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Unit Standard No.12164Page 12

In the past, a student would obtain course material, write an examination and obtain a qualification.

However, a qualification registered on the NQF is defined as “a planned combination of learning outcomes which has a defined purpose and which is intended to provide qualifying learners with applied competence and a basis for further learning…”.

A learning outcome is what a student will know and be able to do when they have completed their qualification and have been judged competent. These outcomes will be recognized through national standards and qualifications.

A qualification carries formal recognition (a certificate, a diploma, a degree) and is registered on a level of the NQF. It consists of a meaningful combination of learning outcomes, planned for a particular purpose.

Qualifications now have to be registered on the NQF via SAQA (the South African Qualifications Authority). SAQA is responsible for ensuring that qualifications meet high standards and contain the right outcomes for a qualification at that level. Qualifications registered on the NQF are transferable from one workplace to another and from one educational institution to another ie. they are portable.

Qualifications now come in two different types:


“whole” qualifications ie. qualifications which are based on specific learning outcomes as a whole


unit standard-based qualifications

There are also strict rules governing what terms can be used to describe qualifications. A national certificate, for example, needs to contain a certain number of points or credits (120 to be exact). A national diploma needs to contain 240 credits.

Unit standard- based qualifications have to consist of three different sections:


fundamental unit standards (comprising basic skills such as numeracy and communication skills)


core unit standards (which are compulsory and define the specific qualification)


elective unit standards (which allow for learner choice in specific areas of specialization)

5. What are unit standards?

A qualification is now required to be based on unit standards. A unit standard describes the learning outcomes to be achieved by the learner, as well as the assessment criteria against which the student’s performance will be judged. These unit standards are the minimum levels of competency as agreed by an entire industry.

Unit standards are the smallest, independent parts of a qualification and when put together in a combination can form a qualification that will prepare a learner for a particular occupation. Each unit standard describes the skills, knowledge and values used by a competent person to perform well over a period of time.

A unit standard is defined as:

INSMAT final materials31/10/03

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