Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media, thank you for setting aside time to join us here this morning.
The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) met yesterday (Thursday) to discuss and take decisions on crucial issues affecting the Basic Education Sector. It was a very productive meeting which continued well into the evening with valuable inputs and discussions from the provincial leadership.
The Department has made significant gains in the improvement and rollout of school infrastructure. We have just completed the 108th state of the art ASIDI school which was handed over to the community of Dunoon in the Western Cape this week. This is the 13th of 25 schools that the Western Cape shall be receiving in terms of the Programme. The provision of basic services has also been a priority for ASIDI, to date we have completed 425 sanitation projects, 499 Water projects and 289 Electricity projects in schools across the country. The schools build programme aims to address national backlogs in classrooms, libraries, computer labs and administrative buildings, thereby improving the learning and teaching environment. In developing the physical environment of schools, the State expects to also address some of the impediments to learning, such as overcrowding, lack of facilities, unsafe or unhygienic conditions that can distract or disempower learners and affect their school performance.
The situation regarding the facilities and infrastructure of our schools is something that we are taking very seriously and it was stressed that it is incumbent upon us as leaders to ensure that all our children have decent infrastructure and no money is returned to Treasury or misspent. All MEC’s agreed to continue to prioritize the delivery of school infrastructure, including furniture where it is found to be lacking. The DBE has improved its capacity with the development of a standalone infrastructure branch and the appointment of a dedicated Infrastructure Deputy Director-General, Dr Mpumelelo Mabulo, to spearhead matters of infrastructure. Dr Mpumelelo Mabulo will have his hands full, but as a Doctor of Civil Engineering as well as an MBA graduate we believe he is suitably qualified and experienced to handle the task at hand.
As I have said before, it has always been my intention to publicise the implementation plans for the school infrastructure norms and standards. It has been a slow but thorough process, where we even returned the draft plans back to provinces before they submitted the final plans. CEM approved and agreed that the provincial plans for the implementation of the norms and standards for school infrastructure will be published on the Department of Basic Education (DBE) website, as well as all provincial education department (PED) websites by Friday the 12th of June 2015. The meeting also agreed that basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity will be prioritised. The challenges are immense, and the eradication of pit toilets, where practical, is the biggest challenge. However, the DBE with all nine provinces, are committed to ensuring our learners get a quality education in a decent and safe environment. We will continue to develop improved, coordinated, and integrated plans that comply with the regulations and financing of infrastructure without compromising the provision of quality infrastructure and equity of provision.
A submission will be made to National Treasury, indicating the cost implications of the implementation of the Regulations, and for National Treasury to consider soliciting additional funding for the implementation of the Regulations.
ROLE OF PRINCIPALS
The DBE has developed a draft policy on the South African Standard for Principalship, this is the first time we will have such a policy in the Basic Education sector.
This policy will assist the sector by among others:
· Providing clearly defined roles of principals and the key aspects of professionalism and expertise required in such positions;
· Serving as a template against which professional leadership and management development needs may be addressed;
· Providing the basis for improved performance management processes applicable to principals;
· Enhancing and sustaining the image, professionalism and core competencies of school principals;
· Guiding self-reflection, self-assessment and development;
· Providing a basis for the broader South African community to understand the scope and complexity of a principal’s work; and
· Informing better recruitment and selection procedures by setting standards to be used in the development of criteria for the appointment of principals.
Numerous stakeholders were consulted during the drafting process and CEM approved the policy for gazetting for public comment. It will be communicated when this policy is gazetted and we would encourage the public to participate in these processes.
IMPROVED MEASURES TO ERADICATE EXAM IRREGULARITIES.
The CEM has previously expressed concerns over the occurrence of the group copying phenomenon that was uncovered in the 2014 NSC examinations. In order to prevent the recurrence of these kinds of irregularities, a number of recommendations were made to CEM.
Public Examination centres across each province will be categorised into three risk categories and based on the risk category, the invigilation procedure will be determined:
(i) High Risk Centres (HRC) - administered by the province/district;
(ii) Medium Risk Centres (MRC) – placement of resident monitors; and
(iii) Low Risk Centres (LRC) - administered by the school with a roving monitor.
Another measure which will be used to identify high risk centres will be through curriculum implementation monitoring. One of the things uncovered during the investigations (which are still in the process of being finalised), is that one of the reasons for the group copying was that the curriculum had not been adequately covered during the course of the academic year.
Provincial hot lines will be set up where learners or teachers will be able to report irregularities.
Independent schools will only be allowed to administer the public examination if they are registered by the PED for teaching and learning and accredited by Umalusi. They will only have the right to do so if they have a clear track record.
Invigilating will be strengthened, the DBE will appoint Chief Invigilators, resident monitors and roving monitors where the PED lacks the resources or where the DBE has established a need. These persons will be appointed as the part-time staff of the DBE and will report to the DBE.
In the case of the KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Eastern Cape provinces, the DBE will appoint a resident monitor at the provincial level to monitor all examination processes from the beginning of the cycle until the end of the cycle. Such a resident monitor will report to the DBE on a weekly basis.
The CEM approved these recommendations to be implemented for the 2015 NSC examinations, but agreed that these need to be improved even further going forward.
Other matters discussed by CEM included progress on the process regarding the strengthening of the SACE’s mandate and its ability to ensure that the teachers it registers are adequately equipped to hold their positions.
The CEM received a report on the status of the improved processes for procuring LTSM through a centralised transversal tender. Progress on the implementation of the electronic system for the ordering and delivery of LTSM was also presented by the department. Currently the system is being used with great success in the North West and it is being adapted to be nationally applicable. This will assist the sector to provide credible reports to critical stakeholders and to the public at large.
The CEM approved the use Computer Applications Technology (CAT) software tools. A lengthy consultation process was undertaken by the Department to determine which software was the best for the purposes of Basic Education. An IT Steering Committee was set up to guide the Department's choice in this regard, and it recommended Delphi over other “languages”. Research indicates that Delphi is better for beginners and is better from a pedagogical perspective.
Staying with the topic of ICT, the Council also received a progress report on Operation Phakisa process on Information and Communication Technology (ICT). This included progress around the creation of digital content – such as interactive work books, school connectivity, the DBE television channel, ICT professional development, and the DBE cloud solution among other areas. The Operation Phakisa ICT lab is envisioned to take place over 6 weeks during June – July 2015. A total of 120 full-time and part-time participants will attend the lab with an estimated 80 participants present at any given time during the Lab. High levels of commitment are expected to be demonstrated by all organisations and government departments by releasing their officials and employees for full or part-time participation as shall be required.
We are continuously making strides to address the challenges that arise in the sector and are committed to improving quality and efficiency in all areas of basic education.
I thank you.
ADDITIONS BY DEPUTY MINISTER, ENVER SURTY
The Minister and I believe that information is key to getting everyone on board, involved and excited about education. It was a long, but fruitful meeting which helped to steer the strategic and policy directive of the sector. It would take the entire day to cover all the discussions adequately. However there are a few additions I would like to make by highlighting some of the key considerations. It is vitally important to share the decisions of the CEM with the media to keep the public abreast of developments in education as the number one priority of government.
Implementation of the curriculum is the core function of the DBE. We received a progress report on the implementation of the 1+4 programme, which was the Department’s response to the challenges in Mathematics teaching and learning. What was reported to CEM is some of the incredible results we are yielding from this initiative. For example in the pre and post training assessment test we saw almost a 100% improvement in content knowledge. The impact we are seeing is fantastic thus far.
We have also made strides in inclusive education. We have completed our Braille workbooks for Grades 1 to 7 and we are now working on developing Grades 8 and 9. South African sign language teacher guides are now available and will be used from next year.
The Minister announced in her Budget Vote speech that we will be introducing an additional vocational education path for learners. In this regard, we have finalised the development of the Technical Mathematics and Science curricula.
The Minister also touched on the progress made with regards to the DBE television channel when she spoke about the Operation Phakisa into ICT education. To elaborate further on some of the progress made, the DBE signed an MOU with Platco. Two education broadcasting channels were establish to support Grade 7 – 12 in language, mathematics, science and other gate keeping subjects. The content is currently broadcasted on:
o DSTV 319
o OVHD 201
The good thing about the Platco or OVHD platform is that there is only a once off payment, which includes a dish, a decoder and the installation is required. We are actually encouraging those young professionals who are looking to give back to their communities to donate these packages to their old schools. The package can be bought from any major retailers.
TEACHER RESOURCE CENTRES
The CEM approved the Norms and Standards for the Functionality and Location of Teacher Resource Centres (TRC). These will therefore be gazetted for public comment. We currently have 147 TRCs. They are currently offering the following programmes for teacher development:
· EFAL CiPELT Training;
· CAPS content training;
· MST teacher training;
· Principals and SMTs training;
· ICT Leadership and Integration into teaching and learning;
· Library services provided;
· A+ ICT programme for the youth; and
· Digital Classroom with all subjects.
Currently 105 of these have ICT labs and 65 are connected to the internet, with the assistance of our corporate partners, in the main Vodacom, Unisa and MTN we are aiming to achieve universal connectivity for our teacher centres.
There is so much work going on in the education sector that it is difficult to get through it all as I have indicated. However the DBE will be happy to address further queries that we may not have elaborated on adequately through our national and provincial communications teams.
In closing, I thought it appropriate to acknowledge that we are currently celebrating Youth Month and we need to acknowledge and celebrate the gains made in education since the youth of 1976 rose up to protest against the unfair and unequal Bantu education system. Everything we do in our democratic education is in their honour. They fought for quality education and 21 years into democracy we continue to work to eradicate the legacy of apartheid education and to ensure the South African youth of tomorrow have the world at their feet.
I thank you.