Quality of Basic Education and Challenges thereto: Consideration of Submissions received during public hearings Day 1

Basic Education

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

The Chairperson reviewed the issues that the Committee had already dealt with in previous meetings which some Members missed. Issues dealt with were: religion in schools; teacher salaries; inclusive education; requirements for a grade eight pass; teacher development; shortage of teachers; number of teachers produced by universities; and learner teacher ratios.

The Content Advisor: Parliament, reviewed four submissions with the Committee. These had to do with helping students prepare for their future and curriculum content; skills development of students; curriculum methodology; and teacher development.

According to the first submission, children should be helped to plan their future. It was recommended that the school curriculum should include a compulsory subject on “good governance”.

The Chairperson said that in normal society children gravitated towards a vocation because of good role models in those jobs. South Africa was an abnormal society and did not have good role models. Many youngsters in South Africa entered human resources; they did not think about going into engineering because they did not know anyone who worked as an engineer or they did not think they were good enough to do such a job and did not know enough about what an engineer did. Children needed good role models. She suggested that this issue become another area of focus for the Committee’s report and said that children needed to be exposed to different career paths and role models in those careers.

Members agreed with the Chairperson.

The second submission argued that schools should focus on developing skills and competencies rather than the academic results of matric examinations. Traditional practices and undifferentiated Life Orientation stifled learners’ aspiration for qualifications.

Members agreed and tackled the issue of students leaving school to attend Further Education and Training schools. Further Education and Training schools used to fill the gap; there used to be a choice to either finish matric or to leave school after grade eight and go to a trade school. If a learner was not coping in an academic school there should be the option of going to one of these trade schools and building on other skills that society needed. However, there was not much of an option for grade nine children who were not coping. The first two years at a Further Education and Training college was equivalent to grade 10, 11 and 12.  This still gave limited options as it was still academic.

The Chairperson recommended a two string system for students. The first one was the normal matric requirement: four compulsory subjects and three electives; the second string or option would be the four compulsory subjects and then two major skills based subjects. The second string would be a skills based curriculum, so when that student finished matric he or she would already had a skill. This would maximise opportunities for everyone.

Members were also concerned that students who left school after grade eight were not able to go to a Further Education and Training school because there were a large number of matriculants who were also applying to attend and preference was given to those who had a matric. This meant that those grade nine students who left school were left out of the system with no skills. Members also said that those learners who went to a Further Education and Training school went out of choice not because they could not cope in an academic school. Skills were very important and needed. Members said people needed to get out of the mind set that all learners who went to a Further Education and Training school could not cope on an academic level. It was not about intelligence. Members said that it was important to give out the message that skills were important.

Members felt they needed to look at the economic development of South Africa in order to combat the issue. The mind set of people was that if a person went to university they were better off than those who attended a Further Education and Training school. People did not understand the importance of Further Education and Training schools. The sooner skills development was promoted at school level the better. Schools needed to be aligned and it was necessary to make sure that everyone understood this.

The third submission called for the meta-cognitive approach to teaching, which involved a questioning technique that stimulated learners to think independently. It was proposed that techniques and approaches to foster space for creating self-regulatory, goal directed learning communities be introduced. A draft proposal outlining ideas for the development and implementation of cognitive training in schools was given.

The Chairperson said that there were many products developed by people in the private sector. The problem was that there was no platform for this innovative material to be introduced to the Department of Education and other schools. She said that the Department needed to look into providing that platform through expos, because the private sector had great ideas. There was no holistic approach where people could showcase what they had so that the Department could assess it.  Members agreed.

The fourth submission argued that the problems with schools arose from a “toxic mix” of obstacles, including a terrible legacy from the Apartheid past and an array of problems at three key levels, namely, the level of ‘in-class’ where teachers were the key, the level of ‘support to school’ and the social level. A proposal was made based on the 10-point programme that included the following: getting teachers ‘in-class’; on time teaching; giving children a firm foundation; support for teachers ensuring that all stakeholders were involved; enriching learning at home; and the need to prioritise.

The Chairperson said that this was essentially talking to the 10-point plan which was a policy in the Department.

Members wanted to know if the Department was talking directly to teachers about changes. There was a problem because of changes that people were not ready for. People had acquired a negative mind set.
 
The Chairperson said that most presentation had welcomed the announcement of change, and the change would only happen in 2011. The Department were very aware of the issue about which Ms Dudley was talking. There was one communiqué with everyone and this would be done in simple language that could be understood by everyone. The Department was also looking at mass short message service communication. Timing was very important and that is why the Department had started communicating the changes already.

The Committee had completed the first book of submissions.

Meeting report

Written submissions to the Committee on the quality and challenges of education and recommendations
The Chairperson reviewed the issues that the Committee had already dealt with in previous meetings which some Members missed. Issues dealt with were: Religion in schools; teacher salaries; inclusive education; requirements for a grade eight pass; teacher development; shortage of teachers; number of teachers universities turned out; and learner teacher ratios.

Mr D Bandi, Content Advisor: Parliament, said the 12th submission was from Mr Francis Mc Shane (BAS.EDU 12). He had said that children should be helped to plan their future. He had recommended that the school curriculum should include a compulsory subject on “good governance”.

The Chairperson said that she thought this was a very nice submission. There was another submission like it that went into more detail. In normal society children gravitated towards a vocation because of good role models in those jobs. South Africa was an abnormal society and did not have good role models. Many youngsters in South Africa went into human resources they did not think about going into engineering because they did not know anyone who worked as an engineer or did not think they were good enough to do such a job and did not know enough about what an engineer did. Children needed good role models. She suggested that this issue become another area of focus for the Committee’s report and said it was necessary to expose children to different career paths and role models in those careers.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) said that he felt the Chairperson was talking about something completely different to good governance. Good governance did not need vocational education or planning for a child’s future.

The Chairperson replied that she was just talking about helping children plan for their future out of the submission and was aware that good governance was different.

Mr Bandi skipped submission 13, because it had already been discussed, and moved onto submission 14 which was submitted by Mr Neil Mostert (BAS.EDU 14). The submission had argued that schools should focus on developing skills and competencies rather than the academic results of matric examinations. Traditional practices and undifferentiated Life Orientation stifled learners’ aspiration for qualifications. He had recommended that focus shift from a matric qualification towards a skills set as the basic school leaving equipment. He said that career education rather than career guidance should be offered.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) said that this issue should be explored. There should be broader access to skills based schools, it should not only be for children who struggle in school, and anybody should be bale to attend a skills based school.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) said she went to visit a production or skills based school where students were taught a skill that enabled them to produce something. She said skills in South Africa at present were amiss. There were two bands of matric qualifications; there was a matric certificate and an N3 certificate which was equivalent to a matric. However, if two people applied for the same job, one with a matric certificate and the other with an N3 certificate the job would go to the one with the matric.

The Chairperson said that they were trying to find out what the situation was at the moment. Trade schools used to fill the gap, there used to be a choice to either finish matric to leave school after grade eight and go to a trade school. If a learner was not coping in an academic school there should be the option of going to one of these trade schools and build on other skills that society needed. However, there was not much of an option for grade nines who were not coping. The first two years at a FET (Further Education and Training) college was equivalent to grade 10, 11 and 12, it was getting learners to that level in a different way. This still gave limited options as it was still academic.

Mr Mpontshane said that in Mozambique there no learner who left school from grade eight to matric who did not have a skill. They all had a skill. He said he had not explored the Mozambican system yet but it was something to look at.

The Chairperson asked Mr Bandi and Ms M Kubayi (ANC) to explore other countries and maybe arrange a visit for the Committee.

Ms Dudley said she had looked at China’s system. The Chinese had developed trade schools or skill based schools that taught a specific skill which was needed in the area were it was. Skills were specific to industry. This had an amazing effect. She felt that South Africa could not say it needed a certain number of schools but should look at specific skills based schools that taught skills for a certain industry.

The Chairperson said she agreed with Ms Dudley. She said they could not teach students a certain skill and then when they went into the job market there were no jobs. There were general skills which were needed everywhere such as electricians but there were other skills that were exportable. There needed to be some sensibility in the skills they were providing people with.

Ms Mushwana asked the Committee to separate giving skills to learners from learners who could not cope in a normal academic school. Those learners who went to a FET school went out of choice not because they could not cope in an academic school. Skills were very important and needed. She said people needed to get out of the mind set that all learners who went to an FET school could not cope on an academic level. It was not about intelligence. She said that it was necessary to give out the message that skills were important.

The Chairperson said that Ms Mushwana had made a good point. Members could not talk about a matric qualification as being mutually exclusive. There was a study done that looked at learners who matriculated in 2009. Looking back 12 years from when they were in grade one when there were 1,5 million learners. Every year students were lost; either they had failed a grade or had dropped out along the way. By grade nine the majority of these learners had left. The researchers had looked at whether these grade nine students had gone to an FET school. However they found something different. Those who were attending FET schools were those who had gone there out of choice after completing matric, it was not grade nine students attending. Unfortunately if a student with grade nine and a student with a matric qualification both applied for a place at a FET school the student with matric was more likely to get into the school before the grade nine students. The Chairperson wanted to know then what was happening to these grade nine students. The reason a student left school in grade nine was not because they wanted to go to an FET school it was because they had failed the grade more than once. This was a crisis in South Africa. Two thirds of children were being lost between grade one and matric. Getting to matric just meant that a student had beaten the odds. In 2009 of the 500, 000 matrics only 60% passed that was only 300, 000 students. Only 20% of matrics who passed moved on to go to university so there was big competition to get into an FET school. The FET schools were going to pick students who had passed matric. The system was geared for the most successful students. The Chairperson recommended two streams for subject selection in South Africa. The first one was the normal matric requirements; four compulsory subjects and three electives the second string or option would be the four compulsory subjects and then two major skills based subjects. The second string would be a skills based curriculum, so when that student finished matric they already had a skill. This would maximise opportunities for everyone.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) said that in order to make FET schools attractive to students it was necessary to have teachers that were of a good standard. Students were given the impression that they were not allowed to fail a grade and when they did they had to leave school, so they did not find students repeating a grade the system did not allow for it. Once a student finished at an FET school it also did not qualify them to go to university so these students were also cut off.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) said that it was necessary to look at economic development of South Africa in order to combat the issue. The mind set of people was that if a person went to university they were better off than those who attended an FET school. People did not understand the importance of FET schools. As soon as they put skills development at school levels the better. Schools needed to be aligned and needed to make sure everyone understood this.

Ms Mushwana said that it was necessary to drive home the issue that learners had a choice. There was a story in a newspaper recently of a student in a model C school. The school was a dual medium school, there were English and Afrikaans classes; a teacher’s laptop had been stolen and the principal had announced this to students but only in English. As it was only the black children in the school who spoke English he was implying that it was one of them. This student then asked that the principal make the announcement in Afrikaans as well. At the end of the school year the student, who had spoken up, failed her grade and went to an FET school. The school failed her because she had raised the issue. People needed to understand that there was nothing wrong with skills, skills were needed.

The Chairperson replied that skills were needed, but that it was also necessary to provide an option for students who were successful in matric and those who were not.

Ms Dudley said that the Committee must remember that many students left school because they wanted to start earning their own money and they could do that on the streets. This is why an apprenticeship programme was important. These students wanted money but they did not want to go to an FET school.

The Chairperson said that that was why the second string of curriculum in matric was important. A student in grade 10 could decide whether they wanted a pure academic subject package or an academic with skills. This would target those people who did not want to go to a college. These students could leave school with a skill which allowed them to go straight to work after school. This was creating options for different people.

Ms Dudley replied that this suggestion was giving people a choice but it was still not resolving the issue. There were still students leaving because they feel they can make money on the street instead of finishing school.

The Chairperson said that 70% of students in the Western Cape who graduated from a trade school with skills were walking straight into a job. The schools were even battling to keep students because the minute they had at least a year’s experience they were getting offered jobs. Children needed role models so when they see this happening it would attract them to attend FET schools. However she was aware that this would not stop them from losing students to crime but they could at least try preventing it.

Ms Mushwana said when reading the submission she could not understand why career education and career guidance were mentioned separately as they were the same thing.

The Chairperson read out the original submission. It was submitted by a psychologist who focused on career guidance. The submission said that there needed to be a paradigm shift from career guidance to career education.

Ms Mushwana said that she still needed clarity because career guidance was giving students options of different careers while career education was teaching students all about a certain career.

Mr Makhubele said that this was the same as religion studies and religious studies. Religion studies were the teaching of one religion while religious studies were teaching about all different religions. Teachers had not been exposed to many careers so how could they teach career education, he said. Career guidance may have been limiting compared to career education.

The Chairperson said that the difference needed to be made clear. However there was some sense in implementing this into schools. Once again she reiterated that South Africa was an abnormal society without the proper role models for children. She concluded that there needed to be more career education in schools.

Mr Bandi said submission 15 was sent in by Ms Marelie Janse van Vuuren (BAS.EDU 15). Ms Janse van Vuuren had called for the meta-cognitive approach to teaching, which involved a questioning technique that stimulated learners to think independently. She had proposed that techniques and approaches to foster space for creating self-regulatory, goal directed learning communities. She had given a draft proposal outlining ideas for the development and implementation of cognitive training in schools. Ms Janse van Vuuren recommended introduction of the meta-cognitive approach via teacher training to enhance certain facilitation competencies. It was necessary to intervene through integrating the relevant cognitive training principles with school subjects such as English and Maths. It was also necessary to incorporate integrate emotional intelligence principles into school subjects.

The Chairperson said this was a teaching technique different to what was currently being used. There were many products developed by people in the private sector; the problem was that there was no platform for this innovative material to be introduced to the Department of Education and other schools. She said that the Department needed to look into providing that platform through expos, because the private sector had great ideas. There was no holistic approach were people could showcase what they had so that the Department could assess it.

Mr Mpontshane asked if the Department still had internal service centres for teachers. He said when he was a teacher, he and his colleagues were invited during the school holidays to the service centre to learn about new techniques and they always left there feeling positive, excited and reenergised because they were exploring new methods.

The Chairperson replied that Members were specifically talking about teacher development. The two ideas did speak to each other but at same time there was a difference. The Department would have needed to develop a synergy if it decided to create a platform for this.

Mr Skosana said he agreed but felt that one should not isolate the different techniques, it needed to be aligned with others.

The Chairperson said that they were not talking about techniques but about products. However it was not for the Committee to decide. Members were just making a recommendation to the Department.

Mr Mpontshane asked if schools were not allowed to have these products showcased at their school.

The Chairperson replied that it was allowed and that is what was happening. If a school had the budget and resources they were allowed to buy the product.

Mr Bandi moved on to submission 19 which was sent in by Mr Wickus Pretorius (BAS.EDU 17). Mr Pretorius had proposed to establish a digital broadcast network (interactive television) for the further professional development for educators and School Governing Bodies. He had proposed to continue professional development through technology enabled Distance Education.

The Chairperson said this was another innovation that people had devised. This was part of teacher development and a platform needed to be created.

Mr Bandi moved onto submission 19, this was sent in by Mr Graeme Bloch (BAS.EDU 19). Mr Bloch had argued that the problems with schools arose from a “toxic mix” of obstacles, including a terrible legacy from the Apartheid past and an array of problems at three key levels, namely, the level of ‘in-class’ where teachers were the key, the level of ‘support to school’ and the social level. Mr Bloch had made a proposal based on the 10-point programme that included the following: getting teachers ‘in-class’, on time teaching; giving children a firm foundation; support for teachers ensuring that all stakeholders were involved; enriching learning at home; and the need to prioritise.

The Chairperson said that this was essentially talking to the 10-point plan which was a policy in the Department.

Ms Dudley said after talking to teachers she wanted to know if the Department was talking directly to teachers about changes. There was a problem because of changes that people were not ready for. People acquired a negative mind set.
 
The Chairperson said that most presentation had welcomed the announcement of change, and the change would only happen in 2011. The Department was very aware of the issue Ms Dudley was talking about. There was one communiqué with everyone and this would be done in simple language that could be understood by everyone. The Department was also looking at mass short message service (sms) communication. Timing was very important and that is why it had already begun communicating the changes.

The first book of the submissions was completed.

The meeting was adjourned.

 
 


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