The Department of Basic Education reported on the 2015 National Senior Certificate Examination performance: 644 536 candidates wrote and 70.7% passed compared to the 75.8% pass rate in 2014. Of these, 166 263 (25.8%) qualified for Bachelor Studies at Higher Education Institutions; 183 270 (28.5%) qualified for Diploma Studies at Higher Education Institutions and 105 770 received Higher Certificates. A total of 65 671 entered as progressed learners and 22 060 passed (37,6%). KwaZulu-Natal had an overall pass rate of 60.7%, Limpopo 65.9% and Eastern Cape had 56.8%. Significantly, there was an increase of 117 798 candidates in the 2015 enrolment. The number of learners passing Mathematics increased from 120 523 in 2014 to 129 481 in 2015. There were 2631 schools that attained 80% and above while 470 schools attained 100%.There were 59 districts that had a pass rate of 60% and above while 29 had 80% and above. Improvements were noted in the School Based Assessment (SBA) at the Grade 12 level, but Grade 10 and Grade 11 lagged behind in quality and standard. Key challenges remained teacher capacity in the designing of assessment tasks; over-dependence on past question papers and lack of training.
The Department spoke about its plans for 2016. R347 million was provided to resource schools for the improvement of Mathematics, Sciences and Technology teaching and learning at 1 000 schools; 595 schools were supplied with ICT resources; 802 workshops were supplied with equipment, tools and machinery; 136 Physical Science laboratories in Mpumalanga were supplied with consumables and apparatus; 17 824 learners were funded to participate in Maths and Science Olympiads. Criteria to select schools in the intervention programmes were those that achieved below 60 / 70% pass in 2014 and enrolled 100 or more learners in a subject in 2015. The aim of the Second Chance Matric Programme was to provide support to learners who had not met the requirements of the NSC. Poor language skills were a major reason for underachievement. Common challenges faced by Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal were systemic inefficiencies and poor human resource placement and utilisation. It was recommended that curriculum coverage should be carefully monitored and officials undergo the competency-based assessment before assuming duty for their posts at District level.
Members questioned the system in place to hold underperforming teachers accountable, noted that the rural allowance differed in provinces, observed that union meetings and funeral services were held too frequently during the school day which affected teaching time; expressed concern about the number of learners who did not pass and teachers who taught subjects they knew nothing about. They said language, Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM) and human resources should be prioritised as they contributed to the high failure rate. They asked what plans were in place to rationalise schools, standardise districts and make all schools Information Communication and Technology (ICT) compliant. They suggested that the e-books system should be engaged as text books were not available.
In its “Ensuring that all Hands are on Deck: Quality Basic Education for All” presentation, the Department noted that it visited 803 schools between November and December 2015 and 799 in January 2016. Focus areas were admission and registration, LTSM and human resource provisioning. It found 435 schools had finalised admission and registration and 364 had not. The majority of schools visited were ready to start with learning and teaching. Key issues were too many schools start the year with vacant substantive posts, dirty and poorly maintained schools. In total, 74% had received their top ups of LTSM, 92% had received Workbook 1 in all provinces and the 8% that had not were being followed up. Special schools complained of being excluded in the provision of workbooks. Of the schools visited in January, 543 had a learner profile for each learner, while 256 did not. KwaZulu-Natal had the highest percentage (42%) of learners without learner profiles; 42% of schools visited in January had a Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) Implementation Plan as its absence was a signal that learners were not receiving the support they needed; 91% of schools visited had a timetable for the mandated subjects. Only 60% of the schools visited in January had filled all their substantive posts. Some schools were still utilising un- and under-qualified teachers.
The Department provided a progress report on the Committee recommendations stemming from its oversight visits to Limpopo and Mpumalanga in 2015 and Kwazulu-Natal and Eastern Cape in 2016.
Members questioned why short schooldays on Fridays and paydays were still a challenge, requested that handymen be on site at schools, were worried that many learners did not have desks and yet Correctional Services were supposed to supply these, asked about the LTSM retrieval policy, if learners profiles were optional, and about special school waiting lists. They expressed concern about the security and sanitary conditions of schools and lack of storage facilities for textbooks.
The Chairperson remarked that everyone had a view where education was concerned which showed that education was a societal issue. She questioned what could be done to improve the educational system in the country. The Committee was worried about places like Eastern Cape where education had not been taken to the level where it should be.
The Deputy Minister, Mr Enver Surty, thanked the Committee for its efficient oversight. This had resulted in the ability of the Department to correct some deficit within the system. He read apologies from the Minister, Ms Angie Motshekga who was launching the National De-worming Programme. He thanked Provinces like the Western Cape and Gauteng that had done very well. He said going forward, the DBE would like to do better than the previous year, emphasise the importance of ICT positioning. Professional teaching Development and the reality of migration from other Provinces would be highlighted and given a better approach as well as the importance of Library and reading. He thanked the DG and his team for their support. There was a huge challenge with regards to infrastructure. The DBE was on track but had not yet overcome the challenge. What had emerged was the importance of having a data-driven approach.
National Senior Certificate Examination Performance 2015
Mr Rufus Poliah, DBE Chief Director, Examinations, said a total of 644 536 candidates wrote the 2015 NSC examination (EC: 87 090; FS: 31 161; Gauteng: 108 442; KZN: 162 658; LP: 101 575; MP: 54 980; NW: 33 286; NC: 11 623; WC: 53 721). Of these, 455 825 (70.7%) passed compared to 2014 (75.8%). Of the 644 536 candidates, 166 263 (25.8%) qualified for Bachelor Studies at Higher Education Institutions and 183 270 (28.5%) qualified for Diploma Studies at Higher Education Institutions and 105 770 received Higher Certificates. A total of 65 671 entered as progressed learners, 58 656 wrote the examinations, 7 015 did not complete and 22 060 passed (37,6%). There were 17 415 full time repeat candidates in the year under review, 12 704 (72.9%) passed.
Comparison of pass rate for provinces for the past three years were provided. Some examples were:
KwaZulu-Natal: 2013 (77.4%); 2014 (69.7%); 2015 (60.7%);
Limpopo: 2013 (71.8%); 2014 (72.9%); 2015 (65.9%);
Eastern Cape: 2013 (64.9%); 2014 (65.4%); 2015 (56.8%).
He identified the following significant achievements: Increase of 117 798 candidates in the 2015 enrolment; number of learners passing mathematics increased from 120 523 in 2014 to 129 481 in 2015; the number of learners who qualified for qualified for Bachelor and Diploma Studies at Higher Education Institutions; 90 027 female learners qualified for Bachelors at HEIs; 2631 schools attained a pass percentage of 80% and above while 470 schools attained a pass percentage of 100%; 59 of the 81 districts attained a pass rate of 60% and above while 29 achieved a pass rate of 80% and above.
Mr Priscilla Ogunbanjo, DBE Director: Examinations and Assessment, spoke about the School Based Assessment (SBA). She said the SBA which was fundamental to improving learner performance, remained a perennial challenge. Improvements were noted in SBA at the Grade 12 level, but Grade 10 and Grade 11 lagged behind in quality and standard. She said key challenges remained teacher capacity in the designing of assessment tasks; over-dependence on past question papers or provincial/district based tasks and lack of training. She spoke about standard deviation (SD), SBA marks and rejected marks. She said in conclusion that improvement plans would be drafted based on the areas of weakness and DBE would monitor the implementation and track improvement annually.
DBE Plans for 2016
Mr Hubert Mweli, DBE Director General, said R347 million was provided for 2015/16 to resource schools for the improvement of Mathematics, Sciences and Technology teaching and learning at 1 000 schools with a focus on Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) resources (Workshop Equipment, Machinery; Tools and Laboratories); 595 schools were supplied with ICT resources such as laptops, tablets and software for the Maths, Science and Technology curriculum – 33 of those schools were in Eastern Cape; 544 in Mpumalanga; 10 in Northern Cape and 8 schools in Western Cape; 802 workshops were supplied with equipment, tools and machinery; 136 Physical Science laboratories in Mpumalanga were supplied with consumables and subject related apparatus; 17 824 learners were funded to participate in Maths and Science Olympiads. He said criteria to select schools that participated in the intervention programmes were schools that achieved below 60 / 70% pass in the 2014 results and all schools that enrolled 100 or more learners in a subject in 2015. He said the aim of the Second Chance Matric Programme was to provide support to learners who had not been able to meet the requirements of the NSC. Support offered included face to face classes in two districts per province and in two venues per district. Poor language skills were indicated as a major reason for underachievement. Common challenges faced by Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal included systemic inefficiencies and poor human resource placement and utilisation. Some of the recommendations were: Curriculum coverage should be carefully monitored and reported against. Ensure that all officials undergo the competency-based assessment before assuming duty for their posts at District level.
Mr H Khosa (ANC) asked what system was in place to assist and hold accountable the teachers that were underperforming, especially the newly appointed ones.
The Director General Mweli replied that the Superintendent General of Western Cape found the new entrants full of energy and knowledgeable. The Superintendent General was among the few who went to the district and school levels.
Mr Khosa said there was a general belief that Universities compared to the Colleges of Education of old, were not grooming the teachers well. What plans were in place to remedy the situation? The rural allowance provision differed in provinces. Rural learners were suffering as teachers did not want to go there.
The DG replied that DBE was attending to that because that had posed some challenges.
Mr Khosa said union meetings and funeral services were held too frequently during the school day in some districts and asked what the DBE was doing to deal with this as it affected teaching time.
Ms Palesa Tyobeka, DBE Deputy Director-General: District Support, Coordination and Monitoring, replied that the Department was working to strengthen that through management.
Mr Khosa said there were teachers who taught subjects which they knew nothing about. What plans were in place to remedy this?
The DG replied that when the bar was raised the results and standard would drop because it would take a while to grapple with this. He added that the teachers would have adjusted after three to five years.
Ms D van der Walt (DA) said it was better to say 190 000 learners did not pass in the country rather than say 74.4% passed. The number of learners who did not pass was concerning.
The DG replied that DBE had provided more learners in matric in 2015 and in the last three years, quintile 1-3 have provided more passes than quintile 4-5.
Ms van der Walt said teachers were teaching subjects for which they were not qualified and it was observed during oversight visits that in many provinces, teachers from other grades taught Grade R. These teachers were paid the salaries of the higher grade teachers which would affect the finances. In Limpopo, last December, learners were denied their school report unless they paid R300 to have the school cleaned. She said a district office in Modimolle rented a shopping mall and R80 000 was paid a month. The report was that there were 11 offices and all were utilised. This was wrong and dishonest and made the DBE appear bad. She said in 2011, R7.3 million was paid to a company who was to provide all LTSM for technical subjects. What happened to the agreement?
Deputy Minister Surty replied that the Director General and his team were hard at work dealing with the reality of management of resources. With regards to teacher development, it was increasing in terms of capacity.
Ms H Boshoff (DA) questioned why there was a significant drop from 75.8% in 2014 to 70.7 in 2015 in NSC performance. One speaks to teachers and they say they have never seen district officials. DBE should find out where the problem lay. There was a need to assist special needs schools. She mentioned that learners in a school in Mpumalanga sat in roofless classes. She said a Kenyan was teaching Afrikaans in one of the districts. What plans were in place to ensure that all schools had access to ICT? What was the current retention rate for Grade 12 learners?
Deputy Minister Surty replied that 85-90% of schools were connected to ICT. The dream of DBE was 100% by 2019. A lot was happening in ICT. Gauteng and Western Cape were moving faster than other provinces. The Department would pay more attention to the other provinces that were not doing as well.
Ms J Basson (ANC) said the briefing by Dr Poliah was an eye opener and lots of her questions were answered. The graphs showed that DBE was on track. The quintiles from poor backgrounds have obtained more bachelors than those from rich areas. She commended the DG on the introduction of African Languages as the move was well received in the Northern Cape. She was concerned that face to face classes were offered in only two districts per province for the Second Chance Matric Programme. How did DBE accommodate learners that were struggling to do this on their own? How soon were the challenges of the Post Provisioning Norms (PPN) going to be addressed?
The DG replied that it was a pilot for 2016 and the DBE was going to increase the scope from next year.
Ms Basson commented on the oversight visits saying that the teachers were few and there was no school transportation. Some schools in the Eastern Cape had not received text books for the past two years. She asked how soon the inter-departmental challenges such as roads and bridges would be addressed as it made schools inaccessible and promoted absenteeism.
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) said the impact of the parliamentary oversight visits should result in change. Schools were under performing for the last three to five years, but no action had been taken against such schools. A high level of community involvement was needed to address systemic inefficiencies in KZN, Limpopo and Eastern Cape. There was a need for practical results. ICT functionality in the schools should be monitored to know whether this was working in each school. He requested the list of the schools which had access to telematic broadcasting solutions and Mindset broadcasts. He asked if the human resources for teaching mathematics were available.
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) said DBE had to prioritise the question of language. It was observed that one of the factors that resulted in failure in the NSC examinations was language. If the DBE decided to change the type of questions, it created an avenue for failure. To what extent were the learners prepared before the examinations as it would be unfair if difficult questions were given to learners who were not prepared.
Deputy Minister Surty replied that that this type of questioning was cognitively demanding and by raising the bar, the Department was preparing the learners to deal with the challenge of tertiary education institutions. The ability of the country to develop problem solving analytical skills was lacking, as it had not been exposed to analytical pedagogical skills in quintiles 1-3 but also 4-5. Universities should be encouraged to train graduates in a way that the graduates would train their teaching colleagues and learners. Universities should equip educators with this skill. It was a matter that should debated because it was critical. On the basis of what you see in School Based Assessments, teachers must be trained in SBA.
Director General Mweli added that the purpose of assessment could be multi-fold. Examinations could be used to improve the quality of both teaching and learning. The impact was only determined once the learners had written.
Ms Mokoto said that during the oversight visit, a principal said learners failed because high schools focused on the matriculants and not the other grades. Teachers were frustrated. There were no books. The e-books system should start working if the text books were not available. How did DBE plan to do curriculum coverage and how many times would a progressed learner get the chance to be retained in the system. To what extent was DBE monitoring to ensure that the improvement plans were implemented?
Deputy Minister Surty replied that there was a huge possibility for progressed learners as they had attained a 59% pass rate. The DBE had come up with some enablers to assist learners on their own. For example, the learner must comply with attending classes, writing tests or forfeit the opportunity. We must mobilise the community to provide dedicated support for progressed learners. He added that by 2017, curriculum development would be digitalised.
The Chairperson said leave management was a challenge and asked if DBE was receiving value for money. What were the plans to ensure this was well managed as some teachers had been on leave for 10 years.
The Deputy Minister replied that it was an abuse of the system. DBE succeeded in its intervention but as soon as its foot was off the pedal, the challenge re-emerged. He asked for details so that the Department would assist.
Mr Mweli added that DBE was monitoring districts and provinces and hoped to reduce the phenomenon.
The Chairperson asked what plans were in place to rationalise schools and standardise districts throughout the country.
The Deputy Minister replied that mergers, closures and rationalisation are foremost in the policies of the DBE. Among the priorities for poor schools were inclusive education at the early stage of development and merging small non-viable schools / dilapidated schools and housing them in a state of the art structure. He added that the DBE had gone a long way in terms of providing a framework for the districts. You cannot have more than 300 schools in a district. Where districts were well managed, they do well. It was time to regulate our framework in terms of districts so that they can be properly budgeted for.
The Chairperson said the quality of LTSM being distributed in the Eastern Cape left much to be desired. What was the DBE doing when the deliveries were done? Those suppliers needed to be taken to task because money had been paid for the calculators.
The Deputy Minister replied that a view adopted by many including Western Cape and Gauteng was that the purchase of calculators should be centralised and of a good quality as it was in the best interest of learners and a huge cost-saving device.
The Chairperson said some schools had only four books per subject. In Eastern Cape, the Provincial Department had admitted that textbooks were not supplied. Is the DBE playing its part in managing this?
Deputy Minister Surty replied that the DBE had centralised its system and it was at the threshold of national procurement of textbooks. It could not leave it to the discretion of the provinces. In terms of workbooks, DBE delivered 98%. He said the same result could be achieved for textbooks.
The Chairperson asked for more details on the Second Chance Matric Programme as it was a laudable project.
Mr Mweli replied that the DBE would return and give a full presentation.
The Chairperson said poor language skills affected both learners and teachers. She said the country was faced with a huge problem when teachers could not express themselves in English.
The Deputy Minister replied that the Department had taken a decision on the introduction of English Language in Grade 1 as opposed to Grade 4 which was the current situation. When the language used in teaching changes, it affects the learner as it takes an average of two years to adjust. What the DBE would do differently was to empower the educators. In the rural area, where a child does not speak Africans or English but the language at home, the child was forced to do what he had to in a different language. It was a serious matter as tertiary institutions were also affected. The DBE would address it by acknowledging language as a critical challenge; have assessment of educators to test their linguistic ability so that our educators can have confidence; and thirdly the university should make it compulsory for the educators to have passed English and Mathematics. He added that DBE had not been able to bridge the linguistic divide.
Mr Mweli added that DBE had introduced English language in Grade 1. Many learners had only begun English classes at Grade 4 in the past. He remarked that there were two more presentations so that some of the questions would be responded to after these presentations.
The Chairperson commented that the School Based Assessment was not delivering. The new teachers were not ready. She challenged the DBE to develop teachers that were willing. She thanked the Department for its efforts.
Ensuring that all Hands are on Deck: Quality Basic Education for All
Ms Palesa Tyobeka, DBE Deputy Director-General: District Support, Coordination and Monitoring, said 803 schools were visited between 7 November and 4 December 2015 while 799 were visited from 11 to 22 January 2016. Key focus areas for the visits included admission and registration, LTSM and human resource provisioning. Of the schools monitored in January, 435 said they had finalised admission and registration, while 364 had not. All visits undertaken complemented provincial and district-led processes and where monitors reported challenges, these were picked up by relevant district and DBE daily to ensure a speedy resolution. The majority of schools visited were found to be ready to start with learning and teaching – even more so than in previous years.
Key issues that were picked up as still a challenge across the system was that too many schools start the year with vacant substantive posts, poorly maintained schools (dirty and even where the school was clean, the state of the toilets was shocking); insufficient or broken furniture as well as schools that continue not to plan for a minimum of seven working hours a day or simply do not safeguard it by openly declaring Fridays and ‘pay days’ short working days.
Further findings included:
▪ 74% of monitored schools visited had received their LTSM top ups;
▪ 92% had received Workbook 1 in all provinces. The 8% that had not received this by the time of monitoring were being followed up.
▪ The special schools visited complained of often being excluded in the provision of workbooks. This was also being followed up.
▪ Out of 799 schools visited in January, 543 had a learner profile for each learner, while 256 did not. KwaZulu-Natal had the highest percentage (42%) of learners without learner profiles;
▪ 42% of schools visited in January had a SIAS Implementation Plan, while 58% did not. The absence of SIAS implementation plans in schools was a signal that learners were not receiving the support they needed.
▪ 76% of schools visited had both School Improvement Plans (SIP) and Academic Improvement Plans (AIP), while 195 schools did not.
▪ Only 60% of the schools visited in January had filled all their substantive posts. Some schools were still utilising un- and under-qualified teachers.
▪ 91% of schools visited had a timetable for the mandated subjects, while 9% did not.
▪ Problems with teacher provisioning in some of the provinces.
She said the DBE team would conduct follow up visits at the beginning of second quarter to assess progress.
Department Progress Report on Committee Oversight Visit Recommendations
Mr Moses Simelane, DBE Director: Inclusive Education, gave a progress report in response to the findings/recommendation of the Committee’s Limpopo and Mpumalanga oversight visits in 2015. He noted the Committee’s areas of focus included provision of Learner and Teacher Support Material (LTSM), availability of Learner Transport, access to School Nutrition Programme and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). In Limpopo, some of the findings were: there were no Braille LTSM in special schools, lack of teacher assistants and professional staff, learner transport was a concern at Grace and Hope. It was recommended Braille LTSM be provided, professional staff posts be filled and learner transport policy be complied with. He said that in response: Special schools were provided with Apex Braille notebooks, 204 posts for health professionals were advertised and Grace and Hope procured a bus with the SGB School Fund. In Mpumalanga, there were no funds to procure textbooks, teachers were not adequately trained. He reported that in response, workbooks including Braille and large print were ordered for all schools, 488 teachers had been trained in curriculum differentiation and 600 were capacitated in ECD introductory basic care.
Ms Marie-Louise Samuels, Acting Chief Director: Curriculum and Assessment, gave a progress report on the findings of the Committee’s KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape oversight visits in 2016. The challenges identified in KZN included lack of maths educators so that curriculum coverage was compromised. There was a dire need for specific programmes for progressed learners, there were high vacancy rates and temporary teachers in rural districts. Ms Samuels said that the KZN province department planned to strengthen the implementation of the Teacher Collaboration programmes, implement the curriculum coverage tool, and increase the Learner : Educator ratio, to make provision for office based posts, and place Funza Lushaka graduates in rural areas.
She noted the Committee’s findings in the Eastern Cape included that the stationery delivered was of a very poor quality and did not contain all the requirements; the gross shortage of textbooks was exacerbated by poor retrieval of textbooks from learners; the curriculum was not completed due to absenteeism and shortage of teachers; there was bad subject combination and constant change in educators due to the three-month contracts awarded to temporary teachers. The Eastern Cape provincial plans were that the poor quality stationery was to be replaced, procure a tool to monitor curriculum coverage and improvement plans, and vacant posts were to be filled. DBE was to conduct regular follow-up visits to the respective provinces to track progress and submit progress reports to the Committee on a monthly basis.
The Director General remarked that this was the best approach as it afforded answers from the horse’s mouth. The DBE would respond to some questions and answers others at another date.
Mr Khosa asked why short school days on Fridays and paydays was still a challenge. He pointed out that Dr Simelane had not responded to the Committee’s concern about the waiting list at Tsakane Special School. He asked how many were admitted this year and the plans for those still on the waiting list.
Ms Tyobeka replied that those were the days the Department did not go out to monitor and the DBE did not have those monitoring squarely on its radar.
Ms van der Walt said there was a need for handymen on site at schools. In Mpumalanga, some structures were on the verge of collapsing on the learners. Prefects should go back on duty. About 850 schools still do not have desks. Learners were sitting on crates during an oversight visit in Bela-Bela. The Minister said Correctional Services would assist in making desks. If there was really a will, there would be a way.
Ms Boshoff referred to the LTSM retrieval policy and asked who brought back the book when one book was given to two learners. What plans were in place to assist when learners were transferred from one school to another as there were no learner profiles? She said there was no provision for health professionals in Mpumalanga.
Ms Basson asked who was to do the LTSM top ups.
Ms Tyobeka replied that the schools in question were Section 21 schools who had an allocation to deal with that.
Ms Basson said she was happy about buses purchased by Limpopo. Were there maintenance and control measures in place for the buses? Were there provisions to transport learners from the farm areas to the nearby schools?
Mr Mnguni asked if something could be done by the support staff to take care of school toilets. What was being done about security as some schools had and others did not?
Ms Tyobeka replied that support staff and security were squarely under review.
Mr Mnguni was concerned that schools had no provision for storage so that textbooks that were no more in use could be recycled. Most learners had no birth certificates. How do we assist in the maths issue when a learner has passed all the subjects except mathematics, as not everyone could deal with numbers?
The DG replied that DBE was revisiting that as the Department was overzealous as a result of being beaten up by the public and internationally that DBE had not done well in Maths.
Mr Khoza was concerned that most secondary school did not have learner profiles and questioned if they were optional. He said if poor performance was as a result of poor leadership, the DBE had to be decisive. How can DBE assist in addressing shortage of maths teachers?
Ms Tyobeka replied that the learner profile was not optional.
Ms Mokoto said the findings on telephones and other means of communication, water, security and fencing, aids to special schools should be addressed with urgency. There is a need to have skills taught in schools as only a few of the learners could go on to further education and training. She referred to uniformity in the school curriculum, school structures, inter-departmental collaboration, and security. It was abnormal for a school to operate as an enemy of the community. The DBE should enhance the school-community relationship as people would take their children out of schools if that relationship was not cordial.
The Chairperson said DBE’s second and third quarter reports would be presented next week Most concerns raised in the current meeting would also be addressed. She remarked that it had been a very fruitful meeting. She suggested presentations for next week be given to the Portfolio Committee the next day to enhance preparation.
The meeting was adjourned.