Southern African News Features                                           SANF 10 No 17, April 2010
SADC to harmonize educational system

Southern Africa has taken another huge step towards the harmonization of its education system by approving the development of a Regional Qualifications Framework.

The Regional Qualifications Framework (RQF) that was initiated a few years ago seeks among other things to enable SADC Member States to compare and recognize qualifications obtained in the region.

In the long run, the establishment of a standardized educational system should promote deeper regional integration as it would help facilitate the movement of students and professionals in southern Africa.

Meeting in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo recently, SADC Ministers responsible for Education and Training said a progress report on the development of the RQF would be presented at the next meeting scheduled for 2011.

The ministers, however, noted that student mobility, especially in higher education across the region is good, saying that some Member States are already treating SADC students as locals in terms of tuition and accommodation.

They recommended that this should be expanded to other areas to create an enabling environment for students to study anywhere in the region as pronounced by the SADC Protocol on Education and Training.

The SADC Protocol on Education and Training, signed by Heads of State and Government in 1997, seeks to establish a legal and institutional framework to promote regional integration in specific priority areas of education, training, research and development.

The ministers also considered and adopted a progress report on the implementation of the SADC Regional Education and Training Implementation Plan.

The plan integrates the seven priority areas of the African Union Second Decade Plan of Action and the Protocol on Education and Training, which aims to ensure education for all and promote gender equality in access to education.

"The meeting noted major trends in the provision of education and training in the region," the ministers said in a statement, adding that key reforms undertaken by Member States include expansion of early childhood development and increasing the utilization of Open and Distance Learning as a strategy for training of teachers.

However, the meeting noted that the region still faces challenges with access and gender equity in early childhood education, secondary education, technical and vocational education among others.

To address some of the challenges, the meeting approved five policy and strategic frameworks in the areas of Education Management Information Systems (EMIS), Open and Distance Learning and Gender Mainstreaming.

Other major decisions made at the meeting are the need to promote the use of the mother language as a medium of instruction in the first five years of primary education and that Member States should include statistics on private institutions in their educational data.

The ministers also said the next study on regional monitoring of learner performance and achievement undertaken by the Southern African Consortium for Measurement and Quality of Education (SACMEQ) should include issues of environmental sustainability.

The SADC Ministers responsible for Education and Training meeting was held on 15-19 March.

DRC Vice-Prime Minister Simon Bulupy and SADC Deputy Executive Secretary Regional Integration Joao Samuel Caholo were some of the guests that attended the two-day meeting.

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