Attempts by the Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) to address poor quality of education offered by various institutions may hit a snag.
The authority has come up with new regulations that are to see Education and Training Providers (ETPs) from pre-school to tertiary institutions accredited. However, as the minister responsible says, the December 31, 2017 deadline may not be met.
The BQA was established to provide for and maintain the National Credit and Qualifications Framework. It was also to coordinate the education, training and skills development quality assurance system, from early childhood to tertiary level (lifelong learning). The idea was to have all these institutions of learning accredited in accordance with new regulations by December this year.
According to the new regulations, a training provider can either submit an application for registration as an ETP without submitting training programmes to enable the applicant to prepare the teaching materials and either source for establishment funds, or prepare the teaching environment and resources.
After registration and accreditation of an ETP, the ETP is expected to submit application for learning programmes accreditation within a year. ETP accreditation lasts for 10 years and learning programmes will be due for review after five years.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology Dr Alfred Madigele, has however, admitted that they are still far from achieving their dream and are seeking an extension of the deadline.
“There is a lot of improvement in migrating to the new regulations. Institutions have moved from previous statuses to the next, some from provisional accreditation to full accreditation and so on. One of the problems that we faced was lack of capacity by both BQA and institutions,” he said.
Madigele said it was never going to be an easy exercise as institutions still have issues of infrastructure like laboratories, networks, classrooms and equipment, amongst other things. He said it is an enormous task that requires a lot of time and personnel and needs a couple of years to deliver the desired quality of education.
The minister is however pleased with the progress made and has appealed to institutions and the BQA to continue doing their best to ensure that they fully implement the regulations.
Madigele said schools needed more time to be able to comply. “The issue of compliance for public schools is partly overseen by councils. We have realised that the transition period is not enough for our more than 700 primary schools and more than 200 secondary schools. In view of this, we have instructed the Attorney General to draft papers in a view for consideration of extension of the transition period by a couple of years,” he said.
The signs were always there that the one-year period given to institutions to comply was not enough. During a press briefing in May, the BQA chief executive officer (CEO) Abel Modungwa said though they are progressing, some institutions were yet to show any effort especially from the public sector. “We have done a lot in terms of dealing with applications from the previous regulations. So far only 12 private institutions have applied to be registered. From the public schools, there has not
Modungwa stated then that they were not impressed with the pace of things and keep on pushing ETPs to comply with the regulations. He said another challenge in the transition was getting subject matter experts to facilitate accreditation of these learning programmes. Modungwa said in the past they got the experts from public institutions but will now have to look across the border as public institutions are also to be accredited.
The Botswana Association of Private Tertiary Education Providers (BAPTEP) says majority of their members have played their part. “The majority of private sector tertiary education institutions, as represented by BAPTEP, have submitted relevant documentation for the accreditation of their institutions and their programmes. We are awaiting BQA to respond. The challenge is the capacity of BQA to process the applications by the deadlines set,” BAPTEP president, Roshen Kishun said.
Kishun, who is also Ba Isago University president, explained that the new regulations dictate a four-stage process: Institutional Registration; Awarding Body Accreditation; Placing of Qualifications on the NCQF and Accreditation of the Learning Programmes.
“All these stages run asynchronous. So far, a majority of members have submitted the first stage and are ready and awaiting to submit to meet the requirements of the subsequent stages provided the authority is able and has the capacity to speedily process applications. The subsequent stages have a direct bearing on programmes that the institution may offer in the new year,” Kishun said.
He stated that as private institutions, they have gone through the process thoroughly and understand the new requirements.
“However, we would strongly encourage BQA to continuously communicate with the education sector so as to ensure that both the private and public sector appreciate and understand the requirements and processes. There is a level of confusion amongst a few in understanding and appreciating the process,” he said.
The BAPTEP president said their members are committed to compliance with regulatory requirements to offer quality programmes. He added that their primary concern relates to possible delays in the processing of applications submitted. “The delays in processing institutional accreditation, for example, may mean that the institutions will be unable to submit new programmes being developed to meet Human Resource Development Council critical skills requirements in time to be able to offer these programmes in 2018,” he said.
Botswana National Union of Students (BONUS) has expressed displeasure at the development. BONUS chairperson, Tebogo Mmolotsane said they have had several meetings with BQA and are aware that the process was behind time. “We understand that the institutions have been dragging their feet and there is a possibility of an extension. We are against the extension as all stakeholders said at the beginning that they would be able to comply and by allowing them an extension does not guarantee they will act,” he said.
Mmolotsane said the move was a drawback as they hoped students would now be guaranteed quality education and without the regulations in place poor quality education will continue.