Education access & delivery challenges: Ministerial statement & Public hearings Day 1

Basic Education

11 May 2010
Chairperson: Ms F Chohan (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee commenced its public hearings into the challenges in access to and delivery of quality education in South Africa. This would lead to a report being tabled by the Committee to assist the Department in its planning around education issues. The Chairperson explained the submission process in depth, and noted that 283 submissions had been received. The Deputy Minister for Education commented favourably on the quality and quantity of submissions.

Many of those making submissions dealt with similar topics and concerns. Members called on many of those making submissions to give more detail on their necessarily brief oral presentations. The common concerns included curriculum content, discipline problems, teacher demoralisation and the need for teacher development. Language was also a major issue and the non-availability of books in indigenous languages, particularly at the higher grades, was cited as a concern. Cape Town Studies and Tours, a small private school covering grades 9 to 12, and catering to local and foreign students, noted that there was insufficient emphasis on practical learning in science subjects,  not enough emphasis on physical science, and not sufficient emphasis on maths in grade 8. There was a need to instill immediate and effective discipline where student transgressions occurred. The suggestion was made that mobile schools should be set up to educate and guide children, using caravans or any other available facility. It also suggested a module for educators on how to tackle disciplinary and juvenile delinquency issues, as well as serious attention to demoralization amongst teachers.

Mr Bheki Zondi reiterated that many teachers felt disempowered and recommended the establishment of an Institute for teachers where ongoing training workshops and networking could be held. He said that management tended to be bogged down with administrative issues. There should be geographical reorganization so schools could pool resources. Further Education and Training Colleges should be set up in areas where students could practise their practical skills for the benefit of communities. Examination papers should be made available in all languages. Members suggested that the fallacies around FET Colleges should be corrected and subject advisors should tell their students what the aims were of these institutions. They were concerned that many schools were no longer offering history.

Ukufunda, an electronically used programme, accessed via the internet, TV, and telephone, by way of a call centre, was introduced by its developers. This was a programme designed to equip and empower teachers, thus directly benefiting learners. This was affordable and might be the solution to  the problems that the economic climate posed.

Funda Africa, a non government organisation established in 2008 for the purpose of school development and transformation programmes, briefed the Committee on the huge potential to get the independent sector involved and to ask corporates to assist with development of education.

Professor Hennie Steyn from Potchefstroom University noted the development of Digital Book Disc, which was intended not as a visual aid to replace teachers, but to assist them visually in putting concepts across. This should be rolled out to all day care and grade R learners, although it could be developed further, with other funding. Members questioned whether it was available in indigenous languages and said that they thought oversight on the concept would be useful. They commented on lack of willingness of publishers to publish in these languages.

Mr John Knipe, Chairperson of a governing body, thought that mother tongue education should be predominant in Junior Primary schools, that literacy and numeracy must be addressed,  and excellence in schools should be incentivised and encouraged, including rewarding those teachers who performed well.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson expressed thanks and admiration for an overwhelming response to the call for public submissions, noting that 283 submissions had been received from various organizations and individuals. She explained  at length how the public hearings would be conducted, and clarified the procedure to be followed with submissions, leading ultimately to a summarised report of key aspects that would serve as a recommendation to the Department of Basic Education, for assessment, possible adoption, and implementation. Preference would be given to submissions by practitioners such as principals, subject advisors and teachers

Deputy Minister’s remarks
Mr Enver Surty, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, remarked on the significance of the public hearings, and expressed his utmost confidence in the Portfolio Committee. He applauded participants for their quality contributions and assured them that through incredible synergy between the Department and the Portfolio Committee, fruitful engagement would take place.

Quality Education: Challenges in delivery and access: Public hearings
Cape Town Studies and Tours (CTST) submission
Ms Karin Bartsch, Principal, Cape Town Studies and Tours, presented the CTST submission which provided an overview of the aspects affecting quality outcomes in schools, identifying curriculum content in the main.

Mr Azia Avon, teacher, reported that in Life Sciences and Natural Science, there was a lack of a short practical programme for all schools, with a clearly defined content, the number in hours to be devoted to each topic, the topics themselves, and a practical examination in grade 12. Some certificated learners were not able to perform even a simple experiment under controlled conditions. This, he said was very important, as practical ability formed the background of life science. Topics such as Genetics, DNA and Evolution were not suitable due to the extent of technique they involved which were beyond a Grade 12 learner.

Another concern was the lack of continuity with topics. Those students without grade 9 or 10 in that subject, who were proceeding to institutions of higher learning, found it very challenging. Also, a broad based Natural Science programme should integrate and focus more on the areas of Physical Science and Geology.

Mr Joseph Willies, Mathematics Teacher, expressed his concern with the movement between grades 9 and 10. He said that examinations in grade 8 should count far more, enabling the child to score better. Should the child fail, he or she should be permitted to progress on to the next grade, having learnt how to study independently and prepare for a big exam. Mathematics should therefore constitute at least 50% of the final mark in grade 8.

Mr Jonathan Sampson, School Psychologist, Business and Life Orientation teacher, spoke on the subject of values. He advised that people up to the ages of 21 or 22 had still not developed a moral structure, and this became a problem when it came to dealing with discipline and the measures currently in place. Unless discipline happened immediately after the transgression, the connection was not made. He said that parents needed to be made accountable to results, and definite structures to handle juvenile delinquents were required as this was not taught to educators. Mr Sampson suggested using mobile schools or setting up schools in discarded containers, to help tackle the issue of literacy.

Ms Paddy Locke, English teacher, expressed concern about the correctness of the spoken and the written English language and the confusion around these for students, saying that they had no model to follow. The issue of literacy and discipline once again was mentioned as of grave concerns. She also highlighted problems arising from the assimilation of foreign students into the South African system, and the paradox of bitter, disempowered, but passionate Educators who were experiencing a great deal of ‘teacher bashing’. This was a negative perspective seriously needing attention.

The Chairperson requested clarification on the school’s status and student complement.

Ms Bartsch replied that this was a private school with mixed cultures, comprising one-third foreign and two-thirds South African students. The school taught grades 9 to 12, had a total student body of 36, with 6 full time teachers and 3 contractors, at a ratio of 6 per class. On average, the foreign students were from Africa, West Africa, Asia and Europe.

The Chairperson responded by calling for supplementary and more substantiated submissions, unpacking concrete issues of integration and critical areas of barriers, race, language, culture and other aspects.

Mr J Lorimer (DA) referred to the benefits of rote learning, a point made in the maths presentation.

Mr Willies referred to young children or children with an attention deficit problem, where one would have to go over the same topic a number of times to try to get the child to understand and grasp the issues.

Dr J Kloppers- Lourens (DA) called for more information on alternatives, the school’s solutions and suggestions on dealing with juvenile delinquency and instituting mobile schools.

Mr Sampson suggested a module at tertiary level for Educators on how to deal with certain social issues, especially juvenile delinquency, and a module on disciplinary measures, reiterating the importance of immediate action. He noted that mobile schools could even possibly be caravans manned with volunteers. This could be highly beneficial, firstly in keeping children off the street, and secondly by giving them some life skills and teaching basic literacy and numeracy to them.

The Chairperson called for examples of situations and suggestions on ways to prevent the problems.

Mr Willies responded with a suggestion to incorporate disciplinary measures into the school rules, with consequences such as losing the right to education.

Ms N Gina (ANC) suggested the issues of discipline and demoralised teachers be seriously examined. She recommended putting initiatives in place involving society, all stakeholders, parents and educators, all of whom could be asked to given their recommendations on results.

Mr Bhekani Zondi submission
Mr Bheki Zondi, Deputy Chief Education Specialist, Kwa Zulu Natal, and History Subject Advisor, presented the Committee with recommendations on the issue of access to education.

In regard to teacher development, he felt that the current curriculum and a new approach, which was not training and developing educators accordingly, had much to do with teachers feeling disempowered. Mr Zondi recommended the establishment of an Institute for teachers where ongoing training workshops and networking throughout the year could be held.

He then commented on Management of schools. He said that the principal of a school could generally not manage with administration issues, unless he was equipped professionally to deal with the key performance areas and deal with the administration. This resulted in the delivery of basic education suffering. He suggested that a reorganization of schools geographically; for the purpose of pooling resources to optimise on specialist skills, would enhance quality of education.

He said that Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges, similarly, should be located in the local areas where a programme could be implemented to use the skills of the learners for the possible upliftment of the area, and at the same time, giving them a chance to gain experience. He said that this could be used in areas such as motor mechanics, plumbing, and electrical skills.

The language barrier had thus far been a serious impediment to the success of grade 12 learners in particular. He thought that examination papers for various areas needed to be made available in the main language spoken in the area, beside English and Afrikaans.

Mr Zondi suggested that there should be compulsory attendance to at least grade 9, an exercise that, if policed and supervised by appointed officers, would not only benefit education, but would also have a beneficial effect in lowering crime statistics in future.

The Chairperson requested Mr Zondi to provide her with the ratio of numbers of subject advisors to the number of schools in Kwa Zulu Natal. A major issue, and therefore a concern to the Department of Basic Education (DBE or the Department), was the complaint that Subject Advisors were of no use or support, and in fact were further hampering the situation.

Ms A Mashisi (ANC) questioned the problems around using mother tongue.

Mr Zondi explained that from grades 1 to 4, it was not a problem. However, from grade 5 onward, and especially for grade 12, there was a shortage of published material in the eleven official languages.

Ms Gina pointed out the importance for Student Advisors to correct the fallacy around FET Colleges. It was generally understood that if a student was not at the top academically he or she would simply be steered in the direction of an FET College. Subject Advisors should point out what was the aim of the FET College.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Zondi for a presentation that had been very interesting and had enabled the Committee to develop a better explanation for the recommendations. She referred to the idea of a Teachers’ Institute as a novel idea to enhance the skills of teachers and agreed also that orientating schools to specialisation and then offering choices made good sense.

Mr Zondi clarified the idea of merging schools for pooling resources to deliver quality education, as Ms Chohan said that she had not found this particularly clear.

The Chairperson asked Mr Zondi to explain the issue at matric with Vocational and Academic streams, questioning why many students found it a problem. She wondered if this was contributing to the dropout rate.

The Chairperson said it was also of concern that history, as a subject, seemed to be phased out at many schools. This was of such importance. She called for separate submissions to elaborate on the history issue, and the attendance issue

A Member added that it was quite important for these submissions to have more substance, as many issues could be used now to enhance the processes.

Ukufunda submission
Ms van Zyl, representative for Ukufunda, said that this was an electronically used programme, accessed via the Internet, TV, and Telephone, by way of a call centre. This programme was designed to equip and empower teachers with the aim of directly and beneficially impacting on the learner. It covered the academic levels, emotional level, career guidance, and skills development, conflict management and other issues. She believed that this was the solution to solve the problems that the economic climate posed.

The Chairperson enquired how the product was purchased and about its availability.

The delegation replied that it was newly launched and was being tested.

The Chairperson requested to be kept informed and on the mailing list for the product.

undani Ma Africa t/a Funda Afrika submission
Mr Helmut Bertellsman, Representative of Funda Afrika, presented the Committee with a profile and overview of Funda Africa. This was a non government organisation (NGO), established in 2008 for the purpose of school development and transformation programmes, and other activities related to this.

He spoke of the huge capacity in the independent sector, where, through collaboration, corporates were putting R1.3 billion into the development of education. He thought that Chief Executive Officers were devoted to addressing the problem.

The Chairperson referred to this as an “unusual animal” and expressed interest in whether there could be access to data by provinces, to obtain a perspective of what was happening in their own provinces.

North West University Potchefstroom submission
Professor Hennie Steyn, Education Expert, North West University, submitted his presentation on Digital Book Disc (DBD) support for increased productivity in education.

Digital Book Disc was not the conventional way of teaching, with which teachers were familiar. This was not in fact a visual aid to replace teachers. It would rather assist the teachers, visually, by providing an interactive way of understanding.

Professor Steyn proposed that this programme should be rolled out to all day care and grade R learners immediately to provide the quality of education needed, until it was developed further. At present this was being tested in Klerksdorp Potchefstroom and Pretoria, with corporate funding, but had not been rolled out yet to other places.

The Chairperson enquired whether this was available in any indigenous languages.

Professor Steyn said he could make this available in all languages, subject to funding being obtained. He also planned to bring in cultural stories of different ethnic groups to build on the concept.

Dr Kloppers- Lourens commented that she would prefer to do some oversight on this.

A Member commented on the enormity of the challenges, saying that these covered both issues of equity and the use of indigenous languages. She referred to the lack of commitment by publishers in respect of African children.

The Chairperson responded by saying that mechanisms must be found to leverage the publication of books in indigenous languages, possibly through the issue of tenders. Sadly, the issue of publication was always driven by profit.

Professor Steyn commented further that DBDs were a lot more cost effective than books and publishing.

John Knipe Submission
Mr John Knipe described himself as a business man and Chairperson of the governing body of Glenwood High School. He gave his personal perception of the problems. Firstly, he said that there was a problem in not having mother tongue education to the end of Junior Primary school, excluding some subjects in English. He thought that should then be a transition to English at High School. He thought that literacy and numeracy issues were at the heart of most learning problems and must be addressed. He suggested that excellence in schools should be incentivised and encouraged. He noted that there was a need to promote quality of teachers and thought that their performance should be linked to remuneration. Finally he commented that the curricular content needed to be consistent, not fluctuating.

Mr Lorimer called for Mr Knipe’s comment on all issues raised by previous presenters.

Members and presenters then held a discussion on issues around discipline, demoralised teachers and drop out levels.

The meeting was adjourned

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