Today the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) is hosting an event to launch the “Policy and Criteria for the Recognition of Professional Bodies and Registration of Professional Designations on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF)”. I am pleased that we will be simultaneously acknowledging 40 professional bodies who are the first group to be recognised in terms of the National Qualifications Framework Act of 2008.
In terms of (Section 13(1) (i) of the NQF Act, Act 67 of 2008), SAQA is required to:
(i) develop and implement policy and criteria for recognising a professional body and registering a professional designation for the purposes of this Act, after consultation with statutory and non-statutory bodies of expert practitioners in occupational fields and with the QCs; and
(ii) recognise a professional body and register its professional designation if the criteria contemplated in subparagraph (i) have been met.
SAQA has now conducted the process of developing the policy and criteria. I believe they consulted widely and involved various stakeholders including statutory and non-statutory professional bodies, the Quality Councils, providers of Education and Training, and others.
Professional bodies are key role players in the development and implementation of the Education and Training system and of career paths in particular professions. We hope that the recognition of professional bodies will contribute to strengthening social responsiveness and accountability within professions and to promote their constant improvement of professional work of their members. The registration of professional bodies should help eliminate any confusion with regard to recognised professional bodies and “bogus” professional bodies or expert groups.
The role of professional body is both to look after the interests of its members but also to ensure that they serve the wider society in a way that is fair and recognises the legitimate interests of clients and other stakeholders. Its role should not be to limit the number of its members in order to artificially restricting the supply of professionals and thus boost their value in the market. I recognise that there is a conflict of interests here as pressure from existing members may conflict with social interests and the interests of potential new members. This is one of the reasons why we need regulation. But regulation on its own is not enough. We expect the leaders of any profession to be true national leaders, with a deep sense of responsibility to the nation as a whole.
We must recognises that the practice of gate-keeping to restrict the number of members in any profession can also have racial, even racist implications in a society such as ours where the social structure and the structure of professions has been shaped by centuries of colonialism and apartheid. So this issue is doubly sensitive in South Africa during this period in which we are striving to overcome historical discrimination and oppression.
Professional bodies are a key component of the skills development system. They must encourage their members to nurture talent and assist the youth to gain skills in their particular professional areas. I urge them to take this responsibility very seriously, finding ways to encourage their members to give opportunities to young people to learn on the job. And I hope that they will also take in interns and learners in areas outside their particular professional disciplines for example intern or learner administrators, bookkeepers, IT specialists and so on, all of whom are employed by various professional businesses.
I would like to congratulate SAQA for the work that it has done in developing the criteria for the recognition and registration of professional bodies. And I would also like to congratulate the 40 professional bodies that are gaining official today. I trust that they will be a credit to their professions and to our country.