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Working towards quality

Progress is being made towards realising the finalisation of a General Education Quality System Analysis/Diagnosis Framework (GEQAF) to assess the quality of the education system in South Africa and other United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) member countries.

The Department of Basic Education hosted a workshop for stakeholders in Pretoria on 12-14 November, 2012, to facilitate a conversation around how the proposed framework could assist with planning in the education sector.

UNESCO, in collaboration with its Member States including South Africa, developed the GEQAF to strengthen national capacity in assessing education systems based on local knowledge and expertise. The diagnostics/analysis guided by the GEQAF should strengthen both the qualitative and quantitative knowledge base required to design and implement responsive, targeted and timely quality improvement interventions. The goal of universal access to education has largely been achieved, particularly in South Africa but the issue of quality within education remains a concern. The Annual National Assessments (ANA’s) 2011 results are a clear indication of the need for increasing focus on quality within our education system. The GEQAF is structured to assist in developing quality assurance measure into education and ensuring that universal education to average students is off good quality equipping learners with the ability to function successfully in their academic careers and the labour market.

The GEQAF contains 15 Analytical Tools covering all key aspects of an education system taking into account the interdependencies and linkages between the various aspects. The themes covered in the tools include Equity and Inclusiveness, which assesses universal access of learners to education including learners with special needs. Other tools refer to life-long learning, school governance, learners and teachers amongst other themes.

The workshop brought together officials from UNESCO, the Departments of Basic and Higher Education, National Treasury, the Human Sciences Research Council, the University of Johannesburg and the University of Pretoria for intensive discussion. Delegates from UNESCO included Professor Sibia who discussed India’s experience in implementing the tools, providing insight on bottlenecks experienced and possible outcomes which could develop from utilisation of the tools as is the case in India.

Speaking at the workshop, Director-General of the DBE, Mr Bobby Soobrayan, said that all countries now recognise that there should be a greater focus on quality in education. “In South Africa pre-liberation, we had this euphoria and expectation that once this blockage was removed, we would unleash our potential. We realise now that was not the case and we have to think very hard about quality,” said DG Soobrayan. “There is a movement around the world where the approach to quality is improving and through this framework we can bring together like-minded countries.”

DG Soobrayan reminded delegates that the framework is not perfect but was adamant that once implemented there will be adjustments for the better as the framework is adapted for local conditions.“Quality must be holistic and the tool for measuring quality must be equally holistic. It must be measured at level of inputs, systems and outcomes. Over the last four years we have operationalised these things through our sector plan and the framework will be useful to complete diagnosis and assess the completeness of our Action Plan,” said DG Soobrayan.

The workshop served as a preliminary meeting where different analytical tools were introduced to DBE officials and education stakeholders. Draft general responses to the tools were developed at the workshop and will be circulated to DBE officials and education stakeholders for further engagement.

The DBE emphasised the significance of the various analytical tools to achieve quality education and noted the importance of alignment with existing initiatives and plans of the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Education Sector Plan namely the Action Plan to 2014 Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025. The analytical tool is specifically aligned to the quality goal 6 for the schooling sector in the Education for All (EFA) goals, and therefore  development of the country report will not be separate from sector planning activities but include a consultative and stakeholder groupings in relation to sector priorities where appropriate.

The DBE committed itself to continuous engagement with the tools in order to produce a meaningful, reflective country report by April 2013. The DBE thanked UNESCO for their efforts, the development of the tools and their positive contribution to the development of education.

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