Prof. Thapelo Otlogetswe’s article entitled ‘The State of Botswana Tertiary Education Capture. Part two: The Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) problem’ (The Telegraph of 16 November 2016) attempts to analyse and critique the quality assurance measures undertaken by BQA in accrediting learner programmes. The writer makes claims that are misleading and have potential to raise unnecessary alarm. For the benefit of its stakeholders and the general public, BQA wishes to set the record straight and correct the misrepresentations that the writer presents as facts. By basing his claims on processes and procedures of the repealed Tertiary Education Act and Regulations, the writer’s arguments are obviously overtaken by events. In 2013, the Government established the Botswana Qualifications Authority through an Act of Parliament No 24 of 2013 to address, among others, gaps and fragmentation that were identified in the old system. The writer fails to acknowledge that Botswana’s education and training system is evolving and has gone through several phases over the years in response to identified shortcomings.
The Accreditation Process
For the benefit of those who might not be familiar with BQA’s accreditation process, an Education and Training Provider (ETP) has to submit a self-study report prior application for accreditation, stating the applicant’s strategic direction and plans. This is international best practice. On submission of an application for accreditation, BQA does a desktop review and then engages three professional reviewers in consultation with relevant professional bodies or Institutions to carry out verification and validation under BQA’s guidance and oversight. The reviewers compile a validation report, with recommendations for consideration by BQA. The report is then taken through several approval structures which involve the Management Quality Assurance Committee, the Board Quality Assurance Committee and ultimately the BQA Board of Directors. Amongst the resources considered are facilities, course content, strategy direction and plans, entry requirements, assessment criteria, student support services and teacher qualifications. This approval process ensures that necessary checks and balances are in place. The Authority reserves the right to accept or reject the reviewers’ recommendations. Accreditation is only awarded when the provider has met the requirements. BQA works closely with professional bodies and associations in the accreditation of learning programmes to ensure that they respond to industry needs and requirements. BQA has a duty to ensure that education and training respond to industry needs.
Challenges and mitigating strategies
BQA keeps a database of subject matter experts and acknowledges that the limited number of subject matter experts, may compromise quality, hence the use of international reviewers in instances where conflict is assumed. BQA is a member of the Southern African Quality Assurance Network which is an association of SADC regulatory bodies. SAQAN is developing the regional qualifications framework and this will improve access, portability of qualifications and mobility of graduates. Members have access to global best practices through interaction and share other essential resources, including human resource expertise for improved quality of education and training. BQA is currently the SAQAN Secretariat. The levels of compliance within accredited institutions have improved. There are a few isolated cases where some ETPs employ trainers who are not accredited and this is attributed to the high mobility of trainers in the system. These cases are appropriately dealt with as and when they arise. BQA will continue to closely monitor and audit ETPs to ensure compliance.
To further improve quality of education and training, BQA will register and accredit all ETPs across the entire education and training sector, both public and private, to ensure a common quality assurance system that promotes clear articulation and progression across levels. This will be an improvement on the old system that required all (public and private) Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET ) Providers to register and accredit with the then Botswana Training Authority(BOTA ) whereas the Tertiary Education Act required public tertiary institutions to register, but exempted them from accreditation, while private providers were required to register and accredit. BQA is committed to ensure integrity of the system and invite anybody who may have knowledge of malpractice to report the same. BQA is setting up a whistleblowing platform to facilitate anonymous reporting of cases of malpractice or corruption. BQA is currently inviting subject matter experts to register in its database to increase the pool and quality of experts. Once applications have been evaluated, selected reviewers will be trained and be required to sign contracts with the Authority when engaged. This will improve quality of reports and general conduct during the validation/verification process. A key function of the Authority is learner protection. BQA has developed a Learner Protection Policy that would be cascaded to ETPs once the BQA Regulations are implemented. BQA works closely with Student Representative Councils and is designing a structured approach to this partnership. This will ensure that learners’ rights are upheld and protected. These envisaged measures are meant to enhance existing quality assurance mechanisms.
BQA assures learners, parents and other stakeholders that it is committed to improving the quality of education and training. No provider is allowed to offer a learning programme that has not been accredited. BQA has systems, processes and procedures in place to ensure compliance to set standards of teaching and learning. You may log on to www.bqa.org.bw to learn more about BQA services.
CEO, Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA)