The Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit spoke about the background of the unit, the Ministerial statement establishing the unit, its focus on support for learning and work within the provinces. poorly performing districts and their challenges as encapsulated by the headline “teachers, text and time” and on the ineffective district planning and programme implementation to impact decisively on improving learning and teaching.
The National Education Evaluation and Development Unit explained the need for the unit and answered queries about the duplication of roles. It covered a brief history of the unit and the draft Bill associated with the Unit, the mission of the Unit, and the approach to aligning and synchronizing activities of the unit.
Members asked questions about the differences between the Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit and the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit were, was there a duplication of roles in other areas of the Department, would the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit be working with provinces, how assessments would be done, about the lack of development content in the Bill, the adoption of poorly performing districts by parliamentarians, the provision of textbooks, district improvement plans, understaffing, vacancies in the districts, tool for monitoring and evaluation, the role of inspectors, the impact of the Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit, curriculum choices, the status of a previously presented National Education Evaluation and Development Unit report, the role of Committee recommendations, field workers, undelivered textbooks as well as the life span of the two entities.
Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit (PDOU) presentation
Ms Palesa Tyobeka, Deputy Director General: General Education and Training and Head of Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit (PDOU), apologised on behalf of the Director General who had been called away by the Minister. Unfortunately the Minister had not known about this meeting. The rest of the Unit was also meeting the Minister later on today. She apologised for being the only one present from the Unit as it was a small unit.
Ms Tyobeka presented on the background of the Unit, key priorities to improve the quality of schooling for all, the statement by the Minister explaining the establishment of the Unit as well as the immediate focus for 2012. She spoke about its focus on support for learning as well as the work that would be done within provinces. She stated there was a drive to ensure community interest and participation within education. The challenges of poorly performing districts were outlined in the context of “teachers, text and time". She also spoke on the ineffective district planning and programme implementation to decisively impact on improving learning and teaching. This part covered the critical district plans and processes, quality at district level, school improvement plans as well as infrastructure.
Ms Tyobeka noted the unit was working with the 15 districts that performed below 60% in the 2011 NSC exams and
said that within many of the under performing districts the breakdown began with planning.
Ms Tyobeka said on the issue of community interest that in the Eastern Cape where much time had been spent it was amazing the uptake due to the work of the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC). There had even been a witnessing of a traditional chief holding an indaba to tackle the issue. One began to see an upsurge of communities taking over and demanding accountability from the education system due to the work of the QLTC.
Ms Tyobeka said she wanted to emphasise that the delivery model focused on schools and not on districts. Therefore the books that were in districts were meant to problem solve and provide for shortages. However the Unit would find there were shortages in schools but the districts were not aware of this.
National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) presentation
Dr Nick Taylor, CEO of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit, noted that the former CEO of NEEDU had left because his wife was ill and the Minister had struggled to find someone. This was his 15th day on the job and he was excited about the challenge. He sought to energise the system and aligning the different parts of it so that the system operated optimally.
Dr Taylor said one thing that was puzzling the Committee was the relationship between the different organs of state. He wanted to explain how NEEDU was different from the other entities such as the PDOU Unit. First and most important was NEEDU was an independent body. Once the Bill passed through Parliament, NEEDU would be an independent statutory body. At present they were located within the Department of Basic Education, which had been quite useful at the moment. He reported to the Minister but once the Act was promulgated, NEEDU would move out and set up its own offices and systems like the Council for Higher Education. They would not be a government department. Their function was to be an advisory to government and they were not in anyway a delivery unit. They were also a research-based body that gathered evidence in a scientific and objective manner. This could only be done if the body was independent.
Dr Taylor reminded the Committee of what Ms Tyobeka had said – that the PDOU would tackle specific problems however NEEDU would look at the whole system. NEEDU of course could not visit every school in the country but they would go to schools on a sample basis so that the reports would report on the system as a whole. He said these were the factors that distinguished NEEDU from other parts of government.
Dr Taylor spoke on the history of NEEDU. It had been launched by Minister Pandor in 2008 when she set up a commission to investigate the idea of a unit that would evaluate schools objectively. The Commission produced a report that would help one in sketching some of the background in NEEDU. It did a literature review of the functions undertaken by entities like NEEDU around the world. When NEEDU had been established in late 2009, and the organisation struggled to find a leader, and once a leader had been found in 2010, NEEDU had begun to evaluate schools. A report had been done last year which had been a little controversial as the organisation may have not been ready for that report yet. At the moment there was a team of 17 field workers in the provinces. NEEDU had visited Mount Frere where they had evaluated eight schools. Dr Taylor had also looked at NEEDU systems and the staff and there was already a process to revise those systems. NEEDU planned to train field workers in the next month and undertake the job with great energy.
Dr Taylor said NEEDU was frustrated that the draft Bill had not been passed yet. They had been hoping to get it to the Cabinet committee meeting on the 23 May 2012 but there had been a glitch within the Department. NEEDU hope to get it to a Cabinet committee on the 22 June 2012. They were determined for it to go to the cabinet committee and begin its process through Parliament. He asked the Committee to assist with the passage of the Bill through Parliament. However, not having the Act, was not holding NEEDU back in anyway. Sometime last year the Minister had told the organisation to proceed as if the Act had been promulgated. NEEDU was in turn using the draft Bill as a guideline.
The presentation tackled the functions of NEEDU which had been taken from the draft Bill, the mission, NEEDU’s approach and the plan to align and synchronise the activities of the organisation.
Duplication of roles
Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) said the purpose of the meeting was to understand what the difference between the two entities was. He saw differences but there were areas where they seemed to overlap. He asked for clarification in terms of where the differences were.
Ms A Lovemore (DA) said the Ministerial Committee Report took as a given the Polokwane decision to establish NEEDU. It did not look at the rationale between “establishing such a body it took it as a given” and “the decision had been made”. She was not convinced of the need for such a body. It seemed that the Committee was still confused about the overlap. She asked if the need for such a body could be expanded on as well as the research done to reach the conclusion that the body was required. She asked why there had been a need to state the two organisations needed to be ‘at arms length’. If one looked at other Departments there were some, such as the Department of Environmental Affairs, who produced reports internally and there was no need to be at ‘arms length’.
Mr Yousuf Gabru, Chief Director of NEEDU, took the point about the Department of Environment but he was not sure that the report was on the Department itself.
Mr D Smiles (ANC) added to the concern about NEEDU’s existence. It had been stated in the mission statement that NEEDU would be to facilitate and there was no overlapping project matter. He asked if there were other units and programmes NEEDU overlapped with? Had programmes been identified that would be NEEDU’s main beneficiaries?
Ms N Gina (ANC) said that there were already people in place who sought to do oversight over the education system such as provinces, circuit inspectors and school principals. Their job was to make sure effective teaching and learning was taking place at school. However one now witnessed PDOU coming along. There was a huge problem in the country as there were people who sat around not doing their job. This was why we saw the duplication of roles. There were people employed who were paid every day to do the same job PDOU did. What was it that these people were doing? She suggested that whenever the Unit went down to these areas that they came up with a report as to what needed to be done with those people who were doing these jobs. There was a need to figure out the life span of the Unit and how long it would go on for.
Dr Taylor replied that there was general sense that the schooling system was inefficient and sluggish. There were many people in the system not doing their jobs and this was because of three reasons. The first was there were some people who deliberately were ducking duties. He did not believe that there were many people like that anymore. In the first 5-10 years of democracy there had been a great deal of that and schools had been very dysfunctional. The then Minister had come in and been shocked by what he had seen. A lot of that had now been squeezed out of the system- although there were still cases of teachers staying away 20-30 days of the year. However, even with these people, it had been witnessed in schools where there was a dynamic principal and there was a sense of work and purpose in the school, the teachers came to work early and stayed late and caught the spirit of what it was to be a teacher.
The second category of people not doing their job was filled with people who did not know what their jobs were. This was one of NEEDU’s big purposes, to point people’s jobs out to them. It was not that they did not want to do their jobs, they merely did not know what their jobs were. The guidance given in these cases was termed instructional leadership. The school management team helped the teacher plan curriculum delivery, monitored delivery, looked at the children’s books, took the assessment results and used them to improve teaching and learning and develop their teachers.
The third category of person was more difficult and was actually the biggest problem the educational system had. Within this category were people who knew what they jobs were but did not know how to do them. This applied particularly to teachers who did not know their subject. This was a massive problem in schools. In the last 20 years there had been a mass of training programs to try and assess this problem and these programs had not made any difference. There needed to be a better way of training teachers. Universities had pumped them full of Accelerated Certificates in Education (ACE) and this had made no difference to the teaching. There needed to be a better way to train teachers. NEEDU had an interim measure for that. If teachers were given a good workbook and told what activities were to be done on what days and the school management team monitored and assisted with this then there could be good teaching in schools. It could improve dramatically. He emphasised this was an interim measure but he believed it could help. A number of the issues raised by Members surrounding inspectors, teachers and the like could be placed into one of these three categories, especially the last one. All the questions spoke to the one question of why was the system not working? He felt that the solutions that had been given were the way to tackle it, and this was a huge job for NEEDU, of which he was excited.
Ms Mushwana said the country was sitting with a challenge of people not doing their job and three categories had been given. It was not good enough to merely record it and say there were these people not doing their jobs. A plan needed to be implemented to tackle this. It was one thing to recognise these people but it was another to come with a comprehensive plan. As for people not knowing what their jobs were there were educators who went to many workshops. Were these merely for fun? People had been funded for workshops and surely these workshops needed to bear fruit. Had there been any follow up to check if there was any change? How could one be a qualified teacher but not know the subject matter? It was ridiculous. If people did not know the subject matter there needed to be a plan for these people as they had gone through college and still did not know the subject matter. There needed to be some way of helping.
Dr Taylor replied that one needed to not underestimate the weakness of the school system. It was very weak. There were teacher who did not know their subjects and who could not pass a grade 6 exam but were teaching grade 6. They were then transferred to be Heads of Department but these Heads of Department could not help the teachers as they did not know anything more. The principals, subject advisors and others further up the system were not much help. When NEEDU was on its feet and there were reports out, he planned to make proposals on how one could professionalise the South African school system. He had some ideas and felt there was a need to get on with the work. He proposed by starting with small recommendations to schools that were key in the leverage of making a change to schools.
Ms Tyobeka replied the fact that the PDOU worked with these entities did not mean nothing was happening in the system. One needed to contextualise her report as well as PDOU’s work as being focused on areas which where found to be underperforming. Underperformance at this point was termed as performing below 60% as a district. The target next year be raised to 70% as PDOU was always trying to push the bar. If one looked at it that way the things she had reported on were things one would expect to see. It was fair to say that in a system that had over 24 000 schools there would be schools that under performed. This was the case in international practice. There were always pockets of under performance. PDOU was meant to say where were they picking up the underperformance and partner in working to unblock these hindrances. The role of PDOU was to understand and make sure things happened.
Ms Gina wanted to emphasise the duplication of roles that emerged even within the presentations. From her point of view, there was no clear distinction to state ‘this was what NEEDU was doing’ and ‘this was what the PDOU was doing’. She would be unable to tell others what the distinction was. She suggested that perhaps there was a need to study the draft Bill and try to understand the difference.
The Chairperson said there was a need to be told about the people at the bottom who were not doing their work. There were people in place to deal with this.
Ms Tyobeka replied that the PDOU was a small unit that elected the responsible officials. Thus the people responsible for workbooks and Learner and Teacher Support Material (LTSM) were those who went and intervened.
Ms Tyobeka replied that Mr Taylor and herself would continue to consult with one another as the roles were meant to be complementary rather than overlapping. Where there was an overlap in the issues of implementation, then the two entities would look at improving.
Ms Tyobeka said PDOU did not want to give the sense of a system that was failing. However people who worked in education needed to be honest and say that there were challenges that persisted. Although they worked on the challenges, there was still a great amount of good being done. PDOU continued to focus on those areas that needed help. Thus as a Unit they would always come and present on the challenges.
Mr Gabru replied that when the Ministerial Committee first reported in 2009, the Ministerial Report was put out for public comment. There was extensive response to the document. Nobody had really challenged the proposal that there needed to be an independent unit and there had been little opposition to it. The proposed Bill had been put out for public comment. And although there had not been the same amount of response to the Bill (rather less than had been hoped for) there had generally been a very warm welcome to the idea of unit that was independent to the Department and reporting on the Department.
He continued by saying there was a clear recognition that there were fundamental challenges within the education system. This was because many people did not do their job, others were not trained properly and because the system was very complex. He did not want to make excuses but he begged those present not to lose sight of the complexity of the system. One needed only to think of the languages that the system had to teach in. This needed to be seen alongside all the other socio-economic problems. He thought that the Minister had taken a brave step by recognising the very serious problems in education and not looking at the Department of Education as one unit. What had been said was that there was this education system and there were attempts to improve it. It had thus been said that there should be the creation of a unit that was outside of the Department, was independent of the Department and looked critically at the Department. NEEDU was then charged with returning and stating what was right and wrong about the department. This was quite a brave step. What the Minister was saying was the NEEDU needed to look at the Department as a whole and look at it in detail and then make recommendations.
Mr Gabru said that the Bill stated that the Minister could not ignore the recommendations that NEEDU made. This was quite a drastic step. One could think of it as the auditor general of the educational system. It was not quite the same thing but one could think of it in that way. One saw in the Ministerial Committee Report that the recommendation was that NEEDU needed to try and attract people with high levels of skills in education. There was a high level of people who had proven expertise in education who put the education system under a microscope in all its facets. They then made recommendations. This was a brave thing for any Minister to do and that was what NEEDU was in the process of doing. It needed to be independent so that when recommendations were made everyone took them seriously. People would be unable to say that the Department was merely trying to justify why they could not implement policy.
One knew that, in education, policy was one thing and implementation was a different thing. Of the examples of bad education, these were based on the bad implementation of policy. This happened all over the world in most government departments. That was why to have an independent unit would be beneficial to the Minister and to the country. The reports were not simply written quietly and then given to the Minister to have a look at. If one looked at the proposed Bill, the reports were to go to the national Minister of Education. Upon receiving a report, the Minister was to table the report with the Council of Education Ministers, at the next meeting of this council. When the report was tabled, the Minister was able to engage NEEDU on the report but still had to table it with the Council of Education Ministers. These reports had to be taken seriously. It placed a huge burden on NEEDU to do very serious work. They were to become the research centre.
Mr Gabru said there were other centres and the questions about duplication were justified. There was the Human Science Research Council that did research on education. The universities did research on education as well. What was different with NEEDU is they were able to collect all of those, and say to the Minister that they had brought all the expertise to bear on this issue. One could see in the Bill that reports needed to be evidence based. The Minister would have to listen to this carefully. That was the point of the unit. It was to be an independent unit that brought all the expertise to bear and made recommendations. There were other examples of units like this in different countries with a slightly different focus. It was clear in the minds of the Department that there was a need for this unit. He admitted there could be overlap and there would be some overlap. He argued that there was no need to fear overlap. There were 28 000 schools and 81 districts. If one took all the numbers of people involved in monitoring and evaluation in all the provinces and in the PDOU and got more than 1 000 he would be surprised. There were very few people who did the kind of work that NEEDU did. He said only in three years time would NEEDU be able to go through all the districts and they would only be visiting 2 000 schools. There may be instances where the PDOU went to the same district but he did not see this as a major problem. And he did not see a great deal of overlap happening in any case.
Ms Lovemore said that she supposed many of the Committee’s questions would be answered once they started looking at the draft Bill. She still did not understand the need for NEEDU. She stated that the question of whether research had been done into the need for NEEDU or what underpinned the Polokwane decisions had not been answered other than to say that there had generally been a warm welcome to the introduction of the unit. She acknowledged that there had not been negative comment on the unit. Her reading of that was that the provincial departments, with the exception of the Western Cape and Gauteng, had no credibility. If some sort of assessment had to come out of the department within the Eastern Cape, that department would have no credibility in her eyes nor would other provinces such as Limpopo. Her take was thus that it was because of lack of credibility of departments (primarily of the provincial departments which then reflected on the national department) that people were welcoming an independent body. She was still not convinced that there was a need for it. She felt this question would have to be answered properly, not just by stating there had been a warm welcome.
Mr Taylor said that every education system in the world had an inspectorate to produce objective evidence-based assessment on the school system. That was the recognition in terms of NEEDU. NEEDU was a unique manifestation of such an inspectorate in that inspectorates were discredited under apartheid and there had not been an inspectorate for a great amount of time. It had not come back in that form, rather it had ‘development’ in its name.
Ms Gina said the explanations that had been received cleared up some of the questions she had. Initially her questioning had not been around NEEDU. She argued those present all agreed that there was a need for an independent body within the education system. There was a need for that eye that looked from the outside. From the report given, she felt there was an increase in confidence to say that NEEDU was going to give that eye and state what was happening in the Department. This was warmly welcomed.
Ms Lovemore said she was interested in budget projections. In the Inter-Ministerial Committee Report it indicated a budget of R480 million per annum. She was interested in whether NEEDU had come up with any budget projections.
Mr Gabru replied in terms of the budget that the Ministerial Committee envisioned a huge structure for NEEDU. There had been talk of a budget within the range of R400 million. Currently their budget had been R11 million or a little bit more. NEEDU had proposed that in the first year the budget should be within the region of R50 million in order to allow for starting up and putting in infrastructure, the website and research amongst other things. There was not a great amount of detail on the other years. The structure that was now envisioned was different from the structure envisioned in the Ministerial Committee.
Provinces and authorities within Bill
Ms Lovemore said that according to the NEEDU Bill the unit had certain authorities, such as interacting in provinces, districts and schools. How did that authority work without any legal mandate? She knew that the Minister had stated that they should operate as if the Bill had been promulgated but how did that work? She asked how NEEDU was going to interact with the provinces? NEEDU had quite a few powers such as the authority to visit schools and interact with districts. Would this always be done in conjunction with provinces – that is, would they be consulted?
Mr Gabru said that NEEDU sought to work in a cooperative way with the provinces. One was able to see in the Bill that NEEDU proposed that the authority that they would have to go to schools and district offices would be a negotiated matter. They would give notice to schools when they were to come and they would go to the district and announce their intention to visit and a protocol would be developed in this respect. They would consult with the provinces as this was where the main power to implement educational policies was.
Ms Lovemore asked for clarification on the NEEDU Bill. Within the Bill under Functions 6(2), it stated that the unit needed to assess classroom knowledge, educator knowledge, learner knowledge amongst other things. Ultimately the Unit sought to come with a state of education report. The interview method had been described – where field workers would go and interview the principal, the School Governing Body (SGB) chair and as many teachers as possible. They would analyse teacher records and learner books. There was no mention of on site assessment such as sitting in a classroom and watching a teacher teach. She knew there was an aversion to doing this but she did not understand how through interviews, NEEDU was going to really get to grips with the level of classroom teaching, educator knowledge and learner knowledge.
Dr Taylor replied that he did not want to spend a great deal of time on this matter as it was a big issue. He felt strongly about classroom observation and it was currently being debated within NEEDU. He wanted to state that one could follow a teacher for a week, then one was able to see what that teacher could do and what that teacher could not do. However it would not tell one a lot about what other teachers in the school could and could not do. To only see one lesson from one teacher in a school, then that would not tell you a lot as it was possible that that was a writing or introductory lesson. One saw one aspect of a complex thing called teaching and learning. Thus observing one lesson by one teacher or even three or four teachers in a school would not tell what someone did on a daily basis. He was thus sceptical about the use of classroom observations. He was able to explain ‘why’ at greater length if this was required. He did not say the method was not important but there were other things that were more important. What he liked to do was look at children’s books. He was not concerned about teachers’ plans as teachers plans are what teachers wish they were doing. However the children’s books told what was actually done. He liked to look at books and teachers assessments as well as look at the teachers themselves. He argued that one should look at all the teachers as the different views could be triangulated in order to understand the situation. However there would be some classroom observations done. NEEDU had decided to focus on Grade One reading as this was the most important thing. This was going to be done systematically. The reading would be looked at and tested on a random sample. If it was early in the year then Grade Two would be visited. By the end of the year, NEEDU would produce a report on early grade reading. It was thus not only an examination of schools but the highlighting of various issues.
Ms Mushwana stated that assessment was very important but it needed to be done for a purpose and not just for fun. It needed to lead to solutions.
Issue of lack of ‘development’ content in Bill
Ms Lovemore wanted more clarification on the ‘development’ aspect. What had been described, saying to teachers take this workbook and go through a lesson a day, was very one on one and time consuming. She imagined it was actually outside the mandate of NEEDU. The Bill did not actually contain development functions but assessment functions. She argued that what was being described, namely sitting with a teacher and showing them how to do something like using a workbook, was a development function. She thus wanted to understand part of the Unit’s name (Evaluation and Development Unit) what they did versus the lack of development content in the Bill.
Dr Taylor replied that the developmental functions were advisory. They left schools with recommendations of what should be done. The function of NEEDU was to pick the key issues in each school and make one or two recommendations that could exert maximum leverage on improving teaching ability. They did not want to give a long list of things to do, as they may not do them or do some and leave out the important ones.
Mr Makhubele said he wanted to know what was being done to improve the learning for those in multi-grade schools as this seems to have been neglected.
Poorly Performing Districts
Mr Makhubele spoke on the adoption of poorly performing districts by parliamentarians. This was a huge commitment that needed to be undertaken. Of course there was an indication that there was going to be a clear basis or framework of how it was to be done. This issue had been debated in the Committee. He said it was good to not only adopt poorly performing schools but for good schools to be adopted as well so one could see the differences and perhaps even encourage cooperation between the two. it meant that the good one was not neglected.
Ms Tyobeka replied she had taken the point of not looking only at under performing districts but looking at good ones so there could be lessons transferred.
Ms A Mashishi (ANC) noted PDOU was targeting poorly performing districts and wondered about the districts that were doing well, were these being monitored? She said there were no district improvement plans and where there were such plans, they had not been developed and implemented. She wanted to know about the assistance and the targeted time for this assistance.
Dr Taylor replied that the work programme was not in this pack but would be able to be sent to Members. The work programme had not quite been worked out yet but NEEDU would send it within the next couple of weeks.
Ms Tyobeka replied that the work of the PDOU was not limited to the 15 under performing districts. The way the PDOU was conceptualised was to look at those areas where serious blockages had been identified. For them to work and partner with people around those areas to make sure that work happened. However at the moment, the major areas identified were these 15 underperforming districts. Thus the work had started in these districts.
Mr Makhubele said the poorly used textbooks was a worrying factor. He asked for elaboration about what was meant here.
After the first round of answers Mr Makhubele asked again about the poorly used workbooks and textbooks saying this had not been answered.
Ms Tyobeka replied that it was really about poor management and leadership and that was being looked at. It was an issue of workbooks and textbooks not being used within curriculum management.
District Improvement Plan
Ms F Mushwana (ANC) asked if the district improvement plan was not there, then how could one expect a school improvement plan to be in place.
Ms Mushwana asked how could one ensure that everyone had a plan? Was there guidance for these plans? She thought learners needed quality education. The plan needed to provide the means. How could swimming be in the plan with no pools?
Ms Tyobeka replied that because of what had been encountered in the districts, the Department (through HeadComm) had taken a decision to bring about a common template for the development of District Improvement Plans. There was no way to develop one plan and hand it out as it was based on the context of that specific district. However the template gave timeframes for when the District Improvement Plan needed to be in place. There had been a sharing of best practice across the districts.
Teachers and Textbooks
Ms Mushwana said teachers were given a catalogue to choose textbooks and they merely choose. Some teachers went through the books and chose them properly. Why could the Department not provide standard books or a proposal for standard books? Why could there not be lesson preparations in the books? Teachers took a lot of time to prepare.
Ms Mushwana said that the under staffing was a worrying matter. This was a serious issue and one could not continue to talk about it. People in this country were not employed and parliamentarians were held accountable. There was a need to know why from the Departments.
New Positions appointed
Ms Mushwana said she saw passion in the new CEO of NEEDU and there was nothing that could beat passion. Teachers with passion often did well. She expected those who had been promoted to do well as they had been promoted for a reason.
Information on Schools
Ms Mushwana said that there was a need to supply all the information about schools such as how many schools there were.
Mr Smiles asked if the Mount Frere report could be seen soon.
Dr Taylor replied that he was able to organise this for the Committee.
Non-compliance with NEEDU
Mr Smiles asked if there was a remedy or redress for non compliance and when recommendations were not taken heed of. He said that the White Paper was gathering dust. Inclusive education and special needs education had not being given a fair chance.
Mr Smiles asked why enforcement and ensuring compliance was a problem for the Unit?
Mr Mpontshane asked what mechanisms had been developed to ensure the enforcement of implementation?
Ms Tyobeka replied that PDOU recognised that where it had not been strong was to ensure there were consequences for non compliance across the system. This was something they continued to work on. It had happened in some instances that the policies were there and people did not do what they were supposed to. PDOU was working on that.
Programme four and PDOU
Mr Smiles asked about Programme 4 (Planning Information Unit within the Department) and if the Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit was part of Programme 4 or were they an entity on their own?
Vacancies in Districts
Mr Smiles asked about the vacancies in districts. He said there needed to be a person there. The vacancies should have been filled with competent people or delivery would not take place. There were vacancies and perhaps the Unit needed to use their intervention powers to address this.
Ms Tyobeka replied that she was sure the Committee was aware that there had been a guideline on the roles and responsibilities of districts, as many of the provinces had resisted the policy, as they had felt they were being forced to do things they did not have money for. But because PDOU had found that the struggling districts continued to struggle as there was no policy, the Department had moved towards a policy and a draft policy had been published. It looked at minimum staffing levels and roles and responsibilities. That was out and she was sure the Committee had seen that. She did want to emphasise that the role of PDOU had been on guiding and innovative practices had emerged which had worked within the context. There had been the teaming up of certain districts with advisors from better performing districts. It was a new thing and it had been informed by the work done within the districts.
Dr Taylor replied that it was a problem that there were too few people to do the work. NEEDU sought to make recommendations on that as well. They sought to put the provinces on the spot on this issue especially in terms of key areas.
District plans for provinces
Mr Smiles asked if the Department or Unit would be able to provide district plans to the provinces. If a province did not have district plans, could the Unit provide one and ask the province to consult it and consider if it could be implemented.
Monitoring and Support and Evaluation
Ms Smiles asked where were the tools for monitoring, support and evaluation? He asked if perhaps there could be a copy of a document outlining the tools or could they be directed to those tools so the Committee could see what they were.
Ms Tyobeka replied that in terms of tools, these would be made available. She wanted to emphasise that PDOU did not develop the tools as they did not want to duplicate and complicate issues. They took tools that had been developed. Those concerning curriculum coverage had been developed by the Curriculum branch. What PDOU did was make sure what had been developed was available and being used.
Mr A M Mpontshane (COPE) said that inspectors of schools seemed to not be performing and why was there a paralysis? He asked if they had become redundant.
Ms Tyobeka replied that it was important to look at the name of the Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit as they provided oversight on planning and delivery within the system. They worked with and through their colleagues in the department. Thus the circuit inspectors were not made redundant. What the Unit did was when there were issues, they assisted and worked with these people to ensure the work was done. If there were issues of planning or delivery, these were the things the Department picked up and attempted to help unblock.
Mr Mpontshane said he had not gotten a satisfactory answer on the role of inspectors. He felt that these people needed to monitor and evaluate. What was it they were not doing and why? They were there.
Ms Tyobeka replied that what the PDOU had were circuit managers and education development officers. Indeed some of them their work could be strengthened. The inspectors had not been made redundant.
Community Interest and Participation
Mr Mpontshane asked if the Department had drawn up the protocol that would assist Members in adopting schools? He had not seen this protocol and it was needed so that members were assisted to adopt schools.
Ms Tyobeka replied there had been two processes reported on. One was the adoption of poorly performing districts by parliamentarians. This had been a research decision by Cabinet. The framework was not yet there but this was being looked at. She wanted to emphasise that this was about poorly performing districts not schools. The NEDLAC accord had referred to schools. This was why the framework was being clarified as what PDOU did not want to see happen was to see the minister of another department going to schools and making pronouncements on educational issues. This was more in the context and environment to make sure that communities took interest and held the Department accountable and knew what it expected from them.
Ms Tyobeka replied that there was a protocol available on the adoption of schools and it was part of the NEDLAC accord. It would be made available. What was not available was the adoption of districts by parliamentarians. She wanted to emphasise the interest that was being seen in communities. She stated it was absolutely amazing. However it was not just the community interest but what the communities enabled the PDOU to see. For example their work within the Eastern Cape had communities bringing to the PDOU’s attention that a school had been without a principal for five years. This was good as sometimes between government officials the true story did not emerge. Being held accountable by communities and bringing them on board had been an amazing benefit to the work that had been done.
Mr Mpontshane asked for clarification on pages 13-18 of the PDOU presentation. He asked if this was the current situation that was being spoken of here. He asked if teacher content knowledge could be explained a little more.
Ms Tyobeka replied that these were recent figures and were quoted from external sources. These figures came from 2009. However the situation in education did not change every day.
Impact of Planning Delivery and Oversight Unit (PDOU)
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) said she was wondering about compliance. It seemed not much had changed in terms of the impact of PDOU. She wanted to hear from PDOU if it felt that they had had some impact or was there a need for a complete re-think. She asked if it was perhaps a case of something in terms of international best practice that was not happening within the Delivery Unit, that happened with others. Where was South Africa falling short with that concept - that seemed to be a brilliant idea?
Previous NEEDU presentation
Ms Dudley said in regards to NEEDU there had been a brilliant presentation given not long ago in which information had been brought to their attention. She wondered what had happened to the report/information and what was the status of it? Who was utilising the information as it seemed a pity if it was merely shelved.
Ms Gina said that she was a little worried about the report received last year from NEEDU yet at this meeting the Committee had been told that it was a little bit premature to come up with the report. However there were good things that had emerged from the report, so what was the status now?
Mr Gabru replied that NEEDU had explained in some detail that when that report was presented to the Committee, the visits that had been done at that time were exploratory visits. At that time NEEDU consisted of four full time people, a CEO, a Chief Director, two part time chief directors and one deputy director. Although the positions were five in number, they were equivalent to four full time posts. What NEEDU had started doing had been to visit schools in order to develop some protocols and test instruments, amongst other activities. They had spent at least a week in a district. As this had been mentioned in the first meeting with the Committee, the Committee had requested an interim report. This was what they had come to do. They had said at the time that they were reluctant to do this report because they were not reports focused on schools. They were not like the ones recently gone through with 17 field workers. They could conclude those reports and NEEDU would have no problem writing up that report in detail and giving it to the Committee.
Integration between initiatives and programmes.
Ms Gina said it seemed like there was no integration between the initiatives and programmes within the Department. There were various programmes that had challenges and loopholes. She stated the fact that there had been a report stating that there were not proper school improvement plans which directly spoke to these programmes meant that no matter what was developed there was no means of integration to make sure these programmes came together and make sure the system was improved. She argued that one could not say there was no district improvement plan whereas there were school improvement plans that talked to challenges that were there. District improvement plans needed to be informed by what was happening on the ground.
Mr Makhubele said the system was either not talking to each other or not reviewing work done by others. If there was such a problem then NEEDU needed to pick up on that and assist. Could the Committee be assured that there would be assistance in the rural areas which were cumbersome?
Ms Gina said the PDOU’s presentation had mentioned the curriculum choices when it came to schools and the factors contributing to that. There had been the issue of a lack of spaces and teachers for example. That was why some schools had made curriculum choices that did not help the child. It was a fact that school could not be expected to choose subjects that had no teachers for them. There was a need to face the obstacles and find a way that would ensure that the child did not suffer. The Department could not state that they wanted a subject taught and then be unable to supply those teachers. Sometimes the school was justified in choosing certain subjects especially if the teachers had no resources or training for a certain subject. If there were not teachers for it what could be done? How did one marry the situation?
The Chairperson said that the Committee had visited different provinces and had findings and recommendations. The Committee had a lot recommendation about CAPS, teachers, textbooks and other areas. She asked where had the Committee’s recommendations fallen in as they had spoken to a great number of things. She did not see that the Department was serious about the recommendations that had been given by the Committee
Ms Tyobeka replied the work of the PDOU was informed by the things brought to the attention of the Department through various processes including what members brought to their attention. The issues that were picked up the Committee on visits were some of the things that they tackled.
Provinces and Districts
The Chairperson said functions were allocated from provinces to districts. What 15 districts had powers allocated to them? Many metroes could not speak to substitute teachers and replacement teachers and displaced principals. What was being done about these?
Learner and Teacher Support Material (LTSM)
The Chairperson said LTSM was there an audit of all the schools that had received the LTSM. She said when it came to work books and texts books the Committee had found in their last visit these had not been delivered. There was the occurrence last week in which the Department had been taken to court by Limpopo. These were issues that worried the Committee.
Ms Tyobeka replied said that the policy were there but in many parts of the system were not being implemented in accordance with what needed to be done.
Mr N M Kganyago (UDM) wanted clarification on whether it was 17 field workers in one province or 17 field workers stationed at the head office and then dispersed when the need arose.
Mr Gabru replied that there was the head office complement that had the equivalent of 5 full time staff. There was a researcher, CEO, Chief Director and another chief directorship that was shared. In the field there were between 18-20 field workers with 2-3 being stationed in each province. They lived in the province that they worked in. At the moment what had been happened was they had been visiting provinces together, they had been bringing them all together and they had worked as a team. They would no doubt in time be working both in their individual provinces as well as working collectively.
The Chairperson asked which districts had delegations in the Eastern Cape.
Ms Tyobeka replied the report had only been received yesterday. During her presentation to HeadComm the Acting Secretary General had indicated that he had given delegations and this information would be found. This was however a new thing and included the appointment of teachers. He had announced the filling of some of the vacancies and he had appointed over 400 teachers.
Issue of Delivery despite presence of PDOU
Ms Lovemore asked how did it happen that the Department was in court for having violated children’s constitutional right to education by not delivering or ordering textbooks five months into the year. How did this happen if there was the Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit that did oversight over delivery?. There had been the issue of the warehouse discovered full of textbooks outside King Williamstown in the Eastern Cape that were meant to have been delivered last year.
Ms Tyobeka replied the workbooks were delivered directly to the schools. The ones in Eastern Cape had not been the Department’s workbooks. They belonged to a publisher and these were old workbooks that had been destined to be shredded. They were not new workbooks that were aligned to the curriculum. This was something that could be followed up. There was a response that the Eastern Cape Department had sent through to the Sunday Times; however, this was not printed. It had been to explain that those were not recent workbooks that were destined for schools. They had been kept there on their way for shredding.
Ms Lovemore referred to the Limpopo case in terms of s 27 of the founding affidavit, the Director General of the Department had been informed last year that the order had not been placed for Limpopo. Surely the Unit got involved in such circumstances?
Ms Tyobeka replied said she would leave this issue to the Director General as he would know better what had been done.
Purely Advisory role
Mr Mpontashane said that he still had a nagging issue in terms of the independent unit. There were a number of good people within the education system but the system was failing. There was a myriad of good legislation but were there loopholes in this legislation that would necessitate NEEDU? He remained troubled as NEEDU’s duty would remain advisory. R50 million was a lot of money for someone to offer advice which may not even be implemented as one would be dealing with the same people within the system who were there when the problems arose.
Mr Kganyago wanted to suggest that one day when reports were presented, there was information given on remedial teaching in schools. He would like the presentations to come with information on career guidance within schools. Since he came to this Committee, he had seldom heard mention of these issues but he felt they were crucial. It did not help to have children attaining distinctions but when they left high school, they did not know where they were going. It did not help to promote children who could not read to the next level and later on promote them to an even higher level. There was a need for information on remedial teaching and career guidance. This was a concern. He did not want an answer now but when units went to schools and did evaluations, he beseeched them to check on these issues as well.
Lifespan of NEEDU and PDOU
Mr Makhubele asked in the long run did one see NEEDU assessing itself and being able to see its own demise. Would they perhaps be able to say they were becoming irrelevant perhaps if the system began to work well? Or would one see NEEDU being there for the duration or life span of the Department. As long as there was education, there was a need for NEEDU. At some point, once the system matured, one could find there was no need for NEEDU. He was merely trying to look further along and see what would happen at that point rather than people needing to justify their existence continually. This stretched to structures within the Department. If there were some functions that were better served by NEEDU, then perhaps there was a need to re-look at those.
Ms Gina said she would not question the lifespan of NEEDU as it was clear that there was going to be a need for the organisation for a while longer within education. She did maintain that she thought it would be best to wait on the NEEDU Bill. However on the background that had been given, she saw a window that said NEEDU would be evaluating the whole system and it was going to unblock some of the bottlenecks and tackle some of the challenges. She thus wished them all the best of luck. There was a real need to see changes in the system. She asked if one could look at the life span of PDOU as well and what its formulation had been based on.
Ms Tyobeka replied that the Unit was established based on international best practice. If one looked at what had been done in the UK, when the unit there had done what it had been meant to do, it was changed. The PDOU was not excluding the possibility that it might have a definitive lifespan. This had not been decided as yet due to the nature of the challenges and the magnitude of these challenges. How she proposed to look at PDOU was that within the schooling system there was sometimes a need for remediation and support. There was a need for this type of support within the broader education system and this was what PDOU sought to do and did do.
The Chairperson said that in terms of the units, funds had been allocated and thus it was important to have the Annual Performance Plans of the two entities. This would allow them to do oversight as they went along. There was a need for the list of the 15 districts in the Eastern Cape. It would be interesting to note where there were no text books and workbooks. There was a need for the work programme and the Mount Frere report from NEEDU. There was a need to get full reports from the units. This was would allow them to see what implementation had taken place and what impact this was having on the ground. These issues were fundamental within teaching and the school system.
The meeting was adjourned.
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