NEBOSH Diploma Syllabus Revision News #30

Having finished looking at topics from the individual units and elements, I’ll tackle the teaching and learning approach.  I was having just this conversation with a colleague at a meeting only the other day and it got me to thinking.

There can be a perception that gaining the NEBOSH diploma is just a case of memorising a whole lot more facts to impress your friends, practicing a few exam questions and performing well in the exams and assignment.  That’s inevitably part of it, but it’s also a whole new way of thinking – a big step up to being an independent safety professional who can give sound, proportionate advice to a client or employer and make a difference.  Of course, experience adds a great deal to this, but fundamentally it’s about approach – and the intention of the NEBOSH diploma (and similar level qualifications) is to get you to raise your game and mature as a high-thinking and decisively acting individual.  Sadly, like any qualification, we’ve all come across examples of where people achieve the qualification but are utterly ineffective at the job.  This isn’t just with things like NEBOSH qualifications – I’ve seen it (or heard of it or suspect it) with NVQs and purely assignment-based qualifications too (there are many routes to professional practice).  That’s because the application in reality is never quite as perfect (be that the way the exams work, too much focus on purely passing exams, too much help given to students (especially assignments), the way quality is assured and the way you identify and root out cheating, plagiarism etc).  We live in an imperfect world.  To make the best of it, you need to work with it.

So, it’s no surprise that working at Diploma level can come as a bit of shock.  If you want to be spoon fed, just given facts to memorise and have others think and make decisions for you then turn back now.

The NEBOSH diploma (national or international) is a UK qualification set at level 10 on the Scottish educational system (level 6 on the English/Welsh system).  This is broadly equivalent to a UK degree level.  These levels indicate the level of knowledge, understanding and skill that you need to demonstrate.  It’s obvious that working at this level will mean the topics are more complex, sophisticated (subtle even) and detailed than dealing with the same subject at lower levels.  So knowledge will be deeper.  Lower levels tend to simplify things greatly (and as a result, often need to generalise).  But you’ll also need to be able to apply that knowledge and understanding to (initially) unfamiliar situations – that means you need to thoroughly understand the principles involved and not just accumulate knowledge by memorising stuff.

You need to be able to critically analyse complex safety problems and make professional judgements, sometimes based on limited information (but reasonable assumptions).  That means being able to think for yourself, being creative and not just taking for granted what you’ve been told (which may either be irrelevant, out of context or plain wrong).  That’s thinking it through.  Part of this too, is being aware of your limitations and when to find out more or ask for help (arrogance and true lifelong learning do not work well together; however, arrogance and accumulating knowledge have always gone well together…).   A big part of the expectation at this level is autonomy – working under your own initiative and not waiting to be spoon fed with information.  It’s also working with others and being aware of your professional and ethical responsibilities and accountabilities.

So diploma level learning is about being grown up and mature, working independently and taking responsibility for your own learning and development.  That’s a skill you’ll need to rely on to make sensible judgements (based on sound understanding) and continue to keep up to date throughout your career.