AVEC - Accreditation, Validation, Examination, Certification
Foundation of NCTVA
The National Council for Technical Vocational and other Academic Awards (NCTVA) was established by Act No. 10 of October 2001 and became operational in January 2002. It was conceived to respond to the technical and vocational aspirations of the 6-3-3-4 educational system introduced in 1994.
It is envisaged that NCTVA will contribute towards the development of the country’s human resource capacity through its services in education and training.
NCTVA and the Integrated Certification Software (ICS)
As part of the EU co-funded “Support to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Sierra Leone” project, NCTVA in close collaboration with the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) implemented a new skills certification programme. To strengthen the relevance and capacity of technical and vocational training, the development of a new skills certification programme was initiated in October 2017, with the formation and first convocation of the Certification Expert Panel (CEP).
NCTVA was established to provide accreditation, validation, examination and certification services for awards in certain specialised and professional programmes in tertiary education institutions. In addition, it is responsible to provide examination at technical vocational level. Furthermore, NCTVA has been delegated by the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education (MTHE) to develop National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and certify such programmes implemented by several governmental Technical Vocational Centres (TVCs) at Senior Secondary School (SSS) level. Certification is based on summative assessment or final exam organised by NCTVA and formative assessment done by the training institution. A major constraint for implementing, assessing and certifying post-secondary programmes for technical occupations as well as NVQs is the lack of tools and equipment. With assistance of the above-mentioned project, NCTVA in close collaboration with its partners is addressing the main issue of certification by establishing a robust registration and certification system.
In order to ensure participation of all relevant stakeholders, a Certification Expert Panel (CEP) has been formed during the first CEP workshop on 26 October 2017. The CEP concluded its activities with the celebration of the signing ceremony of the new NCTVA certification Memorandum of Understanding between NCTVA and Technical Vocational Institutions (TVIs) on 12 November 2020. The CEP comprised of representatives from:
1. Ministry of Technical and Higher Education (MTHE)
2. National Council for Technical Vocational and other Academic Awards (NCTVA)
3. St. Joseph’s Technical Institute Lunsar (SJTI-L), Northern Province
4. Jackson and Devon Anderson (JADA) Technical Institute, Southern Province
5. Eastern Polytechnic (EP, now Eastern Technical University (ETU)) Kenema, Eastern Province
6. Milton Margai College of Education and Technology (MMCET, now Milton Margai Technical University (MMTU)), Western Area
7. Government Technical Institute (GTI, now Freetown Polytechnic together with former Freetown Teachers College (FTC)) Kissy, Western Area
8. Murialdo Institute of Management Entrepreneurship and Technology (MIMETECH), Western Area
9. National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM)
10. Sierra Rutile Limited (SRL)
11. West African Examination Council (WAEC)
12. Tertiary Education Commission (TEC)
13. Teaching Service Commission (TSC)
14. Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)
15. Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (SLCCIA)
17. German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ)
The Certification Expert Panel, after an in-depth analysis of the Diagnostic Study of TVET Sector in Sierra Leone (published in April 2018), convened again for the second and third CEP workshops on 11 & 12 and 25 & 26 September 2018 respectively, and, in close collaboration with German IT consulting firm Integration, developed a consensus-oriented NCTVA Certification Policy Framework (detailing standards, processes, responsibilities, resources, tools, sustainability aspects, etc.), and an NCTVA Certification Process, as well as a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NCTVA and TVIs for the management and implementation of said NCTVA Certification Policy Framework and Certification Process. Furthermore, Integration produced a report for a software-based skills certification programme in the form of an extensive Technical Requirements Catalogue as well as two detailed reports on the respective two-day CEP workshops.
Based on the feedback of the CEP during the workshops, the search for an IT developer began and after an initial meeting between local IT firm iDT Labs and the GIZ “Support to TVET in Sierra Leone” project staff on 7 May 2019, iDT Labs was hired after a trilateral meeting between NCTVA, GIZ and iDT Labs on 13 May 2019. The CEP was once again convened and the fourth CEP workshop was celebrated on 12 June 2019, introducing iDT Labs to the wider CEP membership.
iDT Labs started development of the software based on Integration's Technical Requirements Catalogue, following the 13-step NCTVA Certification Process closely. The product of the software development process is the web-based skills certification programme known as Integrated Certification Software (ICS).
ICS is hosted by NCTVA and digitises certification processes. Prospective candidates can apply online for NCTVA-accredited programmes in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as well as Teacher Education (TED) across Sierra Leone. NCTVA examination candidates register online through ICS. The platform’s web address is www.ics.nctva.org, student users can simply sign up with a personal email address to become part of NCTVA’s skills certification system. The ICS digitisation process spans from application at a TVI or Teacher Training Institute (TTI) to examination and certification by NCTVA. Third parties such as potential employers can submit online certificate validation requests (CVRs) to prove the authenticity of an NCTVA certificate. The ICS streamlines communication among all parties, thereby making all procedures more efficient and ensuring the protection of personal data. Students apply for TVET or TED courses online and are able to compare courses, tuition fees, etc. across TVIs and TTIs. Students communicate effectively with TVIs, TTIs and NCTVA, track their progress during the respective courses and their performance at NCTVA examinations. TVET and TED institutions can publicise their courses online. Applications and admissions are processed in a fast and simple way and students’ data is compiled in digital form. Interaction with NCTVA is efficient through an online interface. Submission of the candidates’ assessments is done online, and data protection is guaranteed. By means of ICS, NCTVA creates an online certification calendar and exams timetable. As soon as NCTVA receives examination fees, registration forms can be processed in a timely manner. NCTVA generates the final list of examination candidates in accordance with the various digital registers. The creation of marksheets within ICS is easy for examiners and NCTVA. Furthermore, ICS calculates the final examination grades automatically, resulting in examination results being published promptly. The printing and delivery of certificates will be rapid and efficient. NCTVA notifications to TVET and TED institutions and students will happen in real time. Lastly, ICS offers the possibility of third parties such as potential employers to submit a CVR online. Third parties, with the consent of the certificate holder, will receive a response from NCTVA to their CVR via email. The full 13-step NCTVA Certification Process is outlined below, with ICS processes in regular font and offline processes in italics.
1. Application at TVI/ TTI
a. TVI/ TTI creates batch.
b. TVI/ TTI creates admission register.
c. Interested person applies for enrolment at TVI/ TTI.
d. Applicant is informed that he/ she has successfully applied to a course and is issued an application number.
e. TVI/ TTI verifies copies of qualifications, identity and passport size photographs against originals.
f. Applicant is assessed.
g. Applicant eligible for enrolment is sent an offer from TVI/ TTI.
h. Applicant eligible for enrolment accepts the offer from TVI/ TTI.
2. Enrolment at TVI/ TTI
a. Applicant is informed that he/ she has been admitted into the course and is issued an admission number.
b. TVI/ TTI submits list of enrolled students to NCTVA.
c. NCTVA acknowledges receipt of list of enrolled students.
d. TVI/ TTI displays list of enrolled students on notice board.
e. TVI/ TTI generates student ID card.
f. TVI/ TTI issues student ID card to student.
3. Provisional NCTVA Registration
a. NCTVA publishes certification calendar.
b. TVI/ TTI requests provisional NCTVA registration for students.
c. NCTVA verifies and processes provisionally registered students, produces unique lifelong NCTVA ID for each student, and submits list of potential candidates to TVI/ TTI.
d. Student checks provisional NCTVA registration and NCTVA ID.
e. TVI/ TTI acknowledges receipt of list of potential candidates.
f. TVI/ TTI displays list of potential candidates on notice board.
4. Submission of Assessment
a. TVI/ TTI submits continuous and practical assessment grades.
b. NCTVA acknowledges receipt of continuous and practical assessment grades.
c. NCTVA crosschecks data.
d. Student checks continuous and practical assessment grades.
5. Registration for NCTVA Examination
a. NCTVA publishes exam timetable.
b. TVI/ TTI acknowledges receipt of exam timetable.
c. TVI/ TTI and candidate check exam timetable.
d. TVI/ TTI displays exam timetable on notice board.
e. Candidate pays fee for NCTVA examination.
f. NCTVA generates PIN for candidate to access examination registration form.
g. Candidate fills and submits examination registration form.
h. NCTVA validates examination registration form.
i. NCTVA verifies and processes candidate against list of potential NCTVA examination candidates, generates exam number for each candidate, and sends list of final NCTVA examination candidates to TVI/ TTI.
j. Candidate checks exam number.
k. TVI/ TTI acknowledges receipt of list of final NCTVA examination candidates.
l. TVI/ TTI displays list of final candidates on notice board.
6. Preparation of Grade Sheets
a. NCTVA prepares grade sheets.
7. Verification of Examinees
a. NCTVA prepares examinee verification list.
b. Examinee produces student ID card, NCTVA ID, confirmation of registration for NCTVA examination, examination number, and signs attendance sheet.
c. Invigilator and examination supervisor verify identity of examinee.
d. Examinee writes the examination in examination booklet.
e. Examination supervisor collects attendance sheet and submits to NCTVA.
8. Marking of NCTVA Examination
a. NCTVA collects completed examination booklets from examination centre.
b. NCTVA distributes examination booklets and grade sheets to examiner for marking.
c. Examiner marks examinations, enters marks in grade sheet, and submits together with examiner’s report to NCTVA.
d. NCTVA collates grades, and if there are anomalies, checks script and, if necessary, consults relevant examiner and examinations officer.
e. Examinations Committee meets and approves the results.
9. Publication of Examination Results
a. NCTVA inputs examination results, generates marksheet register, and publishes examination results.
b. TVI/ TTI and examinee check results.
c. TVI/ TTI displays examination results on notice board.
d. NCTVA determines format of statement of results.
e. TVI/ TTI issues statement of results to examinee.
10. Printing of Certificates
a. NCTVA generates list of certified students and submits to TVI/ TTI.
b. TVI/ TTI acknowledges receipt of list of certified students.
c. NCTVA generates and submits certificate registers to printer.
d. Printer acknowledges receipt and prints certificate.
11. Signing & Sealing of Certificates
a. Director NCTVA or other authorized person affixes signature and seal to certificate.
12. Dispatch of Certificates
a. NCTVA dispatches signed and sealed certificate to TVI/ TTI for onwards distribution to graduate.
b. TVI/ TTI distributes certificate to graduate.
c. Graduate acknowledges receipt of certificate.
13. Certificate Validation Request
a. Graduate seeks employment with certificate of high quality and standard.
b. Third party/ potential employer validates certificate.
c. Graduate gets employed.
d. Graduate informs TVI/ TTI and NCTVA of employment.
e. TVI/ TTI and NCTVA acknowledge receipt and store graduate employment information in database.
ICS was first demonstrated during the fifth CEP workshop held on 11 December 2019 and again during the sixth CEP workshop held on 18 March 2020, where ICS was officially handed over from the developers to NCTVA. ICS had come far, but refinement of the system as well as on-the-job training and capacity building of future users of ICS was considered a necessity. Two days prior to the sixth and final CEP workshop, key staff from GIZ’s four partner institutions EP, SJTI-L, GTI and MIMETECH were trained on ICS applications at NCTVA by Abdul Razak Mansaray (Head of ICT Department) and his team. Staff from the four partner institutions was further capacitated during ICS refresher trainings provided by NCTVA in May 2020, with on-site training at the TVIs. As a result, more staff was exposed to the newly developed system and its applications. The ICS refresher training was accompanied by the official handing over of IT equipment to the partner TVIs by GIZ, thus ensuring a smooth transition for launching an ICS pilot phase with the four TVIs, as they were now fully capacitated and equipped to manage the web-based Integrated Certification Software.
Plans to launch an ICS pilot phase in collaboration with a small number of TVIs existed since iDT Labs was hired in May 2019 and plans got more specific during the fifth CEP workshop when iDT Labs presented their planned timeline for ICS deployment. As NCTVA’s academic year normally starts in February, the start of the ICS pilot phase was tentatively scheduled for February 2020. After collecting feedback from the CEP during the fifth CEP workshop, it was clear that ICS needed additional refinement to reflect the needs and capacities of TVIs and TTIs in the country. Consequently, trilateral ICS development meetings between iDT Labs, NCTVA and GIZ were organized and held with biweekly occurrence. The ICS pilot phase was now scheduled to start in April 2020, however, due to the arrival of the global COVID-19 pandemic in Sierra Leone on 31 March 2020, TVIs and TTIs closed down and NCTVA exams were postponed until further notice, leaving the date for the official launch of the planned ICS pilot phase unclear. During that time, the GIZ “Support to TVET in Sierra Leone” project facilitated COVID-19 awareness training at seven partner institutions, including NCTVA, the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education and five TVIs across the country, carrying out the afore-mentioned ICS refresher training at the visited TVIs at the same time.
In early May 2020, NCTVA in close collaboration with GIZ decided to replace the planned ICS pilot phase with an ICS simulation phase, comprising a small group of TVET students matriculated at the four partner TVIs; EP, SJTI-L, GTI and MIMETECH. The idea was presented to the TVIs a month later and received very positive feedback and preparations began swiftly thereafter. On 4 June 2020, an ICS simulation phase working group was established at NCTVA, consisting of nine NCTVA staff and one GIZ Development Advisor. A week later, the official ICS simulation phase kick-off meeting was celebrated at NCTVA together with students and staff from GTI and MIMETECH. On 19 June 2020, the ICS simulation phase was kicked-off in the provinces (Kenema and Lunsar) as well. As ICS accompanies TVET and TED students from application at a TVI or TTI until NCTVA certification, Abdul Razak Mansaray and his team walked the TVET students and TVI staff through a timeline of activities reflecting a regular academic year to make the simulation phase a success. The ICS simulation phase was successfully executed in a timeframe of 10 weeks, starting on 8 June and ending on 14 August 2020. Progress was monitored remotely at NCTVA, where the ICS simulation phase working group convened twice a week for the duration of the exercise. Towards the end of the simulation phase, TVIs and TVET students received further assistance, with NCTVA staff travelling to the respective institutions and carrying out on-site ICS trainings. Abdul Razak Mansaray and his team visited Eastern Polytechnic in Kenema on 23 July, Saint Joseph’s Technical Institute in Lunsar on 24 July, as well as both Murialdo Institute of Management Entrepreneurship and Technology and Government Technical Institute in Kissy on 30 July 2020.
After TVIs in Sierra Leone reopened to hold 2020 NCTVA exams and the starting date for the 2021 academic year was confirmed, the next step in ICS implementation was the signing of the NCTVA Certification Memorandum of Understanding between NCTVA and TVIs. The CEP was invited to contribute to the discussion and a workshop was held on 12 November 2020. In addition to the six TVIs (EP, SJTI-L, GTI, MIMETECH, MMCET and JADA) that were part of the CEP, three additional TVIs actively participated with their valuable contributions as well. These were Young Women Christian Association (YWCA), Luban College of Social Sciences and Technology and Liccsal Business College. After a very fruitful discussion, all nine TVIs present signed the MoU. Moreover, NCTVA's planned next steps for ICS implementation were shared. Abdul Razak Mansaray and his team held another meeting on the ICS MoU on 30 November 2020 at MMCET Congo Cross Campus, where three additional TVIs signed; Banktec College of Information Technology, College of Business Studies (CBS) and Samkam Institute of Technology. Furthermore, the team travelled to Magburaka on 2 December 2020, where representatives from Ernest Bai Koroma University of Science and Technology (EBKUST) and College of Social Sciences and Technology (COSSTECH) signed the ICS MoU, bringing the total amount of signatories to 14.
There were plans to carry out the official ICS pilot phase with the 14 signatories of the MoU in the academic year 2021. However, a change in management of the Sierra Leone cable landing station and server housing facility from SALCAB to Zoodlabs Africa resulted in ICS being inaccessible from April to September 2021, rendering it unusable for the planned pilot phase and losing out on an entire academic year to monitor and evaluate the system. However, NCTVA with support from the GIZ "Public-Private Partnership Fund for Mano River Union Countries" project hired iDT Labs for the inclusion of NCTVA-accredited TED programmes, as ICS had only made provisions for TVET programmes up to that point. The result was the expanded functionality of ICS, now being able to capture all NCTVA-accredited programmes, both TVET and TED. This development was completed by December 2021 and laid the foundation for a successful ICS pilot phase.
The ICS pilot phase will be carried out in the 2022 academic year with both TVIs and TTIs participating. NCTVA will proactively approach suitable accredited institutions, because a stable and reliable internet connection is required to access ICS. In terms of NCTVA's efforts for human capacity development for ICS applications at the various TVIs and TTIs, Abdul Razak Mansaray and his capable team will train TVI and TTI staff both at NCTVA and on-site at the institutions. NCTVA plans to collect data from TVIs and TTIs, analyzing their need for support regarding internet facilities and IT equipment. According to NCTVA's findings, avenues of funding will be pursued, such as the eGovernance initiative at the Ministry of Information and Communication and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes with the private sector. NCTVA will continuously promote the new ICS among its accredited institutions, as the intention is to ultimately make ICS registration compulsory for all programmes.