Education access & delivery challenges: Public hearings Day 5

Basic Education

26 July 2010
Chairperson: Ms F Chohan (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

In the Committee’s public hearings into access for all, Leaders in Learning submitted that the current crisis in education was the result of the failure of teacher training institutions to address the process of learning and the lack of indication from curricula as to how best to implement the relevant content. The whole-brain teaching and learning approach needed to be adopted in order to redress this. To this end Leaders in Learning would draw up a user-friendly manual which, after consultation with various expert teachers, would be distributed to all schools. A model lesson recorded on a Digital Versatile Disc would also, when ready, be distributed to all schools.

Members asked whether the curricula at tertiary training facilities of universities provided for this approach, whether there were international examples of this approach forming part of teacher training, and whether this approach tried to optimise the learning potential of all learners.

The General Motors South Africa Foundation called for the decentralisation of district offices and the creation of circuit teams. This would bridge the divide between office-based officials and schools and their needs. The Foundation had, in 2001, initiated a project with the Eastern Cape Provincial Education Department which looked at putting together a more effective district office system. Though not implemented in the Eastern Cape, it had been adopted by district offices in the Western Cape which had, as a result of doing this, yielded favourable results. The make-up and operations of these circuit teams were informed by the needs of the particular schools, as opposed to the current model which worked via a top-down approach. The National Department of Education should establish a task team to investigate the possibility of the introduction of circuit teams in all 81 districts.
 
Members asked how easy it was to implement the circuit teams, especially in relation to cost, and personnel, how long the pilot project had been running and when its results were expected, and how this concept would affect employment methods.

Grahamstown Amasango Career School outlined how the school for street children was run and some of the challenges facing the school. Drop-out rates were aggravated by factors such as overcrowding, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS; however, drop-outs were allowed to re-enter. The School called for vocational education for over-aged learners in primary schools who were not making exceptional academic progress. It noted that Basic Education needed to take cognizance of the fact that there were many thousands of broken, hurt, disturbed children who did not “fit” into mainstream education or any of the traditional special needs categories. Many of these children were street children, others just sat at home, others lived off city dumpsites and others were expected to act as shepherds and herdsmen. Others were prostitutes and drug runners. Yet these young people had rights to appropriate care and education. Grahamstown Amasango Career School enabled such children to re-enter the education system and in many cases to return to mainstream education in Grade 8. Five had passed Matric. Despite a 65% unemployment rate in Grahamstown, several former street children were in full-time jobs.

Members asked whether there was any vocational training for those 18 years and older, how many teachers there were at the school, how the learning of those children who constantly left and returned was managed, whether the causes for children’s becoming street children were dealt with, whether there were any statistics on how many learners dropped out as a result of learning barriers, how this school’s operational model could move to other areas, and how the school was funded.

The North West University submitted that, as the basis for all reading and writing was laid in the foundation phase, it was necessary to ensure that learners could read with comprehension during their first years at school. Teachers should, to this end, teach high-frequency words and phonics. List of these words and phonics (in the relevant language) should be distributed to teachers as it had been found that schools at which high-frequency words were taught saw greater reading with comprehension by learners than those that did not.

Members asked no questions orally since the meeting was adjourned at the end of the University’s submission.

Meeting report

Leaders in Learning submission
Dr Johan Swartz, Director, Leaders in Learning, said that there was a crisis in education in South Africa. This was mainly as result of two factors: teacher training institutions’ failure to address the process of learning and the curricula’s providing no indication as to how best to implement the relevant content. Teachers were not aware of the different learning processes the human brain used to achieve understanding. In order to address this shortcoming, he would draw up a user-friendly manual which would then be provided to all teachers. This manual would explain to teachers the concept of ‘whole brain teaching and learning’.   Whole brain teaching and learning involved all four quadrants of the brain through brain profile assessments and the recognition that each learner had a specific type (or types) of intelligence. The use of these processes was applicable across all curricula and could be facilitated by conscious adaptation of existing teaching methods. A number of subject experts would be selected in all learning areas (and across all levels) to undergo practical training around this approach. Once trained, each of these experts would compile five model lessons on different topics from the existing curriculum in accordance with the approach. After the project coordinator had critically assessed these model lessons the experts would re-convene and one lesson would be selected. This model lesson would be taught to learners from a recorded on a Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) which would then be distributed to all schools, which would also receive a copy of the user-friendly Learning Facilitation Manual as well as a textual copy of the five model lessons. Educators would then be encouraged to use these lessons and develop further lessons, based on the model provided, to cover the curriculum.

Discussion
Ms J Kloppers-Lourens (DA) asked whether the curricula at tertiary training facilities of universities provided for this approach.

Mr Swartz answered that this approach was not adopted in universities as the approach there was largely on didactics.

The Chairperson asked whether there were international examples of this approach forming part of teacher training. Did this approach try to optimise the learning potential of all learners?

Mr Swartz answered that this approach had been carefully researched and it was of little relevance to him whether it had been adopted elsewhere in the world. What was important was that South Africa did indeed have the skills with which to adopt this approach. The approach would impact positively on all learners.

GM South Africa presentation
Mr A Forbes, Programme Director, General Motors South Africa Foundation (GM South Africa Foundation), said that one of the main factors contributing towards the decline of education in South Africa currently was the divide that existed between schools and office-based officials. The solution to this would be to decentralise the district offices and to create circuit teams thorough which experts would visit schools so as to assist them with their needs. The Foundation had, in 2001, initiated a project with the Eastern Cape Provincial Education Department which looked at putting together a more effective district office system. This system would bring support and service delivery to these schools. Though the model was accepted by all the relevant stakeholders it was never implemented. The central feature of this model was the idea of the circuit team – the most critical delivery mechanism for district offices. The district offices in the Western Cape, who had taken this model and adapted it to suit their conditions, were now running according to circuit teams. This was seen as a step in the right direction as this concept allowed for direct interface with the schools. The make-up and operations of these circuit teams were informed by the needs of the particular schools, as opposed to the current model which worked via a top-down approach. As Education Development Officers were often responsible for between 30 - 60 schools, it was hard for them to make regular visits to all schools. There was also currently no coordinated approach to meeting the needs of schools, as departments often worked in silos. The National Department of Education should establish a task team to investigate the possibility of the introduction of circuit teams in all 81 districts.

Discussion
Mr J Lorimer (DA) asked how easy it was to implement the circuit teams, especially in relation to cost, personnel etc. How long had the pilot project been running and when were its results expected?

Mr Forbes answered that it was expected to run for three years. It was however was not strictly necessary to wait for the pilot project’s results as the Western Cape districts had already yielded favourable results after implementing the circuit teams.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) asked how this concept would affect employment methods.

Mr Forbes answered that there had been a major challenge around resistance from officials.

The Chairperson asked for a more easily comprehensible written submission to be re-submitted.

Grahamstown Amasango Career School submission
Ms Jane Bradshaw, Principal, Grahamstown Amasango Career School, which was a registered public special school established to meet the needs of learners with extrinsic barriers to learning, said that pupils in her school were admitted through self-referral as street children were found to be independent and would not remain in school for long if they were forced to attend. Baselines tests were then conducted in order to establish whether these children had a basic foundation in education. Twenty percent of these children dropped out (mainly as a result of overcrowding, drug addiction and teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS), though they were allowed to attend classes again as the school did not reject any children. Discipline was consistently applied at the school, with the principle of ‘choices and consequences’ being drilled into them. There was a zero tolerance policy on crime and the police were brought in when having to deal with serious crime. In the absence of an adult to represent a child in court, a school staff member took on this role.

Extrinsic barriers to learning were barriers caused by one or a combination of psycho-social circumstances which caused the learner to drop far behind his or her academic cohort. Severe emotional and behavioural problems made it very difficult for children to access the curriculum.

Basic Education needed to take cognizance of the fact that there were many thousands of broken, hurt, disturbed children out there who did not “fit” into mainstream education or any of the traditional special needs categories.

Many of these children were street children, others just sat at home, others lived off city dumpsites and others were expected to act as shepherds and herdsmen. Others were prostitutes and drug runners. Yet these young people had rights to appropriate care and education. Mrs Bradshaw had founded the school and had begun pioneering education for street children in the Eastern Cape Province in 1991.

Although the children were feed thrice a day, it was first and foremost a school. Children were therefore not given meals if they did not attend classes. A blinkered, one-size-fits-all approach to education was not an effective one. Vocational education for over-aged learners in primary schools, who were not making exceptional academic progress, was needed.

Grahamstown Amasango Career School enabled such children to re-enter the education system and in many cases to return to mainstream education in Grade 8. Five had passed Matric. Despite a 65% unemployment rate in Grahamstown, several former street children were in full-time jobs.

Discussion
Ms M Kubayi (ANC) asked whether there were any vocational training for those 18 years and older. How many teachers were currently at the school? How was the learning of those children who constantly left and returned managed?

Ms Bradshaw answered that this was a critical issue as mainstream education did not cater adequately for older learners. Primary schools should be allowed to teach vocational training to these learners in order to equip them for employment. There were currently 18 teachers at the school. Erratic attendance was a challenge. However, as learners were graded quarterly, this minimised the chances of non-regular attendance negatively affecting other learners.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked whether the issues that resulted in the children becoming street children were dealt with. Were there any statistics on how many learners dropped out as a result of learning barriers?

Ms Bradshaw answered that poverty was the main cause. There were only a few intellectually challenged children at the school.

Ms Mushwana asked how this school’s operational model could move to other areas.

Ms Bradshaw answered that, as this was a national problem, the Department of Education should take this model and implement it nationally.

The Chairperson asked how the school was funded.

Ms Bradshaw answered that although all salaries were paid by the Department of Education, the school received nothing from it for the social care of the children. A charity had been established in England which raised further money.

North West University submission
Ms C Uys, lecturer, North West University, said that, despite the implementation of the National Curriculum Statement (NCS), there was in South Africa still a serious problem around illiteracy. As the basis for all reading and writing was laid in the foundation phase, steps had to be taken in order to ensure that learners could read with comprehension during their first years at school. A possible solution to this was for teachers to teach high-frequency words (the words that appeared most often in both the spoken language and printed material) and phonics. High-frequency words were only mentioned vaguely in the NCS. To this end, lists of these words and phonics (in whichever relevant language) should be distributed to teachers. It had been found that schools at which high-frequency words were taught saw greater reading with comprehension by learners than those that did not.

Members asked no questions orally since the meeting was adjourned at the end of the University’s submission. 

The meeting was adjourned.


Share this page: