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The outcomes-based education or OBE paradigm (the underlying philosophy behind South Africa’s ‘Curriculum’ 2005), which focuses on the outcomes of the educational process, was introduced in South Africa during the last decade as one of the measures to improve the quality of education in post-apartheid South Africa and to address the demands for an increasingly skilled working force. The OBE system (model) was introduced in South Africa on the assumption that it would lead to an increase in the quality of education that South African learners attain in schools. However, questions remain regarding whether OBE will necessarily improve the quality of education and transform South African schools. These questions are addressed, and the introduction of outcomes-based education in South Africa is discussed

Types of Assessment There are three types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative. Although are three are generally referred to simply as assessment, there are distinct differences between the three.

  1. Diagnostic Assessment

Diagnostic assessment can help you identify your students’ current knowledge of a subject, their skill sets and capabilities, and to clarify misconceptions before teaching takes place (Just Science Now!, n.d.). Knowing students’ strengths and weaknesses can help you better plan what to teach and how to teach it.

Types of Diagnostic Assessments

  • Pre-tests (on content and abilities)
  • Self-assessments (identifying skills and competencies)
  • Discussion board responses (on content-specific prompts)
  • Interviews (brief, private, 10-minute interview of each student)
  1. Formative Assessment

Formative assessment provides feedback and information during the instructional process, while learning is taking place, and while learning is occurring. Formative assessment measures student progress but it can also assess your own progress as an instructor. For example, when implementing a new activity in class, you can, through observation and/or surveying the students, determine whether or not the activity should be used again (or modified). A primary focus of formative assessment is to identify areas that may need improvement. These assessments typically are not graded and act as a gauge to students’ learning progress and to determine teaching effectiveness (implementing appropriate methods and activities).

Types of Formative Assessment

  • Observations during in-class activities; of students non-verbal feedback during lecture
  • Homework exercises as review for exams and class discussions)
  • Reflections journals that are reviewed periodically during the semester
  • Question and answer sessions, both formal—planned and informal—spontaneous
  • Conferences between the instructor and student at various points in the semester
  • In-class activities where students informally present their results
  • Student feedback collected by periodically answering specific question about the instruction and their self-evaluation of performance and progress
  1. Summative Assessment

Summative assessment takes place after the learning has been completed and provides information and feedback that sums up the teaching and learning process. Typically, no more formal learning is taking place at this stage, other than incidental learning which might take place through the completion of projects and assignments.

Types of Summative Assessment

  • Examinations (major, high-stakes exams)
  • Final examination (a truly summative assessment)
  • Term papers (drafts submitted throughout the semester would be a formative assessment)
  • Projects (project phases submitted at various completion points could be formatively assessed)
  • Portfolios (could also be assessed during its development as a formative assessment)
  • Performances
  • Student evaluation of the course (teaching effectiveness)
  • Instructor self-evaluation


Imagine a building plan of a 10-storey building. The NQF is like a plan of such a building with levels one to 10 for learning. It stipulates standards for qualifications and part-qualifications. Apart from qualifications and part-qualifications, other information is also registered and recorded on the NQF. This includes professional designations and learner achievements, respectively.

The objectives of the National Qualifications Framework are to-

  1. create an integrated national framework for learning achievements;
  2. facilitate access to, and mobility and progression within education, training and career paths;
  3. enhance the quality of education and training;
  4. accelerate the redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities; and thereby
  5. contribute to the full personal development of each learner and the social and economic development of the nation at large.

What does the NQF do?

As has been mentioned above, the NQF is like a map or guide that enables learners to chart their education and training path. For example, schooling in South Africa begins under the umbrella of General and Further Education and Training Qualifications Sub-Framework or what is better known as Basic Education. At the end of Grade 9, a learner can either take the vocational route and go to a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College or remain within the General and Further Education and Training Qualifications Sub Framework and read towards a National Senior Certificate at NQF Level 4. Similarly, a learner who takes the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework route will get a National Certificate (Vocational) also pegged at NQF Level 4. These learners can continue to higher education or obtain other higher occupational qualifications. They can also move across the Sub-Frameworks. The NQF was created to ensure that all this is possible without learners reaching ‘dead-ends’ in their education and training.


Learning is recognised when a learner achieves the required number and range of credits at a specific level of the NQF. When a learner meets these requirements, he/she obtains a qualification.

The NSB Regulations (452 of 28 March 1998) describe qualifications as:

  • representing a planned combination of learning outcomes with a defined purpose or purposes, including applied competence and a basis for further learning
  • enriching the qualifying learner by providing status, recognition, credentials and licensing; it improves marketability and employability; and opens up routes to additional education and training
  • benefiting society and the economy by enhancing citizenship, increasing social and economic productivity, providing specifically skilled and/or professional people, and transforming and redressing past inequities

A framework for standards.

What are Standards?

National standards1 : can be described as specific descriptions of learning achievements agreed on by all major stakeholders in the particular area of learning. (NSB Regulation 2 provides for the registration of national qualifications and standards.) As the NSB Regulations indicate, “unit standard” means “registered statements of desired education and training outcomes and their associated assessment criteria together with administrative and other information as specified”. National means that the standards have gone through the SAQA registration process. One might take this further and say that national standards are the agreed repositories of knowledge about ‘quality practice’ or competence, as well as about legitimate criteria for assessing such competence.

Competence: in turn, might be defined as the application of knowledge, skills and values (Regulation 5(1)(a)) in a specific context to a defined standard of performance.

Practice: could be located in any arena, and involve practitioners ranging from the shop floor lathe operator to a professional nurse to an academic historian. In all of these arenas of practice the implicit knowledge of what makes for ‘good practice’ or competence needs to be made explicit in the form of national standards.

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