Education Access and Delivery Challenges: Consideration of Submissions received during public hearings

Basic Education

03 August 2010
Chairperson: Ms F Chohan (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee discussed five of the written submissions submitted to them on the quality and challenges of education. When the whole batch of submissions had been discussed by the Committee, they would compile a report.

The first submission was on teacher remuneration. Experienced teachers were leaving the profession to seek other career opportunities because of poor pay. This meant that there was a shortage of teachers. It was recommended that retired teachers were brought back to work until the Department was able to attract new teachers to the profession and it was suggested that attempts should be made to entice those who had left to come back. Bringing back retired teachers would have lightened the workload of current teachers, who complained that they were being bogged down by work.

The issue of class size had been raised many times in the submissions, particularly by principals and teachers. Religion in schools and the role of inspectors was also discussed. Members did not feel that religion was such an issue as it was being taught in schools through Life Orientation (LO). People were under the impression that religion was not taught as there was no religious studies subject. There was nothing that prohibited a school from practicing religion.  Religion was usually practiced in Christian schools, especially in public schools, and so the challenge had been to balance this with other religions and traditional practices. Schools did not need to be forced to have religion, because if there was a child who went to that school that did not practice that particular religion, this could be a form of discrimination.

The issue of inspectors conducting unannounced visits to schools also had to be discussed. This was brought up in the previous meeting when talking about Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2014 and one of the key aspects there was monitoring. School monitoring and monitoring of performance was key to deciding whether 2014 was working. The issue was what mechanisms were being used and that needed to feature somewhere in the Committee’s discussions with the Department. They were looking at an independent unit separate from the Department. The idea was that it would evaluate schools. The report was not necessarily used to decide on a career path or salary notch but would be given to the management of the school as a tool to say these were the standards set and these were the things the school needed to improve on.

The issue of learners having a choice of what language they received tuition in was discussed.  Members pointed out that there were learners who wanted to have instructions given to them in their mother tongue. The Department had said that it wanted to introduce English from an early age because when a person reaches an age when they were ready to work they needed to be able to speak English. If parents and learners decide that they want to be taught in English from the beginning they should have that option. There were problems though when schools were using language to restrict or bar students from attending that school. A school could decide which language it wanted to teach in but there had to be alternatives in each area to accommodate everyone from different language backgrounds. This was difficult in some areas.

Teachers had complained quite often about inclusive education, although it did promote equality. They were not opposing inclusive education, but when children needed special learning tools and support the teachers were unable to help because they were either not trained to do so or because of class size. They were therefore not given the support needed from social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists, etc. and those students lagged behind others in class.

Another issue discussed was that learners had to get 40 percent in Grade 8 in order to pass their home-language and second language. Some members felt that learners should only need to pass one language and then another subject such as Mathematics with 40 percent while others felt both languages needed to be passed at 40 percent.

There was also the issue of having Physical Training (PT) classes in school and having it taught by male and female teachers per class. Although there was no subject called PT it was incorporated into LO. The Committee was informed that the Department was bringing back PT as a stand-alone subject. Members needed to look into the issue of having a male teacher teaching both males and females PT.

Meeting report

Summary of written submissions
The Chairperson asked Mr D Bandi, Committee Content Advisor, to take the Committee through the summary of written submissions on the quality and challenges of education and challenges.

Submissions were discussed by Mr Gregory Ahrendse, Ms Annelise Hatting, Ms Magda Le Roux, Ms Isabel de Beer and E P Nel.
Please refer to attached Record of Written Submissions for further details.

Mr Gregory Ahrendse - submission
Mr Ahrendse argued that teachers were under-paid and as a result experienced teachers were leaving the profession. The recommendation given was to pay teachers a competitive salary and to recall experienced teachers who had retired.

The Chairperson said that the submission from Mr Ahrendse was a response to another submission they had received which was a copied letter that Professor Johan Jansen had written in the newspapers. The letter recalled an incident about a teacher who had 36 years’ experience but was only earning R10 000. The Chairperson said she was not sure if the information given was correct and asked Mr Bandi to find out if it was possible that a teacher with so much experience could earn a R10 000 a month, because the Committee was told that that was not possible. The information needed to be verified because the Committee could not do a report without the proper facts. The issue of teacher remuneration was clearly an issue that needed to be dealt with in the report on the public hearings.

Ms Annelise Hatting - submission
Ms Hatting had four issues which were too many learners per class, no religion in schools, the role of inspectors and the huge workload of teachers. Recommendations given were reducing class sizes, bringing back religion into schools, inspectors needed to conduct unannounced visits to schools and retired teachers needed to be used to lessen the workload.

The Chairperson said the issue of class size needed to be raised in the report. It had been raised many times in the submissions, particularly by principals and teachers who were practitioners. The Committee also needed to discuss the issue of religion in schools and the role of inspectors.

Mr J R Lorimer (DA) said that he felt Ms Hatting was wrong when she said there was no religion in schools. He had frequently been to schools that had held prayers during assembly and clearly that worked for them. He did not think that religion in schools was an issue.  

Ms M Kubayi (ANC) said she supported what Mr Lorimer said. There was nothing that prohibited a school from practicing religion. In the old times there were schools that were primarily practicing Christianity where every morning before class there was assembly and they would read out of the bible and then pray. However, there was an issue about how they would balance out other religions. Religion was usually practiced in Christian schools, especially in public schools, and so the challenged had been to balance other religions and traditional practices. The issue was important; it was not something one could just brush off. Schools did not need to be forced to have religion, because if there was a child who went to that school that did not practice that particular religion it could be a form of discrimination. She said the statement of “there should be religion in schools” was a bit problematic.

The Chairperson said she did not want to misrepresent the submission. She read out the original submission, which was written in Afrikaans, it said, if religion was considered taboo in schools then what about a period every day where they taught children about morals and values. Ms Hatting was saying that values needed to be instilled in children, which built character and was vital. That needed to be separated from the issue of religion, because no one religion had a copy right on values. Values in education were quite an important issue.
Constitutional dispensation said that as far as State schools were concerned there could not be a preference of one religion over another. There was room for private schools that were specifically geared towards teaching in a particular form of religious methodology or ideology or philosophy. However, the curriculum did make provision for religious studies, which was different to Bible studies. Religious studies would have been a more comprehensive subject speaking about different religions of the world. It is not really an issue, and sometimes people confused, and came from the old school were values were taught through religion. One can transcend religion and teach values, because even someone who did not believe in a God could have values.

Ms N Gina (ANC) said that because there was no longer a subject called religious studies people thought that there was no longer religion or values being taught at school. However, she felt that the subject of Life Orientation was where values and morals should be taught. It was clear that people were not quite sure what needed to be taught during life orientation/skills.

Mr Lorimer asked whether they knew how values were being taught in LO and were they being taught at the moment and from what age.

The Chairperson answered that there did not seem to be a consistent and certain curriculum around life orientation and that was part of the problem. She said she had given a series of books to the Department on literacy and felt that when teaching, literacy values could be taught as well through stories that taught values. Children would be learning to read but would also be learning about values, which were important to character building.

Ms F F Mushwana (ANC) said she felt it was unfair to make the generalisation that values were not taught during LO because it was. There was a section on different religions and on values and accepting that people are different and learning to respect everyone. It was incorrect to say that because religious education was not taught, however it was being taught through life orientation.

The Chairperson said that that was happening in some schools but Ms Hatting was a teacher and they did not seem to be teaching this in her school. This was worrying because there meant that there was no consistency in imparting those values. There was another submission, which said that life orientation was just being taken over by other subjects. There needed to be more consistency around life orientation.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) said there had always been confusion between religious education and life studies, yet the materials are there that show that life studies deal with religions and values.

The Chairperson asked those members who had this material to bring it along to the next meeting so that other members could see what the content was.

Ms Kubayi said that during the era of Minister Naledi Pandor there was a charter of values in schools. The Committee needed to follow up on that to see how it was implemented and what had happened to it.

Ms J Kloppers-Lourens (DA) said in specific subjects there were also many opportunities to teach values.

The Chairperson agreed and said that they would look into that for the report. The issue of inspectors needing to conduct unannounced visits to schools also had to be discussed. This was brought up in yesterday’s meeting when talking about Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2014 and one of the key aspects was monitoring. School monitoring and monitoring of performance was key to deciding whether 2014 was working. The issue was what mechanisms were being used and that needed to feature somewhere in the Committee’s discussions with the Department.
They were looking at an independent unit separate from the Department. The idea was that it would evaluate schools and the report, was not necessarily used to decide on a career path or salary notch but would be given to the management of the school as a tool to say these were the standards we had and these are the things the school needed to improve on. This allows them to internalise and changes that needed to be made.

The Chairperson moved on to discussing using retired teachers to lessen the workload. This was a sub category related to class size. The Committee needed to discuss what other mechanisms could be used to deal with this issue.

Mr Lorimer said that it could also look at substitute teachers. How did substitute teachers work, was there a pool that they were drawn from? Who did schools put in that pool? Different districts obviously worked in different ways. He was not sure if it had come up in any of the submissions.

The Chairperson said that she had not recalled seeing any submissions on the issue of substitute teachers. The submission said that there were 35 to 40 children in a class and this raised other issues of overcrowding and a recommendation that the maximum class size should be 25. One of the recommendations given for the problem was asking retired teachers to come back in order to lessen the workload.

Ms Gina said class size had to do with school principal’s salaries as well. The reason why there was overcrowding in classes was because the number of learners in a school determined the principal’s salary. This was happening in a number of township schools.

The Chairperson replied that this should also be put in the report. She asked that Ms Kubayi should try to source a document, which explained how that process worked in practice on whether principal’s salaries did depend on the amount of students at the school.

Mr Mpontshane (IFP) said this issue of retired teachers could be put into two categories. The first were teachers who retired because they had reached a certain age; the second were teachers who had taken a severance package. By law teachers from the second category, could not be rehired. However, there were calls to relax that restriction especially when it came to Maths and Science teachers.

The Chairperson asked if Mr Bandi would make a note of that for the report. He also asked Mr Mpontshane to have a look at that law for the Committee so that when the Committee started working on the report they did not miss that point.

Ms Gina said there was a shortage of teachers. So many teachers had left the profession because of salary issues. They needed to look at attracting new teachers and trying to bring back those who had left for other opportunities instead of trying to bring teachers out of retirement.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens said that Ms Hatting had also raised the important issue of age of retirement. The retirement age was too low, it was currently at 65. There were teachers who retired who were passionate about teaching who would love to carry on teaching even at the age of 70. Seventy was not old and there were many teachers at that age who were still in good health.

The Chairperson said that there were many views and issues to consider and that age of retirement also needed to be looked into for the report.

Mr Z S Makhubele (ANC) said that there was already a law that allowed to teachers to carry on working even after the retirement age. A teacher was able to extend his/her retirement age but he was not sure for how long. There were also those teachers who did not want to retire because they had not planned well for retirement or provided financially for that time and so felt they could not do without a salary.

The Chairperson asked Ms Kloppers-Lourens to look at that law for the Committee and to find out for how long could a teacher extend his/her retirement age.

Ms Mushwana felt that teachers should be able to prepare for retirement because as they came close to retirement age the Department started sending letters reminding them and that would give them a chance to prepare. The right thing would have been to retire when the time came because there were young teachers waiting to be hired. She also added that teachers retired with a salary, which was enough to sustain them.

The Chairman replied that there was a shortage of teachers and because of that they needed to look at extending the retirement age. The number of teachers leaving the system was more than the number of teachers coming in.

Ms Kubayi said she did not support the view of bringing back retired teachers or extending the age of retirement because teachers were not leaving the profession because they had retired it was because they had moved on to other careers. They needed to look at how to make teaching more attractive so that they could retain them and bring back those who had left because they were good teachers.  Secondly, if the Department were to say that the retirement age had been extended it would be an issue. One did not want teachers who had retired and who had done nothing during the time that they had been teaching because they were not good teachers or because they were not that interested.

The Chairperson agreed with Ms Kubayi. The teachers they would bring out of retirement or extend the retirement age for should be those who were passionate about teaching. When they turned 65 they would be given the choice to continue teaching if they wanted to. During the crisis period were there was a shortage of teachers the Committee should look at bringing back those passionate retired teachers who were still in good health and who were still able to work. Before they would be allowed to come back their records would be assessed. However, the Committee also needed to look at the implications this would have on pensions.

Ms Mushwana said that there needed to be a time frame so that this was just an interim solution and not a fixed one. It would give them time to attract new young teachers to the profession.

Ms Magda Le Roux - submission
Ms Magda Le Roux, from Makwassie Primary School, said that schools had overcome stumbling blocks in the system through creativity. However, she asked that guidelines on the syllabus be the same or consistent throughout the country. The administration of IQMS (Integrated Quality Management System) was taking up too much time. Funding was also an issue. It was recommended that proper guidelines were implemented across the country. The workload of teachers needed to be lessened in respect of IQMS. Learners needed to have a choice of their language of tuition. The seven-point scale could be used from Grade 1 to Grade 7.

The Chairperson pointed out that the issue of guidelines had already been discussed and were in place and they had dealt with the issue of the curriculum. However, the workload of teachers was still a big issue. She asked those members who had been teachers before to please explain what was expected of a teacher. She also asked those members to get together and compile a paragraph or two, regarding teachers’ workloads and the burden of it.

Ms Gina said that the problem of high workloads for teachers had been an issue for the past eight years.

The Chairperson moved on to the issue of learners having a choice of what language they received tuition in.

Mr Makhubele pointed out that there were learners who wanted to have instructions given to them in their mother tongue. The Department had said that it wanted to introduce English from an early age because when a person reached an age when they were ready to work they needed to be able to speak English. If parents and learners decided that they want to be taught in English from the beginning they should have that option. There were problems though when schools were using language to restrict or bar students from attending that school.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens translated the original submission, which was written in Afrikaans. It said that children should be able to choose which language they wanted to receive tuition in and that they should not be forced to pick their mother tongue.
She felt the choice of which language to be taught in should have been that of the parents or guardians as children could not make that informed decision. However, she felt that being taught from the beginning of a child’s education right up to tertiary education in a child’s mother tongue was best.

Ms Gina said that if they looked at the South African Schools act you could decide which language would be used in school. The governing board of school decided which language would be used. Ms Gina did feel that at foundation stage a child’s mother tongue should be used as a language of tuition and as they grow up the decision would be given to parents and the governing body.

Mr Makhubele agreed that parents or guardians should decide for the child. If parents decided to take their child to an English school that was fine but there needed to be an alternative school in the area where they were taught in their mother tongue so that people had that choice. Being taught in English was very important because when a child had finished school and entered the work place it would be a problem if they could not speak English.

The Chairperson said that the language debate had so many points to consider. The Committee needed to ensure that there was no discrimination and that people had the choice about which language they wanted to be taught in. A multi-lingual society needed to be created.

Ms Isabel De Beer submission
Ms De Beer from the Department of Education - Northern Cape, wanted a host of suggestions, which would help improve the quality and access to education. It was recommended that special classes needed to be implemented. Five-and-a-half-year old children needed to be assessed for school readiness. Perception development should be made compulsory from Grade 1. There needed to be formally trained pre-primary teachers. A child needed to undergo an elementary oral language test where his/her home language was not that of the school. There also needed to be fewer children per class. 

The Chairperson said that teachers had complained quite often about inclusive education, although it did promote equality. The point of the matter was that teachers were not opposing inclusive education, but when children needed special learning tools and support, the teachers themselves are unable to help because they were either not trained to do so or because of class size. They were therefore not given the support needed from social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists, etc. and those students lagged behind others in class.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens said this could be a problem and she was worried about the other learners, because those who did not have a learning disability could be held back because the teacher had to spend time helping those in the class who were struggling.

Ms Mushwana said that last year when the question about inclusive education was brought up the Department said it was moving forward. There were around 40 children in a class and all of them were different, but this was part of inclusive education. Children did not like to feel different and so did not want to be put in a different class because they had a learning problem they wanted to feel normal. So, perhaps inclusive education was best, but it was a dream. We should be moving towards this in order to make schools accessible to everyone.

Ms Gina said that the submission said special classes needed to be established for those with special needs but at the same time they were talking about inclusive education. Classes should accommodate everybody, even if there were cases that were different. She said they could not run away from the fact that there are children who need special classes. She wanted to know if they were talking about inclusive education or having special schools, which would cater for severe cases of learning disabilities.

The Chairperson said they were taking about special classes. Students with cognitive disabilities became frustrated in a classroom and they were unable to cope in a normal mainstream class. This was when inclusive education was difficult.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens said that what Ms De Beer was saying is that they needed to have special classes again like they used to. It would be best to take those children with special learning needs and put them in a special class for one to two years and then integrate them back into the mainstream classroom.

Mr Makhubele said it was difficult to teach a number of learners all with different special learning needs in a 30 minute class, and it would be difficult for a teacher to prepare a lesson in different ways. It was difficult for one class to accommodate everyone.

The Chairperson pointed out that there were so many ways they could deal with the problem. Perhaps the solution was to have separate remedial schools in all areas around the country for those children to attend.

In terms of school readiness there were issues on when children were ready. Some children were ready to attend school at the age of five while others needed to wait a bit longer. Assessment tests needed to be implemented in order to see if a child was ready to enter Grade 1.

Ms Mushwana said there was an admissions policy. Last time she checked it was from the age of five years old going onto six.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens said it was all about school readiness, some children were ready to start attending school at the age of five and some were not ready at the age of seven. She said that if there was a school readiness test then teachers could pick out problems children might have in the beginning already instead of waiting till they were in primary school.

The Chairperson said that not all clinics in the country had specialists who could check for these problems. In the rural areas and townships there were very few occupational therapists, etc.

Ms Mushwana said that when looking at the issue of school readiness they needed to look at the idea of implementing grade R into all public schools, because majority of them did not have grade R. This would help with school readiness and with preparing children.

The Chairperson said that it would be very important for perceptual development to be made part of the grade R curriculum, as it would help with school readiness.

Mr Mpontshane said that he had heard the Director General say that according to the law it was not compulsory to go to grade R. Could this be changed?

The Chairperson replied that it would not be possible to make it compulsory in the initial stages when majority of schools did not even have grade R. They needed to intensify the role out of grade R into schools and then at a later stage they could make it a law. Unfortunately there were no facilities for this at the moment. They needed to monitor the situation.

Mr Mpontshane said he understood that but asked what motivated a roll-out of grade R.

The Chairperson reminded him that that was the job of the Portfolio Committee to discuss this.

E P Nel - Submission
E P Nel said at the end of Grade 8 learners must have 40 percent to pass their home-language and second language. Physical Training (PT) also needed to be taught by male and female teachers per class. More attention needed to be given during the last term of grade nine on subject choices for grade 10. Schools needed to budget for educators for remedial classes.

The Chairperson asked what the current situation was, in terms of having 40 percent to pass languages.

Ms Mushwana said that there was talk of lowering the percentage.

The Chairperson said a check needed to be done on this because it was not impossible for a child to pass his/her home language with 40 percent. In terms of PT teachers, she said there was another submission, which also brought up this point. She asked whether PT was still a subject being taught in schools.

Ms Mushwana said that PT had become part of Life Orientation.

The Chairperson pointed out that this was not what the person was saying in their submissions.

Ms Gina said that PT was part of LO and the teacher who was teaching LO gave the PT lesson as well.

The Chairperson said that teachers were asking for PT to be brought back into the curriculum.

Mr Mpontshane said he had two young children in primary school and he had not heard of them doing PT.

The Chairperson said that Mr Bandi had informed her that the Department had decided to bring back PT and that it would be a stand-alone subject.

Ms Mushwana said that the Committee needed to look into whether there was a problem having a male educator teaching male and female learners.

The Chairperson moved onto the issue of students needing 40 percent to pass their home-language and second language. Schools were given a choice on what two subjects needed to have 40 percent to pass and it was usually a language and then another subject.

Mr Lorimer said that language was central therefore 40 percent should be achieved in first language but also in second language.

Ms Kloppers-Lourens said that mother tongue was very important and so should be passed on 40 percent.

Members had different views on whether the 40 percent should be required for both languages or for a language and then a subject such as Mathematics. However, they all agreed that the language of instruction should require 40 percent.

The Chairperson said they would continue with the submissions the next day.

The meeting was adjourned.

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