Why the South African NQF failed: lessons for countries wanting to introduce national qualifications frameworks

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Blackwell Publishing Ltd
This article examines the South African National Qualifications Framework as a case study of a particular approach to the design of qualifications frameworks, which revolves around the specification of learning outcomes separate from educational institutions or programmes. It shows how an outcomes-led qualifications framework was seen as a desirable policy intervention by educationalists and reformers across the political spectrum, as outcomes were thought to be a mechanism for improving the quality and quantity of education as well as its relevance to the economy and society, for increasing access to education, and for democratising education. All these claims are based on the idea that outcomes statements are transparent. The article demonstrates that outcomes-based qualifications cannot provide the clear, unambiguous, and explicit statements of competence that would be required for everyone to know what it is that the bearer of a qualification can do. This lack of transparency leads to a further specification of outcomes. This in turn leads to a downward spiral of specification, which never reaches transparency, and an upward spiral of regulations, which is also caught in the logical problem of the downward spiral of specification. This model is not just unnecessary, but could in fact undermine the provision of education. The article suggests that while this type of model appears attractive particularly to poor countries, it is in these countries that it is likely to do the most damage.
South African National Qualifications Framework (NQF), Education and training system, Apartheid education system, South Africa
Allais, Stephanie. (2007). Why the South African NQF Failed: lessons for countries wanting to introduce national qualifications frameworks. European Journal of Education. 42. 523 - 547. 10.1111/j.1465-3435.2007.00320.x.