The Goal of Accounting Education and Training

The goal of accounting education and training must be to produce competent professional accountants who make a positive contribution to the profession and society in which they work during their lifetimes. The maintenance of professional competence in the face of the increasing changes they encounter, makes it imperative that accountants develop and maintain an attitude of learning to learn. The education and training of professional accountants must provide a foundation of knowledge, skills and professional values that enable them to continue to learn and adapt to change throughout their professional lives.

Such a foundation for life-long learning can only be achieved if it is grounded in the knowledge, skills and professional values essential to professional competency. Professional competency can be summarised as follows:

Knowledge and understanding of academic disciplines, which entails the process of learning and acquisition of knowledge. Within the accountancy field this encompasses general knowledge, organisational and business knowledge, information technology knowledge and accounting and accounting-related knowledge.

Skills to enable the professional accountant to make successful use of the knowledge gained through education. Skills are not usually acquired from specific courses devoted to them but are derived from the education and training programme as a whole. The individual must acquire intellectual, interpersonal as well as communication skills.

Professional values entail the development of a framework to ensure that chartered accountants exercise good judgement and act in an ethical manner that is in the best interests of society and the profession. The objective of the education and training of prospective CAs is to ensure that they acquire the characteristics essential to membership of a profession. SAICA has defined these characteristics as follows:

  • Members must demonstrate the capability to identify and solve problems in unfamiliar and changing situations, to think logically, to reason and to analyse critically;
  • Members must acquire an understanding of the impact of economic, demographic, market, and technological forces on certain situations, so as to be able to assess them critically;
  • Members have an obligation to put the interests of the public before their own, and exercise their skills in an independent and objective manner; and
  • Members have an obligation to abide by a self-imposed code of conduct and professional ethics, and to identify and respond to ethical and moral issues by means of a values-based reasoning system

Education and training providers are required to instil in prospective members of the profession an ability to engage in life-long learning and to keep abreast of developments that influence their professional positioning and the quality of services provided to others. Members must be responsive to changes in the profession and the environment. To be relevant, members should consider the efficient and effective utilisation of restricted resources.

SAICA, in its roles as an ETQA and a professional body, has therefore accepted responsibility for ensuring, via oversight and inspection, that providers of accounting education and training are indeed providing "a foundation of knowledge, skills and professional values that enables (prospective members) … to continue to learn and adapt to change throughout their professional lives".

The Role of Training and Experience

IFAC defines training to include workplace-based activities for developing an individual’s competence to perform tasks relevant to the role of a professional accountant.

Training may be undertaken while performing actual tasks (on-the-job training) or indirectly through instruction or workplace simulation (off-the-job training). In both cases training is conducted within the context of the workplace, with reference to the specific roles or tasks performed by professional accountants. As such, it can include any activity purposefully designed to improve the ability of an individual to fulfil the practical experience requirements for qualification as a chartered accountant.

Workplace training and experience must complement the formal education programme and should form a basis for career development.