Deputy Minister on Department of Basic Education budget & strategic plan 2010 - 2013

Basic Education

15 March 2010
Chairperson: Ms F Chohan (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Mr Enver Surty, on the directions and challenges of the Department of Basic Education, with specific emphasis on managing, monitoring and ensuring positive gains in the education system. This was followed by a department briefing on 2010/11 – 2012/13 Strategic Plan and the 2010 Budget Review.

Members were concerned about the synergy between the DBE and the Department of Higher Education and Training, monitoring of change and the effective roll-out of workbooks for learners. However the Committee considerably impressed with the new directions being taken by the DBE and expressed support and encouragement.

Meeting report

The Chairperson commented on the submissions received in response to the Committee’s call for comments on how to improve basic education. The scheduled public hearings would be of concern to the department. It would be helpful if the department kept a check on the submission issues and formulated responses. These submissions would be sent to the department so the relevant departmental official was sent to the hearings.

Input by Deputy Minister of Basic Education
The Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Mr Enver Surty, conveyed apologies for the absence of the Minister. The DBE was responsible for education from Grade R to 12 and Adult Literacy, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) assumed the responsibility for tertiary education and Further Education Training (FET) colleges. As such the reconfiguration of the previous Department of Education would talk to this. The ruling party had established education as an apex priority, which meant that DBE would receive a large portion of the national budget and attention. The reason for this was the recognition of serious challenges in the education system and the need to turn it around. The delineation between Basic and Higher Education allowed the DBE to focus specifically on schools. As the President described 2010 as a year of action, the DBE was looking at implementation and an outcome based approach with measurable outputs.

It was found that unless the foundations for learning were in place, the education system would not succeed, this was discovered even during the previous administration and positive changes had been made since then, but not enough.  South Africa now outperformed other countries in the region in terms of education and had moved closer to the performance mean.

There was a need to focus on strengthening Early Childhood Development (ECD) and reading comprehension and calculation. There was a need to be frank and look at the reality of the learning environment and what needed to be done to bring about change. The bringing about of change was focusing on an immediate pragmatic approach.

Work packs for children were found to be necessary for children as well as a clear outline for teachers of what to teach. The government had set aside R120 million for workbooks during 2010. The DA and IFP had cautioned the DBE to plan carefully and ensure the quality of the workbooks, as such it had taken longer and quality was ensured. Reports from the Department and Ministry on Grade R workbooks were positive and provided a uniform curriculum.

A focus on monitoring and evaluation in order to ensure change was underway, as well as international benchmarking. Money had been set aside for this purpose and change would be measured. As issues facing schools differed, DBE officials needed to visit each school and determine what support and intervention was needed. A target was set for the improvement of passes, especially in Grade 12 as it represented the culmination of schooling and allowed university exemption. Targets for maths and science were necessary and spoke to textbook and resource targets, evidence of this was seen at Dinaledi Schools. The important thing was that the quality teaching campaign needed to be tangible in order to get parents involved. The implementation of curriculum changes was not party tainted, but teacher-input focused. To be an apex priority everyone needed to pull together in the pursuit of common objectives.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister and agreed with the last statement about synergy across party lines. About the workbooks, the Committee had spent some time in Pretoria with the Department and the heads of each unit, during which they had encountered the Kha Ri Gude project. At this point the Department was still considering basic level textbooks. After the visit the issue of workbooks started gelling together. One issue noted I the Department was that people seemed to work in silos and best practices were not shared across the Department. It was hoped that the vast quantity of experience derived from the Kha Ri Gude project was applied to new endeavours. The workbooks were not a DA or IFP idea, but a Portfolio Committee on Basic Education idea. The Committee supported the Department ’s endeavours, but would be critical.

M J Kloppers-Lourens (DA) underlined the DA’s concern about the Minister not being present, as regular interaction with the Minister was necessary. The full truth about the workbooks was needed as she was aware that the tenders for the workbooks were cancelled in December 2009. When the Department was asked about this they seemed unaware of this and stated that workbooks would in schools in March.

Mr Bobby Soobrayan, Acting Director-General, DBE, stated that the issue of working in silos was being looked at. The workbook tender was not cancelled as it was not awarded in the first place due to supply chain management legislation evaluation indicating that in the time available a quality product would not be deliverable. The official contacted by Ms Kloppers-Lourens did not know this due to anti-corruption checks which prevented access to tender information being evaluated. In future questions should be directed to the Director-General and not officials.

The Chairperson stated that it would be useful for the Department to brief the Committee on the tender process and added that she agreed with the need for questions to be submitted to the Director-General.

Mr J Lorimer (DA) applauded the directions taken by the Department and added that the emphasis on monitoring was important, but that the step that followed was consequences. School visits were good, but should happen at a district level anyway, as such this hinted at a lack of capacity.

 The Chairperson stated that the last question would be discussed in the presentation by the Department .

The Deputy Minister thanked the Committee for its support and added that they were proud of the Kha Ri Gude initiative as it had done extremely well qualitatively and it was being looked at by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The Ministry was equally concerned about the working in silo issues; however they were looking at Committees that drew on the best people across the Department as a whole.

Concern was shared about the Minister not being present, but he stated that her absence was not due to contempt or dismissiveness and that the Minster would seek another opportunity to liaise with the Committee.  Workbooks were delayed due to quality, input, content and design considerations which had led to a decision supported by Parliament to do them, but not rush the process in order to deliver quality products.

In terms of monitoring, if they “got right” efficiency and accountability then the Department would do well. If there was no accountability then there would be failure. Officials needed to be accountable to the Department . Good people needed to be put in the correct places and those not performing needed to be held accountable and removed.

The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister for an able input and added that it did not seem that the Committee had suffered from the absence of the Minister.

Presentation by the Department of Basic Education (DBE)
Mr Soobrayan went through the presentation, providing a high level overview of the Department 2010/11 – 2012/13 Strategic Plan, outlining how the Department would work differently in order to affect education earmarking as an apex priority. A detailed look at strategic objectives and targets was provided examining Key Objectives, Activities and Targets; Administration, Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring; Teachers and Education Human Resources Development and Management; Planning, Quality Assessment and Monitoring and Evaluation; and Social Responsibility.  A Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) Budget Review was provided with a detailed allocation of funding (see document).

Discussion
The Chairperson asked for the submission of a detailed provincial budget analysis and how they had been realised over the previous two years.

Mr Soobrayan apologised as he had assumed that the Department would come back to the Committee at a later date and brief them on the provincial breakdown.  A presentation was available and would be submitted to the Committee.

The Chairperson asked for an explanation for the decrease by 51% on slide 31 of the presentation for the item called Projects.

Mr Theuns Tredoux, Acting Chief Financial Officer, DBE, stated that for the past financial years a constructed baseline was done. As a result of the split of the previous Department of Education, there were some abnormal changes. The project funding specification referred to detailed strategic objectives or projects with specific funding allocations.

The Chairperson asked where Kha Ri Gude featured in these programmes.

Mr Soobrayan replied that it featured under Earmarked Projects and was not affected by the project figures.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the departmental restructuring as the Department seemed to have a broad sense of the subunits needed, but asked when a sense of permanence of structure would occur.

Mr Soobrayan replied that the post of Director-General has been advertised and that the Department s budget would be finalised in April and as a result permanent appointments could be submitted under the new organogram. Currently the Department was understaffed and operating in a sense of flux.

The Deputy Minister added that the Director-General post was advertised that day and that the process for interviews would be finalised by the following week. Strategic appointments would be done first.

The Chairperson stated that it would be a good idea for the Deputy Minister to state in writing at least when the Deputy-General post would be finalised. She suggested that members ask questions according to the programme of the presentation and began by stating that it would be good if Legal Services included a report what cases were pending and the nature of said cases.

Ms M Kubayi (ANC) asked when the Portfolio Committee would become involved with stakeholder engagement and the 2025 framework, as it was necessary for the Committee to have a role in the framework process.  With reference to page 88 of the strategic plan, timeframes for service delivery still needed to be determined. There was concern about security of exams and the prevention of script leakage.

Mr Soobrayan replied that it was crucial that the 2025 framework came to the Committee. On 23 April the Minister would outline a process of consultation in which the Committee would be included. With regard to exam scripts, robust surveillance measures were in place.

Mr Wilson Makgalancheche, Acting Chief Director, Administration, DBE, replied that the service delivery dates had been left open. This was because it was a sectoral service delivery plan which took into account all stakeholders. Until comprehensive consultation had occurred, they were leaving the dates open.

The Deputy Minister agreed with Ms Kubayi and asked if perhaps the Department could use the Committee as a platform for broad conversation with the public.

Ms N Gina (ANC) asked about the role of the Director-General and Deputy Directors-General in the provinces, as the distance between the Director-General’s office and schools was too large a strain. Was there any oversight control over all these levels. There was a true need for oversight due to the distance.

Mr Soobrayan noted that distance was a big issue in terms of delivery and that they were working intently around a set of policy proposals that stressed the universality of districts. A policy document defining norms, functions and rules that a district should fulfil provincially, was being drafted.

The Deputy Minister stated that they had looked at provincial models and found that the Western Cape and Gauteng had the best district models, but it would be difficult to implement these in less developed provinces as resources and Information Communication Technology (ICT) were necessary. As such there was a need for norms for the provinces, drawing on all the good elements which allowed a level of provincial flexibility.

Mr A Mpontshane (ANC) stated that there was a need for restructuring of districts in provinces. He asked if they were reviewing the Labour Relations Act in terms of weaknesses it may cause for service delivery. This was due to the labour relations in the Department .

Mr Soobrayan replied that the issue was not about the Labour Relations Act, but one of managers performing their duties properly. Decisive action needed to be taken when there were clear cases of non-performance.

Mr Lorimer asked if the Department was reviewing or replacing the quintile system of funding.

Mr Soobrayan stated that they had taken proposals for the revision of funding norms and were now conflating Quintiles One, Two and Three as poor schools due to unfairness of ranking in the past. The spirit of pro-poor funding was good and technical weaknesses were being fixed.

Ms A Mda, COPE, asked how performance based agreements would work in the provinces.

The Deputy Minister replied that one needed to look at priorities arising from what cluster needed to be established to achieve a certain outcome. They would initiate that cluster and ensure that they utilised intergovernmental frameworks to set out a plan and response straddling all role-players, so everyone was involved.

In response to the Chairperson’s request for a document stating the Department’s international obligations in terms of treaties, Mr Soobrayan said that he would provide this.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) asked how the new examinations for Grades Three, Six and Nine were going to be managed. In terms of teacher-student non-negotiables, he asked how being on time could be enforced in the light of transport problems.

Mr Soobrayan replied that the Grades Three, Six and Nine exams were not a big deal like the Grade 12 examinations. They were an assessment which would be administered by schools and districts in order to benchmark performance.  Teacher supply in rural areas was a difficult problem and the Department was seriously re-looking at teacher’s quarters in rural areas. In the light of learner travelling problems, a re-look at multi-grade teaching in rural areas was being done.

Ms Gina stated that funding at schools was based on learner population and asked what plans the Department had as most schools with a higher standard of education had more learners. This meant that better schools would still get more money.

Mr Soobrayan replied that they did not allocate according to how big a school was, but per learner according to poorness.

The Chairperson liked the fact that the Department’s targets were basic, but asked how this would be enforced across 27 000 schools. As such an institutional system that monitored schools was needed. In light of curriculum changes, a certain degree of certainty needed to be inculcated as constant instability impacted negatively on teachers’ ability to deliver.

Mr Soobrayan replied that monitoring would be done through a mechanism such as NEEDU
(National Education Evaluation and Development Unit) and that they would need to ensure that district capacity was enough. The Department had the Quality Management Forum and the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC) was a multi-stakeholder intervention. The Minister had appointed a person to set up NEEDU and ensure that it functioned semi-autonomously outside the Department. He acknowledged that in terms of curriculum development it was about predictability of change and that frequent change undermined policy even if it was an improvement as teaching was a process that was built upon.

With regard to teacher training, it was found that teachers needed interventions on how to teach and orient themselves within the curriculum, the relevance of teacher training was not what the Department thought it was. A document on teacher qualification was available.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) asked if there were reasons why some schools did not have Grade R and added that it did not seem that Grade R teaching was being marketed as a viable career option. She asked about the progress in streamlining the administrative system for teachers as well as the application of learners’ programmes on how to study.

Mr Soobrayan replied that the long-term career attractiveness of teaching Grade R was low and the Department wanted to move to a position were Grade R teachers in government schools were regulated and employed by the provinces. Some aspects of the administrative load for teachers would be scrapped immediately such as portfolios. The reduction of learning areas was a more medium term change and as such most of the streamlining would occur when the Department had clarity on the exact needs.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked what the phases of the office of curriculum development were in relation to page 444 of the Strategic Plan document and what exactly was meant by special schools and remedial work.

Mr Soobrayan replied that the Department was setting up new capacity for curriculum development as they acknowledged that this had not been done very well. Special needs was an area of policy weakness due the budget and complexity of the issue. Implementation of policy was difficult as one problem was the inability to pick up on an early diagnosis of learners with special needs, in order to manage their problems.

Ms Gina stated that the Foundations for Learning up to Grade 6 was a good campaign and asked how far the Department was in implementing it.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) asked what programmes were in place for school libraries.

Mr Soobrayan replied that in line with the potential bringing forward of coming years’ budget to invest in infrastructure, libraries would be covered. In addition, the Department was working with the construction industry in investigating and taking advantage of offers to build specification schools at less cost in less time.

The Chairperson was confused about the workbook issue as schools had lesson plans, but in terms of the Kha Ri Gude workbooks, the workbook was the lesson plan. In terms of this there was a worry about the synergy between lesson plans and the workbooks. Furthermore, it now seemed that only Grade R – 9 in Quintiles 1 to 3 would be supplied with workbooks. Clarity was needed on this due to the previous assumption that all schools and grades would be receiving workbooks. The Department also needed to define the parameters of teacher development and qualifications.

Mr Soobrayan replied that workbooks were intended for all schools with Grade R and that lesson plans and workbooks were aligned as the workbooks were drafted based on lesson plans. For Quintiles 1 to 3 the Department would supply workbooks, but Quintiles 4 to 5 were encouraged to purchase them.

The Chairperson was worried that if there were a range and choice available, there would be an inconsistency in the purchasing of textbooks and workbooks. A uniform set needed to be prescribed.

Mr Soobrayan replied that even though schools could purchase, they had to select from a National Catalogue.

Mr Gina referred to slide 27 of the presentation and asked why the allocation for teacher education had risen only by 2.3 percent.

Mr Soobrayan replied that this was because teacher training was not the direct responsibility of the DBE. It was the competency of the DHET and provincial in-service training.

Ms Gina asked whether the DBE had any link to the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) after the split.

Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, Director: Financial Services, replied that the reference to SETA in the presentation reflected the contribution by the Department to its SETA as an employer contribution.

The Chairperson stated that the statistics by the Department seemed to lack analysis. This should be done to facilitate monitoring and evaluation.

Mr Lorimer asked what was different now that would ensure that school feeding money would not be misused and result in an implosion of the feeding scheme as in the past.

Mr Tredoux replied that they were implementing feeding schemes in various provinces with the aim of feeding all Quintile 1 to 3 primary schools and all Quintile 1 high schools. After April 2010 this would extended to Quintile 2 high schools and by April 2011 this would be extended to Quintile 3 high schools. The unit monitoring school nutrition had been strengthened and National Treasury had given funding to do this. However the issue of procurement and service delivery sat with the provinces, the national Department had issued guidelines to them.

Mr Gina asked if the Department had a timeframe so that after a certain number of years, the programme at a Dinaledi school would be moved to another school after the school in question could stand on its own feet.

Mr Soobrayan replied that Ms Gina was absolutely correct and that the DBE was evaluating the Dinaledi model to see if it had worked and if they could move it out to other schools.

The Chairperson was worried about the division of the Department of Education and stressed the need for synergy between the DBE and DHET. In South Africa there was not a normal vocational role model system. Sound vocational education was not offered in high schools, nor information on accessing the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Mr Soobrayan agreed that statistical analysis was needed and that the DBE was trying to develop its research capability and work with academics. As government worked in clusters the DBE would need to keep an eye on synergy.

Ms Vanessa Carelse, Deputy Director-General, Office of the Director-General, DBE, replied that prior to the split , communication units had initiated a campaign to make the public aware of the NSFAS.

The Chairperson commended the Department on putting together a comprehensive capability around Basic Education within a very short time.

The meeting was adjourned.

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