World Bank’s Country Director and Executive Director
Ladies and Gentlemen
Programme Director; it gives me great pleasure and immense pride to be standing here and addressing you on this auspicious occasion namely the launch of the World Bank Development Report 2018. The 2018 Report, titled, ‘Learning to Realize Education's Promise,’ is the first ever Report devoted entirely to education and explores themes that are quite critical to our interventions and understanding of our core mandate which the Report advocates as, “the need to shine a light on learning”.
Quality education is one of the 17 Global Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is a global integrated approach that is crucial for progress across the multiple goals. We must achieve inclusive and quality education for all because it reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030.
This has been true for decades, as a Genevan philosopher, writer and composer Jean Jacques Rousseau once argued that, “plants are shaped by cultivation and men by education. .. We are born weak, we need strength; we are born totally unprovided, we need aid; we are born stupid, we need judgment. Everything we do not have at our birth and which we need when we are grown is given us by education.”
Across the globe, educationalists are researching, debating and testing new teaching methodologies that produce lifelong learners equipped for success in the workplace and in their personal lives. According to the 21st Century learning and teaching organisation, it’s about embracing the exciting potential of new technologies such as tablets amongst many.
But it is also about reimagining what our classrooms and lessons look like, and the types of knowledge and skills we need to nurture and value.
To enable pupils to flourish in the 21st century, there is a great consensus among many educational researchers all around the world: the youth will need a different set of skills. These skills are well-defined by many projects and educationalists, and, without oversimplifying it, they boil down, “to the ability to use knowledge to solve problems, to work collectively, to think creatively and to reflect on their own thinking.”
Programme Director, South Africa runs the largest basic education systems in the Sub-Saharan Africa. We have a total of over 12 million learners - five times the size of the Namibian population. Learning happens every day in over 20 000 schools. Over 400 000 teachers wake up every day to teach our learners.
Our spend on basic education is higher than that of the United States of America. South Africa spent R213.7bn on basic education in the 12 months ended March last year, or about 15% of the total budget, and the allocation is projected to rise an average of 7.4% annually over the next three fiscal years, according to the National Treasury. We allocate a higher proportion of our budget towards basic education than the US, UK and Germany, United Nations data shows.
All this investment is a direct assault on the relentless underfunding of the basic education sector for more than two-thirds of the population during the apartheid years.
With that said, Programme Director, we are convinced that the South African education system is now on the rise despite the stubborn legacy of apartheid’s racial segregation and underfunding. My bold assertion is not misplaced but based on independent international standardised tests undertaken by our learners, and conducted by reputable international organisations.
By the way in South Africa, we take reports by all independent international organisations including the World Bank very seriously. In fact our developmental blueprint, the National Development Plan (NDP) reinforces this crucial point. It says in part:
“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”.
Let me paint the sprawling landscape of some of these international standardised tests. According to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2015 study, the South African basic education sector showed an upward trajectory in both Mathematics and Science. Conducted every four years since 1995, TIMSS has been a valuable vehicle for studying international trends in mathematics and science achievement at the fourth and eighth grades.
We have emerged from TIMSS Report published in 2016, as a leading African participant among 59 countries that formed part of the survey. South Africa’s performance in Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study from 2003 to 2015 shows that there was a significant improvement of 87 points for Mathematics and 90 points for Science, more than for any other country with comparable data.
Similarly, in many instances the 4th Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ IV) Report released in 2017 has confirmed, in a scientific way, some of the improvements and growth points that showcase a determination within the sector to transform the lives of our people. I am pleased that there were several noteworthy take-away points for the sector to be further armed with, in our efforts to advance quality basic education irrespective of where learners are located in the country.
Systemic growth patterns are evident when compared to previous rounds of SACMEQ, underlying an observed trend that conditions of schooling for the South African learner is improving.
The observations in the Report affirm the on-going success of programmes targeted at the provision of basic school resources (such as ASIDI), essential learning materials through the supply of Workbooks, and improved health care and support through the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) and other health initiatives such as the National School Deworming Programme and National School Hygiene Programme amongst others.
The SACMEQ IV study follows closely after the release of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2015 study and the 2016 National Senior Certificate (NSC) results, collectively pointing towards notable improvements in learner achievement at the Grade 5, Grade 9 and Grade 12 levels.
This latest round of the SACMEQ IV Grade 6 results showcased an exciting milestone for the sector. Our Grade 6 Learners for the first time scored an average in Reading and Mathematics that was above the 500 centre point. The levels and quality of educational outcomes achieved by our learners represent a remarkable achievement with significant growth points observed in Reading and Mathematics. This implies we have moved beyond a critical threshold set out in the SACMEQ achievement scale. The SACMEQ IV study results point towards the following key gains:
I. The highest improvement margins among participating countries in the region.
II. A narrowing of the gap between urban and rural provinces (reduced provincial inequality), with 8 out of 9 provinces scoring above the 500 centre point.
III. A significant reduction in the number of non-numerate and non-literate learners at the Grade 6 level, confirming that the early acquisition of the foundational skills of reading and numeracy is a critical goal that requires focused attention in our schools and sustained support from parents.
At the same time we noted that further improvements are possible if we:
I. Enable more learners to achieve higher Reading and Mathematics competency levels with a greater focus on learners coping with questions of higher cognitive demand.
II. Strengthen in-service and pre-service training of teachers with respect to pedagogical and subject content knowledge with respect to teaching of higher cognitive demand questions to learners.
III. Improve the teaching of HIV-AIDS content knowledge and aspects relating to safe sex in the Life Orientation curriculum.
Subsequent to both the TIMSS and SACMEQ IV Reports, we convened a Mathematics Indaba involving all stakeholders throughout the mathematics value chain. During the said Indaba, I called for the overhauling of the South African pedagogical-content knowledge outlook in mathematics. I said that we needed to reinvigorate the teaching of mathematics in its entirety – from classrooms learning practises, content, teaching, and assessments.
I emphasised the urgent need to pay particular attention to the development of a new curriculum for initial teacher education, induction and continuing professional development.
As a result of my call, all stakeholders agreed that we should appoint a team of experts in mathematics and its education to reinvigorate the teaching and learning of mathematics. I am happy to report that this week; we are launching the new Mathematics Teaching and Learning Framework. The new Mathematics Framework supports the key activities of the Maths Science Technology (MST) Education Strategy (2019-2030). The broad outline of the strategy is to ensure that every classroom is a space where quality learning and teaching takes place. This should be evident through the delivery of relevant curriculum. The curriculum must be taught by competent and qualified teachers with the necessary resources to inspire learners with competencies for a changing world.
The Mathematics Framework has far-reaching implications for the basic education sector. These implications will require the attention of teachers, education planners, and all other stakeholders if we are to be successful in implementing its recommendations. The Mathematics Framework’s key takeaway is an ideal of, ‘teaching of mathematics for understanding.’
The teaching of mathematics for understanding in a learning-centred classroom methodology designed to help teachers in both basic and higher education to attend to the challenges associated with the teaching and learning of mathematics, so that learner outcomes are improved. The new Framework seeks to and succeeds in laying a firm foundation for a new manner in which mathematics is taught thus changing the way it’s learned.
At the outset, I must emphasise that this new Mathematics Framework does not replace the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). Rather, it presents various options and new thinking about mathematics teaching, learning and assessments. The recommendations presented in it represents the best international practise while taking into account our own unique South African needs and challenges. At the appropriate time, after due process of consultations, we will amend the Curriculum CAPS accordingly, if so required.
Programme Director; having the laid the lay of the land in respect of our basic education system that is on the rise, we welcome the Report from the World Bank. We are eager to interrogate the implications it has for us as a system.
We are glad that, we have this rare opportunity to hear from the World Bank experts as they mediate the findings of the report. We also have an opportunity to further discuss how our current policy actions and strategies can be refined based on the recommendations.
On behalf of Government of the Republic of South Africa, we welcome this Report. We commend the researchers and educationalists who have expended innumerable hours studying and crafting solutions to improve learner outcomes further into the 21st century. Finding solutions to the global education challenges is a collective task of governments, civil society organisations, communities, global business and a mother next door. Together, we learn better. Our collective wisdom must be put to good use to continuous rejig education across the globe.
In conclusion, the world is immersed in the centenary celebrations of the 20th humanitarian, icon and world’s statesman, President Nelson Mandela. President Mandela gave us free lessons in humility, compassion and reconciliation. He emptied himself for the benefit of humanity. He valued education more than anything else. In honour of this illustrious son of Africa and world’s peace maker, we owe it to ourselves and next generation, to provide the world with a friendly human face and governments, and global institutions that truly work to improve the lot for humanity.
In conclusion, as President Cyril Ramaphosa has repeated an old African adage, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Perhaps, as the World Bank Report that we are launching today suggest, it must take a global village to get basic education systems across the globe to scale new heights. As we know basic education has its own intrinsic value. But most importantly, it’s only the tier of education that makes it possible for young people to dream, to wonder, and to travel to faraway lands without leaving their humble abode, thus planting a seed for lifelong learning and innovation. Certainly, we need the support of our people, our Government and our friends around the globe, so that we can indeed put our basic education on the new pedestal.
I thank you.