Basic Education Committee Reports: Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga Oversight; National Senior Certificate Results 2011

Basic Education

27 February 2012
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee considered and adopted (with amendments) the minutes of meetings held on 22 November 2011, and 7, 14 and 21 February 2012. They also discussed and adopted (with amendments) the Committee’s draft Reports on its Oversight Visits to Eastern Cape, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga, and the draft Report on the Release of the National Senior Certificate results of 2011.

Members generally commented on the use of abbreviations and noted that whilst generally-known abbreviations could be used, any acronyms should be explained. They noted that the Reports must be consistent in their use of upper and lower case notations, and in the use of descriptive phrases. In certain cases, Members asked that numbers and totals be qualified with an explanation, and that literacy rates should be quoted numerically. Members suggested changes to the structure of reports and it was agreed, after discussion, that bullet points be used to break up paragraphs and that general recommendations should be inserted at the end of reports, and matched to findings, where applicable, whilst other findings and observations that were not linked to specific recommendations should be listed separately.

Members noted some responses from the Department of Education as still outstanding, and requested a follow up on those matters. One of the matters that was briefly mentioned in the minutes, but that needed to be further discussed, was the competency level of exam markers, which was directly related to their own ability to teach the subject. Another point related to the quality of the exam papers, and whether the results were really indicative of ability. This was something that had to be discussed also with the Department of Higher Education and Training, Umalusi and the universities. The quality control of pass rates was noted, and the mandate of Umalusi was discussed.

Meeting report

Committee Report (edited on 27 January 2012) on Official Release of the National Senior Certificate Results for 2011
The Chairperson took the Committee through the draft Committee Report (the Report) page by page.

Mr Smiles asked whether a Committee Member who was unable to attend an event would be allowed to suggest a substitute from his party.

The Chairperson said this point would be debated later in the meeting.

Mr Mpontshane questioned why no date was inserted.

The Chairperson responded that the date was inserted only after the Report was approved.

Mr Smiles asked for clarification of the bullet points on page 3, which were clarified by the Chairperson and Mr Mpontshane.

Members adopted the draft Report, as amended.

Committee
Report on Oversight Visits to the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga
The Chairperson asked that page numbers be inserted, and took the Committee through the draft Report, page by page.

She noted a repetition in the third paragraph on page 2, and another repetition in respect of paragraph 1.1.1.

A Member requested that the names of delegates be given in full.

The Chairperson asked that the delegates attending each visit be separately listed.

A Member noted that the name “South African Democratic Teachers Union” must be corrected on page 6.

Ms Gina suggested that the recommendations be inserted at the end of the Report, which she thought would be better formatting.

The Chairperson delayed debate on this point to the end of the meeting, and asked Members to focus on the content for the moment.

Mr Makhubele agreed, saying that the recommendations were not currently matched consistently to issues raised. Any challenges that were merely noted, without specific recommendations being attached, should be grouped separately.

Members noted that the reference to “temporal” teachers needed to be corrected to “temporary” teachers. They also noted a correction of “stationary” to “stationery” on page 8.

Mr Makhubele asked that the repeated word “leave” be removed from the first bullet point on page 9.
He then pointed out some errors on page 13, and suggested that those bullet points that did not contain information must be removed. Punctuation revisions were needed to the fourth bullet point.

Mr Makhubele said that on page 14, there needed to be greater clarity about the disputes, such as which parties were involved, to make it easier to follow up on the matters.

A Member highlighted, in respect of page 16,  that the main issue was not that temporary teachers should or should not be used, but rather that they must be introduced at particular times, rather than on a purely ad hoc basis.

The Chairperson suggested that this should be a recommendation added to the end of the report. Several schools had raised this issue. She noted that a section should be inserted for general recommendations, which set out the findings and challenges of the visit.

A Member asked that the departments mentioned on page 16 must be named.

Mr Makhubele asked for correction of grammatical errors on pages 17 and 18. He requested consistency in the spellings. He again requested that an empty bullet point be removed.

The Chairperson noted, on page 18, that “trench” must be changed to “tranche”.

A Member requested, on page 19, that the term ‘number last’ be corrected, that the words “in the school” be removed, and that other grammar be corrected.

Ms Gina pointed out that “district” and “curriculum advisor” were both to be typed in lower case.

Members deliberated whether the words “old, dilapidated and disintegrating” could be used as a phrase, and resolved to correct this to “old and dilapidated”.

Ms Gina proposed that the paragraph be broken up into bullet points for ease of reading.

Mr Makhubele requested that, on page 20, the actual number of pregnancies should be given. He noted inconsistencies in the quintiles and said that there should be a note of whether each of the schools were fee-paying or not.

Mr Kganyago noted that one of the schools that had particular problems with the principal was not highlighted in the Report, and said this must be addressed as there was much discussion on it.

The Chairperson noted that this must be included, particularly since the findings at this school differed substantially from findings at other schools.

The Chairperson noted grammatical errors on page 26.

Ms Gina said that findings must be followed by recommendations.

Mr Makhubele said that on page 26, at bullet point 5, both entry and exit levels must be mentioned.

Mr Kganyago was not happy with the word “dense” but agreed with the Chairperson’s suggestion to use “overloaded” and cite an example.

Mr Mpontshane noted a grammatical correction on page 27

Mr Makhubele urged consistency in using the term “turnaround strategy” or “school improvement plan” – they both implied the same concept but it was necessary to be consistent, and he would prefer the latter.

Mr Kganyago said, in respect of page 28, that the questions of disunity and low morale were raised, but felt that the reasons must be outlined. He was not sure about the use of “irreparable” on page 29, as this implied that this was a lost cause.

The Chairperson suggested that the word “deemed” be added, as this was what had been said but the Committee did not necessary think that some solution to the problem would not still be found.

Mr Makhubele noted that a Committee Report, whilst reflecting observations, could also indicate how the problems raised could be solved.

More grammatical errors were noted on page 30. On this page the reference to an “Eat and go policy” was amended to reflect that “students had a tendency to eat and go”.

Ms Gina suggested that consistency of wording and format must be ensured and all bullet points on this page should reflect the correct position.

Mr Smiles suggested that a qualifier be added to ensure that a sentence read correctly.

Mr Mpontshane suggested, on page 34, that “language level” should be changed to read “language proficiency or competency”. He noted a repetition in bullet point 14.

Mr Makhubele said it should be noted that some schools were not visited, because of bad flooding in the areas.

The Chairperson then returned to questions about formatting raised earlier and agreed that general recommendations should be added at the end of the reports, to make them clearer.

The Committee expressed appreciation to Ms Lovemore for the clear and concise reports. They highlighted the importance of checking reports and minutes.

Adoption of Committee Minutes
22 November 2011
The Chairperson took the Committee through the Minutes of 22 November 2011, page by page. She noted that grammatical errors would be corrected if they were noted.

Ms N Gina (ANC) requested that figures (such as the mention of 5667 schools) be broken down in the reports, so that they made more sense to the readers.

A Member raised a question of what constituted a pass at matric, and this resulted in debate. It was noted that distinctions were not truly reflective of standards, which explained the high failure rate of first year university students. Other members said that there was a set standard for the marking of exam questions, which meant that the matric exams were rated as internationally competitive.

Members finally agreed that a meeting must be convened with stakeholders, including university chancellors and the Department of Higher Education and Training, to reach a fuller understanding of the quality and standard of exams, as well as to gauge whether the matric marks were a good representation of ability.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) asked whether Umalusi determined the pass levels of exams, because this body was not  responsible for the process and the teaching, only the end result.

The Chairperson confirmed that Umalusi saw to quality assurance, but was not responsible for ensuring a high pass rate.

Members agreed to set up a meeting with the bodies mentioned, to discuss questions on the quality of exam papers, as well as the level of knowledge and understanding the learners must have.

7 February 2012
The Chairperson took the Committee through the Minutes of the meeting on 7 February 2012,page by page.

Ms N Gina (ANC) noted the use of abbreviations on page 6, and asked whether this was acceptable in a formal document. She also pointed out grammatical errors in the third paragraph.

The Chairperson responded that known abbreviations (such as “iro” for “in respect of”) should be left.

Mr D Smiles (DA) noted the questions on page 9, and asked if the Committee would be receiving a response from either Umalusi or the Department of Basic Education (DBE), about maths literacy papers. He said the quality of examinations was questionable, and, as Chancellor Jansen had pointed out, it was ridiculous to award marks to a matric student for answering a question of Grade 3 standard. This also raised questions about the moderation of exams, which should be quality-assured.

The Chairperson agreed that that was an important point. Umalusi had promised to revert to the Committee with an answer to a particular maths examination paper.

Mr Mpontshane asked whether there was now a Department policy to test markers, in order to assess their level of competency, and whether these tests would be in place from either this or the next year.

Ms Gina suggested that Mr Mpontshane was out of order, as he was raising a topic not covered in the meeting, unless he wished to suggest that it be pursued in other meetings.

Mr Mpontshane replied that the competency and experience of markers was raised as a concern in the minutes.

The Chairperson pointed out that the question was asked in a previous meeting, and the answer was given that it was not yet policy, and would have to firstly be submitted to the Bargaining Council if it was to become a policy.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) added that if a marker could not moderate a subject, that person could surely not teach the subject, and agreed that this was a point needing further discussion.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) agreed with Ms Gina that this meeting should focus on the adoption of minutes and any matters raised as concerns should simply be noted for discussion in the future.

The Minutes were adopted, with amendment.

14 February 2012
The Chairperson tabled the Minutes of 14 February 2012 and took note of grammatical and spelling errors for correction on pages 5 and 9.

A member noted that acronyms must be explained, pointing out that “LURITS” on page 7 was not fully named.

Mr Mpontshane said that an Eastern Cape transfer was withheld and suggested that the Committee must find out if it had since been released.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee must make enquiries from the DBE.

The Chairperson asked that an explanation was needed on the tally of schools on page 11, since the figures added up to 49, but the real total was 50, since one school was attended to by Eastern Cape.

Mr Smiles pointed out a spelling error, and the Chairperson suggested that a better word for “marshall” must be found.

The Chairperson noted that the reference to “excess libraries” should read “access to libraries”, and a spelling error on page 12. She asked that reports listed on page 12 should be followed up.

Members adopted the minutes, as amended.

21 February 2012
The Chairperson tabled the minutes of 21 February 2012, and noted spelling errors on page 3. Members adopted the Minutes, as amended.

The meeting was adjourned.

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