In 1994, South Africa witnessed its first democratic elections after more than 40
years of apartheid. The Mandela government was faced with two major challenges.
The first was to abolish the past injustices and inequalities inherited from apartheid
and the second was to prepare South Africa for economic competitiveness in the
global market. To these ends a series of education and training reforms were initiated
and the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act of 1995 was one of the
first pieces of legislation passed by the new democratic government. It paved way for
the development and implementation of the National Qualifications Framework
(NQF), with SAQA as the overseeing authority.
The NQF is intended to overcome the imbalances created by the apartheid education
and training systems and bring together, under a single overarching qualifications
framework, the certification of learning in a range of settings. Its concern is to
facilitate the vertical and horizontal mobility of learners over a lifetime.
The thesis considers the origins and the path followed by these initiatives in an
attempt to address the challenges confronting South Africa. It contextualises this
initiative within an analysis of the historical background, theoretical framework of
globalisation and policy borrowing as well as the current situation with regard to the
integration/unification of education and training.
The principal methods adopted are the analysis of historical and current documents,
triangulated with interview data from policy makers and other key informants.
The study shows that the NQF in South Africa has its origins not only in the post1994 policy agenda but also in the neo-liberal economic reforms initiated by the
White apartheid government in the late 1970s to early 1980s in its attempt to address
the economic and education crisis that was confronting the country. Further, this
study finds that the development of the NQF in South Africa has been incremental
rather than the product of a sharp break from the past. It is argued that in developing
the NQF, SAQA did not take sufficiently into consideration the political, social and
economic environment within which policy decisions have been taken. That being
the case, it has been founded upon a political misapprehension, which has greatly
impacted upon educational institution building.