Quality of and access to Education: Further deliberations on public submissions

Basic Education

13 September 2010
Chairperson: Ms F Chohan (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee continued its deliberations on written submissions on the quality of education and challenges thereto. Some of the submissions had already been considered during the oral hearings and were therefore passed. The Committee had already discussed previously many of the issues raised in these submissions since previous submissions had raised them. In such cases, the Committee simply noted that the points had already been discussed.

Dr A Pepler had asked for increased parent involvement in school activities and for trained educators in Grade R.

The Committee noted that there should be trained educators in Grade R but not at the expense of trained educators in higher grades.

Ms Liesl van der Merwe had said that there was a gap in the current curriculum content for Grade 9 Arts and Culture.

The Committee said that the submission would be sent to the curriculum developers.

Mr Colin Mashikinya had submitted ‘Cut down on teaching length. Let there be one sub-standard.’

The Committee noted that this submission was vague.  

Ms Liezel du Toit had raised the issue of the negative effects of Government policy on maths.

The Committee said that intervention and support for struggling learners was necessary rather than a review of policy.

Mr Andrew Verrijdt, an educational psychologist, had raised the issues of high learner ratios being detrimental to performance and affecting the implementation of inclusive education.

These points had been discussed already.

Ms Anastacia Edwards had asked for wholesome food to be provided or sold at schools.

The Committee noted that there was a school nutritional scheme in place and measures would be taken to monitor it.

Ms Ellouise Richter had raised the "uninspiring content" of the prescribed textbooks for English Literature and lack of prescribed poetry for Grade 10 and Grade 11.

The Committee would review the books in question. It discussed the importance of spelling and grammar in developing written language.

Monument Primary School had said that the current curriculum content did not add value to education, that teaching institutions were not preparing teachers for the latest trends in education, that managers wasted time by filling in forms, that disciplinary problems prevailed when there were too many learners in a class, and that there were too many official languages. It had recommended that Government should fully subsidise school fees and that rural schools should be treated equally.

The Committee discussed how many languages were compulsory at schools and the importance of teacher preparation. The other issues had already been dealt with.

Mr Joseph Temlett had raised the issues of corruption of education by teacher unions, teacher apathy, and professional fatigue. Mr Temlett had made a number of recommendations, including introducing a voucher system for every child born, teacher assistants to help teachers concentrate on academic content and mentoring of learners, and reintroducing education inspectors.

The Committee discussed the merit of a voucher system and concluded that it would still cause cross-subsidisation and inequality but that it could possibly be adapted to the system within the right regulations. The discussion was held to leave room for exploration. The Committee discussed the issue of utilising teacher assistants and felt that it would be better to focus on reducing class size although some Members supported the idea.

Submissions 93 and 94 both emphasised the importance of Grade R and the need for qualified Grade R teachers.

The Committee agreed that Grade R should be made compulsory and noted that research was being done to find out more about assessment and teachers’ qualifications in Grade R.

Mr Christo van der Rheede had submitted on how to improve managerial capacity at schools.

The Committee had agreed that it was relevant and had sent it to the Department of Education.

Ms Shamilla Essaram had raised the issues of the curriculum not being value based and that courses and workshops were not developing educators. She had also advocated parent involvement, taking Life Orientation very seriously, and had complained that school management was entrusted to people who do not have management capacity.

The Committee said that these issues had been discussed already but that the teacher development issue was a problem because proficient teachers felt that courses and workshops were not helping but these were necessary for less proficient teachers. There needed to be a scope for more proficient teachers to have more advanced courses.

Ms Dina Aird had asked for teachers with skills to be identified and for them to assist those teachers who are not as skilled.

The Committee said that this suggestion was not very practical and would be difficult to implement.

Submission 98 had asked for special needs classes to be reinstated, for long-leave for educators to be brought back, for the counting of all years of experience in teaching, including at private schools, for specific dispensation, for there to be focus on numeracy and literacy, to reduce unnecessary learner outcomes, take away unnecessary administration, for support for non mother-tongue learners, for less formal Grade R classes, for smaller class sizes and for sport to be included in the seven hour days.

Most of these issues had already been discussed. The Committee emphasised the importance of sport in schools and the differentiation between Physical Education and sport.

Mr John Broster had asked for an improvement in examiners and for more realistic marking memorandums.

The Committee was in the process of compiling a detailed report to send to UMALUSI.

The Rev. Cassie Aucamp was concerned with deteriorating levels in quality of teachers and gave a number of suggestions to improve this quality, including creating a disciplinary code. The Committee noted that there was an attempt in progress to create such a disciplinary code, and that there was a need to explore it.

Rabboni Christian School had recommended more concentration on reading, writing and arithmetic, making young people qualify as teachers, smaller class sizes and teaching good values.

The Committee noted that the perception of the education system and teaching needed to be improved to draw more people into the profession.

Submission 107 had called for a value-based curriculum, a need for qualified teachers, better incentives for those coming into the profession, reduced class sizes and educators to be exemplary.

The Committee agreed that good values must be carried through by teachers into their personal lives.

Rabboni Christian School, in a separate submission, had said that there were too many subjects in the curriculum and it had recommended continuous training for teachers, reduced class sizes and bringing back prayers and bible teaching.

The Committee noted that the curriculum was under review and that the other issues had been dealt with.

 

Meeting report

Quality of and access to Education: Further deliberations on public submissions
The Chairperson indicated that this meeting would continue to deliberate on the points raised in the public submissions on the quality of and access to education.

Mr Dennis Bandi, Content Advisor: Parliament, said that Submission 75 had been considered during the oral hearings (BAS.EDU 75).

Mr Bandi said that Submission 76, by Dr A Pepler (BAS.EDU 76), had raised the issues of parent involvement in school activities, a need for trained educators for Grade R, specifically trained educators to be remunerated accordingly and for smaller class sizes.

The Chairperson said that extensive discussions about class size had already taken place and that the Committee had spoken about school readiness and the need to expand the reach of Grade R. She asked if the Committee agreed that Grade R teachers needed to be better trained and if planning was necessary for them to be well-trained.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) said that he supported the requirement for trained educators in Grade R and for them to be remunerated accordingly.

The Chairperson asked the Members to look at the issue in the context of school readiness.

Mr D Smiles (DA) said that, while he also supported the requirements and understood the importance of the foundation phase, there was a need to prioritise qualifications in the more formal sector of education, and, given budgetary concerns, formal sector qualifications should not be ceded to Grade R qualifications.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) said that, although the Committee had already dealt with the issue of parent involvement in school activities, it was important that this should not only occur in Grade R but all the way through different levels of education.

The Chairperson noted the importance of remembering that education was far broader than just institutional practices.

Mr Bandi said that Submissions 77 and 78 had been combined and had been sent by Ms Liesl van der Merwe (BAS.EDU 77+78). Ms van der Merwe had evaluated the NCS (Grade 9) Arts and Culture curriculum for conceptual progression in the assessment standards and had found a gap in the current curriculum content.

The Chairperson observed that the submission would only make sense to the curriculum developers and should therefore be sent to them.

Mr Smiles noted the importance of conceptual progress and said that it was important for the Committee to understand the submission.

The Chairperson noted that as the Committee's role was primarily that of a policymaker, Members could not deal with the submission because they did not implement the curriculum. Language barriers were important and would be discussed.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 79, by Mr Colin Mashikinya (BAS.EDU 79), had asked for a ‘Cut down on teaching length. Let there be one sub-standard’.

The Chairperson asked Members what they thought of the submission.

Mr Skosana said that he understood it as asking for a cut on the seven hours of teaching a day, or a cut on the number of minutes in a period. As these were linked to the curriculum, it would not be possible.

The Chairperson noted that the submission was vague.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 80, by Ms Liezel du Toit (BAS.EDU 80), had raised the issue of the negative effects of Government policy on maths. As a school was allowed to fail only a certain number of learners per grade per year and learners were allowed to repeat a grade only once in every three years of school, learners were sacrificed to serve a policy and maths teachers became demotivated.

The Chairperson said that the issue was not as simple as the submission had stated. South Africa has some of the highest repetition rates in the world. Dropping out was often the result of learners repeating. The discussion about remedial classes was important if learners had failed previously, as inclusiveness was not just about disability. She stated that intervention and support was necessary rather than reviewing policy.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 81, by Mr Andrew Verrijdt, an educational psyhologist (BAS.EDU 81) had raised the issues of high learner ratios being detrimental to performance and affecting the implementation of inclusive education. Mr Verrijdt had stated that psychologists could not support big classes and that there was no extra support for learners.

The Chairperson said that each of these issues had been dealt with previously and that the Committee had agreed to include them in the final report.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 82 had been considered during the oral hearings (BAS.EDU 82).

Mr Bandi said Submission 83, by Ms Anastacia Edwards (BAS.EDU 83), had asked for there to be wholesome food provided or sold at schools.

The Chairperson said that there was not much that the Committee could do to deal with this issue as a school nutritional scheme already existed. However questionnaires were being prepared for schools that would include questions to monitor the scheme.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 84, by Ms Ellouise Richter (BAS.EDU 84), had raised the issues of the prescribed textbooks for English Literature containing uninspiring content and there being no prescribed poetry for Grade 10 and Grade 11.

The Chairperson said that she will look at the books in question, and would distribute them to other Members if necessary. She said that the development of written language was affected by the removal of spelling tests and a lack of grammar focus.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 85 had been considered during the oral hearings (BAS.EDU 85).

Mr Bandi said that Submission 86, by Monument Primary School (BAS.EDU 86), had stated that the current curriculum content did not add value to education, that teaching institutions were not preparing teachers for the latest trends in education, that managers wasted time by filling in forms, that disciplinary problems prevailed when there were too many learners in a class, and that there were too many official languages. It had recommended that Government should fully subsidise school fees and that rural schools should be treated equally.

The Chairperson recognised that homeless children and orphans needed to have fully subsidised school fees and asked for this issue to be checked upon. Class size had been dealt with extensively. The issue regarding teaching institutions not preparing teachers for the latest trends in education fell under teacher development and had been dealt with.

Mr Smiles said that preparing teachers was important. When English was the language of instruction in later phases of education, not all teachers were prepared, as the mother-tongue was used in the foundation phase.

The Chairperson said that there was no change in policy but English was being introduced earlier alongside the mother-tongue language. She said an important issue was the education of children in prisons and the Committee was waiting on data on the issue before discussing it.

Mr Smiles agreed with the submission about there being too many languages. Learning three languages took up too much time and caused less teaching to take place.

The Chairperson said that it was her understanding that only two languages are prescribed and that third languages were not compulsory.

Mr Skosana agreed that there was no policy concerning three compulsory languages.

Mr Bandi said that Submissions 87 and 88 had been considered during the oral hearings (BAS.EDU 87 & 88).

Mr Bandi said that there was no Submission 89, as a document had been sent in without input or recommendations.

Mr Bandi said that Submissions 90 and 91 had been considered during the oral hearings (BAS.EDU 90 & 91).

Mr Bandi said that Submission 92, by Mr Joseph Temlett (BAS.EDU 92), had raised the issues of the corruption of education by teacher unions, teacher apathy, and professional fatigue. The submission had made a number of recommendations including introducing a voucher system for every child born, that there should be ‘a value-curriculum’, smaller class sizes, teacher assistants to help teachers concentrate on academic content and mentoring of learners, and reintroducing education inspectors.

The Chairperson said that the issue of subsidisation of every child coincided with the voucher system.

Mr Skosana noted that in the education system, there was a budget that took into account the number of learners in the system. He believed that there is no need for a voucher system while the current system was good.

The Chairperson agreed that not every child should have a voucher, but that a voucher system could be worked into the system. It could help with the problem of the resourced and non-resourced.

Mr Smiles agreed that the voucher system could be adapted into the system. It would assist in learners getting the best education possible.

The Chairperson said that even if there was a means test for vouchers, the cross-subsidisation element would not be removed as inequalities would still exist and schools would further increase their fees. The two issues concerning vouchers were efficiency and inequality.

Mr Skosana agreed that vouchers would contribute towards inequality. There was a pressing need to improve education everywhere instead of encouraging learners to find better education elsewhere.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) said that vouchers would lead to unintended consequences. A provision would be needed for people who wanted to work and those who do not want to work.

Mr Smiles said that a means test would be necessary and that capping of school fees would be necessary with the implantation of a voucher system.

Ms Dudley said that learners would transfer from no-fee schools to other schools.

The Chairperson said that voucher systems would work better in countries with less poverty because of cross-subsidisation. People who have to pay could end up having to pay more. There was an issue of fees and an issue of inequality of resources at schools. She agreed to hold the discussion and leave room for exploration.

Ms Dudley supported the issue of assistants for teachers in the classrooms.

The Chairperson said that 90% of the budget was already used on teachers’ salaries and that there was no space for teacher assistants.

Ms Dudley said that people assisting teachers would not be paid as much as teachers. They would help in large classes.

The Chairperson replied that ideally the reduction of class size would be preferable to employing assistants. Budget limitations would not be able to deal with teacher assistants, and establishing the national norms for class size was a much bigger priority,

Ms Dudley said that the issue was personal interaction as even the best teachers could not always provide this, no matter how talented.

Mr Skosana said that there is also an issue of content matter and asked what the teachers’ assistants would do. Concentration on teacher development was a more pressing concern,

Ms N Gina (ANC) said that she could not agree on such a concept as it would be contradictory to support unqualified teachers’ assistants. The focus should be on reducing class size.

Mr Smiles supported the idea of teachers’ assistants and felt that they would encourage quality education. They would not deal with content and therefore would not need to be qualified. There would need to be differentiation between where they were needed and not needed. They could still have a place with the move towards inclusive education.

The Chairperson said that the Committee seemed to have two different understandings of teachers’ assistants. With the discussion on the reduction of class sizes, there were two solutions - to utilise teachers’ assistants or put effort into reducing the class sizes. If there was a choice between the two, the second should always be taken.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 93 (BAS.EDU 93) had emphasised the significant contribution of Grade R, raised the issue of a need for qualified Grade R teachers and asked for educational support to be provided for parents.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had discussed parents’ contribution to education and the qualification of Grade R teachers and added that there must be synergy between the home environment and school. Research was being done to find out more about assessment and teachers’ qualifications in Grade R.

Ms Gina emphasised her concern to make Grade R compulsory.

Ms Smiles said that there was a curriculum for Grade R but that it had to be informal because formal assessment in Grade R was difficult to administer.

The Chairperson said that Grade R prepared learners for Grade 1 through creating positive learning attitudes. The requested research would show exactly what Grade R was doing.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 94, by Ms de Vos (BAS.EDU 94), had put an emphasis on Grade R education and had said that more time should be spent on the basics, while principals should be made aware of the importance of Grade R.

Ms Dudley said that the system had lost something because Grade R was not compulsory. It needed to be made compulsory before there was a decision on what should be in the curriculum.

The Chairperson said that these issues had been dealt with.

Mr Smiles raised his concern about the lack of summaries for all of the submissions.

The Chairperson said that Mr Bandi was unable to provide summaries for all the Afrikaans submissions.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 95, by Mr Christo van der Rheede, had comprised a document detailing how to improve managerial capacity at schools.

The Chairperson asked for Members with relevant backgrounds in this field to look at the document more closely. It has already been sent to the Department of Education.

Mr Smiles said that school management needed to be improved and fully supported the submission.

The Chairperson said that quality management could be controlled by an internal monitoring mechanism.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 96, by Ms Shamilla Essaram (BAS.EDU 96), had raised the issues of the curriculum not being value-based and that courses and workshops were not developing educators. It also encouraged parent involvement, took Life Orientation very seriously, and deplored entrusting school management to people who did not have management capacity.

The Chairperson said that the curriculum issue had been discussed and she felt that it did not adequately prepare learners for work environments and tertiary education. The teacher development issue was a problem because proficient teachers felt that courses and workshops are not helping; however, these were necessary for less proficient teachers. There needed to be a scope for more proficient teachers to have more advanced courses.

Mr Smiles approved of the submission and said that he wanted to focus on school management, teacher training, funding, values and the implementation of the curriculum while he was in the Committee.

The Chairperson said that these issues had been discussed already.

Mr Skosana agreed that these issues had been discussed. The courses to develop educators were important as they did develop educators with time. It was a continuous issue. Life Orientation was taken seriously by the Department of Basic Education and by Members. The difference was in schools and the problem must be an internal school issue.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 97, by Ms Dina Aird (BAS.EDU 97), had asked for teachers with skills to be identified and for them to assist those teachers who were not as skilled.

The Chairperson said that this submission also covered teacher development but with a new proposal that was not very practical.

Mr Smiles said that new teachers needed mentoring and that management should identify this.

The Chairperson replied that the submission did not speak about mentoring and that mentoring was covered elsewhere.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 98 (BAS.EDU 98) had asked for special needs classes to be reinstated, for long-leave for educators to be brought back, for teachers’ years of service to be counted, for counting all years of experience in teaching, including teaching at private schools for specific dispensation, for there to be focus on numeracy and literacy and a reduction of unnecessary learner outcomes, for taking away unnecessary administration, for support for non mother-tongue learners, for less formal Grade R classes, for smaller class sizes and for sport to be included in the seven hour school days.

The Chairperson said that most of the issues had been discussed previously.

Mr Skosana said that seven hours of teaching for teachers was non-negotiable but asked about sport. If sport was not included in the seven hours it could be sacrificed.

Ms Gina said that the seven hours included only the time that the teachers were at school, not all contact time teaching. She suggested that an extra time of thirty minutes be made for sport after the seven hours so as not to disturb the contact time.

The Chairperson replied that Members could not recommend only thirty minutes for sport as this was too short. An emphasis must be made on the difference between physical education and sport. Every school should have sports as these sorts of talents needed to be nurtured at schools.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 99 had been considered during the oral hearings (BAS.EDU 99).

Mr Bandi said that Submission 100, by Mr John Broster (BAS.EDU 100), had asked for an improvement in examiners and for more realistic marking memorandums.

Mr Smiles said that he supported the need for improvement on examiners and marking.

The Chairperson said that a detailed report was being compiled on how the system worked and would be sent to UMALUSI.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 101 had been considered during the oral hearings (BAS.EDU 101).

Mr Bandi said that Submission 102, by the Rev. Cassie Aucamp, had been concerned with deteriorating levels in the quality of teachers. The submission had given a host of suggestions to improve this quality, including strict and continued supervision, the reintroduction of inspectors, dismissals where necessary, using a merit system, enhancing educator training, enforcing healthy values and ethics, less administrative work, enforcing basic skills and a strong code of discipline.

The Chairperson said on the issue of a disciplinary code, that a code is trying to be created and that there was a need to explore it. The other issues had already been discussed.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 103 was the same as 92, 106 and 108.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 104, by Rabboni Christian School (BAS.EDU 104), had recommended more concentration on reading, writing and arithmetic, making young people qualify as teachers, smaller class sizes and teaching good values.

Mr Skosana said that the issue of qualifying young people as teachers first needed an improvement in the education system to improve young people's perception of teaching. He supported this.

The Chairperson said that this was not captured in the submission.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 105 had been considered during the oral hearings (BAS.EDU 105).

Mr Bandi said that Submission 106 was a repeat submission.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 107 (BAS.EDU 107) had called for a value-based curriculum, a need for qualified teachers, better incentives for those coming into the profession, reduced class sizes, and for educators to be exemplary.

The Chairperson said that good values must be carried through by teachers into their personal lives.

Submission 108 was a repeat submission.

Mr Bandi said that Submission 109, by Jacqueline (BAS.EDU 109), had said that Outcomes Based Education (OBE) was an embarrassment, that it was ineffective and that it promoted laziness.

The Chairperson said that the submitter clearly had a problem with the OBE system and that there was nothing the Committee could do to change that.

Mr Bandi said that Submissions 110 and 111 had been considered during the oral hearings (BAS.EDU 110 & 111).

Mr Bandi said that Submission 112, a separate submission from Rabboni Christian School (BAS.EDU 112), had said that there were too many subjects in the curriculum; the School had recommended continuous training for teachers, reduced class sizes and bringing back prayers and bible teaching.

The Chairperson said that the curriculum was already under review and that the other issues had been dealt with.

The meeting was adjourned.

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