Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and thank you for attending this session.
The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) met on Thursday, 05 March 2020 to discuss a number of topics affecting the basic education sector. This was the first of our quarterly meetings for the year 2020, after an extremely busy time in the education space, with the National Examination results announcements, schools reopening, and all the activities associated with the beginning of a school year.
The 2020 National Senior Certificate (NSC) Examination time-table
CEM appreciated progress made in testing the implementation of the Inclusive Basket which moves the sector towards meeting goals and objectives of the National Development Plan. Furthermore, CEM noted the possible impact that progressed, the overage learners, the splitting of Accounting and Business Studies, and there ever-increasing service delivery protests would have on the performance of the 2020 class, and appreciated efforts made throughout the sector to mitigate the ramifications of the aforementioned.
It is important to report that CEM approved the 2020 National Senior Certificate (NSC) and Senior Certificate examination calendars. The 2020 NSC will begin on 19 October 2020, and will be concluded on 26 November 2020. The practical subjects, i.e., Computer Applications Technology (CAT), and Information Technology (IT) will sit on 13 and 14 October 2020, respectively. In case of electricity disruptions, as experienced in 2019, re-writing of the two subjects will take place on 27 October 2020.
The May/June 2020 matric re-write will take place from 04 May to 11 June 2020. The results of the May/June examinations, will be released on 30 July 2020. The 2020 timetables were also drafted after consultation with all religious organisation to accommodate their religious holidays.
The Council urges all learners and teachers to prepare for the examinations. Once again we appeal to members of the public to protect schools, especially during exam time, when additional measures need to be put in place to create a conducive environment for revision.
On Bilingual Grade 12 Examination in the Eastern Cape
Still on exam related matters, CEM approved the implementation of the bilingual examination in the National Senior Certificate, especially in the Eastern Cape. However, all preparatory work will be subjected to the mandatory period eighteen (18) months, before the bilingual examination in the Eastern Cape can be effected. The province has conducted research and provided evidence that learners in the province may be struggling with English as a language of teaching and learning; and hence under-achievement. The province proposes an examination in both English and isiXhosa in Grade 12.
The CEM supports the proposal because Chapter 9 of the NDP: Improving Education, Training and Innovation, under the sub-heading – Curriculum, incentives, inclusivity and language issues recommends that learners’ home language be used as a language of learning and teaching for longer. The NDP further acknowledges the role of English as a global language that, in the South Africa of 2030, it will be the general language of learning, commerce and administration.
There is a huge body of current research on African languages that confirms that the orthographies and the linguistic structures of African languages, are unique and different to the English language. The language issue, is a key factor that impacts on reading and literacy outcomes. The majority of emergent bilingual learners in South Africa, speak and learn African languages, which have different linguistic structures to English; and this impacts on the language transitioning within schools.
The CEM has referred the matter to Heads of Education Committee (HEDCOM) to consider the practical implications of implementing what Eastern Cape has started. We will take lessons from the Eastern Cape as we continue with implementation in other provinces.
On the 2022 school calendar
CEM has approved the 2022 School Calendar, which states that schools will close a week later than the previous year to ensure the protection of learning and teaching time. The opening of schools in 2022 will be staggered, with schools in the inland provinces (Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North-West) opening on 10 January 2022; while schools in coastal provinces (Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Western Cape) will open on 17 January 2022. Our policy states that learners must have 202 days of actual learning days, we have tried our best to adhere to this requirement.
The Department consulted members of the public as well as the Departments of Tourism and Transport, Provincial Education Departments, Teacher Unions, School Governing Body Associations (SGBs) Principals’ Associations, Automobile Association and Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA) among others. We will soon start work on the calendar for 2023, be on the look-out for the notice if you are interested in participating in the process.
Removal of Life Sciences and Physical Sciences as a Proviso for offering Sport and Exercise Science (SPSC)
Sport and Exercise Science has been offered as an optional, non-designated subject in the National Senior Certificate (NSC) since 2010, with the first Grade 10 cohort writing in 2008. The Independent Examination Board (IEB) is responsible for the assessment of Sport and Exercise Science in all schools registered for the NSC.
The IEB has provided a motivation for the removal of Life Sciences and Physical Sciences as proviso for offering Sport and Exercise Science. The IEB argues that requiring learners to take either Physical or Life Sciences places an unnecessary burden on learners who take Sport and Sciences as an additional subject. This discourages learners from choosing SPSC. It also excludes learners who would like to do the subject as well as those who would benefit from doing so. The IEB argues that there is no evidence that the combination of SPSC with either Life Sciences or Physical Sciences is necessary. CEM agreed and approved the removal of this requirement.
On Entrepreneurship and Employability Education
The Entrepreneurship, Employability, and Education in Basic Education is an initiative which was started by President Ramaphosa as the chair of the HRD council. This intervention cultivates entrepreneurial mind and entrepreneurship among learners. Learners stand to benefit core skills of critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, collaboration and teamwork, communication and digital literacy which are skills for a changing world. CEM appreciated progress made this regard.
In every grade level, the existing curriculum (in subjects such as, Economic and Management Sciences; Life Orientation; etc.) is being enriched with real life projects that are learner centred, and learner-run, to open the walls of the classrooms to real active problem-solving, solution generation, team-work, and implementation by the school-learners themselves. The programme aims to be one through which the learners' voice and ideas matter, and they develop agency, self-efficacy, and passion for solving problems they really care about that are local context relevant.
The Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) 2020-2024 stipulates that all schools will be implementing Entrepreneurship Education by 2024. We are starting with a pilot in 600 schools this year (2020/21); then 3 000 Schools in 2021/22, 10 000 schools in 2022/23, and 10 000 schools in 2023/24.
Reduction of stockpiling for National School Nutrition Programme
CEM has approved the reduction of orders for school nutrition for learners in High Schools by 10 percent during examination times. During October and November each year, learners do not attend school after their examination; and the over-stocking of food has in many instances, proven to attract criminality and break-ins at schools. It is estimated that the reduction of stockpiling of food items will save the Department a whopping R20.6 million per year. This amount could be re-allocated and re-invested into the NSNP, for instance for purchasing food utensils, or during the support programmes mid- and at the end of the year. The reduction of food stock will not apply to Quintile 1 to 3 (no-fee schools) and farm schools.
This decision is in line with government’s objectives of ensuring efficiency in using available resources.
On the relocation of the responsibility and leadership of Early Childhood Development (ECD) delivery from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education
Following the Presidential proclamation, the DBE will take immediate responsibility and leadership for the delivery of ECD, including the convening of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) for ECD. Two proclamations, the first to be signed by His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the second to be signed by the Honourable Premiers of the nine Provincial Administration will facilitate the smooth relocation of ECD delivery.
A number of research and systems-building activities are underway, to help develop the capacity, institutional architecture, and systems to deliver an enhanced and integrated ECD function, when the function shift is effected. These relate to improving data and information systems, developing comprehensive strategies for finance and Human Resource Management, and articulating a service delivery model to deliver an integrated ECD function.
Eight (8) work-streams have been developed to focus on specific areas of service delivery. The work-streams are primarily made up of DBE officials, but will engage external technical experts, as well as officials from other departments (e.g., the Departments of Social Development, Health, COGTA Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Home Affairs as well as the National Treasury) as required.
Progress on the Implementation of General Education Certificate (GEC)
The Examinations of the General Education Certificate which all grade 9 learners will write is expected to generate credible assessment data from standardized assessment which will be used to guide learners and parents to made decision to pursue the academic, technical vocational, or technical occupational pathways. CEM appreciated progress made by Teacher Unions and officials in concluding the National Assessment Framework comprising of Systems Assessment which replaces the Annual National Assessment, Diagnostic Assessment, and Summative Assessment. The Early Learning National Assessment (ELNA) will also be introduced for grade 1 learners.
On the implementation of the Quality Management System (QMS)
We are delighted as a sector that the implementation of the Quality Management System is well underway. The QMS is designed to measure the performance of educators in line with their respective roles and responsibilities. An addendum to the agreement signed on 10 September 2019 states that training on the QMS will occur from January to December 2020 while implementation of the QMS will commence in January 2021.
The QMS is a performance management system for school-based educators, designed to evaluate the performance levels of individuals, in order to achieve high levels of school performance. The QMS introduces a work plan, which must be completed and signed by Principals, Deputy Principals and Heads of Departments with their immediate supervisors. In this regard, the Circuit Manager has a pivotal role in agreeing on a work plan with principals with clear annual targets for improvement. This means that there is agreement with all teachers unions on performance management. This is an important develop the sector so badly needed in order to intensify our efforts aimed at achieving a high quality basic education system.
Registration of undocumented learners
We continue to receive reports of learners who are being turned away from public schools, because they do not have identity documents. We need to remind all our schools that the admission of undocumented learners in public schools is an immediately realisable right in terms of the judgement handed down in this matter in December 2019. Any school that does not admit undocumented learners, may be faced with litigation. We therefore, urge all schools to comply with the court judgment.
Circular No. 01 of 2020, has already been sent to PED’s and Governing Body Associations as a means to guide schools. The Department of Home Affairs will be visiting schools to register learners, who do not have identity documents. Parents and guardians are requested to assist in this regard. Do not leave children into their own devises. Assist the authorities to obtain all the necessary information required for registration of children by Home Affairs.
Life Orientation Online Safety Curriculum
CEM has welcomed the online safety curriculum which is being piloted by the Western Cape Education Department. The Department together with Google have developed a set of guidelines with the aim of teaching learners the fundamentals of digital safety so they can be safe, confident explorers of the online world. Topics covered include cyberbullying, online reputation, privacy, online harassment and inappropriate content.
On the Coronavirus
We have received a many enquiries regarding our plans to deal with the Coronavirus in schools. We have redirected all the enquiries to the Department of Health, that is leading the interventions regarding the management of cases. We take this opportunity to remind South Africans about the basic hygiene practices that involve the (1) washing of hands; (2) covering of your mouth when you cough; (3) avoid coming into contact with people who are sick; (4) avoid touching your eyes, ears and nose; and (5) seek medical help if you are sick. That way, you are more likely to stay safe. We have sent a Circular to all our schools to provide guidelines on what to do in terms of general hygiene standards. The Department of Health however, will communicate should any announcements be made specifically on the Coronavirus.
The safety of our learners and teachers remain a priority in the sector. This year we are experiencing several tragedies involving learners, where some of them, have sadly passed away. We convey our heartfelt condolences to all the affected families and schools. We continue to work with our stakeholders to ensure that we avoid the unnecessary loss of lives.