Chapter 6. Ensuring quality in Community Education and Training institutions

The CET system faces many challenges in light of its foreseen expansion and diversification. This chapter looks at key quality challenges in the CET system, focusing on addressing issues around an inadequately prepared and qualified teaching workforce, and insufficient quality assurance mechanisms. These two aspects are crucial for improving the quality and impact of the CET system.


6.1. Background

High quality of education is important to ensure that adults are effectively equipped to participate in the society at large and in the labour market, capable to learn at a higher level, and prepared to subsequently engage in future learning activities to update their knowledge and skills. Quality is often a challenge in education and training, because it has many different aspects and is difficult to assess (OECD, 2014[1]; OECD, 2013[2]). This is particularly challenging in the area of adult learning, as it is encompasses a large variety of programmes delivered by many different providers (OECD, 2019[3]).

The objectives of education and training programmes for adults are very diverse, and therefore not all programmes will have to adhere to the same quality criteria. High-quality programmes and institutions are designed to meet the needs of their students and give them the tools to complete the programme and to transition into the next steps (e.g. a good job, further education opportunities, and sustainable livelihoods). This means that the programmes need to be adapted to the specific needs of adult learners - both in terms of learning methods and flexible schedules that allow combining education with work and family responsibilities (see Chapter 3). When large numbers of students fail to complete a programme or when they do not transition into further education and training, this signals quality issues.

Quality assurance mechanisms are an essential part of any education and training system. Well-designed evaluation and assessment activities are expected to ensure that: i) each student is provided with high-quality and relevant education; ii) the overall education system is contributing to the social and economic development of the country; and iii) each education agent is performing at their best to deliver efficient education services (OECD, 2013[2]). Quality assurance systems come from different starting points, depending on the organisation of the network of providers (for example their ownership and management), the funding and accountability mechanisms in place, and the way the qualifications and programmes are regulated.

The adult learning opportunities in the CET system in South Africa are extensive, but face multiple quality challenges, including high dropout rates, inadequate infrastructure, courses that do not correspond to the specific needs and preferences of adult learners and an inadequately prepared and qualified workforce as well as insufficient quality assurance mechanisms. Many of these challenges are inter-connected: for example, unless programmes are adapted to the needs of adults, outcomes will remain poor. South Africa’s National Improvement Plan for teaching and learning for Community Education and Training (see Annex A) recognises underperformance by the sector. With the new expansion plans, the CET system will broaden its offer to more students – aiming to reach 1 million by 2030 – and a larger diversity of programmes. This significant expansion in a relatively short period of time needs to be handled carefully to minimise the risk of quality issues. The next sections look at two areas that are essential to improve the quality of the CET system: ensuring that CET staff are adequately prepared and qualified, and building a quality framework and implementing appropriate assurance mechanisms.

6.2. Tackling challenges in preparing and qualifying CET lecturers and leaders

Since teachers are the most important resource in education institutions, it is essential to focus on them to improve education quality. The demands on teachers for adults are usually very complex, and represent true challenges to the profession (OECD, 2005[4]). The CET sector will face two separate challenges: i) the qualification and professional development of the existing workforce, and ii) recruitment of new teachers, leaders and support staff. Given the scale of the planned expansion, a lot of emphasis will be on initial teacher training, attracting new people to the profession and giving them the right set of skills, appropriate for teaching adults. Importantly, the right conditions need to be in place to make the profession attractive.

Building a workforce that is adequately prepared and qualified

The sector suffers from a lack of attractiveness due to poor working conditions

Around 16 000 lecturers are employed in the CET system (Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 2018[5]). The Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET) 2013 White Paper articulates many weaknesses. The majority of lecturers in CET programmes are part-time contract workers with no tenure. The sector does not have a core of permanent adult lecturers, and conditions are not uniform between provinces. This severely affects long-term planning and leaves little room for career and learning pathway development for lecturers (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2013[6]). According to the South African ABET Educators Union (SAAEU), challenges include low pay and non-payment of salaries, non-recognition of Adult Education and Training (AET) diplomas, bullying by centre managers, as well as teachers having two jobs (‘double-parking’) (Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 2017[7]).

Many teachers are not adequately prepared

Initial teacher education and teaching qualifications represent the entry point into the profession, and the way these qualifications are organised plays a key role in determining both the quality and the quantity of teachers (OECD, 2005[4]).

According to the DHET’s guidelines, teachers in the sector must have specialised knowledge of pedagogical approaches that are relevant to adults, and work with curriculum differentiation to address individual learning needs (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2015[8]). Nevertheless, many teachers do not have the pedagogical tools to teach adults. Educators in the CET system hold a variety of qualifications, including grade 12 school-leaving certificates, SETA-accredited ABET Level 4 and ABET Level 5 certificates, as well as diplomas, degrees and post-graduate degrees. Recent reports say that between 30-40% of CET staff are under-qualified or not qualified at all, particularly in rural areas (Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 2018[5]). Recent numbers reported by the DHET, which show that 37.5% of lectures in CET do not have the minimum requirement for employment in education (i.e. Matric + 3 years, REQV 13), confirm this (see Figure 6.1). This share reaches more than 45% in the KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape provinces. These under-qualified teachers are generally not prepared for their roles (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2015[8]). The DHET did not have a strategy to deal with the phenomenon of the appointment of unqualified teachers and there were no measures to track and monitor the extent of unqualified educators and correct the situation. Recently, unqualified teachers were given a set period to become qualified (Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 2017[7]).

This situation creates the need for relevant qualification programmes for adult educators and CET lecturers (which focus on pedagogical methods for adults), but also for mechanisms to ensure that educators and lecturers in these institutions actually hold the required qualifications. There are on-going plans to change the qualification programmes for lecturers in the system, setting minimum standards for these qualifications (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2015[8]). Universities and TVET colleges are supposed to contribute to developing the capacity to train adult educators (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2015[9]). By making initial teaching programme flexible, for example with distance learning, entering the CET teaching body could be made more attractive for new recruits. It is also very important that teachers have access to continuing professional development, not only to ensure that skills of teachers remain up-to-date but also to keep teachers motivated (Musset, 2010[10]).

Figure 6.1. Many CET lecturers do not have the required qualifications
% of CET lectures at different REQV qualification levels (2017)

Note: The different lecturer qualification are presented on the Relative Education Qualification Value (REQV) scale. REQV 10 corresponds to Matric level qualification, and REQV (10+x) levels correspond roughly to Matric + x years of further education. See Republic of South Africa (2000[11]) for more details on the REQV scale. Provinces are ranked by the share of teachers with a qualification level below REQV 13.

Source: Data provided by the Department for Higher Education and Training.

As the CET system will deliver a wide range of programmes, it would make sense to develop different qualifications associated with different types of programmes, rather than to try to develop one set of qualifications suited for all lecturers. De facto, this means that there will need to be teachers in CET institutions to teach literacy and numeracy, as well as vocational skills to adults (not the same teachers need to handle both of these). Mismatch of subjects being taught and lecturer qualifications might increase (Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 2018[5]). In practice, the shifting from academic programmes to more skill-focus ones has been slowed down by the fact that most lecturers were school teachers, not prepared to teach the new subjects nor to work with adults. To secure an adequate teaching workforce in the institutions, one option could be to create closer ties between the CET institutions and the other types of education and training institutions to share teaching staff across different sites.

Enforcing that only qualified lecturers can be appointed could – at this point – have strongly negative impacts, and lead to some education institutions shutting down. The implementation of teaching qualifications for all teachers in CET can be gradual, and based on a combination of RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) mechanisms for those who have the right set of skills but are not qualified as teachers, and professional development courses for those who have skill gaps, leading to teaching qualifications. A system of professional development for teachers already exists under the South African Council for Educators (SACE), which lies with the Department of Basic Education. SACE registers all educators and manages a system of professional development called Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD). Teachers have a CPTD accounts that tracks the professional development activities they participated in (SACE, 2019[12]).

Vocational lecturers face specific challenges

In the case of vocational subjects, it is important that teachers have relevant experience in their field (OECD, 2010[13]; 2014[1]). It provides lecturers with a context for their teaching, and increases their confidence in teaching for their occupation. In line with South Africa's proposed reforms for TVET colleges (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2012[14]), international experience suggests that vocational lecturers and teachers in all institutions, including the CET system, should be encouraged to spend time at the workplace. For example, in Finland, the Telkkä programme allowed teachers to spend two months on-the-job and brought a wide range of benefits to teachers (Box 6.1). One benefit of teacher-internships is that teachers become more familiar with current workplace requirements.

Box 6.1. Teacher-worker pairing: co-operation between VET and employers in Finland

The Telkkä programme in Finland was based on close co-operation between teachers and workplace trainers. It aimed to improve the ability of VET to respond to the needs of working life. The programme included a two-month on-the-job period for teachers, during which teacher-worker pairs were formed. This offered an opportunity for teachers to update their professional skills and for workers who also work as workplace trainers to improve their pedagogical skills. The training period was preceded by a seminar and planning (to clarify goals and expectations) and followed by feedback from teachers and workers and dissemination to the broader community. Teachers reported a wide range of benefits, such as increased familiarity with recent work practices and requirements and the equipment used, easy access to firms for study visits, the contacts necessary to invite people from industry to give lectures at their VET institutions, increased confidence, respect from students and motivation. The training period also allowed teachers and workers to discuss issues related to workplace training for students and improve training plans and assessment methods. Participants improve their skills and self-esteem, and disseminate knowledge to other colleagues. This exercise has been evaluated by the Economic Information Office in Finland as one of the best ways of developing teachers’ professionalism.

Source: Cort, Härkönen and Volmari (2004[15]).

Today, vocational lecturers in TVET colleges in South Africa already face multiple challenges. With the development of the TVET sector, the majority of new lecturers came from a general education background rather than a vocational one, and often have either diploma or degree-level qualifications. With the introduction of the NCV, most of them felt inadequately qualified (Buthelezi, 2018[16]). Field, Musset and Álvarez-Galván (2014[17]) found that at least 25% of TVET lecturers currently lack teaching qualifications and more than half have no industry experience. Almost half of the teaching staff have short-term contracts giving them little incentive to make longer-term investments in skills and qualifications. It is likely that the vocational lecturers in the CET system will face similar issues. There are interesting alternative professional development models that are in place in the TVET sector, by which lecturers can update their lecturing qualification using a mix of distance and contact sessions, either on week days or Saturdays (DHET, 2019[18]). Under this model, put in place in the KwaZulu-Natal province, training programmes are developed to train the trainers, and shared training needs between different colleges are identified. The objective is to increase the share of lecturers that are qualified, and improve their skills, while also supporting retention. At the national level, the DHET has also launched an innovative approach through the TVET Lecturer Support System for those already in service, through videos and activities, supported by college-based facilitators (DHET, 2018[19]).

Flexible and alternative pathways to enter the lecturing workforce

When recruiting lecturers, education systems and institutions have to compete with other labour market opportunities. This is particularly the case when systems are unable to offer competitive salaries. In the case of vocational lecturers, the competition can be particularly fierce with jobs in industry.

Alternative and quicker pathways into the teaching profession can help alleviate teacher shortages, while also act as an incentive to bring capable people with previous experience in other fields into the teacher workforce. Programmes that provide alternative pathways rely on teacher candidates’ previous education and work experience. Experience from countries shows that these programmes can be short and consist mainly of practical training (Musset, 2010[10]). The ‘Teach for America’ alternative certification programme, created in 1990, recruits and trains university graduates and professionals for a two-year teaching assignments in disadvantaged public schools. After a five-week summer course, participants start teaching while receiving on-going professional development. In despite of criticisms about their lack of adequate preparation, their attrition rate is lower than that of traditional teacher education programmes graduates, and these teachers are more effective than other beginner teachers, especially in mathematics and science (Xu, Hannaway and Taylor, 2007[20]).

Recruiting professionals as lecturers can be particularly helpful in ensuring that vocational teachers have up-to-date technical skills. Lecturers who have worked in industry bring with them not only their practical knowledge but also their network of contacts and personal relationships with their previous colleagues. These networks can be shared, and they powerfully support co-operation between vocational schools and industry, including the arrangement of work-based learning opportunities for students (OECD, 2010[13]).

The DHET should also consider promoting arrangements such as part-time teaching, which could facilitate the entry of workers from industry into the profession. Typically, such arrangements require pedagogical training, but it is unrealistic and undesirable to impose the same demands on these part-time teachers as on full-time teaching staff. For example in South Carolina (United States), individuals with relevant work experience in some fields (for example in welding, cosmetology and culinary arts) can enter the teaching profession through the state’s Career and Technical Education work-based certification and training programme. It provides them with training in methods of teaching, classroom and laboratory management, curriculum and assessment, delivered in a block of a couple of days over the summer and on a few weekend days during the school year (South Carolina Department of Education, 2018[21]). For a successful implementation, the DHET needs to make sure that the pathways into teaching are well known and appealing.

Strengthening the leadership of institutions

Responsibilities of leaders are wide and broadening

Across countries, school leaders often enter their roles with limited preparation (OECD, 2010[13]; 2014[1]). South Africa is no exception. Historically, limited efforts were made in CET institutions and TVET colleges to support and prepare college directors to carry out their duties. There have been major leadership challenges, and issues of mismanagement. In the case of TVET colleges for example, a number of institutions have been taken temporarily under the authority of central administration in order to address mismanagement, with college leaders replaced by interim leaders appointed for limited periods, (Field, Musset and Álvarez-Galván, 2014[17]).

With the reform and the broadening of the scope of the CET system, the responsibilities of the CET institutions are multiple, and very ambitious. Leaders of CET institutions need to engage in both short and long-term planning, develop strong relationships with local employers, government officials, and other stakeholders, and be familiar with enrolment trends, programme developments, and a wide range of administrative details. The draft policy guidelines state that the CET institutions must (among other things) (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2016[22]):

  • Prepare and administer high quality theoretical and practical assessment tasks for internal continuous assessments;

  • Undertake revision of units of learning to improve student performance where deficiencies and gaps are evident;

  • Monitor the quality of curriculum delivery;

  • Collect student data that allows to build a comprehensive sociological profile of each student including, but not limited to, entry-level education attainment, age, gender, disability, geography and race;

  • Prepare well-formulated and well-paced lessons;

  • Prepare learning support materials that support the intended curriculum delivery approach;

  • Source additional learning materials to support weaker students and extend to more capable students.

These are all very worthy and ambitious objectives, but their implementation will require specific training for both lecturers and school leaders. This also gives a lot of responsibilities to leaders in terms of the selection and professional development of lecturers.

Effective school leadership is key to education quality

In many countries, including in South Africa, schools leaders have ever-greater responsibilities, with decentralization and greater school autonomy. Across countries, in general education, but to a lesser extent also in vocational and in adult education, there has been increasing recognition that effective leadership is vital in developing the skills of classroom teachers, and attention to leadership can therefore represent an important means of driving up the quality of teaching and learning (Pont, Nusche and Moorman, 2008[23]). Leadership may be even more important in institutions that have a diverse teaching workforce, including different occupational skills, and different mixes of industry experience and pedagogical qualifications and skills (Field, Musset and Álvarez-Galván, 2014[17]). Institutions can also face challenges in securing an appropriate supply of non-teaching administrative support staff.

Strong leaders need well-defined roles and must be accountable. Opportunities for career progression for lecturers into leadership roles can also contribute to making the teaching profession more attractive for potential lecturers. The requirements on school leaders need to be linked to a shared vision of effective schooling. School leaders play a pivotal role in encouraging lecturers to pursue collaborative learning within and across schools. This is especially important in a context in which lecturers may not receive a lot of professional development.

There is a continuing trend in OECD countries towards giving education institutions, either through their professional staff or school boards, discretion in hiring lecturers and (to a lesser extent) firing them. This also implies providing the resources for schools to act. However, a high degree of self-management may not be a solution for school systems where capacity and leadership are still to be developed. Providing administrative arrangements that support schools is now a key issue across OECD countries (OECD, 2010[24]).

Many countries have recently developed demanding programmes for the development of education institution leaders

Since the mid-1990s, training and development for school leaders, in particular for secondary education, have been introduced in many OECD countries. Training arrangements include i) preservice or preparatory training to take up the position; ii) induction training for those who have recently taken up the position; and iii) in-service training provided to practising school leaders. Countries like England, Finland, Northern Ireland, Israel and Slovenia provide leadership development training at all steps in a school leader’s career. Chile, Ireland, the Netherlands and Norway have in-service education programmes. The courses offered to actual or prospective college leaders may vary from short certificate courses to post-graduate or PhD Programmes. Training may also vary depending on the responsibilities of school leaders, such as the extent of school or college control over matters like staffing and budgets (Pont, Nusche and Moorman, 2008[23]).

Given the current plans to strengthen the CET system, and the very wide responsibilities that will be attributed the college and centre managers, an opportunity exists to build quality through a relatively small number of highly effective CET institution leaders. Such leaders need to be able to support the professional development of individual lecturers, develop new skills programmes in partnership with SETAs and local authorities, which are adapted to local needs, and build partnerships with other education and training providers. These are substantial demands, requiring systematic professional development, and the training programmes for such leaders should be aligned with what is asked from them. To prepare the leaders who will run these institutions is as important as providing the infrastructure for the programmes.

Recommended action steps

Table 6.1 provides some possible action steps that could be taken to improve the quality of the workforce in the CET system, including lecturers and institution leaders. For each action step, the most relevant stakeholders concerned are listed. The list of stakeholders is not exhaustive, and cooperation between different stakeholders is encouraged. The actions steps focus on the short- and medium-term, and a more ambitious action plan could be developed for the longer term in line with the vision for CET from the DHET’s strategic documents.

Table 6.1. Action steps for quality of the CET workforce
Action steps and relevant stakeholders

Action steps

Main stakeholders

Make sure that lecturers in the CET system are qualified, by gradually implementing training policies using professional development and RPL mechanisms that give opportunities to obtain the adequate qualifications to those already lecturing.

DHET, CET Colleges, CLC, TVET colleges, universities

Ensure that lecturers have access to on-going professional development to address their skill gaps and progress to becoming fully qualified.


Consider developing alternative and flexible pathways into the lecturing profession, especially in the case of shortages, for vocational subjects.

DHET, TVET colleges, universities, SETAs

Facilitate the entry of skilled professionals into the workforce of CET institutions for specific subjects through shortened pedagogical preparation. Encourage part-time working among vocational lecturers.


Allow for flexible work arrangements, so that lecturers can simultaneous work in different institutions.

DHET, DBE, TVET colleges, Universities

Give more security and working hours to lecturers to make teaching in CET more attractive, and assess the core working conditions of CET lecturers to see what the challenges are regarding the lack of attractiveness of the profession (e.g. timely payment of wages).


Carefully select and prepare the leaders of CET institutions, taking into account the characteristics of the institutions and their responsibilities.

DHET, CET Colleges

Ensure that CET institutions have enough non-lecturing support staff, and make sure that adequate mechanisms for their selection and preparation are in place


Note: DHET: Department for Higher Education and Training; DBE: Department for Basic Education; TVET: Technical and Vocational Education and Training; CLC: Community Learning Centre.

6.3. Building a quality framework and strengthening quality assurance mechanisms

Quality assurance is a necessary part of an efficient and effective adult learning system. Effective evaluation and assessment of learners, lecturers and CET institutions depend on a shared understanding of quality and what counts as good outcomes. Quality assurance arrangements are fundamental to ensure that programmes and qualifications are consistent throughout a system. Funding arrangements can also be designed with quality standards in mind, by linking them to certain desirable outcomes. In the absence of policies to ensure quality, adult programmes can exacerbate existing economic and social inequalities, channelling often low skilled and financially vulnerable students into low quality programmes that do not lead to good outcomes (in terms of learning experience and skills, but also labour market outcomes). The following sections focus on different policies that could help building and implementing a quality framework.

Current quality assurance arrangements for CET fall short

The decision to create a National Qualification Framework (NQF) in 1995 aimed to build new forms of equality across apartheid’s differences, not only between fields of education and training, but across other socio-economic divisions that they reinforced. However, in its implementation, it failed to become hegemonic (Lugg, 2009[25]). The NQF did not manage to create a unified quality assurance system, as it consists of three Quality Councils (the Council for Higher Education, the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, and the Council for General and Further Education and Training) and an oversight body (SAQA). This particular design of the framework reflects the deep differences between parts of the education and training system (Walters and Isaacs, 2014[26]). Lugg (2009[25]) argues that struggles over the NQF have been simultaneously struggles over the nature of the state, the economy, education institutions and the relationships between them; struggles articulating with differing and often contradictory globalised discourses, but played out within local histories and political contexts.

Given that CET institutions will be providing a wide range of education and training programmes, they will fall under the responsibility of different quality councils. On the one hand, quality assurance of the vocational programmes will be the responsibility of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), which was created to bring together the quality assurance role undertaken by the SETAs. However, specific individual training programmes continue to be under the responsibilities of SETAs, and often the division of responsibilities is unclear. On the other hand, general academic qualifications (GETC:ABET and National Senior Certificate Amended) are under the responsibility of Umalusi. When institutions have to quality-assure qualifications with two or more different agencies that use different methodologies, the transaction costs are higher for the institutions.

Developing a quality framework through consultation with stakeholders

A good quality framework and system needs to be simple and easily understandable by all stakeholders. An important step in this direction is a national reflection, involving all the stakeholders, to reach a common understanding and a consensus about what constitutes quality in CET in South Africa, and to agree on a framework to assess CET outcomes and the quality of institutions. The development of a quality framework can empower lecturers and institution leaders, and serve as the basis for self-evaluation. In the current context, discussions about a quality framework can form part of a broader discussion on what should be the mandate and the shape of the CET system.

At the outset, a quality framework can allow to articulate coherently the different components of evaluation and assessment. Achieving proper articulation between the different evaluation components (e.g. school evaluation and lecturer appraisal) and warranting that the several elements within an evaluation component are sufficiently linked (e.g. teaching standards and teacher appraisal; external school evaluation and school self-evaluation) is very important. The results of the school evaluation (both self-evaluation and external) and teacher appraisal must be linked to initial teacher education and professional development strategies (OECD, 2013[2]).

Creating an effective evaluation and assessment framework requires capacity development at all levels of the education system. For example, lecturers may need training in the use of formative assessment (as mentioned in Chapter 4), CET staff may need to upgrade their skills in managing data, and institutions managers – who often focus mainly on administrative tasks – may need to reinforce their leadership skills. In addition, a centralised effort may be needed to develop a knowledge base, tools and guidelines to assist evaluation and assessment activities.

Implementing accreditation processes to clarify quality standards for institutions

In countries with a large public provision of adult learning, there generally are public institutions in charge of quality control and evaluation. Quality assurance agencies have the responsibility to regulate institutions and assure that the services they provide is of high quality and consistent throughout their jurisdiction. Their responsibilities can also include co-ordination within government, as well as between government and a wide range of nongovernment actors such as employers, trade unions, private and public educational institutions, and community groups (OECD, 2003). Many countries make accreditation a requirement for any institutions to award particular qualifications and to be eligible for public funding. Institutional accreditation can be a valuable complement to other policies such as institutional inspections (Eichhorst et al., 2012[27]).

Accreditation systems are designed to establish clear quality standards for education and training providers and programmes. Institutions are evaluated in relation to a set of established quality standards that the participating institution has agreed to sustain in exchange for becoming accredited (those quality standards are part of the framework that is agreed between stakeholders as mentioned before). Teams of reviewers carry out the accreditation process, visiting an institution, determining the extent to which the standards are met, and publicly announcing their findings (Council for Higher Education Accreditation, 2010[28]). An interesting accreditation process is used by the South African Council for Educators (SACE): To ensure that educators have access to high-quality continuing training opportunities, SACE approves high-quality and credible training providers based on specific quality criteria, endorses good and relevant training programmes and allocates professional development points to these activities (SACE, 2019[12]).

However, accreditation systems are difficult to establish, and even more so when there are many entrenched institutions that have little to gain from such new procedures. While accreditation is far from a panacea, it can establish an important quality baseline and support efforts to increase institutional accountability. For South Africa, the shift in responsibility for adult learning centres from provincial education departments to the DHET can help to ensure consistency in the qualifications and the programmes, and institutional accreditation could help ensure minimum standards are met. This is especially important in the CET context, in which institutions with very different levels of quality are being put under the same umbrella. For accreditation to work as a guarantor of quality, it has to be mandatory, not voluntary, and it needs to be part of a broader set of accountability policies that aim to guide institutional behaviour (McCarthy and Musset, 2016[29]). By relying on a framework developed in consensus with stakeholders as mentioned before and using it to set standards for which to conduct reviews and institution inspections, accreditation can create a sense of shared ownership in the quality assurance processes. It can also build the trust of students, employers, and policymakers in particular centres and programmes by establishing clear and consistent standards (Council for Higher Education Accreditation, 2010[28]).

Institution self-evaluation, against the set quality framework, could be introduced as an intermediate step before moving towards a system of mandatory accreditation. Providing tools to practitioners on how to measure their performance against the standards agreed in the quality framework can help build awareness around quality issues. It helps institutions examine their own practices through a critical lens and identify strengths and weakness. Self-evaluation can help to empower lecturers and educational leaders, not as an end in itself, but rather as a key step in the path to establishing a culture of continuous improvement in institutions (OECD, 2013[2]). When implementing a system that relies on quality standards, it is of crucial importance that education and training providers have a clear understanding of these standards. In Japan, workshops are organised to get training providers acquainted with quality guidelines (see Box 6.2)

In the case of South Africa, the accreditation process could have two different levels. First, a mandatory accreditation process can establish minimum requirements institutions need to comply with if they wish to receive public funding. Given the cost and time associated with review processes, these requirements would need to be implemented gradually. Second, a voluntary process can be made available for institutions that wish to see where and how they could improve (self-evaluation). The introduction of standards and learner assessment can help identify and support those CET institutions lagging behind.

Box 6.2. Implementing quality assurance guidelines for private training providers in Japan

In Japan, guidelines for vocational training services at private providers were developed in 2011 by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. The guidelines present specific measures to improve the quality of vocational training services and management of private providers based on an international quality standard. From 2018 onwards, training providers who comply with the quality assurance guidelines are being certified. Compliance is assessed based on documents submitted by the training providers and on-site visits.

Workshops are organised for training providers to get familiar with and better understand the quality assurance guidelines. The workshops aim to develop knowledge and skills required to conduct vocational training using a cycle of planning, doing, checking and acting:

  • Plan: Identifying training needs and setting curricula and courses

  • Do: Conducting training efficiently

  • Check: Evaluating and auditing training

  • Act: Reviewing and improving training

The government is considering making participation in workshops compulsory for training providers that want to offer publicly funded training programmes.

Source: OECD (OECD, 2019[3]), JEED (2018[30]).

Monitoring the system to inform the organisation of the network

Within the establishment of an accreditation system, there could be a stocktaking exercise of the entire CET system. This would allow to identify gaps and duplications in the provision, and to adapt it to the needs. This should involve an in-depth evaluation of the network’s strengths and weaknesses, which should be done in addition to the mechanisms already in place. For the time being, the DHET has annual reports from the CET colleges as part of the monitoring function. In addition to this, CET Colleges submit annual diagnostic reports and an annual Education Management Information System survey is done as well (Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 2018[5]). This in-depth evaluation of strengths and weaknesses could allow differentiating training provision based on the strength of each Community Learning Centre, and inform the creation of the CET colleges that oversee the activities of the Community Learning Centres. For example, centres with strong ties with SETAs and/or with local employers can focus on delivering the vocational programmes, while centres with a good track record in literacy and numeracy can focus on such programmes. Such an exercise requires good data. South Africa has meaningful experience in consolidating a fragmented system into a handful of well-managed institutions, with the recent reform of the TVET college sector (Field, Musset and Álvarez-Galván, 2014[17]).

Building a good data collection and monitoring system

There are very ambitious plans to build a monitoring system based on data

Data allows to understand the needs of the students and the patterns in participation and completion, and to identify quality issues in the system. The Plan on Teaching and Learning for CET (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2017[31]) states that CET institutions should have a tool for evaluation of the quality of teaching. The DHET is considering the development of a performance management review to ensure that there is proper oversight of teaching and learning quality to give early warnings if intervention is needed (Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 2018[5]). According to DHET guidelines, it is the responsibility of the CET College management to set up a robust learner assessment regime which monitors the performance of lecturers and of the students (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2016[32]). The guidelines foresee that at the end of each programme, the throughput and completion rates, as well as the pass rates per subject, will be monitored and subjected to further analysis to determine whether the students’ good or poor performance can be attributed to the lecturers. The performance trends must be monitored over time to determine whether the system’s performance is improving, inconsistent or deteriorating. Based on the results, additional support could be directed either to the lecturers, through continuing professional development, or to the students. This would also allow accounting for the public resources invested in each college. This is a praiseworthy but also very ambitious goal, and it is not sure that this is feasible in the short or medium term given current capacity constraints.

In practice, this will require that all institutions collect and report the right data elements, including enrolments, retention, dropouts, course completion, and graduation rates, and in a reliable way. Building a data infrastructure to support an outcomes-driven system is not easy. Giving education institutions the responsibility for data collection and analysis generally has two problems. First, these institutions will rarely have the capacity to do this adequately, unless they receive sufficient support. Second, even if they do it well, it will generally not be done consistently across institutions, and consistency is necessary for comparative institutional analysis. Therefore, there are strong arguments for central control of data collection and analysis, while encouraging individual institutions to make full use of the data. Implementing such a data system will require extensive collaboration across national education, labour, and statistical agencies to connect education and employment data from around the country. The more the Department can facilitate accurate data collection through development of technology, technical assistance and training, the more likely it is to get accurate data from the CET institutions (see Chapter 4).

Assessment of student performance can be seen as a tool to reveal best practices and to encourage school improvement. However, "raw" school performance measures reflect not only the varying performance of teachers and schools, but also the socio-economic background of students. Accountability measures should therefore draw on a broad range of assessment information to make judgements about performance. Evaluation in this area is a particularly challenging task, since the goals of community education and training are more varied and idiosyncratic than those of conventional education or employment-focused training programmes. In addition, the DHET also need to ensure that the institutions are collecting data on students’ background.

Good data can help link funding to outcomes

As mentioned in Chapter 5, collecting information on outcomes and satisfaction is important to ensure that the training and services delivered in the CET system correspond to the need of the community members and are of high quality. Outcome-based funding is one way in which education institutions can be encouraged to invest in quality. The principle is that institutions that perform well on certain desirable outcomes can be eligible for public funding, in a targeted and conditional way. As a principle of accountability, quality assurance of institutions and programmes should be tied to funding. This approach has been demonstrated to influence institutional behaviour and shift their focus from enrolment to other outcomes considered desirable (such as completion, or labour market outcomes in the case of vocational programmes). Box 6.3 provides some examples of how education institutions in OECD countries have used outcome-based funding.

It should be noted that there are risks in outcome-based funding. If the outcome measures are graduation rates, this has to be combined with strong quality assurance mechanisms, to ensure that institutions do not artificially make programmes easier or alter their intake policies, to improve graduation rates. Another risk is that in regions that face many challenges, institutions end up being underfunded because outcomes are generally poorer. To avoid this risk, a diversified set of outcome-based measures should be used, including indicators related to the characteristics of students (e.g. the share of disadvantaged students).

Recommended steps

Table 6.2 provides some possible action steps that could be taken to develop and implement a quality assurance system in CET. For each action step, the most relevant stakeholders concerned are listed. The list of stakeholders is not exhaustive, and cooperation between different stakeholders is encouraged. The actions steps focus on the short- and medium-term, and a more ambitious action plan could be developed for the longer term in line with the vision for CET from the DHET’s strategic documents.

Box 6.3. Performance-based funding of education and training providers

United States

Since 2015, approximately 37 states have adopted some version of performance-based funding of their two- or four-year colleges. The majority of states allocate 5% to 10% of total state support based on performance. Most of the performance measures used by states are related to completion, progression and labour market outcomes. The latter is usually measured by looking at employment rates and wages of graduates. Some states give more weight in their performance measures to specific groups of disadvantaged students, such as low-income students, and to certain in-demand skills (e.g. STEM qualifications). Evaluations of the performance-based funding model have highlighted the importance of effective policy design when introducing performance-based objectives, as they may not always have the intended effects. It is found, for example, that the performance-based measures in the United States have led to a shift towards short-term certificates (which have relatively low labour market value), as this might be the easiest way for colleges to secure funding.


Up until 2017, performance-based funding in Finnish vocational further education and training was limited to 3% of public funding allocated to the VET providers. The rest of the government-funded budget was based on student numbers and unit prices. A major VET reform that was approved in 2017 plans to increase the importance of performance-based funding significantly over the period 2018-22. By 2022, 50% of the public budget will be performance- or efficiency-based. Performance-based funding (35%) will be based on how many qualifications are delivered, and efficiency-based funding (15%) will take into account access to employment and further education and training.


Junior colleges in Korea are post-secondary vocational education institutions that mainly offer two-year programmes. The majority of junior colleges are private, and some of them receive government funding. The government provides two types of funding: grants to “Colleges of Excellence” and formula funding. The formula for the latter type of funding was recently revised and is now based on nine indicators covering a wide range of areas: performance of education (19%), student support (17%), education conditions (15%), curriculum (12%), management of lecturers and students’ assessment (10%), integrity of the college (10%), cooperation between the college and industry (8%), college development plans (6%), and contribution in the local community (3%). Each indicator is measured through multiple sub-indicators. The outcome of education, for example, is measured by the employment rate of graduates, the ratio of the number of enrolments and the number of places (as set by quota), and satisfaction with the educational programmes.

Source: National Conference of State Legislation (2015[33]); OECD (2017[34]); Li and Kennedy (2018[35]); Ministry of Education and Culture (2017[36]); Kis and Park (2012[37]).

Table 6.2. Action steps for building a quality assurance framework
Action steps and relevant stakeholders

Action steps

Main stakeholders

Map out existing quality assurance and accreditation processes and improve their transparency (including the registration of skills programmes by SETAs).

DHET, SAQA, Quality Councils

Clarify the sharing of responsibilities between the different Quality Councils (and the SETAs) when it comes to the programmes under CET, to improve clarify and reduce transaction costs.

DHET, SAQA, Quality Councils, SETAs

Develop, in consultation with stakeholders, quality standards and self-evaluation tools for CET institutions to measure performance against these standards. This can be part of the process of defining a clear mandate and shape for the CET sector.

DHET, CLCs, CET colleges, lecturers, unions and other stakeholders

Develop an accreditation system based on the quality standards, to ensure that all institutions are of quality and meet minimum requirements, and involve lecturers in self-evaluation.

DHET, quality assurance agencies

Ensure that all programmes meet some set quality standards that include targets, in terms of completion rates and labour market outcomes for vocational programmes.

DHET, quality assurance agencies

Assess the CET network in its entirety, to identify gaps and duplications, and look at mechanisms to adapt future provision to the local needs taking into account the existing programmes (see Chapter 5).

DHET, CET colleges, CLCs

Develop a monitoring system for institutions to help them improve and collect data about learners, lecturers and institutions, including on learners’ socio-economic background.

DHET, CET colleges, CLCs

Note: DHET: Department for Higher Education and Training; DBE: Department for Basic Education CLC: Community Learning Centre; SAQA: South African Qualifications Authority.


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