ECD career path and study options in South Africa

A summary of career paths and professional development options and qualification requirements for the Early Childhood Development sector.

What is skills training and what is a qualification?

When studying to become an ECD teacher, many people ask “which pathway is best for me?”  “What is the quickest way to be recognised as a teacher?” and “how can I achieve my goals in the ways that work for my budget?”. These are important questions to ask, but remember that there are MANY paths that you could take to become an ECD teacher, and by making sure you study through an ACCREDITED institution, you can achieve both horizontal and vertical career growth.

This guide will try to help you make the best decisions to guide you to your specific career goals.

Note: The NQF (National Qualifications Framework) is a quality assurance system, run by The South African Qualifications Association (SAQA).

ECD career path options, qualifications and NQF requirements

Skills training vs higher education:

There are three main ways to become a registered ECD teacher after reaching grade 9 (NQF1):

  1. Remain in school, get a matric certificate (NQF 4), then apply to get a university degree, or apply for the skills programmes or certificates you need to gradually build up your qualification.
  2. After leaving school in grade 9, go to a technical college or other colleges, and complete the relevant certificates needed to achieve NQF4. You can then move your qualification to a university, or continue your studies until you reach NQF 5-6 or higher, with ECD relevant courses. (NATED level 3-6)
  3. After leaving school at grade 9, complete relevant skills training programmes, until you achieve NQF4. You can then move your qualification to a university, or continue your studies until you reach NQF 5-6 or higher, with ECD relevant courses.
ECD Career path
ECD Career path and NQF levels

What is the difference between a qualification and skills training courses?

Skills training is the process of learning job or industry specific skills, typically in a shorter period of time than the higher education pathway. A skills training programme is a “unit standard” or combination of unit standards that leads to an employable skill, and earns a credit on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) towards a qualification. These programmes are registered with the SETA (Sector Education and Training Authorities), and must be certificated through the NQF-based accreditation route.

A qualification is higher education beyond secondary education (NQF4), typically done through college or university. This is the complete course that skills training modules can add up to.

Note: Skills based training, is often shorter and equips learners with job specific skills. This can be useful for teachers who want to further their skills in specific areas, or build up towards a formal qualification. With a qualification, this may take longer to complete, but can provide teachers with a fuller understanding of different forms of teaching.  While a qualification may take more dedicated time (3+ years full time), a skills training programme may take much longer to get the same NQF level (NQF6 or higher), as this could be made up of many shorter courses, done part time. The most important aspect in all of this is relevance and progression.

This table may help see the difference between the two education options.

Qualification:Skills Training:
Qualifications are normally made of various modules and subjects. A qualification can either be a certificate, diploma, higher diploma, or a degree. All of these are recognised at different levels from a NQF level 1 to a level 10.Skills programme is made up of 2 or more unit standards in the same industry which may tie into a full qualification.
Part qualification is made up of various unit standards which clustered together will be a skills programme. This is taken from a full qualification. Hence the name part qualification.Skills training credits for relevant courses completed can be used to gain admission to a qualification programme.

Other than a skills training route, or a qualification route after matric, you could study through a college to get a NATED diploma and then continue your qualification after NQF4.

“A National Accredited Technical Education Diploma (NATED) is basically an undergraduate qualification” , provided by the “Quality Council for Trades and Occupations and the Department of Higher Education and Training”, and these certifications “combine theory and practical work, and are registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).”A NATED diploma allows learners to develop practical skills founded on the latest theory and principles, combined with 18 to 24 months of on-the-job experience.

The National Diploma is divided into three levels N4, N5 and N6. On completion of each level, learners are issued with a National Certificate. The framework consists of 10 levels that are divided into three bands. Levels 1 to 4 are the equivalent of Grades 9 to 12, as well as occupational certificates (skills training). Levels 5 to 8 equal higher certificates and diplomas; advanced certificates, degrees, and advanced diplomas; honours degrees; postgraduate diplomas and occupational certificates. Levels 9 and 10 are master’s and doctorates.

NATED is a post high school study option whilst a National Certificate Vocation (NCV) is an alternative study for grade 10 – 12. A NCV is a study option for students with practical skills.  A NCV allows students to gain skills that are career specific.  NCV provides students with work-ready skills.  Getting a NCV will give you the knowledge and skills that you need for the job market. A NCV 3 is on the same educational value as a matric certificate.  This means that you can apply to study a degree with your NCV 3.

What do I need to qualify to be accepted into ECD courses?

Many people who want to enter ECD educator programmes already work in ECD fields, and may have recognisable skills and first-hand knowledge. To obtain your initial professional qualifications, it may be possible to gain recognised credits towards future qualifications, known as Relevant Prior Learning”(RPL).

RPL must be evaluated on an individual, student-by-student basis and must involve an assessment/professional judgment of the prior learning, and RPL must not compromise the learning outcomes of the courses. RPL for access and advanced credit standing must be conducted by the admitting institution in accordance with national policies, quality council policies and institutional policies.

TechnicalNotes
  Initial professional qualifications refer to qualifications that prepare the holders thereof to facilitate learning in the ECD context with confidence.   Post-professional qualifications refer to qualifications that enable the development of new or advanced knowledge and skills and that will enable the holders to have a deeper understanding of their professional practice at a higher level and/or to take on new roles to support early learning and development within the ECD sector.   ECD educators who wish to enter a career in teaching in schools could, with credit recognition, complete a recognised qualification for employment as a teacher in schools. Similarly, appropriately qualified school teachers who wish to become ECD educators could complete a suitable additional qualification to develop the required competences.  To be an ECD teacher, a person must hold a professional qualification to a certain NQF level. (before becoming an ECD teacher)   To further your career in the ECD field, you can achieve a Post-professional qualification. (After becoming an ECD teacher).         It is possible for qualified teachers to become ECD teachers if they complete further ECD specific skills training/qualifications.It is also possible for ECD teachers to become public school teachers, if they complete further related skills training/qualifications.
  Many students who enter ECD educator programmes will already hold prior qualifications or part-qualifications that could be considered for credit accumulation and transfer (CAT) purposes.   It is possible to provide recognition for credits earned in the prior qualification, provided that there is equivalence, both in terms of the learning content and the NQF level.     All ECD educators who successfully complete a learning programme leading to an initial professional qualification should be proficient in the use of at least one official South African language as a language of learning and teaching (LoLT) and partially proficient in at least one other official South African language. Students who are not proficient in an indigenous African language must take one such language at the level of language of conversational competence (LoCC).   Partial qualifications or skills training modules can often be combined to lead to a larger qualification.     As long as the courses are relevant and are on the necessary NQF level.       ALL ECD Educators must be fluent in one SA language (as a language of learning and teaching (LoLT)), and must have basic understanding of another official language (at the level of language of conversational competence (LoCC)).

What do I need to study to become: A Child and Youth Care Worker (CYCW)

Child and Youth Care Worker: A person who works with children and adolescents with both normal and special developmental needs. They help with youth development through structured use of everyday life events and programs to facilitate their ability to function effectively within different contexts. They support families to care for children daily, for example by helping with homework, cooking and hygiene, and by assisting families with basic services such as health and social security.

Auxiliary Child and Youth Care Worker: A person who has obtained the relevant qualification to perform child and youth care worker at an auxiliary level. Community based auxiliary CYCWs start to practice after three months of training and continuously combine classroom-based learning with on-the-job training. Social work is based on knowing about children and families from a distance, child and youth care is more hands-on and is focussed on living and working with them.

What do I need to become an auxiliary CYCW?

Requirements to study, set by the SAQA:

  • Communication Skills at NQF Level 3 or equivalent.
  • Mathematical Literacy at NQF Level 3.
  • Access to the Qualification: No person with a child abuse record; history of violent crimes; or substance abuse record; should be considered for this qualification.
  • Recognition of Prior Learning: Many people interested in Child and Youth Care have been working in the sector for some time, and have gained skills and expertise through practical experience. The qualification can be achieved wholly or in part through recognition of prior learning. To have your prior experience recognised, evidence can be provided through: 
    • international and/or previous local qualifications.
    • products, reports, and testimonials mentioning functions performed.

work records, portfolios, videos of practice and performance records.

Standard qualification: To become a Child and Youth Care Worker, you must first complete Grade 10, or a NQF level 2 through a college or other skills training programme. Usually, all learners are expected to have completed Grade 10 , as the assignments are written so it is important that learners can write well. Then the next step is to get a Further Education and Training Certificate (FETC) in Child and Youth Care, recognized under the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) as a Level 4 qualification (equal to matric). The FETC is the minimum qualification required to practice as an auxiliary CYCW. The NACCW (National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers) and three other training bodies offer the accredited course. The learners are supervised in the workplace by a senior CYCW, and by a mentor in the Isibindi program. The FETC can be completed in 18 months, but most students complete it in about two years.[1]

These groups offer the FETC in CYCW :
Cape Town:
– CEFA (Continuing Education for Africa) Child and Youth Care Work (NQF 4) Further Education and Training Certificate:
https://www.cefa.co.za/our-courses/child-and-youth-care-work-nqf-4/#1539174383566-f496492b-a9cb
47 Bain St, Wellington
Gauteng:
– Empirical Academy: JHB campus: https://www.empiricalacademy.co.za/index.php/courses/full-qualifications/111-fet-certificate-in-child-and-youth-care-work
Office 303, Works @ Main, 195 Main Street Corner Main & Nugget Streets, Johannesburg, Gauteng. Empirical Academy is accredited by HWSETA and the ETDPSETA. SETAs are Skills Education Training Authorities, established under the South African Skills Development Act (97 of 1998).
– Lethukukhanya: Child and Youth Care Work NQF Level 5 https://lethukukhanya.org.za/courses/
– Enhle Consultancy: Markem Building, South Wing Margaret Street, Kempton Park, JHB.
Telephone: 011 056 5335
E-mail:info@enhle.co.za
https://raidhitraining.co.za/child-and-youth-care-worker/
National/online:
– Empirical Academy: Online campus: https://www.empiricalacademy.co.za/index.php/courses/full-qualifications/111-fet-certificate-in-child-and-youth-care-work
What do I need to become an ECD teacher?
 
Step 1 is to get either your NSC (National Senior Certificate/matric/NQF 4), or get your NQF 4 equivalent FETC in ECD. What is FETC ? It is your Further Education and Training Certificate: Early Childhood Development.
Requirements to study, set by the SAQA:[1]
·       Communication and Mathematical Literacy at NQF level 3 or equivalent.
·       Second language at NQF level 2 or equivalent.
·       Access to the Qualification: No person with a child abuse record; history of violent crimes; or substance abuse record; should be considered for this qualification.
·       Recognition of Prior Learning: Many people interested in ECD teaching have been working in the sector for some time, and have gained skills and expertise through practical experience. The qualification can be achieved wholly or in part through recognition of prior learning. To have your prior experience recognised, evidence can be provided through: 
a)     international and/or previous local qualifications.
b)     products, reports, testimonials mentioning functions performed.
c)     work records, portfolios, videos of practice and performance records.
 
These groups offer ECD specific FETC qualifications:
Cape Town:
·       False Bay College Khayelitsha: Early Childhood Development (various):
https://www.falsebaycollege.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=35&Itemid=152
·       College of Cape Town: 
o   https://www.cct.edu.za/index.php/en/programmes/maineducation-training/level-4-further-education-training-ecd
o   Level 4 Further Education & Training Certificate: Early Childhood Development is only available at: CRAWFORD CAMPUS
o   Enquiries: Mrs Annelie Carstens (Programme Manager) (T) : (021) 100 3433           
o   (E) : acarstens@cct.edu.za
KZN:
•       Durban College:
E.C.D Early Childhood Development
Higher Certificate (NQF Level 5)
National Certificate (NQF Level 4)
http://durbancitycollege.edu.za/curriculum/
•       Caversham Institute:
HC ECD: https://cavershaminstitute.co.za/first-year-course/
Nat Dip ECD: https://cavershaminstitute.co.za/second-year-course/
Address: 3 Fulham Corner, 443 Lena Ahrens Rd, Glenwood, Durban.
•       Tree ECD:
https://tree-ecd.co.za/training/#fet
Gauteng:
•       Tshwane South College:
http://tsc.edu.za/Eclipse/Default.asp?Page=77

FETC certificate (NQF4) and National Diploma (NQF5)

National/online:

What are the Entry Level Qualifications?

Once an NQF4 level is achieved, a student can then get a Higher Certificate in Early Childhood Care and Education (HC in ECCE).  This is an entry-level qualification to provide ECD education students with conceptual tools and practical techniques, that can be applied with competence as early childhood educators.[1] A Higher Certificate (HCert) in ECCE serves as an entry level/introductory qualification to the study of ECD education in a higher education and training context and will qualify graduates as educators. To become an ECD educator, you need a relevant NQF 5 qualification.

These groups offer ECD specific Higher Certificate qualifications:

Gauteng:

National/online:

What is the next step in furthering your education?

Graduates who successfully complete the HC (ECCE) and who want to become professionally qualified must enter and successfully complete the Diploma (Dip) in ECCE or the Bachelor of Education (BEd) in ECCE.

  1. Diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education:
  2. NQF Exit Level: 6
  3. The minimum entry requirement is National Senior Certificate (NSC) or Senior Certificate (SC) or a National Senior Certificate for Adults (NASCA) or a Level 4 National Certificate (Vocational) with a diploma entry endorsement or equivalent.
  • Completion of a Dip (ECCE) meets the minimum entry requirements for entry into an Advanced Diploma (AdvDip) in ECCE. Accumulated credits can also be presented for admission and credit recognition and transfer into a BEd (ECCE).
  1. Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood Care and Education Degree.
  2. Minimum entry requirement: NSC (matric) NQF4, Higher Certificate in ECCE, or advanced certificate in ECCE, or Dip ECCE.
  3. Part-time: to accommodate working ECD practitioners in possession of qualifications at NQF 5 or lower, this will take at least six years to complete
  4.  Some ECD practitioners may prefer to upgrade their qualifications through smaller steps that will provide the possibility of recognition and reward in shorter time-frames, for example, by first completing a Dip (ECCE), followed by an AdvDip (ECCE).
  5. Prospective students, who are in possession of recognised Level 4 or 5 qualifications, including a certificate or diploma in ECD/Educare, or in another relevant field, can present their qualifications for consideration for admission to a BEd degree with a possibility of transfer of credits. Progression: Completion of a BEd (ECCE) meets the minimum entry requirements NQF Level 7 AdvDip (ECCE) or, vertically, for admission to a NQF Level 8 BEd (Honours) degree or Postgraduate Dip (ECCE) programme.

These groups offer Diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education (Dip ECCE) and Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood Care and Education Degrees:

Cape Town:

National/online:

  • Unisa: Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Development: Foundation Phase)

https://www.unisa.ac.za/sites/corporate/default/Register-to-study-through-Unisa/Undergraduate-&-honours-qualifications/Find-your-qualification-&-choose-your-modules/All-qualifications/Copy-of-Bachelor-of-Education-in-Intermediate-Phase-Teaching-(90103)

  • Stadio Higher Education:

https://www.stadio.ac.za/distance-learning

Bachelor of Education in Foundation Phase Teaching

Diploma in Grade R Teaching

Can a teacher with a BEd degree teach ECD?

To shift to an ECD field, teachers with a BEd will need to complete an Advanced Certificate in Early Childhood Care and Education.

  • The AdvCert in ECCE emphasises the general principles and application of ECD. This certificate has a strong professional focus, and includes a simulated work experience and a workplace-based Work Integrated Learning (WIL) component. The AdvCert is a transition qualification that enables prospective ECD educators who have qualified to teach in other education sub-sectors to retrain as ECD educators, should they wish to do so. NQF Exit Level: 6.
  • Progression: Holders of the AdvCert (ECCE) can proceed vertically from the AdvCert to an AdvDip in a related area on the basis that they already held a professional teaching qualification prior to completing the AdvCert. Accumulated credits for an AdvCert can also be presented for admission to a Dip (ECCE) or a BEd (ECCE).

Note: Holders of historic and currently approved qualifications for ECD educators will continue to receive full recognition of their approved, completed qualifications. They might, however, be required to update their qualifications from time to time as determined by their basic conditions of employment and in line with the principle of lifelong learning.

How to become a Grade R Teacher

To become a grade R teacher, you must meet the requirements set by the  SACE. SACE stands for the South African council for Educators. To become a grade R teacher, you need one of the following qualifications: [1]

  • a National N Diploma in Educare (N6), equal to NQF5.
  • a 3-year Diploma in Grade R Education
  • a 4-year Bachelor of Education: Foundation Phase Teaching (B.Ed. Foundation Phase)
  • a Bachelor degree other than a B.Ed. plus a 1-year Post-graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE), specialising in Foundation Phase teaching.

These groups offer Grade R educational qualifications:

Cape Town:

  1. National Diploma in Early Childhood Development Level 5: False Bay College Khayelitsha: https://www.falsebaycollege.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=370&Itemid=368

National/online:

  • Stadio Higher Education:

https://www.stadio.ac.za/distance-learning

Bachelor of Education in Foundation Phase Teaching

Diploma in Grade R Teaching

  • Unisa: Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Development: Foundation Phase)

https://www.unisa.ac.za/sites/corporate/default/Register-to-study-through-Unisa/Undergraduate-&-honours-qualifications/Find-your-qualification-&-choose-your-modules/All-qualifications/Copy-of-Bachelor-of-Education-in-Intermediate-Phase-Teaching-(90103)

How to become a Grade 1-3 teacher

There are a few routes to take to become a foundation phase teacher. The most common and direct are for you to do:

  • a four-year Bachelor of Education degree (B.Ed.)
  • or a three-or four-year Bachelor’s degree, followed by a one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).[1]

Minimum entry requirements:

  1. Bachelor of Education Degree.
  2. Minimum entry requirement: NSC (matric) NQF4, Higher Certificate in ECCE, or advanced certificate in ECCE, or Dip ECCE.
  3. Part-time: to accommodate working ECD practitioners in possession of qualifications at NQF 5 or lower, this will take at least six years to complete.
  4. Prospective students, who are in possession of recognised Level 4 or 5 qualifications, including a certificate or diploma in ECD/Educare, or in another relevant field, can present their qualifications for consideration for admission to a B.Ed. degree with a possibility of transfer of credits. Progression: Completion of a B.Ed. (ECCE) meets the minimum entry requirements NQF Level 7 AdvDip (ECCE) or, vertically, for admission to a NQF Level 8 B.Ed. (Honours) degree or Postgraduate Dip (ECCE) programme.

What is the name of the accreditation to look for?

  • CHE (Council on Higher Education)
  • Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO)
  • The Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (UMALUSI).
  • HWSETA and the ETDPSETA. SETAs are Skills Education Training Authorities, established under the South African Skills Development Act (97 of 1998). A SETA sets specific standards for training providers and quality assures the quality of training, assessment, and moderation of the accredited programmes. The SETA confirms the level of proficiency and quality of training undertaken for current by the training provider.