Today marks 80 days before exams start. In previous years, there has been a general tendency to judge the performance of the education system according to the Grade 12 pass rate.
Improving Outcomes in Grade 12
This year, we have committed to upping the pass rate by 10%. Paying attention to improving outcomes in matric therefore remains a priority. We owe it to the learners, the country and our people to improve Grade 12 results as committed.
This matter has become even more paramount in the light of recent reports that some universities have expressed an intention to raise entrance requirements for 1st year students.
Apart from commitments we have made, this year objective conditions require more effort from all of us. You know that already people have raised concerns about the extended winter holiday given the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
This is in spite of explanations we have given that we are within the legal days prescribed for the schooling year and the fact that many Provincial Education Departments have gone the extra mile by presenting Winter Holiday School Programmes.
We also dedicated time with the Deputy Minister to visit some of the Winter Holiday Programmes and have been to Districts where we attended to critical issues relating to the provision of effective and efficient services and support for schools.
The looming strike is yet another challenge that is very unsettling. We still hope for a breakthrough that would help avert the crisis.
Sporadic and disruptive activities at some of our schools are also making our work very difficult. If these are not tackled swiftly particularly by Provinces and Districts, we would emerge the poorer come end of the year.
Worrying examples in this regard include the situation in Limpopo and the North West. We went to Marobathota High School in Boyne, Limpopo, on Monday 2 August to resolve a dispute.
The situation in the North West Province where 19 schools had to be closed following the torching of 5 schools is another serious cause for concern.
Clearly, if we continue at this rate, it would be extremely difficult to assure the public of better learning outcomes, especially for Grade 12.
As expected, the major public outcry is that learners are on the receiving end, with their future at stake.
In our sphere of influence, we have to ensure that swift action is taken so that we do not lose sight of our strategic objectives, particularly with regard to the pressing need to improve outcomes in Grade 12.
Members will recall that at the CEM meeting of 09 June we reported that the curriculum team has developed an Improvement Strategy for Grade 12 Learners.
We said that Strategy must reinforce all efforts geared to improve outcomes. Without ringing alarm bells, I must say a lot will have to be done to meet our targets, thus the need to double our efforts. These challenges are not insurmountable.
We have a duty to deliver a quality public service and to create a conducive climate for our learners to do their best. As we have promised, we have the potential to ensure performance of the class of 2010 represents the envisaged turnaround as part of the World Cup legacy.
Assessing Grades 3, 6 & 9
Related to the need to improve matric results is the need to continue paying close scrutiny to Grades 3, 6 and 9 results, to understand challenges and duly address them from an informed position.
Developing skills of District officials
In the past months, a lot of time and resources were spent on discussions around guidelines for revitalizing Districts. Today’s meeting should produce a way-forward on the proposal around this critical issue.
We must also concentrate on developing the skills and understanding of district officials so as to strengthen focus.
It will be important to pay attention to expenditure patterns and monitor spending particularly for important items and activities.
For better results, it is crucial to ensure key information is not only disseminated, but is accurately and properly conveyed and implemented.
If I were to share with you a letter we received from a teacher based at Queens High, you would better appreciate this concern.
Clearly, what this teacher says shows our communication does not reach out to the intended recipients. If it does, it is often marred by noises and distortions characteristic of an environment in which communication is not synergised.
We have therefore to attend careful to our modes of communication, synergise and better manage our messaging.
Recently, I have been inundated with letters, telephone calls and emails from disgruntled teachers, parents, members of School Governing Bodies and community leaders.
The issues raised, like the classic example of the teacher at Queens High, point to the state of communication systems and channels within our department. We have to do something about this, and do it quick.
Women in the sector
I thought I would share another area of concern at another time. But the shocking 2010 Annual Employment Equity report is compelling enough to raise this issue now. It has shown that 16 years into democracy the under-representation of women as paid employees stubbornly persists.
It has been reported that the situation is more serious in the private sector. At top management level, representation of African women stands at less than 3% while that of Coloured and Indian women is 1%, respectively.
All of us must take cognizance of and do more to conscientise managers to consider issues of appointment, promotion, training and empowerment of women in our sector.
Empowering the Girl Child
I invite you to think creatively of best ways of empowering the girl-child. Take a Girl-child to Work Campaign is one of many ways of achieving this goal. As a former teacher, I still believe in the saying that: “if you educate a woman, you educate a nation!”
These issues must continue to seize our minds particular because we are 5 days into Women’s Month. It was launched in Johannesburg, on Friday 30 July, and in Pretoria, on Monday 2 August. This year’s theme is “Working Together for Equal Opportunities and Progress for All Women”.
Like other government departments, let us support Women’s Month and broader struggles for gender equality. Let us ensure provincial activities advance these goals in the best interest of the girl child under our care.
Planning for 2011
Lastly, September has to be the appropriate month to finalise plans for 2011. This is even more important for provinces handling admissions in January.
Let us bear in mind the fact that in addition to being one of the five priorities of government, education is now one of government’s twelve priorities calling upon the sector to improve the quality of learning.
I thank you.