Millennium Development Goals: Education for All: Department of Basic Education briefing

Basic Education

19 September 2012
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education briefed the committee on the progress towards the Millennium Development Goals of “Education for All”. There were six of these goals, and five were likely to be achieved by 2014, although improving quality of education was probably not attainable by this date. The goals were outlined as expanding and improving early childhood care and education; ensuring access to and complete free and compulsory primary education for all children by 2015; meeting the learning needs of all young people and adults through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes; achieving a 50% improvement in adult literacy by 2015 as well as equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults; eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2015; and improving quality of education. Particular emphasis was being placed on reaching out to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. The progress on attendance at schools of the age groups up to four years, and from 7 to 15 years, was set out, and it was noted that in the lower levels, this could be attributed to nutrition programmes being offered. Orphans were being assisted to attend school, but the percentage of disabled learners attending school had dropped to 92.4% in 2011. There was also increased participation in Adult Basic Education and Training programmes, and Further Education and Training. Literacy levels had increased. There was now gender parity, with more boys than girls at primary level, because of more repeat grades in boys, and more girls at secondary level, although drop outs had also declined during the recession. The quality goal was measured against teacher time on task, curriculum coverage, and teacher content knowledge, where improvements were required.

Members were concerned that insufficient information had been provided, and were not receptive to a suggestion by the DBE that it should determine the subject of its own presentations, commenting that even information given to the media was not formally presented to the Committee. The Members wanted a comparative study to show improvements, and more detail on the numbers of schools and learners, and the type of schools. They asked the reasons for the drop-outs, repeats and performance of learners, whether disabled students were receiving sufficient support, were worried about individual attention to learners, and commented that despite spending so much on education, South Africa fared worse than some of its counterparts in Africa on quality. They requested clarity on “ethnic minorities” and “orphans” in the report. Some Members criticised the lack of accountability and said there was a sense that the DBE was not reliable, and wondered what exactly was being done to improve quality of schooling, saying that milestones had to be set. They asked for statistics on the drop-outs who were offenders. DBE acknowledged that a lot more needed to be done to improve quality of education and provide teacher support.

Meeting report

Millennium Development Goals:Education for All”: Department of Basic Education briefing
Ms Carol Nuga Deliwe, Chief Director: Strategic Planning and Reporting, Department of Basic Education, noted that the “Education for All” (EFA) goals formed part of the Millennium Development Goals. Government’s goal
to ensure that quality education was accessible to all children was not only in line with the Bill of Rights and the South African Schools Act, but was also a critical condition for meeting development targets such as the MDGs.

Ms Deliwe outlined the six EFA goals as follows:
1) Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education
2) Ensuring access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality for all children by 2015
3) Meeting learning needs of all young people and adults, through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes
4) Achieving 50% improvement in adult literacy by 2015 and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults
5) Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2015
6) Improving all aspects of quality of education, and ensuring excellence for all.

A particular emphasis was laid on reaching out to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, and to girls and women. Goal number 6, on improving quality of education, was reported as being unlikely to be achieved by the target of 2014.

In relation to the first goals, Ms Deliwe noted that there was a steady increase in the number of 0 to 4 year olds and 5 year olds attending schools, and attributed this to implementation of nutrition programmes in schools, which served as an incentive for children to attend school. The percentage of 7 to 15 year olds attending schools was almost at 100%, and she reminded Members that in terms of the South African Schools Act, it was compulsory for this age-group to attend schooling. There was an increase in the participation of orphans as a percentage of total schooling population, because their barriers to schooling had been significantly reduced. The percentage of children with disabilities attending schools had dropped slightly from 93.5% in 2010, to 92.4% in 2011.

The 2014 targets for Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) programmes were deemed achievable, and in this regard she indicated increased participation, from 297 491 learners in 2010, to 311 678 in 2011.

Participation had also increased in Further Education and Training (FET) institutions. These served the students who did not continue to secondary education, as well as those who had completed secondary education, but who needed vocational training. These students were mainly in the 16 to 24 year old group, and comprised those who completed grade 9.

Goal 4 related to literacy of people 20 years and above. The report showed that literacy levels had increased substantially. Goal 5, relating to gender parity, had been attained. In primary schools, there were more boys and girls, but these reasons included the higher repetition numbers among boys. In secondary education, there were more girls than boys. Research was being carried out by provinces to determine the pressures causing boys to drop out of schools at higher levels, although the dropout rates were in fact declining.

The last goal, relating to quality, was measured against a number of aspects, including teacher time on task, curriculum coverage, and teacher content knowledge.

Other issues that affected students’ education included HIV/AIDs prevalence by age group but it was noted that the prevalence of HIV in younger people had declined.

Ms Deliwe stated that there was room for improvement in terms of provision of education to the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, but South Africa had largely attained its goal of providing access to basic education. There was still a need to improve the quality of education and raise standards of teacher and learner performance.


The Chairperson requested the Department to perform a comparative study over the last five years, to enable the committee to see the improvement of the programmes. She remarked that the report should have included the number of schools and learners in South Africa, a breakdown of data for special schools, number of special schools, number of full service schools and number of ordinary public schools.

Mr D Smiles (DA) remarked that the quality of education was questionable. He wondered if the children in grade R were in good enough hands.

Mr Smiles noted that schools for students with disabilities were support-intensive and required a lot of resources, including teachers and professional staff, and he questioned if all the necessary resources were available to these learners.

Mr Smiles noted that, in relation to goal 3, Gauteng had more learners when compared to other provinces, yet the comparison of numbers of learners and provinces showed disparities. He wondered if the DBE had looked into the education model in Gauteng to try to replicate it in other provinces.

Mr Smiles noted that the report on mitigating the impact of poverty had not included fee schools, and he wondered if this was an omission.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) raised concerns on the low percentage of children who received teachers’ attention on an individual basis, and wondered what the DBE was doing about this.

Mr Kganyago asked the reasons for the higher rate of repetition in boys in primary schools and the reasons that more boys tended to drop out from secondary schools than girls. He also wondered how the DBE enforced compulsory education.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) requested a definition for the “ethnic minorities” referred to in the report.

Mr K Dikobo (AZAPO) wondered if the “ethic minorities” referred to marginalised groups like the Khoi, and asked for details about the provision of education in such communities.

Mr Smiles remarked that nothing was being done to encourage ethnic minorities to take advantage of educational institutions.

Mr Mpontshane stated that one report had ranked the South African education system as 142nd out of 144 countries. He questioned, therefore, how the DBE could claim that it had almost attained the EFA goals.

Ms A Lovemore (DA) remarked that a major problem in the country was lack of accountability in the education system. She mentioned that the non-delivery of the Annual National Assessment (ANA) exam papers to schools in rural areas had led to a sense that neither the DBE nor the examination was reliable.

Ms N Gina (ANC) reiterated this concern and asked why the schools had not received the papers.

Ms Lovemore further noted that Cabinet had approved a National Development Plan with much stronger targets than the Department’s own targets, and wondered how the two would correlate.

Ms Lovemore wanted to know why there were no initiatives to improve quality of schooling, such as teacher professional development or curriculum development. She wondered if the remark that goal 6 was unlikely to be achieved related to the time constraints of 2014, or whether it would be an impossible goal.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) asked what South Africa’s ranking was in terms of attainment of MDGs. He wondered why South Africa was performing worse than poorer countries in Africa, despite spending so much more money on education.

Ms Gina remarked that it was a contradiction to state that the country had attained EFA goals if Goal 6 was unlikely to be accomplished. She noted a lack of progress and wanted to know where the Committee and the Department were going wrong.

The Chairperson noted a need to analyse progress on the goals, with the help of researchers.

Mr Dikobo suggested that the DBE should set milestones in order to monitor progress.

Ms Gina requested a definition for the term “orphans”, as used in this report.

Mr Makhubele said that some of the people who dropped out from school were young offenders, and he asked for statistics on this group.

Ms Lovemore noted that according to the presentation, more boys stayed in school during the recession, because school was seen as an escape from poverty. She asked if students were enrolling in schools simply to receive food.

Ms Deliwe responded that, in relation to the criteria for excellence in education, particularly teacher time on task, DBE was working to ensure better support for teachers, and management of schools.

Ms Deliwe then explained that international studies generally showed that girls performed better in school than boys, particularly in higher levels of education. This was also seen in South Africa. The boys tended to repeat more when there was great stress on the household income, because they get would get jobs to supplement the family income. During the global recession, boys tended to stay longer in school. She clarified that boys were not staying longer in school in order to access feeding programmes, but were instead dropping out less, because they saw the value in education. In relation to enforcement of compulsory education, she noted that the DBE partnered with police stations, Department of Social Services and NGOs to ensure that children went to school. The DBE also tried to rely on community accountability, to get students to go to school.

Ms Deliwe responded to the comment on the alignment of the DBE and national plans by saying that the DBE had created its own Action Plan subsequent to the National Plan being created. The DBE’s own goals related to 2014, and then to 2025, whereas the National goals used 2030 as the measurement date.

In relation to the questions about rankings, Ms Deliwe noted that some of the poorer countries with whom South Africa had been compared did not in fact have the same participation rates in education. Education achievement historically depended on socio-economic status and therefore it could be expected that wealthier countries generally performed better.

In relation to learners with specialised needs, Ms Deliwe reported that the DBE had made efforts to improve facilities in schools for persons with disabilities, and had finalised workbooks in Braille. The definition that DBE used for “orphans” referred to children without a mother, or a father, or without both parents. In relation to young offenders, she noted that the DBE would visit remand centres to get more information and would include it in the next report.

Ms Viviene Carelse, Deputy Director General: Strategy, Research and Communication, DBE, reiterated that the DBE was delivering on a curriculum that would ensure quality impact on the learner. Acquisition of teacher support material was an important part of the strategy. She pointed out that the Department needed time to speak on its progress in general. This presentation had focused specifically on what the Committee had asked it to report upon..

Mr Smiles expressed concern over accepting the Department’s proposal to present on its own choice of topic, as he feared DBE would only present the information that it wanted the Committee to see.

Ms Lovemore added that the DBE had not provided the Committee with the information that had been announced to the public through the media. She insisted that the Committee had to be provided with accurate information.

Adoption of minutes
The Committee attended to adoption of minutes of previous meetings.

The meeting was adjourned.


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