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EDUCATION & RECREATION SELECT COMMITTEE
15 October 2002
DEPARTMENT ON EDUCATION LAWS AMENDMENT BILL: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Education Laws Amendment Bill [B31B-2002]
Chairperson: Mr D Kgware (ANC)
The Committee was informed that amendments to the draft Bill was necessary as admission of underage learners was a complex issue and took some considerable time to develop. The Committee heard that the criteria should be reliable and effective and that proper implementation would require the training of evaluators.
Briefing by Adv Boshoff from the Department
Adv Boshoff informed the Committee that the most critical controversial amendments to the Bill referred to the admission age of a learner to a public school and the question of curriculum design and assessment. Other areas were generally a repetition of applicable principles in legal drafting of this nature and to ensure a user-friendly language.
There were four pieces of legislation for amendment before the Committee. The South African Schools Act, 1996 was to be amended to provide for a national curriculum and the process for the assessment of learner achievement in public and independent schools. He added that the Bill made provision for the appointment of an intermediary to assist minor learners in disciplinary hearings and most importantly to provide for admission age requirements for public and independent schools.
The criteria for admission of an underage learner was complex and took some considerable time to develop. This criterion must be reliable and effective and the same should be properly implemented which process would necessitate the training of evaluators. He emphasised the fact that the proposed criteria must be based on an educationally sound basis in order to ensure that learners were admitted on an equitable basis.
The proposed criteria would ensure that there was no unfair discrimination to learners and that the admission was fair to the individual leaner as well as other learners in the classroom. Under the new criteria due recognition was given to the diversity of language, culture and economic background. The criterion acknowledged the differences between urban and rural environments and that the physical, psychological and mental development of the child was equally taken into account.
Adv Boshoff explained to the Committee that provision for the admission age was necessitated by the Constitutional Court's ruling. The Court was of the view that whilst government policy offered guidance in administrative function of institutional governance, private persons were not bound by it. It became necessary to promulgate these provisions into laws and regulations so that there was uniformity in the administration of educational institutions. The same consideration on the unenforceability of policy motivated amendments to the provisions on curriculum and assessment.
Mr. Tolo (ANC) agreed with the Chair that the clause by clause procedure should be discussed at the stage of debating the Bill. The purpose of this session was to familiarise with the amendments and that in any case the Committee had interacted on the Bill at various levels.
Mr. Raju (DP) too concurred with sentiments expressed by Mr Tolo. He pointed out that the necessary formalities must run their course and that therefore it was convenient for the Committee to run through the clauses at the debating stage.
The Chair said that all members were in agreement that the Committee would scrutinise the Bill clause by clause at the stage of debate. He then ruled that further deliberations on the Bill would be held in abeyance until the time allocated for debate whereat the Committee would also debate the Higher Education Amendment Bill.
The Chair informed members that the Committee would go to the Provinces next week and so they should be prepared for this event.
Mr Tlhagale (UCDP) asked if members would be required to make presentations at the Provinces.
The Chair explained that members go to the Provinces to listen and respond to the concerns raised at that level and not to make a presentation.
Mr. Tolo (ANC) pointed out that although the correct position was stated by the Chair in practice the Provinces had always expected members to brief them when it should be the other way round.
The Chair agreed with Mr. Tolo's explanation and noted that there was the need for the Provinces to be educated on these procedures.
Mr. Raju raised the issue of the recent academic awards to distinguished educators throughout the country that took place in Pretoria and wondered why the Committee was never invited to this auspicious event.
Th Chair acknowledged that the Committee was not invited and could not speculate on why this was so. He promised to take up the matter with the Premiers at the Provinces and the Chair of Chairpersons.
The meeting was adjourned.
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