The Committee continued with its public hearings on access to and delivery of quality education in South Africa.
The Siyahamba Foundation for Academic Excellence had done research which showed that learners were not being taught learning skills. This Foundation had therefore released both a learner’s manual and a teacher’s manual, which emphasised aspects such as developing a positive belief system, improving memory, effective mind management, improving reading and writing skills, reducing anxiety and managing stress. Members asked if the success of this book was proven, whether the focus was on generic learning skills or was subject specific, whether teachers were currently trained at university in different learning theories and whether a similar book would be available for younger learners.
Projects Abroad noted that research conducted at disadvantaged schools in the
Quality Education in
Ms Jacqueline Huxham, Educator,
Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) asked what had resulted in the school’s success, especially given the challenges presented by the OBE system.
Ms Huxham answered that teachers had, to a large extent, not followed those OBE rules that they felt would disadvantage their learners.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens (DA) asked for an indication of the school’s fees, and the teacher: learner ratio.
Ms Huxham answered that these fees were dependent on the Grade. Grade 0 learners paid about R300 monthly for Grade 0 learners, up to around R700 at matriculation level. The teacher: learner ratio was between 1:7 and 1:25.
Ms F Mushwana (ANC) asked whether the school could afford to become a public school.
Ms Huxham answered that there was no real desire for the school to be a private school. The school was built in that area as a result of there being no other English-medium school in the district.
Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) asked whether only those willing to be educated in English were enrolled. He asked how, if the school became government-funded, it would differ from a public school.
Ms Huxham said English was the medium of instruction at the school. There were other schools in the district where isiZulu was the medium of instruction.
Meredale Primary School Submission
Mr Graham Murray, Principal, Meredale Primary School, said that some of the challenges faced by his school included overcrowding, lack of adequate and cohesive support from the Department of Education, and students having to have Afrikaans as a subject. There were also occasions where children between five and six years of age, in Grade 1, were sharing the same classroom with much older children, up to eight years old, who had failed their previous attempts at this grade. In order to deal with this, the classes were split according to the month of birth, which had the knock on effect of reducing bullying.
Meredale recommended that schools should also be allowed to appoint the teachers they felt were best for the position. Teaching should be listed as an essential service in order to limit strike actions that resulted in teachers being removed from classes.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked for more details around the issue of bullying.
Mr Murray answered that this was mainly influenced by differences in learners’ physiques. As a result the school tried as far as possible to separate learners of different sizes. This had proven to reduce the incidences of bullying. Teachers needed to be vigilant around this issue in order to stem it.
The Chairperson asked what the school’s experience had been around the issue of inclusive education. She also wondered what the process was for employment of teachers.
Mr Murray answered that there was a district psychologist who assisted in this regard. The main problem was the size of the classes, which precluded individual attention being given to those learners who most needed it.
The Chairperson asked whether teachers were requesting more remedial classes.
Mr Murray answered that the need for this was unfortunately on the increase.
Siyahamba Foundation of Academic Excellence Submission
Mr John Higgins, Chief Executive Officer, Siyahamba Foundation of Academic Excellence, said that the research Siyahamba had conducted had found that teachers did not teach learning skills to the learners. A programme that looked at the teaching of learning skills would improve educational outcomes and results. As personal development skills were also of importance, Siyahamba had released both a learner’s manual and a teacher’s manual. These books adopted a non-religious, non-political and holistic approach, and were written in simple and understandable language. They included modules on developing a positive belief system, improving memory, effective mind management and improving reading and writing skills, reducing anxiety and managing stress.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked whether there were any statistics to show whether the book had been effective. She asked whether the focus in the book was on generic learning skills, or whether it was subject-specific.
Mr Higgins answered that although people had found the book very effective the foundation needed money in order to conduct proper research around this. The approach was a generic one which could be applied to all subjects. The foundation would like to see the book introduced at tertiary level too.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked whether teachers were currently being trained around different learning theories at universities.
Mr Makhubele asked about the cost of the book.
Mr Higgins answered that the price depended on the amount of books ordered.
The Chairperson asked whether this book should not also be targeted at a younger audience.
Mr Higgins answered that the foundation hoped to expand this to lower grades.
Projects Abroad Submission
Mr Lyndon Metembo, Social Justice Coordinator, Projects Abroad, said that his organisation had focussed on disadvantaged schools in the
Projects Abroad recommended that educators needed to be consulted in matters related to education, and there was a need to improve the working relationship between the different levels within the education system. It also recommended either replacing or revising the OBE system, the need for constant re-training and personal development of teachers, the creation of technical schools, the re-introduction of sports and creative subjects, creating well-resourced libraries, securing learner safety in relation to gangs, and the introduction of an independent school inspectorate.
The Chairperson asked how many schools had been interviewed and in which areas these schools were situated.
Mr Metembo answered that eight schools in Khayelitsha, Langa, Lavender Hill and Athlone were interviewed.
Mr Makhubele asked why Department of Education officials were not interviewed as part of the research.
Mr Metembo answered that this was not done owing to time constraints. This was, however, seen as a concern.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked for more details around the re-introduction of creative subjects.
Mr Metembo answered that teachers had referred to the need for art classes. There were a number of NGOs willing to engage and work with schools in order to address this need.
The Chairperson asked whether it was not desirable to look at different models for skilling technically-minded learners for tertiary education and future employment.
Mr Metembo answered that there was indeed a need for more accommodating models.
The meeting was adjourned.
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