Education Collaboration Framework: DBE briefing; Teacher Education research project: Department of Higher Education briefing

Basic Education

04 November 2014
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) presented a report on the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) and explained that it was a pilot programme to implement chapter 9 of the National Development Plan (NDP) as well as the Education Sector Plan. It was aimed at improving the quality of education, increasing parental involvement, considering the role of the unions, building a qualified, professional, competent and committed teaching, academic, research and public service from Early Childhood Development to Higher Education. The set up phase had been completed in four districts, with two more to come on stream in October, and two the following April. The rationale for the learning programmes was to improve the curriculum coverage by strengthening, planning, instruction and management of teaching and learning. Research had highlighted insufficient readers in schools, and teachers very dependent on DBE workbooks. Innovation plans would look at how key players could work together, focusing on maths and science, education dialogues would be run and monitoring and evaluation would set up frameworks with independent advisory bodies. Members were appreciative of the presentation. They asked how poverty had impacted upon learners, asked how committed the teaching profession and players were in the provinces, how the Project would tie in with the National Development Plan and what exactly the campaign would comprise, its cost, and where results could be accessed.  Members also asked how ICT in rural schools would be effected, asked about the role of parents and the need to educate communities, asked if any risks and challenges had been identified, and the role of the unions.

The Departments of Basic and Higher Education and Training, National Education Collaboration Trust and National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) briefed the Committee on the results of research thus far identified from the Initial Teacher Education Research Project. The study was undertaken after concerns about the state of initial teacher education, experiences of newly qualified teachers and language, knowledge and practice standards. The context, funding and offerings by the universities for teachers were described, as well as some of the key highlights from the start-up interventions so far, focusing on KwaZulu Natal, the first to implement. School renovations models had been introduced and interns were used to assist. There had been pilot studies into maths and science streaming programmes in ten schools in Eastern Cape, in collaboration with Stellenbosch University, and sets of lessons and guidelines were then created. Education Dialogue SA was set up to create an avenue for open, honest engagement among key stakeholders, with a view improving teacher professionalisation and school ethos. A study into teaching and the teacher outputs from universities noted that not only were some of those first entering the universities not adequately equipped to do tertiary studies, because of the way in which the English papers and curriculum at schools were structured, but the universities were not taking teacher education far enough either. It was recommended that more intensive teacher training be conducted, that the pass levels be raised and longer texts set as comprehension exercises. More emphasis must be placed on reading and learning pedagogy, and on specialist subject knowledge, although it was also noted that those specialising in subjects were not always being deployed to teach those subjects. The Project would be tracking university content, case studies of newly qualified teachers and their impressions. Members questioned if the universities had the necessary human resources to carry out the mandate to train teachers, pointing out that if they did not have trained teachers on the staff, it was putting the students at a disadvantage. Some felt that the Department had taken a defensive approach, asked how the Department would deal with teachers who had not actively chosen to pursue teaching, mentioned the shortage of teachers at the rural schools, asked about recruitment, and asked about the impact of long distance learning programmes. They suggested that the Department must assess the practical abilities of teachers, create a better balance between practice and theory, and how outcomes would change. They recommended more research on indigenous languages, and wondered why the presentation had not made any mention of teachers for disabled pupils.

Meeting report

National Education Collaboration Trust and Framework: Department of Basic Education briefing
Mr Godwin Khosa, Chief Executive Officer, National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT or the Trust) explained that the realisation of the goal to implement Chapter 9 of the National Development Plan (NDP) was to be done through the National Education Collaboration Framework, whose themes for action were teacher professionalisation, courageous leadership, learner welfare, parent and community involvement and improvement of the state's capacity to deliver quality education. Te intended outcome was to ensure that 90% of learners achieved more than 50% in literacy, maths and science.

The NECT set-up phase had been completed in four districts, with two more planned to implement in October, and the last two in April 2015.

Mr Khosa set out some highlights of the start up interventions-

- In KwaZulu Natal (KZN) 1 500 school principals had been inducted in the use of tool-kits for managing curriculum implementation
- The change agents had made 1 686 person day inputs in schools to perform a wide range of support - There was a school renovation model that cost less than R500 000 to procure the materials which involved on average 15 interns to perform critically-needed infrastructure inputs estimated at R1.5 million per school
- A pilot of the maths and science lesson streaming programme in ten schools in the Eastern Cape on using telematic centres was being run, in collaboration with Stellenbosch University.

The rationale for the learning programmes was to improve the curriculum coverage by strengthening, planning, instruction and management of teaching and learning. The research conducted showed that there were insufficient readers, and in some schools, only the Kagiso Red Pepper Big Books and the booklets. Teachers in most schools were making copies from the remaining old stock copies and books supplied by publishers. Teachers were very dependent on the Department of Basic Education (DBE) work-books.

As a  result, the design parameters to be implemented were now intended to show:
- Innovation, which would entail looking into  how the education system had improved, how the test project for referral systems would bring key players to work together, and consolidating ICT planning to better co-ordinate facilities
- Local projects were to have an intervention on maths and science
- Education Dialogues must be run. So far there had been two national and one provincial dialogue on how to improve the teaching profession
- Monitoring and evaluation must put in frameworks that had an independent advisory body.

Ms J Kilian (ANC) appreciated the informative presentation. She asked how poverty had crippled learner welfare. On the role of personalisation, she asked what the commitment of players was, especially in the provinces.

Ms A Lovemore (DA) asked how the presentation just given was aligned with the National Development Plan (NDP), especially on technical mobilisation. Further, she asked what the Teacher Performance Campaign comprised. She sought more detail on the costs structure of the NECT and whether it had looked at NGO patterns. She asked where the dialogues referred to in the report could be found.

Ms H Boshoff (ANC) asked how ICT in rural schools would be effected.

Mr T Khoza (ANC) asked what the role was of parents in relation to learner welfare and the role of the media, as he noted there was a need to educate the communities in the rural areas to take more part in educating their children; at the moment the education role was mainly left in the hands of the teachers. He further asked whether retired educators who had been influential could be used to educate the rural communities on the importance of education.

Ms Y Phosa (ANC) congratulated Mr Khosa on the presentation. She asked whether there were any risks that had been identified during the feasibility study, and whether there was a risk management plan. Further, she asked what the sustainability of the study was. She also asked for more detail on the role of the unions.

The Chairperson asked what the Department was doing to address any challenges it had faced so far.

Mr Khosa said that, in order to address poverty, there was collaborative work being carried out under NECT, although the main mandate for poverty issues would need to be addressed by the Department of Social Development.

He added that, to show that unions were committed, R2 to 3 billion had been utilised on education.

Mr Khosa emphasised that the structure of NECT was not intended to create new resources, but to utilize the existing resources and redirect them to priority areas. He noted the need for a master plan, under which the Department of Public Works, Department of Basic Education and Vodacom could work together to address the issue of ICT, especially in rural areas. Dialogue raised during the presentation could be found on the website.

Ms Phosa asked what initiatives had been carried out by the DBE, in collaboration with the Government, to expand education to greater heights, in accordance with the radical social transformation agenda.

Initial Teacher Education Research Project: Department of Basic Education briefing
Mr Temba Kojana, Acting Deputy Director General, Department of Basic Education gave a briefing on the research reports arising from the initial Teacher Education Research Project (the Project). He explained that the Project was prompted by the concerns on the quality of education outcomes and the relationship with learner outcomes. The aim of the study was to inform the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) , as well as the DBE, of the state of the initial teacher education and the teaching experience of the newly qualified teachers, and the project was undertaken as a collaboration between these two departments.

The key priorities for the years 2015-2010 were to support research, promote growth of new teacher educators, focus on languages, promote knowledge and practice standards and support growing areas.

Dr Whitfield Green, Chief Executive Officer, National Education Collaboration Trust presented the context in which the current project on initial teacher education could be understood. The Project set out the system at present, looked at where teaching had come from historically as well as the initiatives that had been put in place to strengthen teacher education in the country.

He added that Teacher Education was a national competence that was funded by the National Government and regulated through the DHET. It was offered by accredited higher education institutions.

He cited some highlights from the start up interventions so far:
- In KZN, the Project had arranged for induction of 1 500 school principals in the use of tool-kits for managing curriculum implementation
- Although the other provinces had not started their programmes for improving district level efficiencies, the circuit managers responsible for fresh start school in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo had been trained
- Change agents had made 1 686 person days inputs in school to perform a wide range of support activities in schools that had received close to no visits by the districts
- A school renovation model was introduced. This cost less than R500 000 to procure the materials and it involved on average 15 interns
- Interns were provided with a stipend and protective clothing
- There had been facilitation of the merging of 34 schools in the Eastern Cape
- There had been an emphasis on the improvement of winter schools in Limpopo and Eastern Cape
- There had been a pilot study done, of maths and science lessons streaming programmes in ten schools in the Eastern Cape, using telematic centres in collaboration with Stellenbosch University
- An index of psychosocial support had been developed in Kwa Zulu Natal.

Local projects were aimed at promoting better coordination and effectiveness of social investments in education. To date NECT had engaged Bridge to collect and review the various maths and science programmes and had produced a set of lessons and guidelines based on the review.

Education Dialogue SA was to create an avenue for open, honest engagement among key stakeholders, being the Government, teacher unions, student organisations, civil society organisations, business and academics. To date there had been two national and one provincial dialogues within the past 12 months, involving over 120 delegates. The three dialogues provided an opportunity for discussions on how to improve teacher professionalisation and school ethos.

Dr Nick Taylor, Chief Executive Officer, National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) made the presentation on the Initial Teacher Research Project. He stated that Initial Teacher Education (ITE) was crucial to develop teacher capacity, as it was the foundation to building professional expertise in teachers. Teaching was a graduate career; a teacher had to do a four year Bachelor of Education (BEd degree) or an undergraduate degree plus a post graduate certificate in education. A teacher would then choose what phase to teach - the foundation, intermediate or the senior phase - and specialise to teach seven subjects.

Dr Nick Taylor stated that in order to understand ITE, it was necessary to look back to students leaving the school system, and what diligent skills they were bringing to the system, and where they were going as newly qualified teachers. He said that the universities were doing a poor job in realisation of ITE.

From research conducted on what the graduates brought out to ITE on the National Senior Certificate on English, it was realised that students were not given an opportunity to explain and analyse the content, purpose and audience of texts. The majority of the questions, especially in paper 2, required short answers which meant students could get away without writing an essay in the literature paper. The grammar activities reflected a drill and practice approach. In consequence, the students came out of school not fully prepared for university.

The following recommendations had been made:
- There should be intensive training of teachers
- The pass level requirements for a bachelors degree should be 50%, and the pass level for diplomas should be 40%
- There should be longer texts set as comprehension exercises

Mr Taylor set out some research results on the condition of schools. He noted that there were low levels of English proficiency among both the learners and the teachers, there was lack of adequate reading pedagogies, as large numbers of learners reaching Grade 5 were illiterate. There were low levels of subject knowledge among the teachers. Schools tended not to deploy teachers based on their subject specialisation, and teachers who had specialised in other subjects were required to teach Maths and English.

The purpose of the project as reported was to generate information to inform the debate about the quality of ITE. In other words, the question to answer was what knowledge and skills the teachers needed in order to act professionally.

There were four components of the Project. The first was to look at the content of ITE programmes at five universities for teachers specialising in the intermediary phase. The second involved creating case studies of Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT’s) in the first two years of their teaching. All final year Bachelor of Education (BEd) students in 2013 would be followed in a survey that tracked them in the workplaces for at least two years. This would assist in getting information on how they felt about teaching, whether they felt they had been adequately taught and how their ideal of teaching had changed. The final component was dissemination of the information gained.

The case study of the five campuses for teachers in the intermediate phase showed that the student numbers were low, and the total percentage competence qualification ran between 13% and 25%. This was very low, particularly given that it had been identified that teachers were needed who had competence to teach maths.  Specialists in maths needed to spend more time on specialisation and the content of the courses should also be taken into account.

 As far as the teaching of English was concerned, and for general academic literacy, there was a need to push for a higher level of reading and writing for the students. He also noted there was limited attention to literature for children and adolescents. Further, he suggested that there should be content on teaching beginner readers how to read, particularly how to interpret texts. The research had shown that the learners did very little writing, which he gave one of the reasons as the under preparedness for teaching writing by the teachers themselves.

In summation, his findings were that in the five Universities where the case study was done, too little attention had been given to teachers not specialising in Maths and English. There was a need for a serious discussion among the teacher educators in all sub disciplines, especially in English and Mathematics, on the course outline, the proficiencies required by the teachers, the curricula to achieve the desired standards, and how the teacher proficiencies would be assessed.

The Chairperson thanked Dr Taylor for the presentation and added that what was taught to the students was dependent on the knowledge of the teachers. She wondered whether the universities had the necessary human resources capacity to effectively carry out their  mandate.

Dr B Bozzoli (DA) noted that the Department, in its presentation, had been quite defensive, and she wondered how teachers were allowed to teach without fully understanding their disciplines.

Mr Y Cassim (DA) asked what the Department's view was on students who had undertaken teaching as an alternative career choice, simply because they could not get funding for the courses that they really wanted to pursue.

Mr Cassim also noted that, despite the fact that students had been funded to undertake the teaching courses, there were still schools, particularly in rural areas, that had a shortage of teachers. He suggested the need for a survey to ensure that the students, on graduation, would meet their side of the bargain to assist society in education.

Ms S Mchunu (ANC) thanked the Department for a good report. She wondered about the impact of long distance learning programmes to learners was,and the challenges that the students faced. She supported the recommendation by Mr Green to teach teachers English, especially those for whom it was a second language.

Ms J Basson (ANC) asked what the recruitment strategy was for the teachers

Mr Kojana stated that the insight provided by the report was intended to contribute towards the improvement of the school curriculum. He also stated that the Department was not being defensive, but rather had presented the findings on research that was undertaken because of the concerns that had previously been raised.

Dr Taylor explained that there were gaps in the public perceptions about teacher education. The reason why nothing much had been done in the past was that the universities hid behind the excuse of academic autonomy to avoid scrutiny from the Government.

Dr Whitefield Green confirmed that the Department was not being defensive. The highlights of the research should be looked at on a concept for teacher education change and development. He also added that there had been policy in place, since 2007, to grow teacher education in the qualitative and quantitative sense.

Ms Kilian asked how the Department made an assessment of the practical ability of teachers to meet the criteria set up in the NDP for Mathematics and English, and what could be done to meet that requirement. In relation to the Higher Education and Training Colleges, she asked what the Department had done to create a balance between theory and practical assessment. She asked what the Department had done to meet the target set by the NDP.

Ms Lovemore asked the Department to elaborate further on the Project, and what would give the Departments confidence that the outcomes on quality assurance would be different to what had been shown in the past. She believed it was important for the Department to ask teachers to undergo competency tests before being registered.

Ms Boshoff asked why the Department had completely ignored the special requirements for teachers for students with disabilities, physical or mental.

Mr Mnguni recommended that research could be done on indigenous languages.

Ms N Mokoto (ANC) noted that some universities did not insist upon trained teaching staff, and this led to the question of how good teachers could be produced from universities when the lecturers there themselves lacked professional teaching qualifications.

Mr C Kekana (ANC) noted the report did not indicate how much had been lost from teachers who did not have practical experience, meaning that they would essentially acquire this "on the job" almost as apprenticeships.

Dr Taylor gave a brief overview of countries such as Finland, where teachers were selected after rigorous testing on subject and pedagogy, and only the most qualified got the jobs, as opposed to low quality systems in other countries which were based on monitoring and punitive legislation to regulate the system. He added that the monitoring was done by persons who did not have experience on the subjects. The problems revolved around lack of knowledge, no policing on what was being done, and no body that was checking on what was being taught or critically assessing the teachers.

The meeting was adjourned.

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