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KCATS seeks to streamline students’ progression

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Dr. Alice Kande, is the Acting Director General of the Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA).

The review Kenya Credit Accumulation and Transfer System (KCATS) that is being undertaken by experts appointed by Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu, is a crucial exercise that will ultimately yield a critical instrument that will guide learner progression.

The policy will also facilitate access, mobility and seamless progression within, education, training and career paths; enhance transparency, efficiency, recognition and quality of education and training.

The review happens at the backdrop of implementing recommendations of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms; specifically on the need to support progression and mobility of TVET graduates through credit transfer.

The Kenya National Qualifications Framework (KNQF) Act no. 22 of 2014 mandates Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) to develop policies and standards to guide the national qualifications system.

This is aimed at enhancing skills development process; skills transferability, clarify progression pathways between and within levels of qualifications and across different sectors; thus enabling Lifelong learning.

We are in a space where there is so much talk globally about validation and recognition of learning. The validation and recognition of learning remain useful tools in the process of establishing comparability of qualifications and formally acknowledging the validity of learning.

Generally, three (3) modes are used to validate and recognise learning globally, namely; recognition of qualifications, credit accumulation and transfer systems and recognition of prior learning/ validation of acquired experience.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer System (CATS) is therefore, one of the modes for validating and recognising learning through the recognition of credits. CAT is a form of recognition of prior learning( RPL) used to recognise and validate formal learning. Using the accumulated credits, the system allows mobility of learners from one programme to another within or across institutions without having to duplicate learning thereby facilitating lifelong learning and access to the workplace.

While reviewing the KCATS policy that was launched in November 2021; it is important that we undertake a national and global situational analysis  -noting that we are at advanced stage of realizing and implementing the Africa Continental Qualifications Framework.

The ACQF is designed to be a referencing qualifications framework for the African continent, to enhance transparency, comparability and quality of qualifications and mutual trust between national qualifications frameworks and systems, thereby promoting mobility of people for purposes of further studies and work.

The Africa Continental Qualification framework ( ACQF)guideline on CATS, which though quite informative, does not impose on countries and regions new CATS rules and mechanisms, but proposes a framework of principles, criteria and processes that can inspire and orient the national and regional authorities and stakeholders in developing CATS or improving and consolidating already existing systems. In accordance with the approach of voluntary cooperation of the ACQF, the Guideline on CATS is a reference and acts as a recommendation.

Computation of credits for purposes of validating and recognising learning shall comprise all the learning activities of the student, inclusive of contact time, private study, research, assignment writing and assessments.

As such, we expect that education and training institutions should work out the number of credits that should be allocated to all learning activities. Depending on the national or institutional requirements or preferences, terms or semester systems may be used to accumulate course/module credit. Institutions that use terms have a system where students complete three sets of classes, as part of the academic year. While institutions that use semester units divide classes into two sets of classes, for the academic year.

Regardless of the system used, study hours can be translated into the number of credits.

It is interesting to note that the system that we are using as a country – which is already preempted by the KNQF (has described the number of notional hours per level and the corresponding credits) is similar to what a few other countries in the continent have – such as South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia and Botswana.

  1. a) System 1: Under this system, it is considered that an average student puts in a minimum of 1200 hours of work per year. Further, 10 study hours are equated to 1 credit. Consequently, a one-year programme or academic year has 1200 notional study hours which translates into 120 credits. In arriving at the 1200 notional study hours, it is considered that an average student accumulates 8 hours per day, which amounts to 40 hours per week (An academic year has 30 weeks, translating into the 1200 hours).
  2. b) System 2: Under this system, it is considered that the student workload of a full-time study programme amounts to around 1500-1800 hours per year and in those cases one credit stands for around 25 to 30 working hours. The system is based on the principle that 60 credits measure the workload of a full-time student during one academic year. Examples of countries in Africa that use this system include Algeria, Uganda and Tunisia. In order to convert credits from System 2 to System 1, 1 credit from System 2 should be equated to 2 credits in System 1.

Key principles of CATS

  1. i) CATS should be formulated with a view to promoting learner mobility across sectors, levels and types of qualifications by eliminating duplication of learning;
  2. ii) Systems and procedures developed in institutions to support CAT should be transparent, fair, flexible and easy to use;

iii) Decisions regarding credit transfer should be timely, academically defensible and equitable, and based on learning outcomes;

  1. iv) Credit awarded in recognition of prior non-formal and informal learning is of equal standing to credit awarded through formal learning;
  2. v) In line with the concept of institutional autonomy, CAT should not affect the authority of a receiving institution to make decisions about the admission of learners;
  3. vi) Credit recognition and credit transfer should not undermine the academic rigour or integrity of the qualification into which the learner is accepted ;(CUE, TVETA are here to ensure QA in their respective spaces)

vii) Institutional commitment and cooperation is central to the optimal functionality of CATS; and

viii) CATS and its procedures should be subject to rigorous quality assurance measures.

Therefore, we have an opportunity to breath coherence and ensure non-wastage of knowledge by providing to this country a national CATS policy. That it as one of the key highlights of recommendations of PWPER, shows how enthusiastic we are as a country to have the document out for implementation.

Dr. Alice Kande, is the Acting Director General of the Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA).

Dr. Alice Kande
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