Umalusi Annual Report 2009/2010, National and Provincial Departments' expenditure trends

Basic Education

13 October 2010
Chairperson: Ms K Kubayi
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Meeting Summary

Umalusi, the quality assurance body for general and further education and training curricula and examinations, delivered its Annual Report for 2009/2010 to the Committee. It generated income by issuing and verifying certificates, and in 2009/10 had added more research to its mandate to improve education standards. It had received a clean audit for the financial year ending 31 March 2010. Umalusi would also be giving advice to the Minister on matters relating to the General and Further Education and Training (GFET) sub-framework of qualifications. The introduction of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) and the National Certificate: Vocational carried significant new work implications, as did the splitting of the Department. The four units were highlighted, and the mandate and achievements of each were highlighted. It was noted that Umalusi had received an unqualified audit certificate. It awarded bursaries to staff and concentrated on staff development and wellness. It had received a total income of R52, 4 million, with expenditure amounting to R52, 3 million, resulted in a surplus of R51, 435. In future it was looking to new funding models, with one possibility being increase in certification fees, and the other a move to a Quality Assurance levy. Members commended the clean audit and the commitment of management, asked if there was sufficient readiness for matric examinations in 2010, and questioned what capacity was required at Umalusi. They asked for a breakdown on spending. They questioned whether the National Senior Certificate was adequately equipping students to enter tertiary education, particularly in view of the need for bridging courses, examined the role of Continuous Assessment, and the position of unregistered colleges who may be offering uncertified courses. The role of Umalusi in relation to the Departments of Basic Education, and Higher Education and Training, the role of Recognition of Prior Learning and the impact on research on the Foundation Phase were questioned. Members also asked how Umalusi would obtain sufficient external moderators, and queried whether independent schools were monitored. Problems with the Physical Science examination standards were cited. Further clarity was sought on the responses from Provincial Departments of Education, the need for more funding, and quality of education.

The Department of Basic Education gave a supplementary presentation on National and Provincial Education Expenditure Trends and Projections, outlining figures on spending obtained from in-year monitoring reports. The provincial department were projecting over-expenditure, although the current spending did not seem to support this. The spending for compensation of employees (which placed pressure on other areas of the budget), expenditure on goods and services, on capital assets, machinery and equipment, and spending on conditional grants was outlined. The personnel expenditure trends and projections were set out and it was noted that there were unfunded posts and incorrect grading of some posts. It was recommended that vacant teaching posts could be frozen without the curriculum being compromised, and non-critical posts could be closed in the 2011 and 2012 years, with exit strategies where posts could not be filled. The project financial requirements envisaged a 15-year rollout of improvements to almost 3 500 schools where overcrowding affected basic functionality. It also targeted inappropriately built schools, as well as those where learners had no classrooms. Around R8.2 billion was needed over the next four years. The budget was under huge pressure but there were attempts to make it more efficient, and the Accelerated School Infrastructure Development Initiative would be implemented. Members asked what was meant by capacity building, questioned the allocations to this category, and asked whether basic services included classrooms. Members cited problems with lack of classrooms in Eastern Cape and Limpopo, calling for reports. They questioned whether the projected spending would achieve results, and why the spending to date had not resulted in improvements. Members asked about pupil: teacher ratios and the impact of the recent teacher strikes. They asked that the Department and Umalusi work more closely together to try to resolve issues.

Meeting report

Appointment of Acting Chairperson
Ms K Kubayi (ANC) noted the apologies of the Chairperson, Ms F Chohan, who was attending a Judicial Service Commission meeting. She was elected as Acting Chairperson.

Umalusi Annual Report 2009/2010 presentation
Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer, Umalusi, noted that Umalusi was the quality assurance body for general and further education and training curricula and examinations. The theme of its Annual Report presentation was “Charting the Course”. The mandate of Umalusi was based on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act of 2008 and the Further Education and Training (FET) Act of 2001

Umalusi had always grounded its work in research, but this function was only formalised under the new and extended mandate, which required Umalusi to commission and publish research on issues of importance to the development and implementation of the sub-framework.

Dr Rakometsi also informed the committee that the amended mandate included giving advice to the relevant Minister on matters relating to the General and Further Education and Training (GFET) sub-framework of qualifications. He spoke about how the external environment impacted on Umalusi. The introduction of the two new high profile qualifications, the National Senior Certificate (NSC) (replacing the old Senior Certificate) and the National Certificate: Vocational (NCV) (replacing the National Technical Certificates) carried significant new work implications. In addition, the splitting of the Ministry of Education required the establishment of new and different relationships, and engagement with new priorities and demands.

Mr Vijayen Naidoo, Acting Chief Operations Officer, Umalusi, continued with the presentation. He highlighted that Umalusi operated under four units; namely, the Qualifications, Curriculum and Certification (QCC) unit, the Quality Assurance of Assessment (QAA) unit, the Education and Accreditation (E&A) unit, and the Statistical Information and Research (SIR) unit.

Mr Naidoo noted that there had been 839 356 certificates issued from April 2009 to March 2010 across qualifications, with 161 860 verifications. The QAA unit was responsible for establishing, maintaining and improving standards and quality in assessment at exit points in GEFT. This was done by external moderation of question papers, verification of monitoring of the conduct of examinations, external moderation of marking, external moderation of Continuous Assessment (CASS) and the standardisation of assessment results.

The E&A unit was responsible for the accreditation and monitoring of private institutions offering the qualifications that Umalusi certified. It evaluated the ability of education and training providers to implement the registered qualifications and approved curriculum, as well as the capacity of providers and assessment bodies to conduct practical internal and external assessments of learner achievement, which would result in issuing of registered qualifications by Umalusi.

The SIR unit was mandated to conduct research as identified by Umalusi’s needs, and to report on the key indicators of quality and standards in the GFET sector. In 2009/10 this unit had initiated and conducted research relating to the evaluation of standards of the School General Education and Training (GET). Research would need more attention in future.

Mr Jeremy Thomas, Chief Financial Officer, Umalusi, continued to present on Management Support Structures (MSS) and governance. MSS ensured that strategic plans were in place, and that Umalusi carried out its mandate. Organisational governance was maintained by Council meetings being held regularly and services were rendered.

Mr Thomas noted that Umalusi had recently suffered two break-ins, which resulted in the need to replace 10 computers and 16 screens. Security was subsequently enhanced by the installation of razor wires, security doors at all entrances, mounted Closed Circuit Cameras and overnight security guards.

Umalusi had awarded bursaries to staff, in the amount of R58 039. Staff development and wellness was prioritised.

Umalusi had a total income of R52, 4 million, with expenditure amounting to R52, 3 million, resulted in a surplus of R51, 435.

Dr Rakometsi concluded that in future Umalusi was looking to funding model which proposed that DBE move from a certification fee to a Quality Assurance levy, or an increase in certification fees.

Discussion
Ms A Mda (COPE) congratulated Umalusi on its clean audit, and noted the substantial improvement and consistent commitment towards addressing issues of concern.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) also congratulated Umalusi on its performance and clean audit.

Dr Rakometsi thanked the Committee Members for their compliments and said that this increased Umalusi staff’s confidence and competency.

Ms Mda asked if Umalusi was sufficiently ready for the Matric examinations in 2010.

Dr Rakometsi assured her that that the examinations for the grade 12 learners of 2010 were ready, and all contingencies were covered. The certification process was also in place, and Umalusi would be checking its system consistently to ensure maximum efficiency.


Mr D Smiles (DA) asked what exact capacity was required to deal with current issues facing Umalusi.

Dr Rakometsi responded that Umalusi still needed to assess exactly what its necessary capacity would be, in conjunction with the Department of Basic Education (DBE).

Mr Smiles was disappointed that the financial statements did not include a brief summary of the main expenditure items. He asked for a breakdown on spending, specifically personnel and non-personnel spending.

Mr Thomas responded that a detailed list of expenditure items was included in the Annual Report 2009/2010, at page 62. The staff component amounted to 49%.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) wanted to know whether the quality of the National Senior Certificate was viable to feed into Tertiary Level education. He referred to the fact that several students were still needing to undertake bridging courses before being able to enter for an undergraduate qualification. This essentially lengthened the study time of students, by adding one year to their four year courses. He questioned what role Umalusi had in this regard and whether it could foresee any improvements in the near future.

Dr Rakometsi responded that university degrees and entrance requirements sparked many discussions in previous years. When the curriculum was changed a few years ago, these tertiary institutions were unwilling to change their entry level requirements and first year of courses, to suit the new National Senior Certificate. The changes could not be enforced until legislative areas of government were included in the discussions.

Ms N Gina (ANC) posed a question relating to the role of Continuous Assessments (CASS). She asked whether and how these contributed towards the final examination.

Dr Rakometsi explained that the intention of CASS was that it be a feedback mechanism, so learners could improve on areas of difficulty. It was recently changed from a formative to a summative assessment format. CASS was an important component of learning, and a substantial amount of the budget went towards this CASS component, as external moderators fulfilled this role.

Ms Gina said that there had been some speculation that exam papers of FET colleges were not certified, and that learners were writing incorrect examination papers.

Dr Rakometsi acknowledged the problem with unregistered private colleges issuing incorrect question papers, but assured the Committee that this had been investigated. There was a drastic increase in private colleges registering with Umalusi. 

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) also expressed his concern about unregistered FET colleges that were offering uncertified courses. This must be stopped, and he enquired what Umalusi was doing in this regard.

Dr Rakometsi agreed that this was a continuing problem but assured the Committee that drastic measures were being taken by Umalusi, such as visiting sites and keeping track of the institutions. The increase in registration of FET colleges with Umalusi reflected that they were improving on this matter.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) wanted to know what role Umalusi played in developments within the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and whether it implemented new strategies from findings by this department.

Dr Rakometsi noted that he was recently invited to attend a meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education. Umalusi did have a high level of involvement with this Department.

Mr Makhubele wanted more information with regards to Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), and asked whether this was still included in the mandate of Umalusi.

Mr Naidoo responded that it was difficult to explain within the current framework, where an examination was used as an assessment instrument. Recognition of Prior Achievement would be phased in, so that a credits transfer could be done. RPL may form part of some qualifications, and here, Umalusi would have to work with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) and on the NCV qualification.

Mr Smiles questioned how the research that Umalusi was carrying out impacted on the current Foundation Phase, and was worried that the findings from this research might not be implemented.

Mr Smiles noted the scarcity of qualified external moderators, and wanted to know if that would influence the quality of moderation. He also noted that no registered independent schools were visited for monitoring. He noted that Umalusi was generally tasked with quality assurance, and was concerned whether these restraints would have an impact.

Mr Naidoo agreed that there was a shortage of skilled internal and external moderators. Umalusi had advertised numerous times to fill these vacant positions, but had had no success yet, and he agreed that this was urgent and that Umalusi would actually head-hunt suitable candidates if necessary.

Dr Rakometsi added that Umalusi would visit independent schools once a year, but if there was a problem with the functioning of such a school, Umalusi could investigate and visit the institution again.

Ms Mushwana wanted to know if the new NCV qualification provided learners with the necessary skills for further learning, in comparison with the old National Technical Certificate.

Mr Naidoo said that Umalusi had thoroughly researched the NCV qualification and was satisfied that it was up to standard.

Ms Gina was concerned about Physical Science being offered as a subject. She cited the previous year’s report, which had stated that standards were too high, and that learners tended to try to register for the higher grade, which many then failed. She enquired if Umalusi had further investigated this problem.

Mr Naidoo responded that standards in 2008 already showed a problem with the Physical Science curriculum. Umalusi was constantly looking into this. He conceded that Physical Science was crucial to obtaining many Tertiary Level qualifications.

Ms Gina highlighted that the presentation had mentioned poor responses from Provincial Departments of Education (PDEs), and asked for further clarity.

Dr Rakometsi explained that Umalusi undertook to evaluate the assessment system in each of the provinces, and had therefore sent out officials to each province, requesting improvement plans and time frames for the NCV. Umalusi had notified the PDEs of the areas of weakness. However, there was a poor response to this, hence the remark in the presentation.

The Acting Chairperson noted that she, as a Member of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training, would like to ask that Dr Rakometsi join one of its meetings to discuss this issue.

The Acting Chairperson thought that more discussion was needed with the DBE around finances if Umalusi needed more funds, and suggested that it should produce an estimate on how much it needed to complete its mandate. She requested that perhaps the DBE, which was present at this meeting, could discuss with Umalusi a possible date and time for a meeting for further discussions.

Mr Smiles mentioned that the Grade 12 examination results showed, year after year, that the quality of education in South Africa was low. He wanted to know what role Umalusi played in this regard.

Dr Rakometsi agreed that attendance at schools had been lower due to the teachers’ strike, and this was of concern. However, he did not agree that the quality of education was low. The National Senior Certificate was benchmarked and compared to other countries. He referred Members to relevant reports on Page 25 of the Annual Report. He noted that learners did, however, need more attention skills and a positive attitude towards their tuition.

Department of Basic Education Supplementary Presentation: National and Provincial Education Expenditure Trends and Projections
The Acting Chairperson reminded Members that this was a presentation that would supplement earlier discussions that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) had had with the Committee.

Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, Acting Chief Operations Officer, DBE, gave a summary of the budget and expenditure figures obtained from in-year monitoring reports. The total average expenditure by Provincial Departments of Education (PDEs) for the reporting period was 39, 6% of the adjusted budget of R137,438 billion. The spending rate was lower in the 2010/11 financial year, at 39.6%, compared to 41, 8% in 2009/10, because of cost containment measures introduced by the PDEs.

The PDEs were projecting an over-expenditure of R2,413 billion at the end of the financial year, but the current expenditure did not support that, and a clear picture would be realised once the annual increases had been finalised.

Ms Molalekoa noted that in regard to the compensation of employees, the PDEs incurred expenditure of 41,7% of R104,643 billion. The current projected over-expenditure was expected to increase after the conclusion of the Improvement of Conditions of Services (ICS). She emphasised that compensation of employees remained a cost pressure in the education sector, and compromised service delivery, because it placed a burden on other resources.

Ms Molalekoa highlighted that the actual expenditure on goods and services was very low, at R3,841 billion, representing 26,4% of R14,524 billion. Little improvement was expected in the course of the financial year, but this item was targeted for cost containment, as most PDEs had already indicated during the first quarter visits by the Department.

The actual expenditure on capital assets was still low, at R1,511 billion, representing 21,1% of R7,159 billion allocated. Northern Cape reflected the highest spending rate of 38,4%, followed by KZN at 36,6% and Western Cape at 31,9%, mainly on buildings and other fixed structures. The lowest expenditure was shown in Free State at 8,3%. The expenditure on machinery and equipment was slow, with the highest being in Gauteng at 38,6% and the lowest in North West, at 1,6%. However, most of the PDEs indicated that these items would also be affected by cost cutting.

Ms Molalekoa said that the average spending for all conditional grants was less than 30,9%, except for new Conditional Grants for Technical Schools, which was particularly low at 4, 9%. Only two PDEs in Eastern Cape (35%) and Gauteng (3,1%) had spent their budget for Technical Schools Recapitalisation. The Department continued to check readiness of the PDEs to implement the conditional grant.

Mr P Padayachoe, Acting Deputy Director General, DBE, highlighted the personnel expenditure trends and projections. The personnel budget was R104 billion, but this was not accurate as salary increases were not taken into account. Some reasons for the shortfall were attributed to the unfunded posts, and the fact that excess educators had not been placed, which was costing an estimated R2.9 billion to the Department. The incorrect grading of posts in offices by some PDEs also contributed to the problem.

Mr Padayachoe gave some recommendations. It was possible to have the vacant teaching posts frozen without the curriculum being compromised, and non-critical posts could be closed in the 2011 and 2012 years. A Task Team was already looking into this. An exit strategy was being formulated for cases where a post could not be filled.
 
Mr Padayachoe then spoke about the projected financial requirements. DBE, for the period 2011 to 2014, had focused on a new plan of Accelerated School Infrastructure Development Initiative (ASIDI), which focused on improving and upgrading schools without water, sanitation, electricity or fencing. The Department had identified 3 412 schools where overcrowding put pressure on basic functionality. This project would be rolled out over the next 15 years, until 2025. The plan also included active management, to ensure that there was budget for maintenance, and that a backlog was not created. The initiative also included looking at the establishment of laboratories and libraries in schools.

This programme also targeted schools constructed from inappropriate material, which posed a danger to learners and educators, and overcrowded schools, including so called “mud schools”. Critical teaching and learning spaces in those identified schools was prioritised. In order for DBE to complete this project, it needed around R8, 2 billion over the next four years, including infrastructure and capacity building funding.

Mr Padayachoe admitted that the budget for personnel was under immense pressure, leaving shortfalls in respect of infrastructure spending, but DBE planned to improve the efficiency of the budget, including procurement on infrastructure and other areas. He outlined that DBE would be developing a model, making funding arrangements, and putting procedures for monitoring and reporting in place. Consultation was needed with the affected provinces and stakeholders. The ASIDI plan needed to be implemented and monitored effectively.

Discussion
The Acting Chairperson focused on the infrastructure expenditure, asked what Mr Padayachoe meant by “capacity building”, and needed clarity why the amount of R30, 5 million was allocated to this category.

Mr Padayachoe responded that capacity building was the cost for engineers, quantity surveyors, and architects who were needed for the project, to build new schools and update existing ones. All PDEs were included in this estimate. This focused on basic services, such as water, electricity and sanitation.

The Acting Chairperson also wanted to know what was meant by basic services, and whether this category included classrooms. She expressed her concern about media reports that learners in Limpopo were being given lessons outside, under trees, for lack of school buildings.  This was not conducive to learning, as weather conditions impacted on their concentration.

Mr Smiles also spoke about the lack of proper school buildings in the Eastern Cape, and asked what the Department would be doing about one particular named school. Mud schools had been a long-standing problem. He too emphasised that these learners’ quality of education was compromised by the lack of infrastructure and basic services.

Mr Padayachoe said that he would investigate the particular school referred to, and would give a written response.

The Acting Chairperson emphasised that education was crucial and that it did not appear that the projected spending was sufficient for projects of such magnitude. The DBE had already spent a great deal and she enquired why then matters were not improving.

Ms Gina commented that the unbudgeted posts impacted badly on the quality of education, and emphasised that such expenditure affected other areas of the budget.

Mr Padayachoe agreed that this was a problem, but highlighted that there needed to be alignment between the human resources and finances divisions within the PDEs. This seemed not to be happening. DBE was investigating it and drawing up recommendations.

Ms Mushwana enquired about the current pupil/teacher ratio, saying this impacted on overcrowding.  

Mr Padayachoe noted that the ratio was currently averaged at 33:1, but with the building of new schools and classrooms, the Department wanted every class to be no more than 40:1. He distinguished between class size in primary and secondary school classrooms, and noted that one of the reasons for overcrowding was lack of educators.

Mr Makhubele was also concerned whether the projected budget was realistic, as there had constantly been an overspending. He also voiced his concern about the impact on learner pass rates of the recent teacher strike.

Mr Padayachoe responded that the strike action was worrying, but it was essentially a public service issue, rather than for the DBE. He agreed that the DBE needed more funds to increase efficiency of services.

The Acting Chairperson asked for the DBE to work more closely with Umalusi to get its input on concerns.

The meeting was adjourned.

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