealth Transnational Qualification Frame Work.

Since its inception, NQA processes close to 3000 local applicants annually, and also deals with numerous other international qualifications for foreign students coming to study in the country.

The authority acknowledges the Namibian education system is faced with challenges that need to be tackled for it to be viable and be market absorbable educational products in Namibia.

“I would not want to say we are having problems in the education system but I would rather say there are challenges that need to be dealt with. It is important to note that we are dealing with changing a system that was implemented with a segregatory mind and that would take time. As an organisation, we believe we are in the right direction and soon we will see the results,” says Gertze.

He also adds that the Namibian education system is equally competitive as compared to other institutions in the region but the major challenge is that the country is trying to come up with a system that is not discriminatory.

“The fact that many foreign students come here, and we are second to South Africa, in terms of hosting foreign students, is a clear indication that there is confidence in the Namibian education system. The country has churned out Namibian graduates specialised in forensic science and we are trying to broaden the scope of our education.”

Gertze says changing an education system of a country is a mammoth task and urges Namibians to understand that it takes time to come up with a completely different functioning system in the education sector.

“The Government is playing its part well. The fact that we now have our own engineers and doctors trained locally shows we are moving in the right direction,” he says.

Gertze adds that the country’s students now have confidence in the country’s education system judging by the number of people who are studying locally but stressed that there is nothing wrong in students studying abroad as they will bring in new ideas.

“You should note that a number of the students who go and study abroad come to us for consultation and we continue to make sure our Namibian students do not get enrolled at dubious institutions,” says Gertze.

Commenting on the quality and state of education in Namibia, Gertze says it will be harsh to say the country is failing on its mandate to deliver quality education but the public should bear with it while changes are being implemented.

He adds that with time, Namibia will be able to overcome the challenges associated with the country’s education system.

“Our mandate for the educational conference hosted by the Minister will be to promote stake holder engagement in the education system and come up with methods of improving going forward,” he says.

NQA has so far affiliated 36 educational institutions and most of their engagements with the different institutions are renewed after every three years to guarantee quality assurance.

On average it takes close to three years for institutions to be affiliated with the NQA and the organisation also works with other regulatory authorities in the sector.

Gertze also says that like any other sector, the education system has to deal with discrepancies that were created in the historical past of the country.

“We should not continue to follow a system that discriminates. The most important thing is to come up with quality assurance for the graduates so that they can be employable. I do not think we should worry a lot about the type of qualification one attains but we should put more emphasis on quality,” says Gertze.

About NQA

The Namibia Qualifications Authority Act, Act 29 of 1996 paved the way for the NQA as a statutory body charged with overseeing inter alia, the development and implementation of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

The Government of the Republic of Namibia, through its Vision 2030, called for the mobilisation of citizens to build a Namibian Education and Training system for the 21st century. Vision 2030 aligned priorities of the NQA and therefore seeks to enable all individuals to value, have access to, and succeeds in quality lifelong education and training.

The notion of quality lifelong learning is one of the key principles of the NQF and recognises that individuals should have the opportunity for self-improvement throughout their lives. As the economy grows, new skills will be required and people need to be retrained. The provision of opportunities to learn at any age also guarantees second chance opportunities to people, who for various reasons were previously disadvantaged.

The NQF plays a key role in positioning and developing a national culture of quality lifelong learning for all Namibians, enabling them to meet the challenges of a highly competitive global society.

Poised towards the realisation of its enacted objectives, the NQA has operationalised the NQF through establishing and managing the following systems:
• Development and administration of the NQF
• Setting of standards for Qualifications
• Accreditation and Quality Assurance
• Equation (Evaluation) of Qualifications

OBJECTIVES AND GOALS

The objects of the NQA are firmly embedded in the Act and provide, in essence, the direction for the NQA.

The ten objectives are:
(a) To set-up and administer a national qualifications framework
(b) To be a forum for matters pertaining to qualifications
(c) To set the occupational standards for any occupation, job, post, or position in any career structure
(d) To set the curriculum standards required for achieving the occupational standards for a given occupation, job, post, or position in a career structure
(e) To promote the development of, and to analyse, bench marks of acceptable performance norms for any occupation, job, post, or position
(f) To accredit persons, institutions and organisations providing education and courses of instruction or training of meeting certain requirements as set out in Section 13
(g) To evaluate and recognize competencies learnt outside formal education
(h) To establish facilities for the collection and dissemination of information in connection with matters pertaining to qualifications
(i) To inquire into whether any particular qualification meets the national standards
(j) To advise any person, body, institution, organisation or interest group on matters pertaining to qualifications and national standards for qualifications.

GOVERNANCE

The Council

The NQA is governed by a council as its supreme policy making body. In order to satisfy the requirements of the legislative composition, members of the council are appointed by the Minister of Education to serve for a period of three-years consecutively.

The Secretariat

The Director heads the NQA Secretariat. At the moment the Management Team of the Secretariat consists of the Director, Deputy Director, the two Chief Higher Education officers and the assistant Manager for corporate Services. The total staff complement is 38 employees of which 14 are public servants. The rest are employed directly by the Council. PF