(FLC) Foundational Learning Competence – All you may need to know.


In 2010, the Independent Examinations Board implemented Foundational Learning Competence or FLC for short. They believed it necessary because there was a clear need for a higher level of skill in fundamental proficiency among the South African workforce. And so FLC was designed and implemented to address this critical shortage.

For the employee, the skills gained in Communications in English and Mathematical Literacy have proven Foundational for an employee wanting to improve and progress in their workplace. Their ability to communicate effectively is closely linked to their success in learning. They often find it near impossible to understand theoretical concepts and learning new skills and abilities for their working environment proves all but impossible to achieve.

In this same year the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) was established in 2010 in terms of section 26G of the Skills Development Act of 1998 as a juristic person. It was listed as a public entity in Government Gazette No. 33900 of 31 December 2010 – effective from 1 April 2010 – to establish the Sub-Framework for Trades and Occupations.

The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) is responsible for the development, maintenance and quality assurance of qualifications with in its sub-framework. The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO)manages the Occupational Qualifications Sub-framework (OQSF).

The purpose of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations is to ensure quality in the development, provision and certification of occupational qualifications. The QCTO was established to perform certain functions which include, but are not limited, to the following: Design and develop occupational standards and qualifications and submit them to the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) for registration on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and ensure the quality of occupational standards and qualifications and learning in, and for the workplace.

Purpose of FLC

Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) provides learners with the minimum levels of competency they require in the two key areas of Mathematical Literacy and Communication. This enables them to deal successfully with occupational learning at NQF levels 2 -4 and removes barriers to learning and ensures progress in their occupational careers and further development of skills.

Many South Africans are unable to attain qualifications in their occupations and or trades, at NQF levels 2, 3 and 4 simply because they are not able to achieve the fundamental requirements of the four levels in the FET band for both mathematical literacy and language. Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) provides such learners with an alternative qualification option and an opportunity to progress in their chosen career.

The proficiency a learner may have in the language is closely linked to their success in educational programmes. Many adult learners have a deficiency in their understanding of, and ability to apply language and mathematical literacy concepts and problem solving in their jobs. Learners are often able to perform a task in an occupational environment, however, their communication and language skills in English (normally the language of teaching and learning) are at a much lower level than they need. They’re mostly unable to deal with theoretical concepts in learning material and the acquisition of new skills and knowledge in the occupational training, thus hampering their progression in their careers.

Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) provides the minimum skills level required in each learning area in order for an employee to function optimally and efficiently in the occupational world. It supports the objectives of the NQF that the fundamental unit standards were intended to achieve in terms of redress, access to meaningful learning, the achievement of qualifications and providing a basis for lifelong learning. Learners will only need to complete Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) once as it is applicable to Levels 2 -4 of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF)

Learners who successfully complete Foundational learning competence have a marked increase in confidence and expertise in applying language and mathematical skills in different real-life situations and contexts, and especially those situations relating to the workplace. Qualifications that require additional mathematical or communication skills to that provided in the FLC will include these requirements in the curriculum of those qualifications.

Some learners struggle to cope with the demands of qualifications at NQF levels 2, 3 and 4; often because of a gap in understanding mathematics and language, but also for many the time elapsed between their formal schooling years and their current age is great and much of what they have learned have been forgotten or never really mastered.

Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) is designed to enable the learner to access further qualifications, be more efficient and able to work and engage better in real-life situations by establishing a proper Foundational in their abilities to communicate efficiently and calculate, think critically and solve problems in their everyday life, both at work and at home.

Features of FLC

Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) is a part qualification, consisting of Mathematical Literacy (NQF Levels 2-4) and Communications in English(NQF levels 2-4).

Mathematical Literacy in Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) ensures that workers are able to make sense and to solve problems in real world contexts, presented to them in a variety of ways. Problem solving is achieved by defining goals, analysing and making sense of problem situations, planning how to solve problems, executing their plans, interpreting and evaluating the results and justifying the method used and the solution. Mathematical problems comprise of numbers and quantity problems, space and shapes, patterns and relationships, data and chance and measurements.

Communications in English ensures that the worker is able to read, write, speak with confidence, listen and understand, so as to enable them to function to their full potential both within the occupational environment and their personal lives and their interaction with society at large. A worker that becomes proficient in a language can also learn, understand and grow with regards to occupational specific learning material provided by the company and thus be a bigger asset to their company.

FLC Communications in English consist of:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking and listening
  • Visual literacy
  • Language structure and usage
  • Study skills
  • Workplace terminology

FLC Mathematical Literacy consists of:

  • Number and quantity
  • Finance
  • Data and chance
  • Measurement
  • Space and shape
  • Patterns and relationships

Benefits of FLC

FLC Foundational Learning Competence Benefits Image

Communications in English

  • Familiarises learners with the English writing skills that they will be expected to cope within the workplace and in training material.
  • Helps your employees gain access to, and process, technical and workplace wording.
  • Establishes a sound basis for communication and training in your business.

Mathematical Literacy

  • Problem solving
  • Cognitive thinking
  • Basic mathematical understanding and competence
  • Insight

Project Implementation

Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) programmes should be implemented by training providers that possesses the necessary accreditation and have the experience and ability to ensure your project is a success.

In our experience having face-to-face interaction with the learners has the best potential for success but there are other methods of learning available.

Prerequisites (Entry and Exit)

Those workers or employees who are competent at AET Level 3 in English and or Mathematical Literacy should be able to start and complete an FLC programme successfully. AET Level 3 or its equivalent in English and or Mathematical literacy are learning that is assumed to be in place before starting an FLC programme. It is also worthy to note that learners who do not have a firm grasp of mathematical literacy skills or Communication skills in English, are unlikely to be successful.

It is noteworthy to mention that placing a person at a level too high for them to cope with, is extremely demoralising. It places extreme strain on the facilitator and endangers the success of the programme. It is good practice to have employees undertake a placement assessment before making any decisions regarding training.

The placement assessment will determine the level of the learning programme into which a worker should be placed. These assessments ensure that the demands of the learning programme correspond with the employee’s level of proficiency.

Requirements to access Foundational Learning Competence (FLC):

  1. Statement of Results in English and Mathematical Literacy for AET level 3
  2. Independent Education Board readiness assessment declaring the learner competent to start FLC

Where does it fit into the NQF

FLC is specifically designed for AET 4 (NQF 1) employees and also for current employees who wish to improve their basic skills.

The NQF is a framework on which standards and qualifications, agreed to by education and training stakeholders throughout the country, are registered. The NQF is a means for transforming education and training in South Africa.

(FLC) Foundational Learning Competence in the NQF

How is Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) implemented?

  1. Awareness Sessions : This is an informal interaction sessions with learners chosen to take part in the programme, wherein the benefits and general information will be supplied to the learners. This serves to remove from the learners their resistance to training and to desensitise them to the assessment process.
  2. Placement Assessments : An interactive session for the group of adult learners which will confirm their readiness to begin with the Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) programme.
  3. Assessment Feedback Report : This is a summarised report on each of the learners regarding the outcome of the placement assessment and will indicate whether the learner is eligible for enrolment in the Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) Programme.
  4. Planning, Scheduling and Implementation : Days, times and schedules allotted to the training programme must be established and agreed to. Thereafter a suitable facilitator is placed and training material supplied to the training site.
  5. Quality and Project Management : Quality assurance visits are conducted throughout the programme to ensure training is delivered and quality remains on standard.
  6. Feedback and Reporting : Feedback regarding the programme progress and the progress of the learners are supplied.
  7. External Summative Assessments and Statement of Results : External Summative Assessments are conducted by the Independent Examinations Board. It is in the form of a Multiple Choice Examination consisting of 60 multiple choice questions. The Independent Examinations Board will issue a Statement of Results once the learner has been found competent.


FLC Foundational Learning Competence Assessments Image

In order to graduate from FLC the learner will have to undergo an external summative assessment.

The purpose of the external summative assessment is to verify whether learners have the necessary levels of proficiency in each of the two learning areas to be successful in formal occupational training.

The external summative assessment is a proficiency assessment designed to test the learner’s skill level and whether the said learner should have access to further occupational learning.

The learning areas are assessed separately and each of these assessments takes approximately 150 minutes each to complete. It consists of 60 multiple-choice questions and is conducted at the learner’s place of work by an Independent Examinations Board representative.

The Independent Examinations Board have made available for download, exemplar examination papers for both of the learning areas on their website. Many learners are unfamiliar with multiple choice examinations and it is recommended that training providers prepare learners for this assessment type.

Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) as a part of qualification may also be achieved through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). This is accomplished by writing the external summative assessment, without going through the FLC learning programme, and being found competent.

Such persons will receive the credits for FLC and may then go on to further their education with occupation qualifications.

Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) can be achieved through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) also. Learners may write the FLC external summative assessment without going through an FLC learning programme.

If they are found competent in both learning areas they will receive the credits for FLC. It is advisable for learners to do a placement assessment to ascertain their level of competence before writing the external summative assessment. Learning assumed to be in place for the FLC in both learning areas is ABET level 3.

How to qualify for entry to External Integrated Summative Assessments(EISA) in 7 steps:

  1. Must have enrolled learners with an accredited training provider for training towards an occupational qualification.
  2. Learners are required to complete the three components of the qualification namely:
    1. Knowledge
    2. Practical
    3. Work Experience
  3. The training provider must do formative assessments during the training.
  4. Once the learner has completed all three components the training provider will compile a statement of results (SOR) stating learner readiness for EISA.
  5. The assessment quality partner (QAP) will provide the learner registration number and allocate the assessment centre and dates for the EISA.
  6. The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations verifies and approves the learner results for EISA.
  7. The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations will issue the certificate within 21 working days. The certificate will be forwarded to the AQP to distribute to learners.

Why do FLC?

The latest circular from the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations(published 1 October 2019), to all providers and OQSF stakeholders; provides a clarification of Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) as a requirement for the completion of all Occupational Qualifications developed or registered with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations. Read more here

What this means essentially is that a learner will not be able to start a learnership unless the learner has completed a Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) part-qualification first. FLC will become a prerequisite to all Learnership qualifications in the future.

Besides Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) being a prerequisite to Learnership Qualifications in future, it is also the next Foundational and fundamentally important step after Adult Education and Training (AET) and of the utmost importance for anyone in an occupational environment that wishes to improve their skills and improve their ability at work and in life.

How long does it take?

Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) is estimated to take an approximate 10 notional hours per credit to complete. Taking into account that FLC comprises two learning areas of 20 credits each, that means an estimated 400 hours in total for completing both learning areas in Foundational Learning Competence (FLC). Some of these notional hours may include assessments.

It is important to note that these durations are merely estimations, because they depend heavily on the ability of the learner, the amount of time allotted in a session, the amount of time that passes between sessions, stopping and starting classes, learner morale and motivation and many other factors that may delay completion.

For instance if the learner struggles with language skills and cannot understand, read or write well enough to successfully participate in the programme, more time will be needed to bring the learner to the necessary level of proficiency, the same applies to the learner’s level of mathematical proficiency.

The amount of consecutive time allowed for a session is also very important. In our experience sessions of shorter duration, for example 40 minutes are not nearly as effective as a session of 60 minutes or more. It is also not ideal to have sessions that exceed 2 hours as this again will yield similar outcomes to sessions that are too short.

What happens when learners do not pass?

Learners who are not found competent by the Independent Examinations Board’s external summative assessment, may take the examination again. If the learner is not able to progress even after re-examination it will be necessary to revisit the curriculum in the form of revision until the learner is able to succeed at the external summative assessment.

Learners may become very demoralized by failure and it is recommended that learners are not allowed to just sit for the external summative assessment again, unless there are some steps taken to ensure that they will be successful at Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) and progress to further training and development.

Learners will not be considered proficient and thus not able to progress to further qualifications that has Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) as prerequisite until the Independent Examinations Board have found them competent.

Facilitators. What to know.

It is recommended that facilitators of the FLC be subject area specialists in the learning area that they deliver. Qualified Mathematics and English teachers should teach the FLC programme.

The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations is developing an FLC facilitator part qualification to assist qualified adult learning facilitators to become familiar with the content of the FLC. The part qualification will prepare them to teach the FLC.


Training providers who wish to offer Foundational Learning Competence (FLC)must be registered with the Independent Examinations Board for Quality Council for Trades and Occupations certified qualifications. Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) falls within the management mandate of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations.

Training Providers also need to be registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training. The Department of Higher Education and Training rules pertaining to such registration are as follows:

  • Accredited private education and training providers which are not registered with the DHET but are currently accredited to offer OQSF qualifications and / or part qualifications must register with the DHET. Details on the registration are available on the DHET’s website at www.dhet.gov.za.Applications for registration must be submitted by the 30th June2017 to the relevant Directorates in DHET. All registrations must be completed by 1st January 2018.
  • Private education and training providers which are already registered with the DHET for OQSF qualifications and / or part qualifications may continue with their current offerings. They are required to apply for re-registration with the DHET when their registration ends, but not later than 1st July 2018. Applications for re-registration must be addressed to the relevant Directorates in the DHET.
  • Private education and training providers currently registered with the DHET for qualifications and / or part qualifications on the DFETQSF and the HEQSF wishing to extend their scope of provision to offer additional qualifications and / or part qualifications that are registered on the OQSF need only apply with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations for accreditation of these additional qualifications and part qualifications and submit a request to the DHET to amend their registrations to include the additional accredited qualifications and / or part qualifications. Such applications must be directed to the relevant Directorates in the DHET.

Provider Information

The Independent Examinations Board maintains a list of providers that may offer Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) Learning Programmes. Any company who wishes to engage the services of a suitable training providers must note that the Independent Examinations Board does not endorse any of the listed providers, but will check as far as possible the accuracy of the details and information provided by the training provider before recording the provider on the list.

The Independent Examinations Board will also request information regarding the qualifications of the person or persons at the training provider who develops the training material in order to ensure quality is on standard.

It is important for anyone wishing to engage a training provider to ensure that there is a legitimate contract in place for the delivery of Foundational Learning Competence (FLC) and to monitor the progress and efficacy of the programme. It is of the utmost importance to look into the quality of the provider’s facilitators and the financial stability, before entering into a contract or agreement with them.

Further recommendations regarding Foundational Learning Competence (FLC):

  1. Learners who obtained a Grade 12 or National Senior Certificate(NSC) may be exempt from the FLC.
  2. Many learners may feel that they have acquired sufficient skills and experience during their working life to be able to achieve the FLC.
  3. Such learners may do the FLC summative or final assessment to ensure that they have the required literacy and numeracy of the FLC.
  4. All learners who seek to obtain occupational qualifications at NQF Levels 3 and 4 will be required to prove competency in the FLC in order to be granted an occupational certificate.
  5. All learners that have done the fundamentals of the legacy qualifications and have proof of being found competent in them should be exempted from the FLC.
  6. All learners that have done FLC and have proof of being found competent in it should be exempted from the fundamentals of legacy qualifications at NQF levels 2 and 3, should they wish to enrol for a legacy qualification which is still being rolled out.

Did you know?

  1. QCTO is the acronym for – Quality Council For Trades &Occupations
  2. FLC is the acronym for – Foundational Learning Competence (FLC).
  3. SPDs are the acronym for – Skills Development Providers.
  4. OQSF is the acronym for – Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework.
  5. The Assessment Quality Partner (AQP) for FLC is the Independent Examinations Board.
  6. All Skills Development Providers offering training or who wants to provide training for the new Occupational Qualifications and/or part-qualifications must seek accreditation from the QCTO
  7. Accreditation granted by the QCTO to Skills Development Providers(SPD’s) is valid for a period of 5 years.
  8. EISA is the acronym for – External Integrated Summative Assessment.
  9. NQF is the acronym for – National Qualifications Framework.
  10. AQP is the acronym for – Assessment Quality Partner.
  11. Learners must provide proof of completion of FLC as a prerequisite for all occupational qualifications and part qualifications NQF3-4.
  12. The OCTO certifies – Trades, Occupational Qualifications &Different Trade Certificates.


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