Umalusi Strategic Plan 2013

Basic Education

17 April 2013
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Umalusi presented its strategic plan and budget for 2013, explaining that it was a quality council who needed to develop and manage a sub framework of qualifications for general and further education and training. Its mandate included the development, and quality assurance of qualifications and the curriculum, quality assurance assessments at exit points, the certification of learner achievements, and accreditation of private education providers and assessments. Umalusi would also conduct research related to the sub-framework and advise the Minister. The budgeted revenue and expenditure for the previous financial year were set out. The unaudited statement of financial position, showing the cash flow, debtors and investments, was also set out. In some instances, Umalusi exceeded expectations on collection of revenue, but in others had fallen short. For the following financial year, the Minister of Basic Education had approved the budget of R110.70 million, with notification that the DBE grant would amount to R 97.67 million. The budget for the next years would be rising, respectively, to R118.91 million and R135.24 million respectively. The targets for qualifications, curriculum and outcomes, quality assurance, evaluation and accreditations were presented. Highlights included a substantial 72% increase, with the budget rising from R5.7 million to R9.9 million, for evaluations and accreditations, due to the implementation of full accreditation processes for private providers. Umalusi would be increasing its staff, doing more advocacy work, providing conferences to schools and Adult Vocational Education and Training institutions, and assumed that two new assessment bodies were to be monitored and  quality assured. A full data management system would be developed. Eight new research projects and reports were planned. Additional human resources were approved by the Council.

Members were quite appreciative of the content of the report. They requested clarity on some of the budget figures. They then requested also that its role, particularly in relation to implementation and curriculum development and its involvement with the National Senior Certificate process, and exit points, be clarified. Umalusi clarified its interaction both with the South African Qualifications Authority and National Evaluation Unit. They asked for clarification on the past benchmarking exercises, and the Curriculum Assessment (CAPS) process. Members asked if Umalusi could attend to remedying problems in education around the supply of teachers and textbooks, whether it made its research available to the public. Members expressed concern about, and asked about the impact on Umalusi, of the issuing of fake certificates, and the recent reports on Venda University, but the security features of the matric certificates were fully illustrated and it was noted that the matter had been referred for investigation to the police. Members also commented that in South Africa there was substantial and ongoing debate about whether South African educational standards were acceptable, given the ranking of 140th against 144 countries, and how they in fact compared with other countries, and whether this indicated that changes to the system were needed. Coupled with this was a question on the difficulties that school students experienced in passing maths, and whether this indicated that the country should consider returning to the past systems. Members also requested an explanation of the Umalusi mandate for accreditation of private schools and FET colleges, and how the difficulties had been addressed. It was suggested that it would be useful to address some of the issues in future workshops.

Meeting report

Election of Acting Chairperson

In the absence of Ms H Malgas (ANC), the Committee unanimously elected Ms N Gina to chair the meeting.

Umalusi 2013 Strategic Plan briefing
Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer, Umalusi, presented the Umalusi Strategic Plan and Budget. He noted that the mandate needed to be briefly explained to inform the Members, and said that Umalusi was essentially a quality council who needed to develop and manage a sub framework of qualifications for general and further education and training. Its mandate included the development, and quality assurance of qualifications and the curriculum, the quality assurance assessments at exit points, the certification of learner achievements, the provision and accreditation of private education providers and assessments. Umalusi would also conduct research related to the sub-framework and advise the Minister.

Umalusi’s strategic plans encompassed most of these mandates, but he added that Umalusi must also develop and ensure good corporate governance and management of the office of the Chief Executive Officer. Information Technology maintenance, and improvements, finance, HR and Administrative support systems also fell into the scope of operations.

The unaudited statement of financial performance, as at the 31 March 2013, depicted underspending of R6 369 609. It was reported that 87% of budgeted revenue from operations was achieved. Slightly more than the anticipated grant (at 101%) was received from the Department of Basic Education. There was a vacancy rate of 10%.

The unaudited statement of financial position, showing the cash flow, debtors and investments, was also set out. Total assets were valued at R66 090 656. The cash available at the end of the period amounted to R2 032 563. Investments were sitting at R33 268 454, attracting a net interest of 5% per annum.

The actual 2012/2013 revenue budget versus the actual expenditure was also tabled. Umalusi had exceeded its expectations on accreditation fees, having received R1.65 million against a budget of R1.64 million. The grant from the DBE was 42.3 million. However, on the certification fees Umalusi fell 35% short, having achieved R27.4 million against a target of R42.3 million. On verification fees it exceeded targets, with R5.7 million received. The interest received amounted to R1.92 million. Other amounts (see attached presentation) and comparisons were set out for refunds on conference fees, the CATHSSETA Sector Education Authority project and recovery of telephone charges. The revenue budget was R92.95 million, but only R86.44 million was received.

The revised expenditure budget showed that although the budget was R92.9 million, spending was 7% below this, at R86.4 million.

For the following financial year, the Minister of Basic Education had approved the budget of R110.70 million, with notification that the DBE grant would amount to R 97.67 million. The  general trend of allocations from the DBE showed a rise. The budget for the next years would be R118.91 million and R135.24 million respectively.

Dr Rakometsi then proceeded to set out the qualifications, curriculum and outcomes targets, showing also a comparison with the 2012/13 targets, and explaining what specific budget had been allocated for them (see attached presentation for full details). He also explained, in each case, how those allocation and targets had been set. The same was done for quality assurance assessments, noting that the scope of work had increased. Evaluation and accreditation showed a substantial 72% increase, with the budget rising from R5.7 million to R9.9 million. This would be due to the implementation of full accreditation processes for private providers: Initially, UMALUSI would be covering 500 schools, 240 Colleges and 60 Adult and Education Training (AET) Centres, and also made provision for “silent new applications”. The increases also assumed that Umalusi would be increasing its staff, doing more advocacy work, providing conferences to schools and Adult Vocational Education and Training institutions, and assumed that two new assessment bodies were to be monitored and  quality assured. A full data management system would be developed.

In relation to research, Dr Rakometsi reported that eight new research projects and eight reports for printing were planned, as well as a number of seminars. In respect of the governance targets and budget, the increases of 15% were largely due to increased costs of travel and accommodation. For computer technology an increase of 18% was budgeted, because of an increase in computer costs. In HR, a 5% increase was seen due to additional posts approved by Council, in line with the Human Resources review, as well as approximately 6.6% towards cost of inflation linked salary increments

Dr Rakometsi noted that many of the challenges for Umalusi for the future had been set out in the Green Paper on Higher Education and Training. Umalusi was presently awaiting the release of the White Paper. Further challenges were highlighted around the future positioning of Umalusi, and how its recommendations would be accepted.

Ms A Lovemore (DA) commended Umalusi on the presentation and content of the report. However, she requested that the role of Umalusi in the implementation and curriculum development be defined in more detail.

Ms Lovemore wanted clarification on the exact chain of events in terms of decisions surrounding the qualifications, the exit point of certification, and who was the initiator.

Ms Lovemore wanted to hear the views of Umalusi on the Grade 12 pass rates, and referred to the points made on page 9 of the presentation about the quality of the National Senior Certificate (NSC). She wanted to know if Umalusi was also part of the ministerial investigations.

Dr Rakometsi confirmed that Umalusi did play a role in the Annual National Assessments (ANA) and would report back on this, as not everything was clear at the moment. He noted that the National Senior Certificate was an imperative qualification. Umalusi took care of the qualification but did not develop the curriculum. He emphasised that Umalusi could only develop a qualification but not the curriculum, although it  could later comment on the quality assurance of a curriculum.

Ms Lovemore questioned Umalusi as to the benchmarking process followed for international standards. She noted that Umalusi had done a benchmarking process in 2009/2010, but asked if this was done prior to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) process, and wondered also if CAPS was fully quality assured and benchmarked according to international standards.

Dr Rakometsi noted that Umalusi and SAQA were working together, but they were essentially still trying to find their feet and work alongside each other. It was the prerogative of the Minister to approve qualifications. There needed to be proper interface between the Department of Basic Education, SAQA and Umalusi, and their different roles and how they inter-locked did need to be clarified.

In relation to the setting of a curriculum, and the CAPS process, he said that generally a curriculum would be reviewed after two years, but a time frame of five years was needed to make a proper assessment of a trend. The Minister had absolute authority, in terms of time frames and the rollout phase of CAPS. The details of the processes needed to be agreed upon. Meetings with the parties would soon be held, and a Task Team would work on the way forward.

He noted that the Minister would initiate the exit point - for instance in Grade 9 - but Umalusi could guide the Minister in the process, so that although Umalusi initiated processes, the final decision rested with the Minister.

The Department of Basic Education(DBE) had discussed the rollout plan of CAPS. There was a horizontal and vertical phase so that each phase built on the previous ones. It was a huge project and the intermediate phase and senior phase had been handled. In the following year the FET phase would be initiated. For instance,  the CAPS Sector Education and Training Authority, which was geared towards the tourism and hospitality industry, would be working in terms of the industry qualifications.

He noted that the automatic rollout of any large project could be problematic if quality needed to be assured, so in practice, piloting may be a better option, to show the advantages and any problems in action, but on a small scale, rather than trying to assess it on paper.

Ms Lovemore asked how Umalusi intended to remedy problems in education as evidenced by instances such as the lack of teachers in the Eastern Cape, crisis in teaching, and problems surrounding text books.

Dr Rakometsi clarified that in terms of the National Qualifications Framework Act, Umalusi was accountable for the performance of the qualification, but it was not the inspectorate.

Ms Lovemore noted that other educational research institutions made their research available to the public and asked if Umalusi did the same, and, if not, what the reasoning was.

Dr Rakometsi reported that Umalusi did quality research that was approved by professionals and was available on request, but it was also made available on the website.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) expressed concern regarding the number of fake certificates that were prevalent in the country. He asked for clarity on the accountability and functions of both South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and Umalusi in this regard.

Mr D Smiles (DA) also questioned the Venda University incident that revealed that fraudulent matric certificates were being produced, and asked whether this incident would damage the reputation of Umalusi being a quality council (QC) and how Umalusi was going to deal with it.

Dr Rakometsi responded that the question of illegality and fraud surrounding the fake certificates would be decided by South African Police Services (SAPS) as Umalusi had handed over the matter to this body within whose jurisdiction criminal activity fell.

He agreed that the incident in Venda was indeed unfortunate but said that Umalusi's reputation certainly was not at stake. There could never be an entirely fool-proof system, and he stressed that the situation was not in fact that prevalent; it had been assessed that less than 1% were problematic, and Umalusi could not exercise control over those committing the crimes. Professional institutions should take joint accountability for security measures. He pointed out that there were in fact some very specific security features. The Qualifications, Curriculum and Certification Unit used a unique watermark as a background. The kind of paper used was a watermarked paper that could not be purchased on the street. Hidden in the background was the Umalusi coat of arms. These features measured up to international standards. There were tracking numbers, and the personalisation of the certificates according to the learners’ subjects and pass rate appeared upfront, and was also set as a background, so that the certificates could not be over-printed. Those who produced fraudulent certificates were responsible for undermining all children's education, and this would catch up with them later as those producing forged certificates would find it more difficult to carry on and achieve in their later studies. He confirmed that on this point, SAQA and Umalusi were working together on verification of qualifications.

Mr Makhubele noted that there was an ongoing and substantial debate in South Africa about its competence and comparisons with international standards, particularly on the quality of education. South Africa was criticised as not being competent in education. He wondered if the matriculants in this country were prepared and competent to compete in those markets. There was confusion – even amongst academics themselves – as to exactly what Umalusi did to assure quality education. He said that the country needed to know who could answer the questions, and get those answers. The theory that education in Africa was regarded as poor needed to be dealt with in its entirety, and the realities had to be addressed.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) mentioned that according to the World Education rankings, mention in a meeting the previous week, South African learners were ranked 140th out of 144 countries. He asked if Umalusi had advised the Minister and asked where the quality of education was being compromised.

Dr Rakometsi said that it was impossible simply to dismiss or undermine the current education system as it produced several high-quality learners who were confident and were critical thinkers. Professor Jonathan Janssen has discussed this issue  with Umalusi, so it was in hand. However, having said that, Umalusi and the DBE also had to be grateful to the critics, who kept the institutions on their toes and stimulated the review process and suggest measures that were needed to raise the bar.

He noted that the National Education and Evaluation Delivery Unit (NEEDU) and Umalusi, were striving to work hand in hand with one another. The Chief Executive Officers were each represented on the other’s councils so that there was a full awareness of what was going on in each other's portfolio.

Mr Smiles asked specific questions about Maths Literacy and maths standards in the country. Under the old systems, those learners who were not so well versed in mathematics were permitted to take Maths at Standard Grade, but the current system meant that those who wanted to follow a similar route battled. He felt that the requirements for mathematics were too stringent, and said that he believed that in Grade 9 learners should be able to opt for whether or not they wanted to do maths, especially if they were intending to embark on Further Education and Training studies. Most learners who were battling in their final year were having problems because of the system.

Dr Rakometsi agreed that the country needed to address the realities of the mathematics debate and problems. Not all students emerged as maths literate. However, it was not possible to consider reverting back to maths on higher and standard grades. The current system effectively did already cater for learners at different levels, because the paper was set in accordance with low order, medium, and high order questions which accommodated all the learners.

In terms of benchmarking our qualifications against international standards, Umalusi did this exercise in 2009/2010. The exercise used the Baccalaureate offered by Cambridge but this was done before CAPS. It had been found that the standards were fairly competitive. However, he confirmed that as yet the CAPS was not fully quality assured and that it was not internationally benchmarked.

Ms Lovemore referred to page 5, where accreditation was discussed, and asked why public schools were not being accredited.

The Chairperson requested that Umalusi clarify its role for providing full accreditation to private suppliers, and what was its relationship was with other role players. She said that the future needs should be part of the National Assessment, and the mandate of quality assurance needed to be developed in such a way that Umalusi was not seen as being both referee and player at the same time.

Dr Rakometsi clarified that the Act stipulated that Umalusi could be giving accreditation only to the private providers of education. The public schools did have an inspectorate, and NEEDU is responsible for that, and that was the main difference between the two. They were also responsible for the supply and control of text books and the infrastructure on both national and provincial levels.

He amplified that although the mandate to accredit private schools and FET colleges had existed since 2001, it was only in fact declared officially in 2012. Provisional accreditation had been given in the interim, in a “tick the box” type of exercise. When the mandate was declared by the Minister and implemented in 2012 as a qualitative process, in distinction to what had happened in the past, many institutions did not even comply with the basics. All institutions then waited in the wings for their accreditations. The rolling out of the process was a deep process, but it formalised the structure. There was also a Qualitative Control Council who consulted with all sectors of the schools and FET colleges. The FET colleges difficulties had already been worked out, the loops had been closed, and some of the institutions that operated illegally or were not compliant were either shut down or their principals arrested. This process was expensive and time consuming. The accreditation process was essentially a judgemental process, whereas the NEEDU one is a school development process. This explained the different roles, but he emphasised again that the institutions interfaced with one another.

Dr Rakometsi said that the challenges in standards were not unknown to the DBE. Although Umalusi worked closely with the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations there were still some problems with the N4 to N6 qualifications, and the capacity of the lecturers was not of the desired standard.

Mr Smiles asked for further clarification on the targets given as he felt that these need to be questioned.

Dr Rakometsi said that the omission of the targets was not intentional. Umalusi had focused upon setting out the key results and outcomes, but if the Committee wanted it to elaborate on that he would gladly do so.

He added that Umalusi was planning some interesting work for the future, especially in the field of languages, with English as an additional first language. This would enable Umalusi to gauge a learner's ability to engage with other subjects in English.

Mr Makhubele asked the Chief Financial Officer to explain how he derived the figure of 147% of invoiced debts, and what the actual figure was. He also wanted more explanation on page 10 of the presentation, relating to the budgets. There was a report that Umalusi was 13% below budget, and he asked whether the Chief Financial Officer was confident that Umalusi could cope with the spending capacity, and what its strategy for that would be.

Mr Makhubele also questioned the apparent inconsistency in some of the figures. On page 9, there was an increase listed for finance and supply chain management, from R32 million to R38 million, yet later in the report there was a reference to R45 million. He called for clarification on these figures.

Dr Rakometsi explained how he had come to the figure of 147% of revenue that was collected. He noted that in this year, there had been collection also of outstanding debt from the previous year, which took the totals to above 100%. The 13% shown as being below targets was money that was collected, but that had not been accounted for in the financial year. The collection of the outstanding debts was in the region of R3.2 million.

The accreditation fees were fees that providers needed to pay. The Private FET colleges still need to pay for their accreditation processes. The vacancies and the maintenance amounts were inserted to clarify the budget queries.

The Chairperson stated there were many issues that still required the Committee to do a follow-up, and suggested that this could probably best be done by having workshops in the near future. She commented that, on the whole, it was a fruitful meeting and very well presented.

The meeting was adjourned.


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