The Ministry of Basic Education and South Africa’s top business leaders engaged with President Zuma to receive feedback on the National Education Collaboration Trust’s progress in its efforts to urgently and significantly assist government in its efforts to reform education in South Africa. The discussion also covered the significant level of funding already raised to this end by the private sector which has been matched by government –  and a reminder that their target is R500 million per annum.

At a lunch briefing at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria on Friday morning, 22 August, President Jacob Zuma, the Minister of Basic Education and several other cabinet members met with some of Business Leadership South Africa’s (BLSA’s) key players, for feedback and dialogue on the progress of the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT). The President thanked big business for committing to the Education Collaboration Framework (ECF) and its implementation via the NECT. He also applauded the private-sector funding already pledged to the project – BLSA has agreed to commit 0.004% of their member companies’ market capitalisation annually, over three years, to the first phase of the NECT, rising to 0.008% as the programme rolls out nationally. Government is matching this funding rand for rand. Unions and NGOs are enthusiastically supportive. It’s effectively an educational Codesa.

Zuma stressed that multi-stakeholder engagement was crucial to the NECT’s chances of success – while government is primarily responsible for managing the educational process, he conceded that the NECT, an independent trust managed jointly by a diverse, representative group of trustees was in a good position to give the Department of Basic Education the help it needs to fast track the rehabilitation process.

As a pilot programme to implement Chapter 9 of the National Development Plan (NDP), the aim is undeniably ambitious: to transform South Africa’s basic education system to the point where 90% of learners are achieving pass marks above 50% in language, core mathematics and science. The achievement of these goals will take a collaborative effort across society, which is why the NECT is based on dialogue and consensus between all stakeholders – government, business, teacher unions, NGOs, community, traditional and religious leadership, and parents (through school governing bodies). By collaborating on planning and implementation, each will contribute to overhauling the education environment and the quality of teaching and learning within their own areas of competence toward an agreed plan.

In the meeting it was discussed how these different competencies are already operating in the eight districts – comprising of  4 362 schools (18% of the national total) – in which the project is being rolled out first. The ECF identified six discernible themes for action by the NECT: teacher professionalisation, courageous leadership, improving state capacity to deliver quality education, improving school resourcing, parent and community involvement and learner welfare. By tackling each theme with practical, implementable programmes and securing the buy-in of teachers, government, business and civil society, the NECT has already proved itself more than a talk-shop.

There was healthy and frank discussion between business and government with the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, reiterating the fact that the NECT has made huge strides in mobilising the private sector, as well as society and labour unions to take part in improving the quality of education in South Africa. 

President Zuma called on all the MECs and Ministers present to report back to him about what they have done to support the NECT in practical and tangible ways.  However, he also urged the assembled business leaders to continue BLSA’s drive to secure more committed funding. BLSA has set itself and its members a target of R200-R300 million in the initial, three-year phase of the NECT – funding that will be matched by government.  The NECT is managed and lead by an independent team of educationalists acting as a monitoring and evaluation board, to ensure that spending on interventions and training is as cost-effective as possible. This structure has boosted business confidence in the enterprise.

The bottom line, according to the President, is that fixing South Africa’s basic education system cannot be dismissed as “the government’s problem” by any serious business. This isn’t a case of feel-good gestures or the easing of social consciences – it’s an economic necessity. It is the centrepiece of the NDP. “We cannot grow the economy, or hope to provide economic opportunity to all our citizens, without radical improvement in the quality of education. Funding the NECT may count as corporate social investment, but it is really an investment in long-term business sustainability and economic stability.”



A brief history of NEEDU

As the name indicates, the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) is designed as an evaluation and development institution which is independent of that part of the civil service responsible for the administration of schools. The need for a facility of this kind was first formally articulated in a resolution passed at the Polokwane conference of the ANC in December 2007. This was followed by the appointment by Minister of Education Naledi Pandor of a Committee to investigate the matter. The Ministerial Committee recommended, through its Ministerial Committee Report, the establishment of NEEDU, and the institution was established shortly after Minister Angie Motshega was appointed following the general election of 2009. NEEDU is currently staffed by Head Office Managers, Provincial Managers, and 16 School Evaluators. Find the contact details here.

The Ministerial Committee recommended that NEEDU should provide the Minister of Education with an authoritative, analytical and accurate account on the state of schools in South Africa and, in particular, on the status of teaching and learning. This first NEEDU National Report on the the state of literacy teaching and learning in the Foundation Phase will be launched on 02 May 2013.
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NEEDU priorities

Guided by the draft legislative framework, NEEDUadopted an evaluative approach to school assessment (why the school performs as it does and how it could improve), rather than to undertake monitoring of schools (how good the school is). The purpose of the evaluation work of NEEDU is to identify common practices in typical schools.

In 2012, NEEDU investigated teaching and learning in the Foundation Phase, with curriculum delivery as the primary object of these investigations. Curriculum delivery is an on-going process, which starts with the issuing of policy at the national level by the DBE. This is followed by the procurement and delivery of resources and the provision of support systems to schools by provinces and districts. It is then continued through the organisation and management of time and human and material resources by school leaders, culminating in teaching and learning activities conducted by teachers in classrooms. These are iterative processes, with multiple feedback loops, all coordinated by tighter or looser instructional leadership practices and accountability measures up and down the successive levels of the system.

The investigation focus areas for the 3 year cycle (2012-2014) are as follows: curriculum delivery in rural primary schools (2012); rural primary schools (first semester of 2013); multi-grade schools (second semester of 2013); and finally secondary schools (2014).
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NEEDU Evaluation design and method

The evaluation was designed to track instructional leadership practices through four levels of the school system, investigating cross-sectional slices drawn through the national DBE, provinces, districts, and schools. Curriculum delivery was evaluated in 15 cross-sections in the latter half of 2012.
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District and school selection

In order to trace the interactions required for effective curriculum delivery between four levels of the school system, investigations were undertaken in the national DBE, 9 provincial offices, 15 district offices and 134 schools between May and November 2012. Within each province two districts were selected, one relatively poorly performing and one that reflected relatively stronger performance, both of which administered schools in largely urban areas. District selection was based on advice from the province. Only one district was selected in each of the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces, as these visits were used to test the evaluation instruments and to undertake the training of school evaluators. In the Northern Cape only one district was selected because of the great geographic distance between districts in the province.

School selection within each district followed a three-step process. First, multi-grade schools were not considered, on the grounds that the demands placed on management and teaching in these schools are very different from those in other institutions requiring a special focus (intended to be covered in the second semester of 2013). Secondly, a circle of radius 50 km (wider in cases of districts covering a large area such as West Coast in the Western Cape) was drawn around the identified district office in order to minimise travel costs and time, thus maximising the number of schools visited. Finally, between 8 and 10 schools within this radius were randomly selected for investigation.
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In giving effect to this mandate, NEEDU has adopted a systematic approach to reporting. First, each school visited receives a full report of the visit. Initial school reports are of a draft, confidential nature, allowing the school to respond within two weeks. After engagement with the school on points of difference, the report is finalised and sent to the school.

A composite report consisting of descriptions of the assessment of the provincial and two district offices, and a summary of the school reports for each district, is then prepared for each district. The same procedure as that for finalising school reports is followed with the province and districts providing comment on a first draft. After finalisation of the 15 provincial/district reports, the national report is written for the attention of the Minister, the CEM and the public. The first of these NEEDU National Reports will be launched on 2 May 2013 at the Department of Basic Education. Please find a copy of the invitation here. A copy of the Full Report and Summary Report is available for download.

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Copyright: Department of Basic Education 2014