Statement to National Assembly by the Minister of Basic Education on Curriculum Review Process, 5 November 2009
Members of Parliament
Ladies and Gentlemen
For some time now I have been aware of the wide ranging comments on the implementation of the National Curriculum Statement. While there has been positive support for the new curriculum, there has also been considerable criticism. This has included criticism of teacher overload, confusion and stress. Most worryingly, there is consistent evidence of widespread learner underperformance in both international and local assessments.
When I assumed office as Minister of Basic Education, my predecessor, Minister Naledi Pandor, had already initiated a process to review the implementation of the curriculum. I accordingly appointed a Panel of experts in July 2009 to investigate the nature of the challenges and problems experienced in the implementation of the National Curriculum Statement. This decision to review was based on our commitment to improving the quality of teaching and learning in our schools in both the short and long-term. The Team was tasked to develop a set of recommendations designed to improve implementation.
I asked the Team to focus specifically on curriculum policy and guideline documents, the transition between grades and phases, and assessment - particularly continuous assessment. During the hearings they decided to include a consideration of learning and teaching support materials and teacher support and training. A report has now been presented to me. The question on everyone's lips is why we do not, as Mamphela Ramphele wants us to do, declare the death certificate of OBE.
We have to all intents and purposes done so. But we also do not want to be drawn into simplistic ideological debates on this issue and forced into a disavowal of our goals. The key question is how we can disentangle our goals from the outcomes in which they are expressed, and the very concept of outcomes. It is instructive to remember that the introduction of both C2005 and the National Curriculum Statement were highly contested. These involved professional, business and religious constituencies. We should be steadfast and not let them determine what is good for education.
For learning outcomes and educational experiences of the majority to improve we need focused attention to dedicated, inspired teaching based on a curriculum that is teachable. Dear Members: The Review Panel reviewed documents, and conducted interviews and hearings with teachers from all nine provinces as well as with teacher unions. They received electronic and written submissions from the public. In the process of their consultations - that they undertook across the country - there was a remarkable consensus amongst teachers and unions about what the problems were. The Team also reports that there was an overwhelming sense of the overall commitment of teachers across the country to try and improve learner performance. The Task Team has recommended that the changes occur within the framework of a Five Year Plan from 2010 to 2014 .
This plan needs to be widely communicated. The plan will be shared with teachers before the end of the year. I will present the recommendations within the time-frames anticipated for implementation. The changes will take effect from January 2010. Some of the recommendations to be implemented from the beginning of 2010 should bring immediate relief to teachers. Others will need more planning and consultation.
The emphasis is on ensuring that there is more time for teaching and learning. That teachers will be relieved of administrative burdens that impact on teaching time. And that the system will provide systematic support to teachers to strengthen their teaching. The measures to be implemented in January 2010 revolve around relief of administrative burdens for teachers, increasing teacher support and improving literacy and numeracy.
Allow me to provide some detail.
1. Relief of administrative burdens for teachers:
• Learner portfolios as separate, formal compilations of assessment tasks will be discontinued from January 2010. It is important to note that school-based formal assessment remains a requirement for promotion and progression.
• The number of projects required as formal assessment tasks for each learning area/subject is reduced to one project per subject.
• Promotion and progression requirements for grades R-12, as well as grading descriptors for all grades, will be finalised. The balance between year marks and exams should be 50% for examination mark, for grades 4-9, and 25% year mark and 75% exam mark for grades 10-12.
• We want to re-emphasise the importance of textbooks in curriculum delivery. The Department has noted teachers' concerns that the development of learning materials is best placed in the hands of experts. Teachers said that development of learning materials is not the core business of teachers. It also erodes teaching time. The textbook is the most effective tool to ensure consistency, coverage, appropriate pacing and better quality instruction.
• Planning required from teachers will also be rationalised. Each teacher will only have to develop a single “Teacher file” to allow more time for teaching. The report spells out the requirements for these Teacher files.
2. Increased Teacher support
• Some teachers have voiced the concern that they have not had sufficient curriculum training. Targeted in–service training that will be subject specific and targeted only where needed will be provided for teachers from 2010. This in-service training will however not under any circumstance be allowed to disrupt teaching and learning. In-service training is built into the Five Year Plan for Improving Teaching and Learning and the Department's plans for Continuing Professional Development Training.
• All Principals, HODs and District and Provincial Support staff should be trained on curriculum and content and assessment requirements. This will also be built into the Five Year Plan for Improving Teaching and Learning.
• The role of the subject advisor as a school-based subject expert rather than as curriculum developer will be clarified. Subject advisors will focus their work on the delivery, implementation and moderation of the curriculum. They will offer learning area/subject specific support to teachers.
3. Strengthening numeracy and literacy
• The Foundations for Learning Programme will be implemented for Foundation and Intermediate Phase (Grades R -6) in all schools in 2010 – as set out in government gazette No 30880 of 14 March 2008. T he Programme establishes the “non-negotiables” - of resources, teacher planning and effective teaching. The focus is on on reading, writing and mental maths each day, and regular, standardised assessment of learner performance. The Department of Basic Education has developed extensive learning and teaching packs for grades R to 6 teachers to assist with planning, teaching and learning. These packs will be distributed to all primary schools for the start of the school year in January 2010. 2011 and beyond The Department of Basic Education will begin to concretise the following recommendations for implementation in 2011:
• Reducing the number of learning programmes (subjects) in the intermediate phase (Grade 4 to 6) from eight to six. This is in order to reduce the overload for learners and to allow more time for language teaching and learning during the critical transition from grade 3 to 4.
• All learners from grade 4-12 should receive their own textbooks for every learning area/subject. The Department will issue guidelines for textbook acquisition and distribution and retrieval to all schools.
• There is a plethora of policies, guidelines and interpretations of policies and guidelines at all levels of the education system from the DOE down to provincial, district and subject advisor level. To this end, there is a moratorium on the development and distribution of any new curriculum documents until the publication of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy documents by the Department. The Department of Basic Education will centralise oversight of the curriculum and all communication in order to avoid confusion.
• The Department will develop a set of simple coherent curriculum documents per subject per phase from Grade R to 12. This will prescribe the knowledge (ie the content, concepts and skills) to be taught and assessed per learning area/subject. The new documents will be made available to all schools, district offices and parents via print and digital media. This will be implemented in 2011. By addressing the curriculum implementation challenges, the Ministry will create an enabling learning and teaching environment through which we can focus on laying the foundations of quality education for all. Speaker: In addition to these reforms being monitored by the Presidency, the Department is developing its own monitoring tools through the establishment of the National Educational Evaluation Development Unit. Through this Unit the Department will not only evaluate schools and teachers, but also evaluate the entire system. This will enable the Department, on an ongoing basis, to identify challenges, and working together with the affected stakeholders address them. I am encouraged by the undeniable dedication of our educators to improving learner performance. I wish to re-affirm that teachers are key to the realisation of quality education. I want to wish all stakeholders well in our joint efforts to overcome the challenges which we have collectively identified. For learning outcomes and educational experiences of the majority to improve, we need focused attention to dedicated, inspired teaching based on a curriculum that is teachable.
Mrs. Angie Motshekga
Minister of Basic Education