Qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion our core man­date’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

Le­sotho’s Coun­cil on higher ed­u­ca­tion (Che) held its sec­ond bi­en­nial con­fer­ence in Maseru last week. Among the many is­sues dis­cussed was the 2013/14 state of higher ed­u­ca­tion Re­port, which high­lights the sta­tus and per­for­mance of 14 ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions in the coun­try.

Che Di­rec­tor-pol­icy, strat­egy and In­for­ma­tion, Mr Mot­lalepula Shadrack Khobotlo, ex­plains the contents of the re­port and the Coun­cil’s man­date in this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with Le­sotho Times ( LT) reporter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane.

LT: The Coun­cil on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, pop­u­larly known by its acro­nym, CHE, has in­creas­ingly found it­self in the news of late. Could you start by briefly giv­ing us a back­ground of this es­teemed or­ga­ni­za­tion?

Khobotlo: Che is a paras­tatal un­der the Min­istry of ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing and was es­tab­lished by an Act of Par­lia­ment, the higher ed­u­ca­tion Act of 2004. the Coun­cil was es­tab­lished to pro­mote qual­ity in the higher ed­u­ca­tion sub­sec­tor. Be­fore its es­tab­lish­ment, is­sues of higher ed­u­ca­tion were ad­dressed di­rectly by the min­istry. But the Gov­ern­ment found it pru­dent to es­tab­lish Che when the coun­try’s higher ed­u­ca­tion is­sues broad­ened. the func­tions of Che, as per the Act, in­clude to mon­i­tor the im­ple­men­ta­tion of pol­icy on higher ed­u­ca­tion, pub­lish in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing de­vel­op­ments in higher ed­u­ca­tion, pro­mote ac­cess of stu­dents to higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, and ad­vise the Min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing in so far as is­sues of higher ed­u­ca­tion are con­cerned. Also there are is­sues of pro­mot­ing qual­ity as­sur­ance in higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, ac­credit pro­grammes of­fered by higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, and au­dit­ing qual­ity as­sur­ance mech­a­nisms of higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions. We should be clear here that what we au­dit are qual­ity as­sur­ance mech­a­nisms, not fi­nances within the in­sti­tu­tions. I should in­di­cate that the pro­mo­tion of qual­ity as­sur­ance and qual­ity higher ed­u­ca­tion is our core man­date.

LT: Let’s speak more about the ac­cred­i­ta­tion of pro­grammes and in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing….it ap­pears this is­sue has cre­ated un­cer­tainty among Ba­sotho who now view cer­tain pro­grammes and higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions with sus­pi­cion be­cause they are not sure if they are rec­og­nized by CHE.

Khobotlo: the Act stip­u­lates that higher ed­u­ca­tion is a learn­ing pro­gramme lead­ing to qual­i­fi­ca­tions higher than COSC or its equiv­a­lent and whose ac­cred­i­ta­tion has been ap­proved by Che. this ap­plies to both pub­lic and pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions. In other words, we are the gate­keep­ers. For any pro­gramme of­fered in any of the in­sti­tu­tions, Che is man­dated to sat­isfy it­self that such a pro­gramme is well-struc­tured and meets cer­tain min­i­mum stan­dards. We are also man­dated to au­dit qual­ity as­sur­ance mech­a­nisms of in­sti­tu­tions widely in terms of their oper­a­tions and also look at is­sues of man­age­ment and governance.

LT: Could you tell us the names of all the in­sti­tu­tions recog­nised by CHE?

Khobotlo: We cur­rently have a to­tal of 15 in­sti­tu­tions — nine of these are pub­lic and the re­main­ing six are pri­vate. Un­der pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, we have the Cen­tre for Ac­count­ing stud­ies, In­sti­tute of Devel­op­ment Man­age­ment, Lerotholi Polytech­nic, Le­sotho Agri­cul­tural Col­lege, Le­sotho Col­lege of ed­u­ca­tion, Le­sotho In­sti­tute of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Man­age­ment, Na­tional health train­ing Col­lege and Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho and Le­sotho Bos­ton health Al­liance. And un­der pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions, we have Limkok­wing Univer­sity of Cre­ative tech­nol­ogy, Ma­luti Ad­ven­tist Col­lege, Paray school of Nurs­ing, Roma Col­lege of Nurs­ing, scott school of Nurs­ing, and Botho Univer­sity.

LT: But Le­sotho ap­pears to have more than these 15 in­sti­tu­tions you have men­tioned…

Khobotlo: the law re­quires that pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions should reg­is­ter with the Min­istry of ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing. Pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, on the other hand, are not re­quired to reg­is­ter be­cause they are es­tab­lished by an Act of Par­lia­ment. the process is such that a pri­vate in­sti­tu­tion will first sub­mit its reg­is­tra­tion re­quest, and the regis­trar will ad­vise the in­sti­tu­tion to now sub­mit a list of its pro­grammes to Che. this is be­cause the re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­view the pro­grammes by the min­istry lies with Che. Che will then in­vite rel­e­vant ex­perts to scru­ti­nise the pro­grammes and this hap­pens within the reg­is­tra­tion process. If the in­sti­tu­tion has, for in­stance, sub­mit­ted 10 pro­grammes, Che may ac­credit some or all of them, de­pend­ing on whether they meet the set stan­dards. this means that the in­sti­tu­tion will be reg­is­tered and only of­fer pro­grammes that have been ac­cred­ited. But where Che does not ac­credit any of the sub­mit­ted pro­grammes, the in­sti­tu­tion will not be reg­is­tered. how­ever, I should men­tion that the reg­is­tra­tion of a pri­vate in­sti­tu­tion is twofold. the reg­is­tra­tion I have de­tailed was in re­la­tion to the higher ed­u­ca­tion Act. there is another reg­is­tra­tion which the in­sti­tu­tions make at the Min­istry of trade and In­dus­try, as per the Com­pa­nies Act and this reg­is­tra­tion has noth­ing to do with Che.

LT: Does this mean you only recog­nise in­sti­tu­tions whose pro­grammes you have ac­cred­ited?

Khobotlo: Che started its oper­a­tions in 2010 af­ter the Act was passed in 2004. Per­haps I should also in­di­cate that the first Coun­cil was ap­pointed in 2008 – four years af­ter the es­tab­lish­ment of the Act. And you will re­alise that two years later, in 2010, Che was op­er­a­tionalised through the es­tab­lish­ment of the sec­re­tariat. this means there was now an of­fice from which all CHE oper­a­tions would be un­der­taken. that’s the chronol­ogy. so the point now is when oper­a­tions fully started in 2010, some of the in­sti­tu­tions had long been in op­er­a­tion – both pub­lic and pri­vate. the only ex­cep­tion from the list was Botho Univer­sity which had not yet been es­tab­lished. so Che did not want to be dis­rup­tive of the al­ready ex­ist­ing in­sti­tu­tions. Life had to con­tinue. so we au­to­mat­i­cally recog­nised their ex­is­tence. how­ever, they still had to reg­is­ter for­mally with the min­istry.

We agreed that they should con­tinue with pro­grammes they of­fered, but we still had to re­view them. In Au­gust 2012, Che is­sued an an­nounce­ment no­ti­fy­ing all heis that all new pro­grammes would have to be ac­cred­ited by Che be­fore they could run. even the pro­grammes that they al­ready of­fered still needed ac­cred­i­ta­tion, but we ac­knowl­edged that it would take some time to go through all of them. this is why they are rec­og­nized so that in­sti­tu­tions can con­tinue of­fer­ing them un­til they have been re­viewed and their sta­tus de­ter­mined.

LT: Is there a pos­si­bil­ity that Le­sotho has in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing op­er­at­ing il­le­gally?

Khobotlo: Yes. there might be il­le­gal pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions which we are not aware of. some­times these new pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions are brought to our at­ten­tion by the pub­lic. For in­stance, a per­son would come to our of­fice ask­ing whether a cer­tain in­sti­tu­tion is recog­nised by us, if he or she wants to ap­ply for ad­mis­sion into that in­sti­tu­tion. that’s how they come to our at­ten­tion. some­times other in­sti­tu­tions come to our at­ten­tion when they ad­ver­tise in the me­dia. there may be such il­le­gal in­sti­tu­tions which have not reg­is­tered with the min­istry. this is why it is im­por­tant for the pub­lic to know which in­sti­tu­tions are recog­nised. In other words, we cur­rently have 15 in­sti­tu­tions of­fi­cially recog­nised by the Min­istry, Che in­cluded. how­ever, I should men­tion that although we recog­nise them, Botho Univer­sity is the only one which has fully reg­is­tered with the min­istry. this is sim­ply be­cause the in­sti­tu­tion came when all sys­tems on reg­is­tra­tion of pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions were fully op­er­a­tional. But equally im­por­tant is to men­tion that the other pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions are work­ing to­wards nor­mal­ized reg­is­tra­tion with our Min­istry. so there shouldn’t be any fuss about this.

LT: The State of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Re­port of 2013/14 high­lights the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing ad­mis­sion rate at in­sti­tu­tions. Why is this a con­cern?

Khobotlo: It’s crit­i­cal for in­sti­tu­tions to ad­mit all qual­i­fy­ing stu­dents for two key rea­sons; one is ac­cess. the more they are able to take stu­dents, then it would mean the is­sue of ac­cess is solved. All Ba­sotho who qual­ify to be in higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions should be there. If they ab­sorb fewer stu­dents, it means more qual­i­fy­ing Ba­sotho are left stranded. the re­port shows a down­ward trend in re­la­tion to this. this could mean the ab­sorp­tive ca­pac­ity of our in­sti­tu­tions is low. this is de­ter­mined by avail­able re­sources – teach­ers and fa­cil­i­ties. the other crit­i­cal is­sue here is fund­ing. this is­sue is be­yond our con­trol as Che and the min­istry. It is mainly reg­u­lated by the Na­tional Man­power Devel­op­ment sec­re­tariat (NMDS). We all know the NMDS spon­sor­ship is not nec­es­sar­ily based on whether spon­sored stu­dents are needy or not. the re­quire­ment is only that the stu­dents qual­ify in terms of their aca­demic scores. this too, we have re­alised, hin­ders ac­cess to higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions be­cause where a needy stu­dent may not be spon­sored, it means he or she will not have ac­cess to the in­sti­tu­tions. that spon­sor­ship might have gone to stu­dents who could still af­ford to be paid for by their par­ents. the rec­om­men­da­tion there­fore, is for the sec­re­tariat to have cri­te­ria in place to ac­com­mo­date and spon­sor stu­dents who are in dire need of fund­ing. In cases where stu­dents can pay, their par­ents should meet the state half­way and share the costs. But we can­not rely en­tirely on the data we have to de­ter­mine the ad­mis­sion rates un­til we have a cen­tral ap­pli­ca­tion sys­tem. there is an el­e­ment of dou­ble-count­ing in the data we used be­cause one stu­dent could have ap­plied to more than one in­sti­tu­tion. that means such a stu­dent has been counted twice. But with the cen­tral ap­pli­ca­tion sys­tem, we would be able to see that. other coun­tries al­ready have that sys­tem. If we could also have the sys­tem, we would be in a much bet­ter place to make a strong point that there is a great gap that needs to be filled.

LT: The re­port fur­ther notes con­cern over in­sti­tu­tions mainly of­fer­ing sub-de­gree pro­grammes and not many pro­grammes be­yond that…

Khobotlo: We have very low num­bers of post­grad­u­ates and that is a wor­ry­ing fac­tor. We have a very low num­ber of stu­dents study­ing for Masters and Doc­toral qual­i­fi­ca­tions. It is im­por­tant to have post­grad­u­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tions in our in­sti­tu­tions be­cause the higher you go, the deeper the re­search that has to be en­gaged in. that means the more in­no­va­tion, the more spinoffs for eco­nomic devel­op­ment. this fur­ther means the more knowl­edge gen­er­a­tion. At present, we con­sume in­no­va­tion from other coun­tries and that is not good for our eco­nomic growth. Per­haps I should men­tion that fund­ing is the big­gest chal­lenge here too. Re­search is ex­pen­sive.

LT: There is also this is­sue of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties…is our sys­tem ac­com­moda­tive of these cit­i­zens?

Khobotlo: It’s im­por­tant for the in­sti­tu­tions to ac­com­mo­date peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties be­cause they are cit­i­zens like any other Mosotho. they should not be dis­crim­i­nated against. You would not want them to be de­pen­dent on oth­ers when they can be eco­nom­i­cally ac­tive. the coun­try wants ev­ery cit­i­zen who has ca­pac­ity to ben­e­fit from higher ed­u­ca­tion and con­trib­ute to the econ­omy. these peo­ple could even be more in­tel­li­gent than most of us with no dis­abil­i­ties. this in­di­ca­tor is also in line with the coun­try’s higher ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies. We re­ported that there were only 20 stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties in 2013/14 in all the 14 recog­nised in­sti­tu­tions and we are say­ing that is not suf­fi­cient con­sid­er­ing the es­ti­mated 3,434 pop­u­la­tion of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in the coun­try within the age group el­i­gi­ble for higher ed­u­ca­tion. out of the 3,434, it is likely that more qual­ify for higher ed­u­ca­tion. In­sti­tu­tions have to pro­vide the nec­es­sary fa­cil­i­ties to make the teach­ing and learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. Clearly, this is­sue too has ad­di­tional cost-im­pli­ca­tions on the part of the in­sti­tu­tions. hence the need for in­creased fi­nan­cial sup­port to them by gov­ern­ment.

LT: The re­port also high­lighted, as a mat­ter of con­cern, the is­sue of lec­tur­ers who teach stu­dents at the same level as their own qual­i­fi­ca­tions, and even above their own qual­i­fi­ca­tions…

Khobotlo: this is one of the im­por­tant prob­lems we face be­cause to start with, our qual­ity as­sur­ance stan­dards stip­u­late very clearly that lec­tur­ers should teach at least if their qual­i­fi­ca­tions are one level above the pro­gramme they are teach­ing. For in­stance, a lec­turer who teaches a diploma pro­gramme should at least hold a bach­e­lor’s de­gree. the same goes for some­one teach­ing a de­gree pro­gramme; he or she should hold at least a Master’s. that’s the min­i­mum re­quire­ment. It’s prob­lem­atic, there­fore, that we still have lec­tur­ers who teach at the same level as their own qual­i­fi­ca­tions. This is why there is a spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tion in the re­port, which is di­rected to Che that it, work­ing di­rectly with the in­sti­tu­tions, should en­sure that they com­ply with that stan­dard.

CHE Di­rec­tor-pol­icy, Strat­egy and In­for­ma­tion

Mot­lalepula Shadrack Khobotlo.

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