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ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
6 September 2002
FOUNDATION FOR EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRESS REPORT ON PROMOTION OF MATHS AND SCIENCE
Chairperson: Mr S.L Dithebe
Documents handed out
ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
Foundation for Education, Science and Technology Progress Report
The Committee was informed on the progress that Foundation for Education, Science and Technology (FEST) had made towards creating public awareness of science and technology. The speaker indicated that FEST, together with Eskom, had established a support programme for the upliftment of science and technology.
Dr Pouris (Chief Executive Officer of FEST) highlighted the importance of science, mathematics and technology. FEST was integrally involved in creating awareness in the field of science and technology. An example was given of a maths and science competition involving other African countries in which the organisation had participated. He indicated that FEST and Eskom had established a support programme to assist schools with mathematics. It was also indicated that visits all over the country had been made so as to encourage pupils to undertake maths and science.
There were three different types of schools; those that performed well in maths and science; schools with average performance rates and those which were battling. It was also stated that FEST had identified twenty schools as their targets. The organisation would help those schools to try and improve their performance in these subjects.
Dr Pouris indicated that the organisation had visited various areas in the country to assess the progress in schools and their needs. The main concern from the schools was the shortage of funds and staff. Consequently such schools were forced to offer only standard grade maths and science since qualified teachers were not available to offer the subjects on a higher level. Another problem was the shortage of infrastructure.
FEST has published a book on these subjects, which is in circulation in Gauteng schools. The book was sold at an affordable price of R15.00 a copy. It was indicated that more than fifty percent of the organisation staff was non-white and females were also well represented. By and large the organisation was trying to make science and technology filter through all parts of society. Although significant strides were being made it was important that the department of Education made funds available to research councils, museums, and universities.
Mr S. Dithebe (ANC) mentioned that the speaker made reference to the representation of non-whites in the organisation. He enquired why there was no mention of people living with disabilities.
Mr V Gore (DP) echoed similar sentiment.
It was shown that two and a half percent of the organisation staff was composed of disabled people.
Professor Gandi observed that FEST seemed to be more self-financed and that it seemed as if the government was not giving enough support. He enquired if the Department of Education had lowered the level of mathematics at school as it seemed that some aspects of mathematics had been ignored.
Mrs A Van Wyk (NNP) also expressed the same feeling.
The speaker said that it was not easy to say if standards were being lowered. He indicated that the schools that the organisation had identified as its targets would be examined twice a year to see if the standards were dropping. The performance of foreign countries like Australia would be used benchmarks.
Ms N. Tsheolo asked if the organization was doing anything to encourage those schools which were battling in maths and science. She recommended that the organisation encouraged the introduction of 'bridging' courses in universities and technikons to help those who had problems with the subjects.
Dr Pouris indicated that FEST and the Ford Foundation were currently investigating if the existing bridging courses in some universities were having the desired effect. Such courses seemed expensive and it would be cheaper if more effort more resources were given to high schools.
Mr S. Opperman (DP) observed that the main target or priority of the organisation was to get students to study maths and science in tertiary institutions. Perhaps children in pre-primary schools should be targeted as well. Some members of the committee showed that there were many facilities and institutions that FEST could use to bring science and technology to the people. Did the organisation have any relationship with institutions like museums.
Mrs A Van Wyk indicated that some science academies would be established in the Western Cape. She asked how the organisation was going to relate to such institutions.
Dr Pouris stated that the organisation had good relationships with some museums. He indicated that the major problem was that some institutions seemed not to know their identities. There were those that saw themselves as research and science councils and those that do not know where they belonged.
Consequently it became difficult to work with some of them.
Dr Pouris also welcomed the initiative of establishing science academies. The organisation was prepared to assist in making the projects a success.
Mrs A. Van Wyk recommended that the organisation introduced itself to the various provincial governments with the view of working together in taking science and technology to the people.
There was no discussion on the annual report as the Committee had not yet received it.
The meeting was adjourned.
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