The Committee received a briefing by the Department of Basic Education on the New Curriculum Statement. The new curriculum was a result of extensive research and was seen as the means to address the poor state of education. It was aimed at improving learning and the work of teachers. Compulsory schooling would be strengthened up to Grade 10 The Department felt that the whole system needed an overhaul, from the Foundation Phase up to Grade 12. All stakeholders such as School Governing bodies, business, and unions were consulted on the new curriculum, and would be expected to play a role in improving the quality of education. The new curriculum emphasised regular assessment in language and mathematics. The assessment would be introduced in phases from 2011, and would take place at Grades 3, 6, 9 and 12. Heads of Departments, principals and support staff should be trained on content and curriculum development.
The Task Team’s report noted that the Department had introduced a five-year plan to improve teaching and learning. Subject-specific assessment guidelines would be introduced. The Task Team recommended boosting early learning with teaching in the mother-tongue, and also suggested that more teaching hours should be allocated in the lower grades. Study material was to be aligned with the curriculum policy document, and the problem that some teachers were not able to use the textbooks effectively would be addressed. The Department would be introducing management of textbook pricing. A Task Team had been established to implement the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement from 2011, and it should be established up to Grade 12 by 2012.
Some Members were uncomfortable that each new Minister seemed to introduce new systems, and some felt that school inspectors should be introduced. The Department disagreed on the point of school inspectors and that other ways of assessment would be found, and that teacher training and readiness for the curriculum would be strongly addressed. Members also questioned whether compulsory schooling should extend past the age of 15, asked how the Department would ensure that all children attended school, and questioned whether learners would be able to cope with the new curriculum. Members were interested in the main differences between the new curriculum and Outcomes Based Education and the role of the stakeholders, as well as how this would be implemented in the provinces. Members also indicated that some schools were reluctant to use prescribed textbooks and asked how this would be dealt with, and asked about the accreditation of moderators. Members highlighted that in some provinces the subject advisors were ill equipped to do their work. Members were supportive of the suggestion that regular video-conferencing with the Department might serve a useful purpose in updating the Committee.
Department of Basic Education Curriculum Action Plan 2014 Briefing
Mr Bobby Soobrayan, Director General, Department of Basic Education, informed Members that the Action Plan 2014 document was not yet in the public domain so the Committee could not get a hard copy beforehand. The document still had to be signed by the Presidency and by all stakeholders, such as the Departments of Health, Science and Technology, and Sports and Recreation. He said that there were ten different curriculum statements, from the nine provinces and the National Department of Basic Education (the Department or DBE)
Mr Soobrayan acknowledged that the Department had made some strides, since the advent of democracy, in eradicating the apartheid legacy. He mentioned that school enrolment had risen considerably. The main problem areas were the learning outcomes for poor learners. Most schools in the poor communities were not providing the right conditions for effective learning. The key contributing factors were social and cultural factors, and poverty. He said that learners from the poor areas were more likely to drop out and be caught up in the cycle of poverty. Interventions to remedy such factors had been slow or non existent.
The National Curriculum Statement (NCS) now identified the need for teacher effectiveness and the necessary supporting capacity to manage the system from the top down to school level. There was a need for an annual national assessment to monitor progress. Teachers would be equipped with better standards and assessment tools. Solutions should focus on teacher motivation and ongoing training .The Department would launch a social contract with stakeholders such as unions, school governing bodies and the private sector, to cooperate on all fronts. The Department would improve the quality of learning and teaching and undertake regular assessments. The assessment of language skills and mathematics competency would be done at Grades 3, 6, 9 and 12. All children were required, by law, to remain at school up to Grade 9 or until they attained 15 years of age. He emphasised that compulsory education would not work if it was not preceded by quality early learning systems and improved access to further education and training.
Department of Basic Education Task Team Report
Mr Edward Masuwe, Acting Deputy Director General: Curriculum Development, Department of Basic Education, said that the terms of reference for the Task Team were to identify challenges and pressure points in the implementation of the NCS, to investigate how those challenges could be met, and to develop interventions to address those challenges.
The Department had developed a five year plan to improve teaching and learning. This plan would also offer support to teachers and would result in the improvement of learner performance, involving external monitoring. He said that the curriculum document should develop a single overview curriculum and assessment policy. The document should include subject-specific assessment guidelines. The Task Team also recommended that effective teaching in a home language should accompany English as a first language in the early grades.
Mr Masuwe said that the Department would emphasise external annual assessment of mathematics, the home language and English in Grades 3, 6 and 9. The balance between the year marks should be a 50%:50% split for Grades 4 to 9 and 25 %:75% for Grade 10 to 12. In-service teacher training should be provided where it was needed most. Heads of Departments, principals and support staff should be trained on content and curriculum development.
The Task Team report recommended the clarification of roles with respect to curriculum production, dissemination, monitoring and support. With regard to learning and teaching of study material, the Task Team recommended that this should be aligned with the curriculum and assessment policy document. The role of text books would have to be reassessed, as some teachers were not able to use textbooks effectively, due to inadequate training. The Department would develop mechanisms to manage textbook pricing. The number of projects per learner would have to be reduced to one project per year for each subject.
Mr Masuwe said that the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) would be developed in 2010 and would be implemented in schools from 2011, beginning with Grade 4. Teachers would be involved with the planning and preparation of the policy document. Instructional time would be increased to five hours for Grade 3. A task team had been established to implement CAPS. In the intermediate phase, the number of subjects would be reduced to six, and instructional time would be increased by one hour. The Senior Phase subjects would remain the same at 8. CAPS would be introduced from 2012 from Grades 4 to 12.
The Chairperson said that she got the impression that every new Minister that took over in the Department came up with new policies.
Mr Soobrayan replied that the current Minister did not come up with new policies, but this was a continuation of discussions that had been ongoing in the past.
Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) praised the new curriculum statement but asked whether teachers were equipped with necessary training to teach the new curriculum. He felt very strongly about the reintroduction of school inspectors.
Mr Soobrayan acknowledged that teacher training had been neglected in the past, and so ongoing teacher training was addressed in the curriculum statement document.
Mr M De Villiers (DA, Western Cape) said that he disagreed that schooling should only be compulsory up to age 15. He suggested that schooling should be compulsory up to at least completion of Grade 10. He asked whether learners would be able to cope with the new curriculum because they had previously studied under Outcomes Based Education (OBE).
Mr Soobrayan explained that although the old system of using inspectors was not good for the teaching profession, there was a definite need for an evaluation mechanism. He noted that schooling was compulsory for all children, up to Grade 10, according to the Constitution.
Mr S Plaatjie (COPE, North West) asked about the difference between the new curriculum and OBE. He reiterated Mr De Villiers’ question about teacher readiness and asked whether all stakeholders, such as the unions, had been consulted, to avoid opposition from such quarters.
Ms P Mncube (ANC, Gauteng) asked whether the curriculum for the Foundation Phase would be changed completely in 2011. She enquired whether teachers would be reoriented, pointing out that they were the first ones to be blamed when things went wrong. She also wanted to know how the learners were going to be assessed.
Mr Soobrayan replied that universities and other stakeholders were busy compiling teacher training material. The main difference between this system and OBE lay in the regular learner assessment to be introduced, especially in language and mathematics. Teacher unions had been consulted and they even made submissions that influenced the final product.
Ms N Rasmeni (ANC, North West) said that the presentation had not spoken about the role of the stakeholders in shaping the curriculum. She wanted to know how the Department could ensure that all children attended school.
Mr Soobrayan replied that stakeholders were invited to make submissions and added that the new curriculum statement would be gazetted. Compulsory schooling was the responsibility of the whole community.
The Chairperson enquired about the framework that would guide Provinces for delivery agreements.
Mr Soobrayan replied that all MECs were expected to sign delivery agreements. Performance agreements for the officials fell within the law.
Mr T Mashamaite (ANC, Limpopo) asked for clarity on the social contract.
Mr Masuwe replied that the social contract referred to the cooperative agreement between the Department, unions, the private sector and all other signatories.
Ms Mncube commented that parts of the presentation were sometimes hard to grasp, because Members did not have hard copies, which meant that the level of participation in the discussions was not as detailed as it should have been.
Mr Masuwe apologised for the unavailability of hard copies.
Mr Soobrayan suggested that perhaps video conferencing should be considered as a means of communicating with the Committee on a regular basis to thrash out salient issues.
Ms Mncube asked about the steps that would be taken to ensure all schools would use the same textbooks. Some Section 21 schools were reluctant to use prescribed text books.
Mr Masuwe said that publishing houses distributed their textbooks to schools but some section 21 schools ignored government text books deliberately.
Mr De Villiers suggested that the Senior School phase should be allocated more instruction time. He asked whether moderators would be accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority.
Mr Soobrayan said that all moderators would be registered and accredited. Mr Masuwe explained that the reason that instruction time was increased in the foundation and intermediate phase was to strengthen the foundation phase, where learners were taught in their mother tongue.
Ms D Rantho (ANC, Eastern Cape) was appalled by the inefficiency of district offices in the Eastern Cape and she said that some of them were not even operational, whilst some officials did not even know the work they were supposed to be doing.
Mr Soobrayan explained that subject advisors were supposed to be experts and knowledgeable in their fields. He conceded that there were major problems in the Eastern Cape, but the Department would make sure that all subject advisors had the necessary tools to do their work.
The Chairperson was concerned with the proper communication of the new curriculum to the relevant people. She asked what would happen to the text books that were no longer in use. She also repeated concerns that currently, some subject advisors did not even know the subject they were supposed to give advice on.
Mr Masuwe replied that old textbooks would gradually be phased out. He said the problem of subject advisors would be dealt with as set out already by Mr Soobrayan.
Mr Soobrayan said that the curriculum would be explained to educators and communities.
Ms Mncube suggested that the Department should compile a summarised version of the new curriculum in a simple document for public consumption.
The Chairperson said she agreed with the video conferencing suggestion.
The meeting was adjourned