As the name indicates, the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) is designed as an evaluation and development institution which is independent of that part of the civil service responsible for the administration of schools. The need for a facility of this kind was first formally articulated in a resolution passed at the Polokwane conference of the ANC in December 2007. This was followed by the appointment by Minister of Education Naledi Pandor of a Committee to investigate the matter. The Ministerial Committee recommended, through its Ministerial Committee Report the establishment of NEEDU, and the institution was established shortly after Minister Angie Motshega was appointed following the general election of 2009. NEEDU is currently staffed by Head Office Managers, Provincial Managers, and 16 School Evaluators. Find the contact details here.
The Ministerial Committee recommended that NEEDU should provide the Minister of Education with an authoritative, analytical and accurate account on the state of schools in South Africa and, in particular, on the status of teaching and learning. This first NEEDU National Report on the the state of literacy teaching and learning in the Foundation Phase will be launched on 02 May 2013.
In 2012, NEEDU investigated teaching and learning in the Foundation Phase, with curriculum delivery as the primary object of these investigations. Curriculum delivery is an on-going process, which starts with the issuing of policy at the national level by the DBE. This is followed by the procurement and delivery of resources and the provision of support systems to schools by provinces and districts. It is then continued through the organisation and management of time and human and material resources by school leaders, culminating in teaching and learning activities conducted by teachers in classrooms. These are iterative processes, with multiple feedback loops, all coordinated by tighter or looser instructional leadership practices and accountability measures up and down the successive levels of the system.
The investigation focus areas for the 3 year cycle (2012-2014) are as follows: curriculum delivery in rural primary schools (2012); rural primary schools (first semester of 2013); multi-grade schools (second semester of 2013); and finally secondary schools (2014).
The evaluation was designed to track instructional leadership practices through four levels of the school system, investigating cross-sectional slices drawn through the national DBE, provinces, districts, and schools. Curriculum delivery was evaluated in 15 cross-sectionsin the latter half of 2012.
In order to trace the interactions required for effective curriculum delivery between four levels of the school system, investigations were undertaken in the national DBE, 9 provincial offices, 15 district offices and 134 schools between May and November 2012. Within each province two districts were selected, one relatively poorly performing and one that reflected relatively stronger performance, both of which administered schools in largely urban areas. District selection was based on advice from the province. Only one district was selected in each of the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces, as these visits were used to test the evaluation instruments and to undertake the training of school evaluators. In the Northern Cape only one district was selected because of the great geographic distance between districts in the province.
School selection within each district followed a three-step process. First, multi-grade schools were not considered, on the grounds that the demands placed on management and teaching in these schools are very different from those in other institutions requiring a special focus (intended to be covered in the second semester of 2013). Secondly, a circle of radius 50 km (wider in cases of districts covering a large area such as West Coast in the Western Cape) was drawn around the identified district office in order to minimise travel costs and time, thus maximising the number of schools visited. Finally, between 8 and 10 schools within this radius were randomly selected for investigation.
In giving effect to this mandate, NEEDU has adopted a systematic approach to reporting. First, each school visited receives a full report of the visit. Initial school reports are of a draft, confidential nature, allowing the school to respond within two weeks. After engagement with the school on points of difference, the report is finalised and sent to the school.
A composite report consisting of descriptions of the assessment of the provincial and two district offices, and a summary of the school reports for each district, is then prepared for each district. The same procedure as that for finalising school reports is followed with the province and districts providing comment on a first draft. After finalisation of the 15 provincial/district reports, the national report is written for the attention of the Minister, the CEM and the public.