Honourable Members and Colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen
Honourable Speaker, we thank you for this Debate on Vote 14, Basic Education.
Madam Speaker, let us start by requesting this august House to pay respects towards the eighteen children, aged between 7 and 15 years and the two adults who perished in the gruesome accident in the Bronkhorstspruit area in Mpumalanga on Friday, 21 April this year. These learners were from Refano Primary School and Mahlenga High School.
Madame Speaker, again allow me to raise our serious concerns about the effects of the violent service delivery disruptions taking place across the country. More concerning to us, is when schools are used as bargaining chips by those aggrieved communities out there. These violent protests, which in most instances, have nothing to do with education, rob our learners of countless school hours and days. The violence and vandalism that accompanies many of the recent protests, cannot be condoned, irrespective of the perceived and real reasons. We must collectively, make it our business to protect and deliver on our children’s right to basic education unhindered.
Madam Speaker, let me add my voice to the voices out there that are condemning the violence that is meted out on women and children by male perpetrators. What is nerve-racking, is the ferociousness that the latest victims of the recent violence were subjected to. We must all condemn such callous acts, committed especially by men on women and children. South Africa will never be the cohesive society we all yearn for, when such atrocious acts continue to be committed by humans on others. We wish to applaud those members of civil society, especially the courageous young men, who stood up and decried the recent spate of violence our country is experiencing. We join these young men in their declared stance – “Not in my name”.
Building a solid foundation for teaching and learning – strategic realignment and repositioning of the basic education sector
Madam Speaker and the Honourable Members let me remind you once again that in 2015, UNESCO adopted the global education agenda, Education 2030. The global education agenda is part of the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. SDG 4 calls for an inclusive, quality and equitable education and lifelong opportunities for all.
In our local context, we have our national basic education sector plan – the Action Plan to 2019: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030, which is designed to achieve the long-term vision of education as encapsulated in the National Development Plan (NDP), Vision 2030. The NDP states that “by 2030, South Africans should have access to education and training of the highest quality, leading to significantly improved learning outcomes. The performance of South African learners in international standardised tests should be comparable to the performance of learners from countries at a similar level of development and with similar levels of access”.
Our very own world-renowned Constitution which marked its 21st anniversary this year, declares basic education as an inalienable basic human right for all South Africans. The Constitution – being the supreme law of the land – together with a variety of local, continental, and international conventions, provide the moral imperative and a mandate to Government to make access to quality educational opportunities widely available to all South Africans.
Therefore, the Constitution, the UNESCO SDG 4, the Continental Education Strategy for Africa on the African Agenda 2063, the NDP – Vision 2030, and our Action Plan 2019 all provide a clear direction to improve access, redress, equity, efficiency, inclusivity and quality of learning outcomes through the implementation of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework and our National Strategy for Leaner Attainment.
Our sector plan therefore, strengthens and reinforces a whole system approach intended for the improvement of the quality of teaching and learning outcomes; and guides communication and messages around the comprehensiveness of our responses towards research-based findings of basic education system’s deficiencies. Credible data and information, as well as credible research, continue to help us to identify where there is inefficient coordination. There is tangibly more understanding and cooperation within the basic education sector – among officials, partners, business, organised labour, and other stakeholders.
Madam Speaker, we have reported widely and repeatedly on our achievements as a sector, especially on access, redress and equity. I can confidently report that we are increasingly prioritising interventions, policies and strategies that target an improved quality of learning and teaching, and implementing accountability systems to ensure that quality outcomes in the basic education sector are achieved.
We are of the strong view that the internal efficiency of the system and quality basic education outcomes will be achieved through specific and deliberate interventions in the early Grades. This, we are doing because research is showing that the major root causes of dropping out of school towards the end of secondary schooling, are weak learning foundations in the early Grades. Therefore, the most important priority must be to improve the quality of learning and teaching, so that we can ensure improved quality outcomes in the early Grades. It is through this pointed focus that learners in the Foundation Phase can be equipped with the skills needed to cope with the curriculum requirements of the higher Grades.
Madam Speaker, we can report with pride that the effects of the interventions in the Foundation Phase are beginning to result in improved learning outcomes. The skills of learners are continually improving – the rigorous and widely respected international testing programmes are showing this upward swing.
International assessment benchmark tests
Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, progress in the sector has also been confirmed by the recent cycles of regional and international assessment studies. The results of recent regional and international studies – the Southern and East African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ IV), and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS 2015), respectively, show that the performance of South African learners is improving – symptomatic of a system in an upward trajectory.
The SACMEQ IV study results confirmed the upward trends, and showed for the first time, that South African learners at Grade 6, achieved Mathematics scores which are above the significant centre point of 500 points. The TIMSS 2015 results on the other hand, further affirmed noteworthy growth patterns, which when compared with other countries since 2003 at the Grade 9 level, clearly demonstrate that South Africa has shown the largest improvement of 87 points in Mathematics, and 90 points in Science. More importantly, the largest gains were evident within the historically disadvantaged sections of the schooling system – quintiles 1-3 schools.
Our emerging national assessment framework
During our 2016 Budget Vote Debate, we announced that we are reviewing the Annual National Assessments (ANA) as our response to general concerns levelled against the ANA. I can now report that the ANA has been reviewed and reconceptualised as the National Integrated Assessment Framework (NIAF). The new model comprises three tiers, namely –
the Systemic Assessment, which will be sample-based, and administered in Grades 3, 6 and 9, once every three years. This will provide the basic education sector, especially those involved in planning and evaluation, with valuable data on the health of the system and trends in learner performance;
the Diagnostic Assessment, which will be administered by the teachers in the classroom to identify learning gaps; and to plan remedial measures early in the learning process, so as to avoid learning deficits; and
the Summative Examination, which will be a national examination, administered in selected Grades and selected subjects to provide parents and teachers with a national benchmark to measure the performance of their children. It will also be used to determine promotion amongst Grades.
The systemic assessment will be piloted in October 2017, and the first systemic assessment will be implemented in 2018. Consultations with our social partners are set to be concluded by the end of June 2017 on the diagnostic assessment and summative examination.
Madam Speaker, the improvements that will emanate from the new model of national assessment include – firstly, the use of a single assessment tool, as was in the case of ANA which was used for a variety of purposes, is now avoided through the three separate assessment tools, each with a specific purpose. Secondly, with the systemic assessment being administered once every three years, it gives the system ample time to remediate before the next assessment. Thirdly, the assessment overload is obviated by the administration of the national assessment in selected Grades and not on an annual basis. Fourthly, the diagnostic role of the assessment is emphasised through the provisos of diagnostic assessment tasks for use by teachers in the classroom. Fifthly, the use of the outcome of the summative examination for promotion purpose will ensure that the cost of a national examination is justified.
National Senior Certificate Examinations
Madam Speaker, the Class of 2016 was the ninth cohort of learners to sit for the National Senior Certificate (NSC), and third cohort to write CAPS-aligned NSC examinations. The Class of 2016 recorded the highest enrolment of Grade 12 learners in the history of our country. Without going into details about the performance of our learners, districts and provincial education departments, it should suffice to remind this august House that for the past six years, we have recorded NSC pass rates, which have consistently been above the 70% threshold.
[Honourable Members, the 442 672 candidates passed the 2016 NSC examinations – the second largest number of candidates to pass the NSC examinations]. The numbers of candidates who qualified for admission to Bachelor studies, those who attained Diploma and Higher Certificates passes, and candidates who passed with distinctions, especially in the critical subjects, increased. More gratifying, is that more girls than boys registered, wrote, and passed the 2016 NSC than boys – another sign that gender disparities continue to be addressed. Even the number of learners with special needs who entered, wrote and passed the 2016 NSC examinations, some passing with distinctions, also increased – a sign that our basic education is indeed inclusive.
Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, you may recall that in 2015 we encouraged provinces to progress or condone over-age learners who had failed Grade 11 more than once. There were other conditions that these learners were expected to meet to qualify for progression into Grade 12. These learners were given extra support to adequately prepare them to sit for the entire Grade 12 NSC examinations, or allow them to modularise their examinations – meaning that they wrote part of the examinations in November 2016, and the rest in June 2017.
Consequently, in 2016 we saw the largest number of progressed learners, since the policy was promulgated in 2013. The fact that the highest number of candidates registered for the 2016 NSC examinations, is testament that retention and throughput rates were gradually improving and that the drop-out rate is gradually decreasing. This is positive indeed, especially when the NDP enjoins us to “mediate the high drop-out rate of learners from the basic schooling system by increasing the learner retention rate to 90%, and allowing for an increase in the number of learners entering vocational and occupational pathways”.
The analysis of the data from the 2016 NSC examinations on progressed learners, paints an extremely interesting picture. The significance that can be attached to the progressed learners is that these would-be-high-school dropouts, if they were not progressed, were afforded with an opportunity to either go to university or TVET College.
Evidence from research corroborated that the South African basic education system is on the rise
Madam Speaker, I wish to refer to three research reports whose assertions are that the South African basic education system is on its upward trajectory. The first research report, published by UNESCO in 2015, reveals that, since the advent of democracy in 1994, more learners remain in school up to Grade 12. In this regard, South Africa does well relative to other middle-income countries, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Costa Rica and Uruguay. Virtually, all children remain in school up to the year in which they turn 15 years of age, in line with the compulsory schooling policy embodied in the South African Schools Act, 1994.
Further, research conducted by the Department in 2016, has found that in 2015 close to 60% of young people were successfully completing thirteen years (including Grade R) of education, in the sense that they were completing the National Senior Certificate or an equivalent qualification from a college. This figure becomes 56%, if only the National Senior Certificate is considered. Comparatively, in 1995, 39% of young people aged 25 years, had reported having completed Grade 12.
We should therefore not be surprised to observe from two other research reports that, at the higher levels of performance, the patterns are encouraging, and lend support to the finding of a system that is on the rise. The second research report, published by Dr Martin Gustafson in 2016, indicates that in Mathematics, about 34 000 learners achieved a mark of 60% or more in the 2016 NSC examinations, following figures of about 30 000 learners in 2014, and 31 000 learners in 2015. Improvements at this level of performance are important, as these mean that more learners get to qualify for mathematically-oriented programmes at university, and are hence equipped to fill critical skills gaps in the economy. By far, most of the improvements have been amongst black-African learners.
It is moreover important to note that historically black-African schools currently account for around two-thirds of black-African learners, who achieve a mark of 60% or more in Mathematics. Township and rural schools are making important contributions, and these are in fact, the schools which have recently shown the largest improvements.
In Physical Science, the 2016 figures point to even larger improvements. The number of learners (of any population group) achieving 60% or more in Physical Science, reached 28 500 in 2016 – the highest figure seen since the National Senior Certificate was introduced in 2008.
The third report, from research conducted by the Department in 2016, shows the extent to which in the past, Bachelor passes tended to be concentrated in better performing schools. We however, in recent years, have observed a remarkable shift towards greater equity. In 2005, as many as 60% of Bachelor passes (or “endorsements”, as these were called at that time), came from the best performing 20% of the schooling system. By 2015, the best performing 20% of the schooling system was producing just 49% of the Bachelor passes. In other words, the remaining 80% of the schooling system accounted for a larger proportion of all learners deemed ready to enter university. Also, university readiness had become more equitably spread by 2015.
With this evidence Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, we are convinced that the overall quality, efficiency and inclusivity of the basic education system is on the rise. During the current MTEF period, we will continue with the good work done in the past three years, particularly focusing on the performance of the young ones in the Foundation Phase. Accountability imperatives, throughout the entire system, are not negotiable. The concerns raised by the National Treasury, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, the Auditor-General, the oversight committees of Parliament, and the public in general, must be addressed without failure.
District development and the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT)
Madam Speaker, we must equally recognise the cardinal role played by the current 81 basic education Districts. The NDP states that “teaching in schools can be improved through targeted support by District offices”. To deliver on this injunction, for the past two to three years, we have convened quarterly meetings with all the District Directors, based on specific themes for the academic year, to hold Districts accountable on our quest to improve teaching and learning outcomes in our schools. The District Excellence Awards held in April 2017, were a fitting tribute to recognise the enormous work done at this layer of basic education management level.
The President has consistently invited all South Africans to join hands and make education a societal issue. We wish to recognise the enormous work done by the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) for coordinating valuable contributions made by teacher unions, South African business, universities, research institutions, non-governmental organisations, and many ordinary South Africans. The NECT has supported the sector greatly by developing, capacitating, and supporting Districts in specific management, administration, and on our core mandate – teaching and learning at the school level.
The NECT continues to deliver their programmes around its critical six thematic areas, which have been distilled from the NDP and our Action Plan to 2019. These thematic areas include facilitating the professionalisation of teaching; promoting courageous and effective leadership; supporting the State to build its capacity to improve the quality of education; contributing to education resourcing; improving parent and community involvement; and improving learner welfare.
Guided by its operational mathematical mantra that the NECT + NDP = hope, growth and future, in its short stint since its founding in July 2013, the NECT has made a positive impact in our basic education system and has yielded positive intermediate outcomes. The footprints left by the NECT in the Districts in which they operate, are there for everyone to see. We will continue to expand the vista of operation of the NECT, so that their expertise and support programmes can be made available and enjoyed by all Districts in the country.
Budget allocation, Vote 14 for the 2017 MTEF Period
Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, the Budget Vote 14 we are presenting, is marked by a consolidation of our work, and on guiding and deepening learning and teaching in the classroom. We continue to confront the persistent challenges within the basic education sector. Today, we stand in front of this august House to seek a fresh mandate for our programme during the 2017 METF period.
The Overall Budget Allocation for 2017/18 for the Department of Basic Education is R23.4 billion. The fact that our budget has increased by R1.1 billion from that of 2016/17 allocation – an increase of 5.1%, confirms the ANC-led Government’s commitment towards education as the topmost priority. Madam Speaker, the breakdown allocations by Education Programme for the 2017 MTEF period are as follows –
- The 2017/18 allocation for Administration is allocated R416.3 million – an increase of 9.2% from the 2016/17 allocation.
- Curriculum Policy Support and Monitoring is allocated R1.9 billion for the 2017/18 – an increase of 7.4% from the 2016/17 allocation.
- For the 2017/18 financial year, Teacher Education Human Resource and Institutional Development is been allocated R1.22 billion – an increase of 3.8% from the 2016/17 allocation.
- The 2017/18 allocation for Planning Information and Assessment is R13.2 billion – an increase of 6% from the 2016 MTEF allocation.
- Educational Enrichment Services receive R6.7 billion for the 2017/18 financial year – an increase of 6.9% from the 2016/17 allocation.
Conditional Grant Allocations for the 2017/18 financial year
- The 2017/18 allocation for Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) Grant is R365.1 million – an increase of less than one percent from the 2016/17 allocation.
- Infrastructure delivery – which during the 2017/18 financial year, continues to be funded through the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) and the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) which are funded at R10.05 billion and R2.6 billion, respectively – and increase of 4.5% and 9.5% respectively from the 2916/17 financial year. As from the 2018/19 the EIG and ASIDI will be merged into the Infrastructure delivery programme, which will be funded at a total of R27.4 billion over the two outer years of the 2017 MTEF period.
- For the 2017/18 financial year, the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) has been allocated R6.8 billion – an increase of 5.9% from the 2016/17 allocation. Currently, the NSNP benefits more than 9 million learners in more than 21 000 schools. The NDP enjoins us to develop a sense of community ownership for programmes, such as the NSNP. Hence, about 64 000 Volunteer Food Handlers continue to prepare meals for children; while 8 000 SMMEs, locally-based community cooperatives, and other service providers continue to supply the prescribed NSNP foodstuff to our schools.
- Learners with Profound Intellectual Disabilities – Madam Speaker, this year, the National Treasury has introduced a new Conditional Grant for Learners with Profound Intellectual Disabilities. This Grant is aimed at providing access to quality publicly-funded education and support to 8 000 learners with profound intellectual disabilities. The Grant is allocated R78 million for 2017/18, which will increase to R190.5 million and R209 million for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 financial years, respectively.
- For 2017/18, the HIV and AIDS Conditional Grant is allocated R245.3 million – and increase of 6.3% from the 2016/17 allocation.
Earmarked Allocations for the 2017/18 financial year
- The NSFAS: Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme – in its eleventh year, is allocated R1.1 billion for the 2017/18 financial year – an increase of 5% from the 2016/17 allocation.
- Umalusi is subsidised at R124.6 million for the 2017/18 financial year – and increase of 5% from the 2016/17 allocation.
- The Second Chance Programme – This intervention was introduced in January 2016, as a direct response to the NDP’s injunction that retention rates should be increased and drop-out rates reduced. The Second Chance Programme has been allocated a total of R45 million for the 2017/18 financial year, which will increase by R223.8 million over the two outer years of the 2017 MTEF period.
- National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) – The importance of public-private partnerships is a prevalent theme of the NDP; and is also consistent with the President’s call to make education a societal issue. For the 2017/18 financial year, the NECT has been allocated R94.2 million – and increase of 30.7% from the 2016/17 allocation.
- Workbooks, including Braille workbooks for the visually impaired learners, continue to prove to be essential learning and teaching resources for our schools. The 2017/18 allocation for Workbooks is R1.05 billion – an increase of 4% from the 2016/17 allocation.
- For the 2017/18, Early Grade Reading – a new programme, has been allocated R4.1 million, which will increase by R26 million over the outer two years of the 2017 MTEF period. The programme aims to improve learner’s reading proficiency levels in the Foundation Phase. The roll-out of an assessment tool, is set to begin in 2017 at 1 000 selected primary schools, and will benefit an estimate of 120 000 leaners in Grade 1.
- Information Communications Technologies (ICTs) – Operation Phakisa, is one of the new programmes, which is funded at R7 million during the 2017/18 financial year. This amount will increase by R35 million over the two outer years of the 2017 MTEF period. Madam Speaker, Operation Phakisa aims to fast-track the development and distribution of education-related digital content, with a specific focus on 15 gateway subjects, including Mathematics, Science, and Accounting. The programme will initially focus on 200 under-resourced rural and township schools with strong management. The Honourable Deputy Minister Enver Surty will give more details on this programme.
Young people who are neither in employment, nor in education, nor in training (NEETs) – Youth development for employment opportunities
Madam Speaker, let me conclude by informing the august House that during the Cabinet Lekgotla held on 01-04 February 2017, the Cabinet Lekgotla directed my Ministry to work with the Ministry of Social Development and other departments and the different spheres of Government, to lead in developing strategic and innovative programmes and interventions to address the triple socio-economic challenges of unemployment, poverty, and inequality faced by young people. Our focus will be on young people, aged 15-34, who are neither in employment, nor in education nor in training. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) refers to such a group of people as the NEETs.
We have begun with the conceptualisation of strategic programmes, which in the main will focus on the development of the skills of young people for employability and young people becoming entrepreneurs. For now, we have held several consultations with some of our strategic business partners, and all of them are enthused by the prospects of this programme. All of us agree that young people should be skilled to participate actively in the fourth industrial revolution and become gainful employees and entrepreneurs. We will soon table our proposals to Cabinet and take guidance from Cabinet. What we can say at this moment is that, all of us must be involved in developing and implementing sustainable youth skills development programmes for employment and entrepreneurship possibilities.
Conclusion and tributes
Madam Speaker, may I conclude by reiterating that the basic education system is definitely a system on the rise. All of us have a duty to ensure that the right of our learners to quality, effective, inclusive, and efficient basic education is not negotiable. We now have a stable system that looks at the whole development of a child – our future leaders.
We are therefore, presenting this Budget Vote when our country continues to cherish the life, the leadership, and the teachings of one of our greatest visionaries and struggle icons of his time, Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo. 2017 has been declared as the centenary celebration of this stalwart. His values, virtues and legacy contributed immensely to the freedoms and rights we now enjoy as a democratic country. His love for children is aptly illustrated when he said that “the children of any nation are its future. A country, a movement, a person that does not value its youth and children does not deserve its future.”
Madam Speaker, may I sincerely extend a word of gratitude to Deputy Minister Enver Surty; the Chairperson of the Education Portfolio and the Honourable Members who serve in this important oversight committee; Education MECs and their HoDs; our Director-General, Mr Mathanzima Mweli and his team of Senior Managers; the Chairpersons and CEOs of the SACE, Umalusi and the NECT and their staff; our strategic and generous business and international partners and sponsors; NGOs in the sectors, and more importantly organised labour, especially teacher unions and the principals’ association, as well as officials in my office for their diligence and support.
We are immensely grateful to all the teachers, principals, parents, learners, SGBs, individuals, who work tirelessly to make quality, effective, inclusive, and efficient basic education a reality in the various parts of our country. Last but not the least; I must thank my family for their unwavering care and support.
I thank you.
Elijah Mhlanga – 083 580 8275 | Troy Martens – 079 899 3070