The Council of Education Minister (CEM) met on Thursday to discuss a number of topics affecting the education sector, among them readiness for the upcoming National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations.
The meeting took place at a time when the sector is beset with a number of tragedies and unfortunate incidents.
While in the meeting on Thursday we were informed of the shocking incident where a learner stabbed a 24-year-old teacher to death in the North West and another incident where a learner pointed a gun at a teacher in Gauteng.
We send out deepest condolences to the family of Mr Gadimang Daniel Mokolobate as well as the entire school community that is effected by this traumatising incident. I will be personally visiting the family of this young teacher later today.
It is extremely heartbreaking to loose such a young teacher who had so much potential in this devastating manner. He only began his teaching at the school in April this year, it truly is a tragedy.
We have also been informed of the two young children who passed away from suspected food poisoning in Gauteng. The MEC in Gauteng has been interacting closely with the family to ensure they get to the bottom of the cause of these deaths.
This followed the tragic death of 6 learners in Mpumalanga who were involved in a horrific road accident.
There was also the death of a learner who drowned in a school swimming pool in KwaZulu-Natal.
We send our deepest condolences to all of these families and school communities that have had to deal with these tragic incidents. As the sector we reflect on these incidents with a great deal of sadness.
Other incidents that are deeply concerning to us as CEM are the social ills that we see continuing to creep into our schools. This includes learners who have been searched by police at schools and found with illegal drugs on them, as well as explicit videos made by learners and circulated on social media.
We need to continue to work with communities and law enforcement organisations to ensure that we arrest this type of behaviour. 18 000 schools have been paired with police stations as part of a protocol between the SAPS and Education. However clearly we need to ramp up activities between the two entities to ensure greater success.
In this light we will be calling for a symposium with SAPS, Department of Social Development as well as School Governing Body organisations to see how we can better tackle these challenging issues together.
It is unfortunate that as a sector responsible for education, we have to deal with these types of incidents, often distracting us from our core business of learning and teaching.
However, this is the reality of the areas wherein our schools are located.
Schools operate within communities and are often a reflection of the community and the social ills that are found in these communities. We need support from all around us as education. It brings to mind the old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child”. This really speaks to our situation in education as we cannot deal with these issues on our own.
We will continue to appeal to our parents to be more involved in the lives of their children and to ensure that they speak to them and warn them about these social ills and the dangers involved. Parents need to ensure that learners do not go to school with guns or weapons.
Parents also need to be vigilant when they drop off and fetch learners from school as some provinces reported to CEM that there have been a number of incidents of child abductions. This is extremely concerning, as these nefarious criminals do not abduct children for anything positive. The Western Cape Department of Education reported to CEM that they have had 3 confirmed abductions all of whom were thankfully found and returned to their families. Another abduction however did not have the same happy ending, one learner was found dead four days later. There have also been an additional 16 reports of attempted abductions in the Western Cape. They are working closely with schools and police to ensure that learners are safe when leaving school and also to ensure parents take every precaution in keeping their children safe.
There was also the highly publicised and tragic incident regarding the abduction and murder of Miguel Louw in KwaZulu-Natal. During our symposium with police and parents we will be looking at how we can work together to find ways to ensure learner safety.
While some of these incidents don’t necessarily take place in our schools they still affect our school community and contribute to the safety and security of our learners.
Moving on to matters that speak to our core business of teaching and learning. The National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations are now just 34 days away. (15 October 2018) This is essentially one month, give or take a few days, before the examinations are underway.
We are expecting a cohort of 787 281 learners to sit for this year’s examinations at 8000 examination centres.
We would like to encourage all learners who are going to be writing these examinations to ensure that they study with earnest in this remaining time.
In terms of system readiness we have been closely tracking each of the nine provinces in terms of learner performance data and curriculum coverage, as well as other areas of interest extremely closely. This is to ensure that we can pick up challenges in areas such as curriculum coverage in time to intervene.
As a sector we are becoming much more empirical about the way we monitor the system. DBE and Provinces continue to harness efforts to appropriately support the class of 2018. Every learner must be afforded the best possible opportunity to achieve a National Senior Certificate. Last push initiatives are being implemented across the country based on learner performance in the midyear examinations. As a sector we are cautiously optimistic that all of these efforts will translate into improved outcomes in the 2018 examinations.
ADDITIONAL EXAMINATION OPPORTUNITY
Many of you may be aware that we have taken a decision to do away with the supplementary examinations starting next year (2019).
Instead we have made a second examination opportunity available for all learners, those who may have failed subjects in the 2018 NSC, but also those who need an opportunity for a second chance to complete their Matric, and gain entrance to the world of opportunities that the NSC certificate opens up.
One of the major reasons for this change is through monitoring the system we have noted that on average around 40 000 learners who enroll for supplementary examinations every year do not turn up to write the examinations. This results in massive wasteful expenditure.
The time between the release of the examination results at the beginning of the year and the supplementary examinations in February / March is too short a time to make a real impact in terms of bettering results and learners feel unprepared and as a result do not pitch up to sit for the examinations.
By having these examinations in June, it will give adequate time for revision, and learners can make use of the comprehensive support material provided through the Second Chance Matric Support Programme.
This second examination is very important as those who do participate often end up doing well.
If we look at the impact as a result of those learners who wrote the supplementary exams this year, the total number of candidates that achieved the NSC has increased from 401 435 to 411 523 , an increase of 10 088 candidates. These are learners who would otherwise not have had a matric certificate. The total number of candidates that obtained the Higher Certificate has increased from 86 265 to 92 604 , an increase of 6 339 candidates. The number of candidates who obtained admission to Diploma studies has increased from 161 333 to 163 702 , which is an additional 2 369 candidates. The number of candidates that obtained admission to Bachelor’s studies has increased from 153 610 to 154 980 , translating to 1 370 more candidates compared to the November 2017 NSC examination results.
We are very optimistic that we will see improvements on these figures when we have the June examination opportunity.
Staying with our core business, CEM approved some exciting developments in the curriculum space.
CEM approved the listing of the Kiswahili as an optional second additional language that will be offered to learners.
There are currently fifteen (15) non-official languages listed in the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) as optional subjects these include the likes of French, German Mandarin and such.
There is unfortunately no African language in the list of languages. The origin of all these languages is outside the continent, except for Arabic, the Afro-Asiatic language family, which is spoken by North African Arabic countries. This continues to perpetuate the colonial mentality and necessitated us to take action and rectify this.
Why Kiswahili you may ask, Kiswahili is a Bantu language with lexical and linguistic similarities with many African languages spoken in the continent. It is the third most spoken language (more than 100 million) in Africa after English and Arabic. It was used as a trading language and a means of inter-ethnic communication long before the coming of Europeans in Africa. It is expanding to countries that never spoke it and has the power to bring Africans together. It is one of the official languages of the African Union (AU), we are also confident the teaching of Kiswahili in South African schools will help to promote social cohesion with our fellow Africans.
Implementation of this language will start in 2020.
Another Curriculum addition is that of Marine Sciences which was approved by CEM.
The Department has been working with the Two Oceans Aquarium to develop a Maritime Sciences curriculum from 2017. The intention of this curriculum is to expand the offering of Maritime studies’ subjects. This draft curriculum was submitted to Umalusi for evaluation in March 2018. The Two Oceans Aquarium has developed a number of Maritime related programmes.
Courses include topics in Marine Biology, Oceanography, Environmental Sustainability and Human interactions with the Ocean. There are 11 schools along the coast which are offering Maritime programmes. Most of these schools are offering Maritime Economics, so this will hugely supplement the offering for these schools of specialization.
This curriculum was approved for gazetting by CEM.
Then a very exciting development we are working on is to introduce coding as a subject in our schools. Coding is unique in the way it brings all diverse skills together and this is one of the big advantages of teaching learners to code, as learning to program requires computational thinking skills.
Before computers can be used to solve a problem, the problem itself and the ways in which it could be resolved must be understood. It includes some obviously important skills, like creativity, the ability to explain and team work. It also consists of some very specific problem solving skills such as the ability to think logically, algorithmically and recursively.
Coding is essentially written instructions that a robot or computer program can read and then execute. Learners must determine the task they want to complete through a robot, design the code to make it happen, and then send it to the robot to view the outcome.
CEM noted progress in developing this curriculum and we are all excited to see this become a reality in our schools.
Other exciting new subjects that are also going to be processed include aviation studies as well as nuclear technology.
TEXT BOOK DIVERSITY
A Ministerial Task Team set up to look into diversity in textbooks reported on finding and recommendations to CEM. The Team was tasked to evaluate a sample of existing textbooks against stereotypes and discrimination towards the promotion of diversity in education. They were also expected to ascertain whether the texts and illustrations used by authors in textbooks is inclusive, sensitive to offending or of excluding others, and promotes the values of equality and empowerment for learners. To conduct a content analysis to ascertain the specific discrimination bias, frequency and type of discrimination in textbooks, and to examine the extent to which different forms of discrimination manifest in South African textbooks focusing on race, gender, class, religion, disability, sexual orientation, family status, and age.
The Task Team found that textbooks are inclusive to a degree. There is a general awareness of the need to be inclusive of people of different racial backgrounds, people of different gender histories and of different socio-economic status. But there is a need to open up the notion of inclusion to reflect the diversity in society (class, rural, disability, religion, etc).
The MTT found there is a need to attend to the most obvious forms of discrimination in the textbook texts and visual representations. There is a need to strengthen the screening processes for textbooks to ensure all texts are inclusive and free from bias.
For publishers, there is an urgent need to diversify the writer base such that it includes writers from a wider pool reflecting the diversity in society. This will not in and of itself guarantee that the questions of inclusion and bias will be removed but it will bring into the creative process of writing a textbook a much wider range of social and cultural experiences.
The small range of publishers from which the leading texts in the country are procured is a question that needs some discussion.
They also found that changing the paradigm to ensure the content and pedagogy of textbooks reflect the context of Africa and South Africa in a global context. We may need to link this to the decolonisation debate but also ensure that textbooks deal more effectively with issues of inclusion and equity.
HOME AFFAIRS PROTOCOLS
It was discussed at CEM that it is an imperative to work closely with the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that all of our learners are correctly documented.
We need to all ensure that learners have Identity Documents for a number of reasons. Among them, learners who write examinations without Identity Documents often have problems after, and Umalusi will not certificate learners who do not have ID’s.
They can’t access social services without ID’s. Also important to note is that without an ID these learners will not be able to participate in the National Elections next year for the first time.
Home Affairs will be working closely with the education departments in the various provinces to drive advocacy and to encourage learners to get documented as it has major implications on various aspects of education.
Lastly, I do think it is important to clarify the reasons behind the decision to make an appeal to the Constitutional Court regarding the norms and standards for school infrastructure judgement.
The appeal has absolutely nothing to do with our willingness to provide school infrastructure. This is a very misleading stance and I would encourage those who are interested to go through the court papers. We are continuing to roll out school infrastructure both at provincial level through the equitable share and through the various Infrastructure grants and ASIDI programme.
The reason for the appeal is essentially the judgement handed down by the Eastern Cape would force the Department to take responsibility for things it has zero control over.
The Department cannot take the sole responsibility for the provision of services to schools. The provision of services such as for example electricity lies with other organs of the state such as Eskom and municipalities. All that the regulations say is that where that is the case then such organs of state should take responsibility for that particular service.
With that I and look forward to engaging you further. Thank you.