Equal Education comments; South African Council of Educators & Umalusi briefings on 2011/12 Annual Reports

Basic Education

16 October 2012
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Equal Education presented its commentary on the Annual Report of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and entities. The report was in fairly general terms, and, at the specific request of the Chairperson, did not address legal services, policy development or infrastructure, as there was litigation against the Department in those two areas. Equal Education commended the Department on initiatives in regard to workbooks but stressed that textbooks remained an ideal medium. It was concerned that so few schools had fully-functioning libraries, with qualified librarians and structured programmes. Some comments were also made on the Annual National Assessments (ANA), and Equal Education pointed out that its assessments were done against the DBE’s own policies, goals and targets. Questions were directed to the ANA plans, and whether teachers were sufficiently skilled to interpret examination results, but most of the questions arising from this report could only be addressed by the DBE.

Umalusi then presented its Annual Report, summarising the mandate, how this had been affected by recent legislation and the external environment. The quality assurance regime for 2011/12 was set out, and the roles of the units dealing with qualifications, curriculum and certification, quality assurance of assessments and the evaluation and accreditation were fully set out and explained. It was noted that Umalusi covered private providers because it was assumed that public schools and other institutions were automatically accredited by the DBE. Statistical information was also presented, as well as details of Umalusi’s management support structures, IT systems and financial performance. Umalusi noted that it had an unqualified audit and was dismayed to hear criticisms from Members about its performance, as presented earlier to the Committee by the auditors, and comments on inadequate monitoring controls, that were not apparently raised by the auditors to Umalusi itself. Umalusi would take the matter up with the auditors after the meeting. Members asked if the report on Continuous Assessment (CAPS) systems was available. They were concerned with who conducted the curriculum development, why it seemed that CAPS was implemented before a proper assessment was done, and enquired about quality assurance and assessment, including the accreditation of private bodies.

Members commented that no Board members were present, as they should have been. They also felt that assessments were actually needed on the ability of learners to write the examinations and suggested that grade 12 assessments were too late, as they left out those leaving the system before then. They asked how Umalusi’s role dovetailed with those of the Departments of Basic and Higher Education, asked what challenges it faced and how learners in technical colleges were assessed, as there were doubts whether some of these colleges offered sufficiently conducive testing environments. They also asked for comment on academic criticisms of the system and how external moderators were retained.

South African Council of Educators (SACE) outlined its mandate and covered areas of registration of educators, professional development, Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD), ethics and legal affairs and the outlined the numbers of cases and types of offences, indicating that the majority of complaints that were justified related to corporal punishment and assault, sexual misconduct, including rape, verbal abuse, victimisation, harassment or defamation, and unprofessional conduct, including alcohol abuse, absenteeism or insubordination. The Internal Migration Pilot study was outlined. As achievements, SACE noted its resource centre and virtual library, policy and research dissemination and advocacy. The Auditors had reported on a change of quarterly reporting target and it was also noted that targets that were considered immeasurable had to be re-defined and corrected.

Members were interested what SACE did about registration of foreign educators, which was noted as a policy as well as administrative issue. They asked about the standing of the SACE (but this question was not addressed), whether the impact of the ethics workshops had been measured, and the difference between the surplus and unspent funding. They also commended the CPTD, but wanted to know more about what it comprised. They questioned whether those with fraudulent qualifications should not be permanently disbarred from teaching, to which SACE agreed, and questioned how those struck from the roll might apply to be reinstated. They also asked if SACE was able to track how many teachers were still in the profession, and where they were, and if any research had been done on the supply and demand, to which SACE responded that its research resources were very limited. Members also commended the holding of workshops but said that more should have been held in Eastern Cape. SACE was asked for further details of its interest in a particular defamation case, and whether it was facing financial constraints. Finally, SACE explained the position in relation to the building it currently occupied and the building that it had purchased some years ago, which was now on the market. SACE was asked to submit written responses to questions that could not be answered.


Meeting report

Equal Education presentation
The Chairperson noted that Equal Education would be making a presentation on the Department of Basic Education (DBE or the Department) Annual Report for 2011/12, and there were many areas that had been advanced, as well as many weaknesses. She appealed, however, that this presentation should not cover the legal services and policy development units, nor the question of infrastructure, as at the moment there was litigation against the Department in these areas. The Committee would go through that section with the Department at another time.

Ms Hopolang Selebalo, Parliamentary Officer, Equal Education, outlined the composition and mandate of Equal Education (see attached presentation). She noted that, in relation to workshops and textbooks, the DBE should be commended for its provision of workbooks to learners in primary school, but did add that workbooks needed to be supported by textbooks, which remained one of the most effective tools through which to deliver the curriculum and support assessments, ensure full curriculum content and assessment coverage, and offer appropriate pacing and weighting of content.

Equal Education noted that 93% of public schools in South Africa did not have functioning libraries, with a trained and qualified librarian or teacher librarian, and sufficient library material. The Department had stated, as one of its goals, the establishment of norms for school libraries.

The Annual National Assessments (ANA) were critiqued. One of the challenges of using only Grade 12 pass rates as an indicator of the education system’s performance was that many learners did not get as far as grade 12. Grade 12 examinations only measured performance at the end of secondary school, and did not indicate the necessity of interventions at an earlier stage.

Ms Selebalo concluded that Equal Education’s Shadow Report assessed the DBE’s performance against its own stated policies, goals and targets, as set out in official documents. Equal Education acknowledged the appropriateness of many of these policies, goals and targets, as well as progress in some. However, in some cases the achievements remained largely on paper, which affected the quality of learning for South African learners.

Ms A Lovemore (DA) said it was difficult to ask questions as these questions should be directed towards the Department. However, she did want clarity on the comment on Annual National Assessments, and wondered if Equal Education had seen a plan to address the issues.

Ms Selebalo replied that Equal education had not been seen one yet. Although it acknowledged that the Department had stated there was a plan, civil society should have a role in constructing that plan.

Mr K Dikobo (AZAPO) asked what caused Equal Education particular concern.

Ms Selebalo replied there needed to be a means of supporting learners. If the plan was outstanding, this meant that the country was not getting the results it wanted. There was a need for teachers to analyse the results and find ways to intervene.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) asked if teachers lacked basic skills as to interpret and use the examination results, and whether research had shown their levels of competence.

Ms Selebalo replied that Equal Education did not say that the teachers were incompetent, but the assessments were difficult. Pupils were getting low marks and there was a need for teachers to get involved in interventions.

Umalusi Presentation
Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer, Umalusi, and Mr Jeremy Thomas, Chief Financial Officer, Umalusi, presented a summarised version of the Umalusi mandate, setting out also the external environment in which Umalusi operated. The passing of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act in 2009 had brought about changes in the roles and responsibilities of the various bodies in the quality assurance landscape. Various Acts governing the work of the Quality Councils (QCs) had also been amended, with a need for more capacity and a review of Umalusi’s positions and approaches. There were varying views on the nature of standard setting and quality assurance. The Ministerial Guidelines for 2011/2012 also had to be taken into account. The NQF Implementation Framework from Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) had put some pressure on policy development in an uncertain environment

They reminded the Committee about the conceptualisation of the post-school system through a Green Paper process, which was nearing completion and public comment input.

The presenters detailed the quality assurance regime for 2011/12, qualifications, the role of the Curriculum and Certification Unit, the way in which qualifications, curriculum and certifications worked. They also detailed the Quality Assurance Assessment Unit, the way in which quality assurance assessment worked, and the way in which the Evaluation and Accreditation Unit worked with private providers, and assessment bodies. They also outlined the work of the Statistical Information and Research unit, the statistical information and research reports, the management support structures, information technology systems and Finance, Human Resources Development and Administration Support.

The financial statements, covering performance in the 2011/12, the Umalusi three-year forecast, and summaries of total income from 2000/1 (actual) to 2011, and the budget until 2015/16 were presented (see attached presentation for full details). Finally, it was noted that Umalusi had achieved an unqualified audit.

Mr Dikobo asked if the report on quality continuous assessment was available to the Members.

Mr Dikobo asked if there was a difference of opinion with the Auditor-General (AG) on the clean and unqualified audit, as that was not what the AG had told the Committee. During the AG’s presentation it was suggested that the “wheels had come off” Umalusi.

Ms N Gina (ANC) agreed that this report did not match that of the AG. She noted that there had actually been a degeneration of the financial statements position, and the Committee would have appreciated it had this presentation spoken to the opinions and points of emphasis.

Mr Thomas said that he was completely astounded at these comments. He knew, as the Chief Financial Officer, that Umalusi had interacted with the external auditors and the external audit report indicated that there were no audit findings. He was surprised to hear of comments to the contrary by the AG. He would take up the matter himself with the AG to discern what the perceived problems were with Umalusi. This body, as a public entity, had felt that it was a privilege to receive an unqualified audit and the Umalusi delegation today was unaware of the adverse comment.

Ms Gina suggested that whenever the Committee was to get an auditors report then there should be a representative from the entity to clarify matters.

Mr W Madisha (COPE) said that the AG had indeed indicated some serious problems and questioned what had happened to the money.

Dr Rakometsi also expressed his extreme disappointment. Public entities had a right to apply to the AG to use independent external auditors but as they worked they were monitored by the AG. The AG’s own representatives were present when the audit for Umalusi was finalised. Umalusi was not aware of what the Committee had been told, but stressed that since 2001 it had received unqualified audits.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) asked for assurance that the issue of insufficient monitoring controls had been attended to.

Mr Thomas pointed out that there was at this point no requirement for a performance audit from the AG, but performance was audited by the external auditor. A comment had been made that over 20% of performance targets had not been related to performance results. Umalusi was now in the process of adjusting that, so that this did not occur in the next financial year. He commented, however, that more than 70% of performance targets were complied with.

Mr Makhubele asked what the increases that were stated in percentages meant in monetary terms, on page 66 of the Annual Report.

Mr Thomas replied the format used had been to make the Annual Report more user friendly, rather than basing it solely on National Treasury (NT) requirements. Page 66 had been inserted to show Members where Umalusi had spent more than the expected number and why.

Ms Lovemore was confused about who actually conducted curriculum development.

Ms Eugenie Rabe, Chief Operating Officer, Umalusi, replied that the Departments of Education developed the curriculum. The Minister was tasked with setting the standards in the system and the curriculum captured those standards. Umalusi did not develop the curriculum.

Ms Lovemore said that the slide on qualification curriculum and qualifications appeared to confirm that the Continuous Assessment of Progress System (CAPS) had been implemented before it had been evaluated, and asked why this was so, and what would happen if there were found to be problems with the benchmarking.

Ms Rabe replied that original report on the Foundation Phase was a benchmark study using data from Singapore, Canada and Kenya. This had been shared with the Department. Shortly after this was done the CAPS had come out, so in a sense Umalusi was back to revaluating that curriculum. Further recommendations would also be made shortly.

Ms Lovemore asked if the quality unit was also tasked with external competency of markers, if this was done.

Ms Rabe replied this the markers were attended to by the Department, but agreed that assessments would be useful.

Ms Lovemore said most public institutions were not capable of providing education that allowed learners to achieve Umalusi certification, and the question was who accredited the public institutions, since Umalusi only attended to the private ones. She also asked why this was the case.

Ms Gina asked what was being referred to, on the slide entitled “Accreditation of private providers”.

Ms Rabe replied the whole notion of accreditation was introduced through the National Qualifications Framework, in around 1994, with the idea that private provision should be regulated, as it had not been in the past. The public schools, because they had been established by the State, were deemed automatically accredited. Umalusi could not close a public school if it did not meet Umalusi standards but could advise it on how to improve.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) asked how many independent schools had been accredited.

Ms Rabe replied there were about 1 500 independent schools on the books. Umalusi knew that there were quite a few outside the system, but hoped that when their policies were regulated by the Minister, that would stop. The processes of registration and accreditation were now linked quite closely. 400 colleges were on the books, and there were about 60 Adult Education and Training colleges.

Mr Madisha said, when outlining the external environment, that it was clear that Umalusi did not have the capacity to asses the competency of teachers and education as a whole, but later in the Report it seemed to be indicated that Umalusi had achieved successes on the same mandate. He asked for an explanation of this apparent contradiction.

Mr Madisha asked if Umalusi was able to assess the ability of children to write examinations, and said that this was a report that should be produced.

Ms Gina asked where Umalusi was located, and how its role fitted in with the Departments of Basic Education and Higher Education, and to whom it accounted.

Dr Rakometsi replied that Umalusi answered to the Department of Basic Education, but did work with Department of Higher Education and Training as well.

Ms Gina asked how far the phasing out of the Senior Certificate had gone, whether it was on track and what mechanisms were in place.

Ms Rabe replied that this was something the DBE could answer better. As far as she knew, the numbers were decreasing for the Senior Certificate and it would be phased out in 2014. However there was the possibility that some subjects would be outstanding and Umalusi and DBE were working on that at the moment. The Senior Certificate would remain under Umalusi’s framework of certifications, as there would always be people who held that certificate.

Mr Paddy Padayachee, Deputy Director General, Department of Basic Education, replied that the DBE was working with DHET and the Ministry. The original decision had been to terminate the Senior Certificate in 2014, whereafter the National Senior Certificate for Adults would be put in place. However, DHET had stipulated now that alternative proposals be raised, and these proposals would be made to both Ministers.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) asked what the actual challenges were that Umalusi faced, and what it would need.

Dr Rakometsi replied that the challenges included staffing issues, new cases that had not been finalised, and the demarcation of schools.

Ms C Dudley asked if the promulgation of a sub-framework was outside the control of Umlusi, because she was under the impression that Umalusi was being impacted on by everything.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) asked if sufficient attention was being given to marks that learners got at the end of grade 12 in schools that offered technical subjects. He had the impression that these marks were simply “created” and urged Umalusi to look into the matter.

Ms Rabe replied that Umalusi agreed with on what needed to happen. However, Umalusi could not comment on the capacitation of schools, nor whether these schools had the right infrastructure to run a practical assessment, and that was something that lay with the DBE. She commented that no amount of standardisation would ever compensate for a lack of infrastructure and for poor teaching. Standardisation related only to the standard of the exam.

Mr Mpontshane asked if Umalusi had presented its recommendations to the Minister, and, if so, what had been the response.

Mr Mpontshane also noted criticisms by academics that standards had not been up to scratch, including Dr Mamphele Ramphele, who had criticised low standards. Since this appeared to fall directly within the mandate of Umalusi, he asked for its comment.

Dr Rakometsi replied South Africa really had to educate the public about the qualifications within the country. The qualifications emphasised critical thinking. There was an assumption by people that a pass at matric, even with low marks, would automatically qualify a person to proceed to university, but this was in fact now always the case.

Mr Makhubele said there were external factors that affected the learners, and that in turn affected the results. Even though it was not its terrain, Umalusi could not pretend to be ignorant of the external factors that affected standardisation. The policy environment alone was not the only thing that impacted upon its work.

Ms Rabe replied that there were indeed external factors that affected learners, and Umalusi was aware of those factors, which should have been mentioned in the presentation. However, she stressed again that standardisation could not make up for those inefficiencies. Umalusi looked about the standard of this year’s assessment in comparison to the last few years, and the need to maintain a certain standard.

Ms Gina asked for comment from Umalusi on the problem in retention of external moderators. She wondered if there was a large gap between the various levels of management and lower levels, and whether this had any impact on the retention statistics.

Ms Rabe replied that this did not have anything to do with payment, as Umalusi paid its external moderators the same as the DBE paid to its moderators. Umalusi took its cue from the DBE. However, there was scarcity of expertise in certain critical areas, and Umalusi was trying to address that.

Dr Rakometsi confirmed that Umalusi did not have independent salary scales. The salary scales offered by Umalusi were from the Department of Public Services and Administration (DPSA). These were followed to the letter. Umalusi had to wait for the Minister to pronounce any increments in salaries. There were a number of procedures allied to the changing of salaries, including waiting on Council decisions.

Mr Dikobo said that this answer actually related to a matter on which he had not asked. That emphasised the need for the Accounting Authority to be present in future. HE noted that none of the Board was in attendance, but only the senior staff. He was not sure that they were fully equipped to speak of salaries.

South African Council of Educators (SACE) presentation
Mr Rej Brijraj, Chief Executive Officer, South African Council of Educators, gave some background to the Council (SACE), its registration systems, the system of professional development, ethics and legal affairs (see attached presentation for details). He then detailed the numbers of cases, types of offences, and the top four offences that SACE handled. He noted, in particular, that in this financial year it had handled 174 complaints about corporal punishment and assault, 126 sexual misconduct, including rape, cases, and 79 cases involving verbal abuse, victimisation, harassment or defamation. There were 69 cases of unprofessional conduct, alcohol abuse, absenteeism or insubordination.

He outlined the finalised cases, policy and research, and the results of the Internal Migration pilot. He also noted the statistics around school based violence and gave an analysis of educator misconduct cases reported to SACE in 2008 / 2009. Finally, he noted the SACE Resource Centre and Virtual Library and its work around policy and research dissemination and advocacy.

Mr Morris Mapindani, Chief Financial Officer, SACE, presented on the financial statements, the analysis of the financial position and performance and an analysis of the statements, including cash flows and administration (see attached report for details). He noted that the Audit Report had noted, in the Report, a change in the quarterly reporting targets, which was a comment on the predetermined objectives. He also noted that there had been a correction of immeasurable targets identified during the previous year’s audit.

Mr W Madisha (COPE) asked how SACE handled the registration of foreign educators.

Mr Brijraj replied that this was a policy matter. There was a need to question why more and more foreigners were taking posts, and why those South Africans qualifying as teachers were not populating the schools.

Mr Madisha asked what was the current standing of SACE, commenting that in the previous year there were some difficulties brought to light.

Ms Mashishi asked if there was any monitoring done after the workshop on ethics, to see its impact.

Ms Mashishi asked what SACE was doing about investigating violence against educators.

Mr Brijraj replied there was more work to be done on the School Violence Report.

Ms Mashishi asked for the difference between the unspent amounts, and the surplus.

Mr Mapindani replied on that SACE had outlined figures for a surplus of R17 million and unspent amounts of R6 million. The difference as listed on the balance sheet was called a surplus, and it was essentially an accounting term comparing the difference in the amount of expenses against income. Some of it was in cash, but other amounts were not. The unspent money related to the budget allocations.

Ms Gina noted a reference to 144 schools in this report, and noted that this the same figure as mentioned in the 2010/11 Annual Report. She asked if they were the same schools.

Ms Gina was concerned with the high levels of sexual abuse cases, noted that workshops had been conducted but asked what impact was visible from these. She wondered if enough was being done to bring the incidences down.

Mr Brijraj replied that impact monitoring was something that still had to be undertaken, to see what effect the workshops had.

Ms Gina asked if the Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) was on track, and if SACE was ready for implementation on this.

Mr Makhubele wanted assurance that SACE was not a service provider and was merely there to have oversight in terms of the services rendered.

Prof. Nomathemba Magi, Representative of the Chairperson, SACE, responded that this was the same pilot study that was previously outlined. She reminded members that it had taken 18 months to conduct the pilot and after that the issues had been analysed. This analysis led to the drawing of an implementation plan. A decision then had to be made whether SACE could implement the entire system, to all teachers, at the same time. A decision was taken to start by implementing to a smaller number, which was comprised of principals and deputy principals. This was a manageable number. The thinking was that this could be done in 2013, as some endorsements of both service providers and activities had taken place. The whole system should be running by June 2015. The plan was for implementation in all provinces. She reminded the Members that SACE itself did not undertake the CPTD, as this was outsourced to accredited service providers who were identified in the analysis.

Mr Dikobo noted that SACE had two buildings, one of which was for sale, with no offers yet received, and the other on a lease-to-buy basis. He asked why this was not being bought outright. He also did not understand why only one of the buildings was listed as appreciating.

Mr Mpontshane asked for an indication of the purchase price of the building that SACE had moved into and wondered if this was put out to tender.

Mr Mapindani responded that SACE had first started, two years ago, to try to identify a building that would be suitable to accommodate the SACE. It had gone through different processes. SACE had made a bid for the building, but had decided on a lease-to-buy arrangement, because SACE could not afford the purchase price. It currently had two buildings. A few years ago it had intended to buy and then renovate the building that was presently for sale. This, however, caused a public outcry, and a request why SACE did not instead find a building that was more suitable. SACE was called upon to explain the matter and, in view of the public dissatisfaction, the building was then put up for sale again, while SACE found something more suitable. The building had now been on the market for two years. The original price paid was R12.1 million, and although SACE had received offers of R17 million and then R15 million the intended purchasers could not come up with funding from the banks. SACE was hoping, but had not yet succeeded in finding a purchaser who had own funding. It was re-advertising the building continuously.

Mr Mpontshane asked what SACE meant when it spoke of “professional development” and whether that incorporated terminology within a particular professional context. He felt that the workshops it was holding were a move in the right direction.

Mr Brijraj replied that the SACE wanted to change attitudes, and people did have to conduct themselves in a professional manner. Thus, terminology was very important.

Mr D Smiles (DA) said there was an emergence of fraudulent qualifications, whilst corruption was also on the rise. He suggested that people should be banned altogether, and permanently, from ever being allowed to teach if their qualifications were found to be fraudulent.

Mr Brijraj agreed with the suggestion that those with fraudulent qualifications should be barred, as they clearly did not comply with the programme called “Fit to Teach”.

Mr Smiles also commended the workshops, but said that the fact that so few were held in the Eastern Cape did not address the situation in that province.

Mr Brijraj apologised for lack of presence in the Eastern Cape and said SACE would in future ensure that the workshops were taken to all the provinces. He had not been sufficiently attentive to that in this year and thanked Members for raising this point.

Mr Smiles asked what research was done on the demand and supply of teachers.

Prof Magi replied that no research had been done on that, but commented that the research capacity in SACE was limited, with only two researchers. It was certainly a topic to think about although she could not promise that it would be done next year.

Mr Kganyago asked what the offence was of the educator who had been acquitted by the court.

Mr Brijraj replied that it would sometimes be that teachers were acquitted when charged with sexual misconduct cases, and some cases were even withdrawn by complainants. This was a societal phenomenon that needed to be addressed.

Mr Makhubele asked internationally what was the ranking of South Africa against other countries, in terms of teachers committing sexual offences.

Mr Makhubele asked what offences could cause teachers to be struck off the roll

Mr Brijraj replied that when teachers were struck off the roll, this was an indefinite action; some were suspended or removed for a certain period only, after which they could reapply and prove that they were once again fit to teach. One example might be an alcoholic who had undergone treatment and was seen as being rehabilitated. There was no question of automatic reinstatement. He noted that there was no indication that teachers misbehaved more than other professionals.

Mr Dikobo asked if SACE had a way of tracking registered teachers, and in particular to note when they left the system.

Mr Mapindani replied that it was difficult to know where teachers were, although SACE did have exercise some control through the membership fees, which would tell SACE whether or not a teacher was still active in the profession. However, when they stopped paying, it was unknown if they had died, or left the profession. SACE only concentrated upon its active members. At some period it would compare its records of names against Department of Home Affairs death records.

Mr Dikobo asked why SACE had expressed particular interest in a defamation case.

Mr Brijraj replied that this was a case in which the profession, rather than an individual, had been brought into disrepute. It had nothing to do with a normal individual civil case.

Mr Makhubele asked about the percentage of the interest raised.
The Chairperson asked what financial constraints SACE faced.

Mr Brijraj replied that SACE did not have a particular financial problem but was currently in the situation where it was trying to save money quickly to pay for the building. This placed some strain on delivering the mandate to full quality. DBE had been providing funding, but SACE ideally wanted it to commit to a more structured funding mechanism, which it would present to the Department.

The Chairperson asked for a written response on the remaining questions and further clarity on others where Members were not fully satisfied.

The meeting was adjourned.


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