Address of Minister Motshekga on the occasion of the Telkom Foundation Educator of the year awards, 22 August 2009
22 AUGUST 2009
Acting CEO of the Telkom Foundation, Prelene Schmidt
Special guests, our educators from all over the country
Ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for inviting me to address you on this wonderful occasion. Events like this allow us to showcase the many examples of excellence we have in our education system. I am particular proud to be part of an event that acknowledges the good work of the thousands of committed and dedicated teachers, who arrive every morning at the school gate well-prepared, on time and ready to teach. But I am also particularly pleased by the initiative of the Telkom Foundation to acknowledge the contributions of our cadre of retired teachers, who have dedicated their lives to the service of our nation and its children.
Economic growth in the 21 st century is dependent on the skills base of a country. Government has invested significantly in the development of human capital over the past 15 years to ensure that the skills and human resource base of our country is significantly strengthened after many years of deliberate neglect. The main objective of this investment is to grow the number of skilled personnel in priority skills areas like design, engineering and artisanship categories that are critical to manufacturing, construction and the telecommunications sectors of our economy. We know all too well that the knowledge economy of the modern world requires a flexible, innovative and highly competent workforce with solid foundations in Maths, Science and Technology. Improving learner outcomes in the key subjects of Mathematics, Science and Technology is central to our strategy in this regard.
In 2005 the Department of Education introduced the National Strategy for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (NMSTE) to double the number of learners passing high level mathematics in South Africa to 50 000 by 2008. The Strategy is built around 500 schools nationally, called Dinaledi schools, which are specifically targeted and supported to enhance learner performance in mathematics and physical science. The intervention aims to ensure that qualified teachers and quality learning and teaching support materials are available in all these schools, and that teachers teach for the duration of the seven hours teaching time every day. From 2006 to 2008 interventions were mainly directed to mathematics, but in 2009 and 2010 there will be an increased focus on physical science.
There were 298 621 candidates who wrote mathematics in the 2008 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations. This is an unprecedented number of learners writing mathematics in our country and marks a significant shift in attempts to create a mathematically literate society. Of the 298 621 candidates who wrote mathematics, 136 503 passed the examination. 53 469 learners in Dinaledi schools wrote the mathematics examinations in 2008 and 30 786 or 57,5% of them passed. The Dinaledi schools constitute 8% of the total number of schools that offer Mathematics, but contributed 23% of the total number of learners who passed mathematics in 2008. So this intervention is proving to be a success, although much still remains to be done.
A most critical challenge facing the education system is that many of our schools still have to teach without basic learning and teaching materials, including textbooks. In October 2008 the Department conducted a textbook survey in the Dinaledi schools and found that there was a severe shortage of textbooks in both Mathematics and Science in Grades 10 and 11. Together with the Presidency we are however determined that such shortages will not continue. We will provide core materials to at least the poorest 60% of our schools for the beginning of the new academic year. All learners in these schools will be provided with materials aligned to the curriculum for the different grades – a minimum pack for primary schools, and seven textbooks per child for secondary schools.
Of course the Dinaledi project is but one of our many initiatives to improve learning outcomes in our schools. I have recently established a panel of curriculum experts to conduct a review of some of the challenges that prevent the effective implementation of our curriculum. The panel's brief was to engage with teachers and other stakeholders, to listen to their concerns and then to formulate responses to some of the pressure points in the system that we are aware of, including:
• Teacher workload (particularly around assessment expectations)
• The transition between grades and phases; and
• The lack of coherence of curriculum expectations between GET and FET.
The Panel has already provided a preliminary report to me and together with the nine provincial MECs for education, we shall focus on those issues that can be implemented immediately to assist in a smoother implementation of the Curriculum. I am pleased though that across the country teachers and other stakeholders are reporting that they are pleased with the curriculum (only 2 out of 500 written submissions called for the curriculum to be scrapped) and that they are coming to terms with its high-level cognitive demands, but that we need to look at the obstacles to its effective implementation. I am keen that we shall remove such obstacles to allow teachers to focus on teaching and learners to concentrate on learning!
Let me, in conclusion, thank the Telkom Foundation for their continued support to education. These awards reflect Telkom's commitment to empowering individuals and communities and to contribute to the development of our country and its people. I am also aware that the Foundation is doing sterling work in ensuring that some of our most disadvantaged schools and communities are being connected to the information superhighway, thus providing communities with the means to address their own social, educational and economic needs. I am particularly impressed by your aim to provide two thousand and ten schools by 2010 with broadband internet services as part of your FIFA Soccer World Cup legacy initiative.
Lastly, to our winning educators: I am told that there were more than 17 000 nominations from learners, parents and other teachers. This suggests, as we all know, that we have many dedicated and committed teachers who are willing to go beyond the call of duty to ensure that our learners succeed. I applaud the efforts of the educators who have been recognized here tonight. Many learners are often daunted at the prospect of studying maths, science and technology and it is therefore imperative that we cultivate an environment which encourages interest and excitement. The passion and enthusiasm that you bring into your classrooms are infectious, and that is the reason why you are here this evening. You are the backbone of our education system and you are an example to all of us.
I thank you.