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SAQA & the NQF

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The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) oversees the development and implementation of South Africa’s National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) is a framework on which standards and qualifications – agreed to by education and training stakeholders across the country – are registered.

Not sure what NQF level you have? Check out our full Qualifications Guide.

The NQF was established through the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act, 1995, which provided for ‘the development and implementation of a National Qualifications Framework’. The SAQA Act was replaced by the National Qualifications Framework Act in 2008.

The objectives of the NQF have been designed to contribute to the personal development of learners as well as the social and economic development of the country at large by:

  • Creating an integrated national framework for learning achievements;
  • Facilitating access to, and mobility and progression within education, training and career paths;
  • Enhancing the quality of education and training;
  • Accelerating the redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities.

Why do we need the NQF?

To succeed or even survive in a globally competitive world, a country must ensure that it has a national education and training system that provides quality learning; is responsive to the ever-changing influences of the external environment; and promotes the development of a nation that is committed to life-long learning.

The NQF sets boundaries, principles, and guidelines that provide a vision and an organisational structure – for the construction of a qualifications system.  All education and training in South Africa fits within this framework. It is a set of principles and guidelines by which records of learner achievement are registered to enable national recognition of acquired skills and knowledge, thereby ensuring an integrated system that encourages lifelong learning.

All education and training in South Africa fits within the principles, guidelines and boundaries set by the National Qualifications Framework, which has been designed to encourage the registration of learner skills and knowledge.

What are NQF levels?

In 2008 the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act No 67 replaced the South African Qualifications Authority Act No 58 of 1995. The NQF Act brought changes in the education and training sector.

The NQF consist of 10 levels divided into three bands, namely:

  1. GET: General Education (level 1 – schooling up to Grade 9 and ABET – Adult Basic Education & Training)
  2. FET: Further Education and Training (levels 2 – 4)
    Level 2: Grade 10
    Level 3: Grade 11
    Level 4: Grade 12
  3. HET: Higher Education (levels 5 – 10):
    Level 5: Certificate
    Level 6: Diploma
    Level 7: Degree
    Level 8: Honours
    Level 9: Masters
    Level10: Doctorate

Each NQF level signifies a specific standard of intellectual and academic skills.

These levels are in place to award registered learners with accreditation based on their skills and knowledge. Each level has a level descriptor and shows learner achievement. It is important to understand the NQF levels – especially when developing a CV or applying for further study.

Useful terms:

  • Accreditation: The certification, usually for a particular period of time, of a person, a body or an institution as having the capacity to fulfil a particular function within the quality assurance system set up by SAQA
  • Assessor: A person who is registered by the relevant ETQA body to measure the achievement of specified National Qualifications Framework standards or qualifications.
  • National Learners’ Records Database (NLRD): An electronic information system that assists SAQA to manage the National Qualifications Framework.
  • Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL): Recognition of Prior Learning is a process whereby people’s prior learning can be formally recognised in terms of registered qualifications and unit standards, regardless of where and how the learning was attained. RPL acknowledges that people never stop learning, whether it takes place formally at an educational institution, or whether it happens informally.
  • Standards Generating Body (SGB): A body registered in terms of the SAQA Act, responsible for establishing education and training standards or qualifications, and to which specific functions relating to the establishment of national standards and qualifications have been assigned.
  • Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA): A body responsible for the organisation of education and training programmes within a specific sector.
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