Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, to The National Council of Provinces on the occassion of the debate on the President's State of the Nation Address
“ Enhancing the Culture of learning and teaching in our schools for better education outcomes ”
Chairperson of the NCOP, Honourable MJ Mahlangu
Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP, Honourable Thandi Memela
Members of Parliament
Ladies and Gentlemen
The decline in our 2009 matric results from 62% in 2008 to 60% in 2009 necessitates new strategies at all levels of the system to address the old issue of how we can enhance the culture of learning and teaching in our schools to improve outcomes.
This decline is despite the huge strides we have made since 1994 in dismantling the apartheid legacy. Let us acknowledge some of our achievements even as we take responsibility for our poor performance.
We have turned around the massive repetition problem we had in the early 1990s in the early grades. In Grade 1, over-enrolment has dropped from 165% in 1995 to 114% in 2008.
The numbers of children who continue their schooling into the last three years of high school have increased markedly from 71% to 85%. The impact of our school nutrition and no-free school policies cannot be under-estimated.
Let us also not forget that our school enrolments have grown from around 30% in 1970 to over 90% today. We have one of the fastest growing systems in the world, if not the fastest. Quality has been an inevitable casualty of such growth.
And even though we score badly on international literacy and numeracy tests, the truth is not a decline in our scores over 16 years, but a flat performance.
The picture is a more nuanced one, as Nick Taylor has written, than that presented by the doom-and-gloom critics.
But quality is nonetheless still our biggest challenge: we still do not have a system of which we can boast, that can be a model to the world. The evidence is the poor achievements of our learners in the basics of literacy and numeracy.
In education, our bargaining chamber, the Education Labour Relations Council, is a model for the world. The ILO regularly advances it as a model for other countries to follow. But sadly, our schools and classrooms are not a model. One of the main reasons for this is the culture of learning and teaching.
And that is why we need new strategies. My approach on this matter of developing a turnaround strategy is informed by the view that we need to be both ambitious and realistic in what we aim to achieve: ambitious in our goal of turning the system around and practical in the measures we undertake to do so.
Ongoing monitoring in order to intervene and remediate is the core of our approach. This means, as the President has said, working harder, faster and smarter.
Chairperson, Honourable members,
The legislative mandate of the Department of Basic Education sets out the key responsibilities of the Department to develop and maintain national policies for the basic education sector. It is also the responsibility of the national department to work closely with provincial departments in order to ensure that provincial budgets and strategies support national policies. It is therefore not the responsibility of the national department to finance and manage schools directly but rather the responsibility of the provinces.
Together we must meet the responsibilities set out for us in Chapter 3 of the Constitution of the Republic : we must co-operate with one another in mutual trust and good faith by fostering friendly relations, assisting and supporting one another, consulting one another on matters of common interest, and co-ordinating actions and legislation with one another. This is my goal.
In order to achieve the education outcomes highlighted in the State of the Nation Address, we are now developing with key education stakeholders, a comprehensive national action plan. This Basic Education Action Plan will co-ordinate and guide all interventions in the Basic Education system in order to turn the system around. The plan will commit provinces and provincial education departments to clear, agreed to outcomes and ensure that all in the system are accountable for attaining these outcomes.
In the short and medium term, there are a number of areas I wish to highlight:
• The Rapid Assessment and Remediation Initiative
• Teacher Development and Support
• Curriculum Implementation Support
• The National Senior Certificate
• Kha ri Gude
• 2010 World Cup Schools' Adventure
Rapid Assessment and Remediation Initiative
Immediately after the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams I set up a Rapid Assessment and Remediation Initiative as a short term measure to address challenges at underperforming schools. The Rapid Assessment and Remediation Initiative targets those schools that obtained rates of 20% or below in the 2009 NSC exams. The Department, in collaboration with provincial departments, is investigating the causes and will ensure that all underperforming schools are monitored and supported.
NEEDU (National Education Evaluation and Development Unit)
We will shortly operationalise NEEDU. NEEDU will build on the Rapid Assessment and Remediation Initiative.
NEEDU will use a variety of methods to assess the state of the schooling system in order to intervene and remediate key problems.
NEEDU will not bring back the inspectors of the past, and reimpose what SADTU calls the ‘militarisation' of the profession.
As the then-Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, indicated in her speech to this house on 22 May 2008, NEEDU will not be ‘the thought-police inspectorate of the apartheid Bantu Education days.'
She said, and I concur, that ‘NEEDU will be a professional facility dedicated to developing expertise in evaluating education and advising schools, districts and provinces on the necessary refinements for enhanced success.'
This is also what the NEEDU Ministerial Report chaired by Prof Jonathan Jansen proposed : a Unit that will play the role of auditing school quality and presenting regular reports to the nation on such quality.
This will change the roles of district officials, but not into that of the inspectors of old.
Classroom observations may fall within the scope of NEEDU, but not the appraisal of individual teachers.
Appraisal of individual teachers is a school management responsibility currently built into the IQMS. We need to revisit the IQMS to ensure that teacher appraisal is effective and linked to teacher development in practicable ways.
The Department, through the National Teacher Development Summit follow-up process, is exploring practical ways of assessing teacher subject knowledge and teaching competence that will enable teachers to access appropriate training.
We look forward to its recommendations at the end of March on an integrated national teacher development plan.
Teacher Development and Support
Quality teachers are at the centre of any well-performing system. Through the National Teacher Development Summit, we are exploring with the unions how to improve the supply of teachers through recruitment, retention and deployment of good teachers.
Our Funza Lushaka bursaries have begun to make a dent in producing a pool of teachers to meet maths and science shortages. But with the provinces we need to improve provincial placement strategies to ensure their effective deployment to schools where they are needed most.
With the unions and other stakeholders we are also discussing the establishment of a national teacher development institute that will be supported by a national education management development academy.
Curriculum Implementation Support
The President wants measureable improvement in the literacy and numeracy skills of our learners and an increase in the number of matric learners who are eligible for university admission by 2014.
We must create a climate for quality teaching and learning by ensuring that our learners and teachers are in school, in class, on time and learning and teaching every school day.
We are creating this climate through improved support to teachers to use time well to implement the curriculum.
You are aware of the short-term relief we have provided to teachers through reducing cumbersome administrative and reporting procedures. All schools and provincial head office and district officials have been informed of these changes, which are being implemented in line with the Curriculum Review conducted in 2009.
There has been very positive feedback from teachers. We will stop t he unnecessary re-introduction of administrative burdens for teachers where this occurs.
Work has begun on preparing clearer and simpler curriculum statements outlining what teachers are expected to teach on a term by term basis. These will be implemented in 2011.
We have also set up teams to look at how we can reduce curriculum overload in the Intermediate Phase and develop effective and implementable guidelines for textbook acquisition, distribution and retrieval.
The curriculum challenge is comprehensive and requires ongoing research and development. For this reason, we are investigating the establishment of a Curriculum Research and Development Institute in 2011.
This year, learning and teaching packs for Grade R teachers are being distributed through the provinces to all 13 900 schools that offer Grade R. They include a rich array of resources that will enhance the reading culture of the Grade R classroom.
In addition, literacy and numeracy lesson plans for Grades R-6 are being distributed to all schools.
We intend to monitor curriculum coverage and conduct externally moderated literacy and numeracy tests for Grade 3, 6 and 9 learners in an integrated learner assessment strategy.
The national Department cannot achieve these goals on its own. The national and provincial departments need to work even more closely together with other sectors in government to ensure that our goals are met.
National Senior Certificate
Performance at the lower levels have an impact at the higher levels. We are intervening at all levels.
This year, the National and Provincial Departments are taking steps to ensure that the class of 2010 improves in the National Senior Certificate examinations by providing additional resources to schools. We will be strengthening interventions in the 500 Dinaledi schools alongside the work of the Rapid Assessment and Remediation Initiative.
While starting with schools that obtained rates of 20% or below in the 2009 NSC exams, provinces through their districts are also expected to monitor and support schools at the middle and upper ends of achievement who have shown a drop in performance.
Poor infrastructure continues to affect quality learning and teaching. Over the December period, and even very recently, floods, storms or tornadoes destroyed schools in several provinces. Most provinces have appointed programme managers and contractors to carry out the repairs. This must be done quickly so that learners and teachers are not disadvantaged.
At the national level, the President has expressed his interest in ensuring continued infrastructure improvement of schools.
We are in discussion with both the Presidency and the DBSA on how to facilitate and speed-up increased finance for school infrastructure.
Kha Ri Gude
I would like to acknowledge the excellent achievements of the Kha Ri Gude Adult Literacy Campaign that concluded its second year of the implementation of adult literacy classes in January 2010.
Kha Ri Gude contributes to the national drive of poverty alleviation while tackling the problem of illiteracy.
This programme is undoubtedly an example of working faster, harder and smarter. The Campaign enrolled 613 638 adults during this second year. This means that South Africa has approximately 1 million newly literate adults.
Little wonder then that Kha ri Gude has won prizes from PANSALB for the best multi-lingual materials producer of all public service institutions and from GCIS for the best communication strategy.
Testimony to its good work is the fact that the Commonwealth of Learning has requested use of its materials for 35 small countries.
Chairperson, Honourable members
As we move towards the count down towards hosting the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, I wish to urge all members to support our My 2010 Football World Cup Schools' Adventure. Schools in all provinces are involved.
Already, each province has symbolically adopted some of the 2010 FIFA World Cup participating nations.
Between now and May 2010, I hope that learners and teachers and the whole school community will have learnt all about their adopted countries and their people.
“My 2010 School Adventure” will culminate in an exciting football competition in May 2010 in which teams of learners from each province will play each other in the South African Schools' Football World Cup finals.
Let me assure you that the school year has not been shortened in 2010. However, we must all ensure that each day of each school year counts.
Chairperson, Honourable members
Basic education in 2010 is results focussed. All of us in education should be “on the education pitch” as a united team.
The key to success of our Quality Teaching and Learning Campaign is that we all play a role in the achievement of quality education.
We must ensure together that learners and teachers are in school, in class, on time, learning and teaching so that we can achieve our targets.
I thank you