Address by the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor MP, at the Maths Centre "partners in performance" lunch, Braamfontein, 27 October 2008
Ms Sharanjeet Shan, National Executive Director of the maths Centre;
Mr Zuzi Buthelezi, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees;
Representatives of sponsors;
Organised Professions and Non-Governmental Organisations;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It gives me pleasure to be here to participate in the Maths Centre "Partners in Performance" lunch.
The role of the Maths Centre in facilitating activities for teachers and learners to develop their skills in mathematics is a very important part of increasing success in these subjects. As you know, mathematics and science knowledge skills are key to our education system and our development as a nation. We need to expand maths and science success. We need to increase the number of engineers, doctors, chartered accountants and other professionals in order to strengthen our competitiveness and enhance development. All these objectives require high competency in mathematics.
We face a significant challenge in the area of maths and science education. The neglect of maths and science for the majority under apartheid continues to haunt us, and so we introduced mathematics as a compulsory subject in the General Education and Training Band and in the Further Education and Training Band every learner is expected to take either mathematics or mathematical literacy.
For the first time in our history all learners in school now do some form of mathematics. This year we have 314 000 learners enrolled for mathematics in Grade 12.
This is demonstration of the will of our young people to succeed in this important area. As you know, we have set ourselves a target of 50,000 learners passing Mathematics in 2008. In less than three days, the 2008 class of grade 12 will begin writing their National Senior Certificate examinations. In December we will know whether we have succeeded in achieving our objective.
The Maths Centre and other role players have played a significant role in supporting schools. Our poor performance as a system suggests we need to collectively reflect on how we can strengthen and expand your roles to develop partnerships that straddle the country and provide advice and support to schools, throughout South Africa.
Increasing the number of passes is based on our awareness that the low levels of success pose a serious threat to our development priorities. You will be aware that our learners have not performed well as reported by the SAQMEC and TIMSS reports. In response to these challenges, government launched the National Strategy for Mathematics, science and Technology Education (NSMSTE). The NSMSTE identified 8 strategic objectives which were considered central to building a system that would create a platform for sustained development in Mathematics and science. The strategic objectives are:
• Setting performance targets in all schools.
• Developing plans to place in every classroom a qualified and competent teacher.
• Developing strategies of improving the language of teaching and learning.
• Identifying and nurturing talent and potential.
• Strengthening cooperation with the Department of science and Technology.
• Establishing and forming partnerships with relevant stakeholders to provide resources and technical support for the implementation of the strategy.
• Evaluating and monitoring the support of Mathematics, science and Technology in provinces.
• Introducing and supporting the use of ICT in all schools.
We have seen tremendous progress towards the achievement of these objectives. Of particular interest is progress made in mobilising resources for Dinaledi and other schools in the teaching of mathematics and science. This has been done through the Adopt-A-School project. The objectives of the Adopt-A-School project are to:
• Promote quality teaching and learning.
• Encourage increased participation and outstanding performance in Mathematics and science.
• Mobilise resources for schools to support effective teaching and learning.
• Coordinate private sector support to schools and ensure equitable distribution and sustainability of assistance.
This year 287 schools have been adopted by different business institutions, private donors and selected institutions of higher learning. Government believes that to achieve our developmental goals, we need to harness the support of many partners. I am therefore heartened to see representatives of business and industry and higher education present here with us today. I hope that those who have not adopted a school as yet will consider doing so.
The Maths Centre has played an important role in education for several years. The activities and projects that the maths Centre is involved in match our priorities. I think we need to look at how we can strengthen collaboration to contribute to the acceleration of our quest for quality outcomes in mathematics. The Centre should continue to support our teachers and schools in improving the quality of education in our country.
In an effort to strengthen numeracy and literacy at primary school level, in March 2008 I launched the Foundations for Learning Campaign. This is a four-year campaign that seeks to:
• Create a national focus on improving the reading, writing and numeracy abilities of all South African children.
• Provide energy as well as direction and inspiration across all levels of the education system as well as in homes and the public domain to ensure that by 2011 all learners are able to demonstrate age appropriate levels of Literacy and Numeracy.
Through the campaign, all primary schools will be expected to increase the average learner achievement in literacy/language and numeracy/mathematics to no less than 50% - indicating an improvement of between 15%-20% in the 4 years of the campaign.
The campaign will culminate in a national evaluation at the end of 2011 in order to determine the impact of the campaign. For the duration of the campaign South Africa will temporarily halt participation in regional or international studies assessing learner competency levels in literacy and numeracy in the General Education and Training Band. During this period we will consolidate our efforts in these areas and evaluate our progress in achieving our set targets. We will also assist schools in assessments of learners through providing compulsory standardised tests of numeracy and literacy.
The Campaign is a call for commitment to teaching and learning the art and skill of reading, writing and calculating to ensure that all learners have the basic skills for learning.
In addition to these and other initiatives I will soon convene a ministerial committee to look at developing an accessible teacher friendly syllabus to support curriculum implementation.
Two weeks ago, I received the results of the 2007 Systemic Evaluation of the foundation Phase (Grade 3) level. A random sample of 54,449 grade 3 learners from 2,355 primary schools participated in the survey. The survey was conducted by JET Educational Services. In a replica of the 2001 study, to allow comparison over time, learners were assessed through standardised written exercises to measure the levels of achievement in respect of the grade appropriate curriculum outcomes for literacy and numeracy.
The report indicates a positive improvement in the performance of learners in both literacy and numeracy levels. The overall mean performance in literacy improved from 30 to 36%, and the numeracy levels from 30 to 35%. This is still far too low for the level of success we want to achieve, but the increase in ability is a welcome sign of progress. The OECD review team that recently came to South Africa to a launch their review report noted that "this represent an unprecedented shift at the systemic level".
The report which we will release shortly has several important finding:
• A wide range of performance levels across provinces ranging from 23% in Limpopo to 48% in the Western Cape
• Girls tended to do better that boys in both literacy and numeracy
• Contextual factors such as home and parental circumstances have an impact on performance
• A strong correlation between performance and the language of instruction.
In essence the Systemic Evaluation indicates that we must harness our efforts and work with schools and teachers to encourage excellence.
The Maths Centre is doing this already and I look forward to our joint efforts contributing to the achievement of excellence.