The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education heard presentations from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on the 3 Stream Model, the Second Chance Programme and the progress made in implementing information communication technology (ICT) in South African education.
The Department of Basic Education said the new 3 Stream Model was an attempt to respond to the needs of the public and the government. It was also in line with the National Development Plan (NDP) of having 450 000 learners with a Bachelor-level pass, particularly with mathematics and science, by 2030. This new model would be piloted in 58 schools next year, and would feature three streams of education -- academic, technical vocational and technical occupational. The Department believed that the model was ready for full implementation. Under the new technical vocational stream, there was a target of producing 30 0000 artisans by 2030, which was an area where the country was currently struggling. The Department had also introduced new subjects -- technical mathematics and technical science -- which could be referred to as applied mathematics and applied science. These were relevant in supporting areas of specialisation. These subjects had been introduced in grade 10 this year.
With the Second Chance Programme, the Department was trying to increase the learner retention rate and, taking its cue from the NDP, was looking to obtain an 80% to 90% pass rate. The Second Chance programme was there to provide support to learners who had not been able to meet the requirements of the National Senior Certificate (NSC). Support would be provided for learners who wrote the NSC from 2008 onwards, although the pilot this year would target specifically those who had written in 2015. The Department highlighted the 2011 census statistics indicating that 3.2 million young people were not employed and not in education and training, although the number could be much higher than this. The project would be implemented in three phases: support for supplementary learners in February/March; support to progressed learners in June; and then support to learners who had failed to meet NSC requirements. The programme had received R50 billion from Treasury to implement it.
The Department finally presented on ICT and progress with its implementation in the education sector. There was currently 51% connectivity across the country’s schools, with the Department seeing full connectivity by 2019. Operation Phakisa was a methodology that was driven from the Presidency. An ICT main laboratory had been hosted from September 6 to October 2 last year by the Presidency and the DBE, with 120 participants from a number of organisations and parastatals. The aim was to develop a systematic and detailed roll-out plan for the delivery of curriculum and quality administration in the education sector. The programme would take a phased-in implementation approach while keeping the timeline in check. By 2019, all plans should be achieved. The Department was to start with the neediest sections of the sector, namely multi-grade, inclusive and rural schools.
The Chairperson outlined the agenda for the meeting, highlighting the initiatives the Department of Basic Education had undertaken to address the issues of non-delivery and to make sure that all learners benefited and that all learners were supported. She spoke about the presentations to come -- the 3 Stream Model (also referred to as the Skills Revolution), the Second Chance Programme and Operation Phakisa – and how learners were benefiting from these programmmes. There would also be a progress report, which would be a continuation of the joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications. She hoped the Committee would have a deeper understanding of these programmes when the meeting ended.
Department of Basic Education (DBE): Briefing
Mr Hubert Mweli, Deputy Director General, DBE, indicated that the Minister was in the Eastern Cape, where there were developments that the committee should be aware of. He said that officials of the DBE would be going to the Eastern Cape as part of the oversight programme of the Minister.
3 Stream Model
Mr Mweli outlined what the programme was aiming to do, which was an attempt to respond to the public and what the government had requested the DBE to do in order to bring about curriculum differentiation in the basic education sector. He believed that while all the initiatives to bring change in the system were great, this one was long overdue. The system had now processed it and they believe it was ready for full implementation. He mentioned the National Development Plan (NDP), which stated that there must be an improvement of quality education and learning outcomes, consistent with learning outcomes of countries with similar income levels.
With regard to the strategic direction, the DBE was responding to international protocols and obligations of which South Africa was part, and the Sustainable Development Goal 4 was important in this regard. It was very clear in terms of the provision of inclusive, equitable, quality education and promoting life-long opportunities for all. The plan emphasised the inextricable connection between the NDP and the DBE’s sector plan, which were aligned. They were calling it “Schooling 2019 towards 2030”. He went on to outline the goals of the NDP: improving literacy, numeracy/mathematics and science; increasing the number of Bachelors among those studying maths and science; improving performance in international studies and very importantly, in increasing the retention of learners.
The following principles were followed and they were used to evaluate an education system and were used by organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and others: access, redress, equity, quality and inclusivity, to determine the performance of a system. These were principles that were highlighted by the NDP to ensure inclusivity of learners, as schools were incubators of future citizenry. The issue of differentiation was also very important. The system had been based on two streams -- the academic stream and the vocational stream. There were over 80% of learners pursuing subjects in the academic stream, with a low percentage pursuing the vocational pathway.
Mr Mweli mentioned that learner retention was an issue that was in the NDP, and the Department was making improvements. Special education was a focus area for the Department and they had looked at the streams the Department was offering at the moment to cater for learners with special education needs.
Regarding the repetition rate, the real challenge began in the senior phase. What one saw in grade 9 was the gap in knowledge and skills that started in grade 7 and grade 8, but mounted in grade 9 and reached the summit in grade 10. There was a correlation between the retention and drop-out rate, which was between 15% and 20% -- not the publicised 50% that was generally quoted.
Mr Mweli proceeded to introduce the 3 streams. These were the academic pathway, the technical vocational pathway and the technical/occupational pathway. He reiterated what the NDP said regarding increasing the number of those with a Bachelor’s pass, particularly in mathematics and science. The target was 450 000 by 2030, but the Department was currently far below that. Universities were unable to cope with the numbers the DBE was producing.
In the academic stream, the Department had started rationalising schools which offered the same subjects. They were also emphasising the importance of subject combinations for learners, which they were highlighting through their road shows. Mathematics literacy was an example -- this subject should not be combined with physical science, as it was for social use to help people manage their day-to-day mathematical needs. Focus schools were also important, with the Department looking to increase the number of schools currently available. He also spoke about the coastal schools in Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, where the Department was looking to increase the number of maritime schools, responding to the ocean economy in providing skills that were required. The DBE was also looking at strengthening the agricultural schools in the Free State, North West and Mpumalanga, to make sure they responded to the skills that were required in this sector. They were also looking at servicing the economic zone/corridors in various provinces. Gauteng in particular had been working closely with the DBE and had started focus schools, called schools of specialisation. They had divided Gauteng into five economic zones and had designated a school to each zone. This included the Metro Police, where aviation schools needed to be put up.
Mr Mweli said that under the technical vocational stream, there was a target of 10 000 artisans per year, but they were currently struggling to meet this target. He was, however, positive that they would be able to meet the target of 30 000 by 2030. The Department had also introduced new subjects -- technical mathematics and technical science -- which could be referred to as applied mathematics and applied science. These were relevant in supporting areas of specialisation. These subjects had been introduced in grade 10 this year. In order to prepare the system, subject advisors had been trained at accredited centres and were afforded equipment that they could use when they taught. All teachers who attended the training at these accredited centres had left with a box of equipment to aid in their teaching, allowing for a practical rather than theoretical engagement. The specialisation areas were automotive, fitting and machining and welding, under mechanical technology. Under electrical technology were power systems, digital electronics and electronics, with woodworking, construction and civil services under civil.
Mr Mweli mentioned that the Department had to develop Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM) for the new subjects and new areas of specialisation. The technical occupational stream was accommodating more learners with special education needs. The skills programmes were based on the 12 fields of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) framework, where the Department had developed 26 subjects. The core and fundamentals were languages, mathematics and life skills, with learners choosing any two to three subjects in this area. There would be 58 schools involved in the pilot, with a large number being in the Western Cape. This was because the Western Cape had the highest retention rate, as learners could be referred to these schools, which had influenced the high retention rate in the province.
Mr Mweli mentioned countries that followed this 3 Stream model, where their economies were doing well and there was a low unemployment rate, such as Germany, having 0% unemployment. The Department was studying from the best in the world and was hoping that South Africa could move in the same direction. The Department had a partnership with Germany, where the DG had gone last year and would be going back in April. Germany was supporting the Department with implementing the 3 Stream model. The partnership between business and education was important, as in Germany they had been able to get businesses to provide work place experience for learners and to eventually absorb them into the labour market.
Mr G Davis (DA) asked for a copy of the base documents that formed the presentation in order to get more detail on the programme. He hoped for a second opportunity to engage with this topic. He asked if an audit had been done of the labour market to see where the gaps were, to try and fit the skills of matriculants into the labour market. He also wanted to know about the existing skills of teachers -- had an audit been done on teachers to see where the gaps were in teachers’ knowledge in these three streams? Were teachers capable of teaching in these streams? Were current education students given options to enter into one of these three streams as a specialisation so they were prepared to teach in one of the streams? Was the country still participating in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) studies (the global literacy study) and the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) --the numeracy study, where South Africa positioned third and fourth last in the world in recent years? When was the next round of those studies? He also asked if South Africa was still participating in the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SEACMEQ) study, where we last participated last in 2007, which analysed countries across the SADC region.
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) thanked the Department for bringing the initiative to the Committee for consideration. The Department needed to be applauded for responding to the people in a proactive manner. How were scarce skills related? In 2008 it had been mentioned that Mpumalanga province had a shortage of welders, plumbers and carpenters -- was the introduction of these programmes in response to the needs in the labour market? Would the programme be sustainable and would it make the necessary impact? She asked the DG to also address the issue of school rationalisation and funding. The basic needs of learners with special needs were not being captured in areas such as transport, accommodation, nutrition and fees -- how was the DBE ensuring that those learners were not being discriminated against? How would the Department support and strengthen the area of subject advisors and circuit managers at the district level?
Ms H Boshoff (DA) asked how many schools had been audited and how far the Department was with the audit. With regard to the strengthening of legislative policy and framework, as much as it was good to have this, did the Department have competent staff to implements it? When looking at the National Training Team (NTT) members on slide 30, one would find that the Free State had no civil, electrical or mechanical members, while Limpopo and the Northern Cape had no civil or mechanical. How was the Department going to do it without the necessary staff members?
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) focused on the vocational pathway, and said that Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges fell under the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). He asked if the DBE would collaborate with the DHET, or whether they would run their own programme. How would they strengthen monitoring and evaluation? Was the Department going to provide security against school vandalism and theft? Also, who would be responsible for the continuous upgrades of the technology used?
The Chairperson mentioned the resources that this new programme would require, such as laboratories, workshops and LTSM for new subjects. She asked whether the Department was ready to meet the need financially, as the Department had other programmes in play. What was the Department learning from provinces that did not have national task team (NTT) members -- would the Department not start in those provinces? What was the plan to address this lack? On the issue of articulation, what was the Department preparing these learners to do afterwards? Would it be easier for learners to further their studies after school? Would there not be a repetition of subjects covered in TVET colleges? What were the agreements between the DBE and the DHET?
Mr Mweli replied that the DBE had had several meetings with the DHET. The 3 Stream model would have implications for TVET colleges. The Minister of Higher Education and Training had spoken about this two years ago, when he had asked if TVET colleges would continue in the current form. These colleges offered qualifications equivalent to matric, which was National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 4. There had been consideration in the discussions to raise the qualification in TVET colleges to NQF level 5, and consider offering NQF level 6 qualifications. There had to be a clear distinction between schooling and post-schooling, with the White Paper on higher education referring to this extensively. This would result in colleges similar to the old technicons offering higher certificates and diplomas. The NQF level 4 would be offered only in technicalised schools and other schools that offered academic streams.
He said that Germany still struggled with portability between the streams, meaning when one changed mid-stream, one should have a certain number of subjects in order to move from one stream to another. The streams had been developed in a way that portability was allowed. The pilot would start in 2017 and implementation would begin to be phased in 2018. With regard to preparedness, the Department had finished with Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) 3 subjects for technical high schools in 2014, and 2015 was being used to prepare for implementation in 2016. This year, the Department had started introducing these new subjects and new areas of specialisation in Grade 10. It would move to Grade 11 in 2017, and to Grade 12 in 2018. The overarching objectives were to increase the number of artisans in the country. The whole country had a low number of artisans. For the building of the 2010 World Cup stadiums, the country had had to import artisans from China. The Department was more than ready in terms of technical high schools, as they had already started. There were 1 010 technical schools, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) was responsible for auditing the status of workshops, equipment and the status of the qualification of teachers. From that report, the conditional grant for technical high schools had been introduced, to revamp and build workshops and upgrade equipment, bringing in modern computers.
The Department had also provided Learner Teacher Support Material, with businesses coming on board to assist in funding the development of LTSM and CAPS for technical schools. The books were provided by the private sector, with the DG mentioning the Sasol Inzalo Foundation. Businesses were very excited about the stream model and were a part of the curriculum planning process for both the technical vocational and technical occupational streams. The Department was also getting support from First Rand Merchant Bank and the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (MerSETA). Monitoring and evaluation was taking place in terms of section 8 of the National Education Policy Act, which the Department carried out. Regarding the state of readiness, the DG said that he received monthly reports from Mr Seliki Tlhabane, Acting Chief Director, Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) and Curriculum Enhancement and his team, who had received approval from the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) and the Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM) to proceed.
Mr Mweli said that the national task team had been selected in terms of areas of strength in provinces. It was not an equitable representation, but the concern should be over the number of people trained per province, which should be in line with the number of technical schools. The Department had suitably qualified people. They had also started engaging with universities and the DHET, as only two out of 25 universities focused on technical vocational training. Going forward, the Department wanted more teachers who were specialists and was looking at universities to produce them. The Department already had support from these two universities and was looking to increase this to more universities across the country. He mentioned that part of the training was to capacitate subject advisors. What the Department had not considered were circuit managers, which could be an issue. The Department trained teachers, but overlooked principals who were the curriculum implementers. The same applied to circuit managers -- if they were to oversee these schools; they needed to be capacitated and knowledgeable. Special support through the conditional grant, which was focused on mathematics, science and technology, had been extended to these schools, which would assist them to include these subjects. The funding for the third stream -- technical occupational -- would come in the form of a redirected amount of R400 million. This would come from the Kha Ri Gude, whose activities would be wound down from 2017.
Mr Mweli said the rationalisation of schools that offer the same subjects had started already in some provinces. He cautioned everyone that vocational schools were expensive to run, so provinces had to be careful in expanding them. He believed that the programmes would be sustainable and that the key to this was keeping businesses at the core of the vocational and occupational streams.
He responded to Mr Davis’ question on participating in SACMEQ, and said this was happening. The Department was waiting on results for the round that had taken place in 2011, which should be in at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. The country was still participating in PIRLS and TIMSS, and the last participation had been in 2015. An audit on teachers had been done, but had not been concluded.
Mr Davis had a follow-up question on the analysis of the labour market regarding all the new subjects and whether there was a demand for them. Mr Mweli said an analysis had been done by the DHET and the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) and the Department used it as a base document to inform them whether the system was responding to the skills needs that had been identified.
2nd Chance Matric Programme
Ms Zarene Govender, Project Manager of the 2nd Chance Programme said the presentation would outline what the programme looked like, the progress that Department had made and what the plans were for phase 2, which would be rolled-out shortly. She went on to mention the importance of a matric certificate in South Africa and how more and more people were realising this importance. She spoke about second chance programmes that other departments and organisations had embarked on and how they had not yielded the results the Department would like to see. Regarding supplementary exams, there was a high failure rate, with an attendance rate that was quite low. There were also the progressed learners who would be writing the remainder of their exams in June. Secondary schools were also not in the position to supply the necessary support.
Ms Govender said the Department was trying to increase the learner retention rate and was taking its cue from the NDP, looking to obtain an 80% to 90% pass rate. The 2nd chance programme was there to provide support to learners who had not been able to meet the requirements of the National Senior Certificate (NSC). The support would be provided for learners who wrote from 2008 onwards, and the pilot this year would specifically target those who wrote in 2015. She highlighted the 2011 census of 3.2 million young people who were not employed and not in education and training, although the number could be much higher than this. The project would be implemented in three phases: support for supplementary learners in February/March; support to progressed learners in June; and then support to learners who had failed to meet NSC requirements.
Ms Govender referred to the 2014 Senior Certificate results, where a large number of learners had not achieved. These were the learners the Department wanted to target. In 2015, this number had increased to 188 711 learners -- these were the learners who needed to be brought back into the system. When looking at specific subjects, the Department focused on those that had high non-achievement, and wanted to pay specific attention to these in the pilot. When looking at part-time candidates enrolled, there had been a decrease in numbers, but the Department knew that the pass rate had not increased. When looking the first phase, the supplementary exam and the enrollments in 2014/15, the difference between those who had enrolled and wrote was quite high. For the pilot, the DBE had chosen mathematics, physical science, life sciences, economics, geography, business studies, mathematical literacy and accounting as pilot subjects for this year. Of the progressed learners, 7 015 of them had not written all their subjects and the Department was looking to support them.
Ms Govender highlighted the differences between the DBE’s 2nd chance programme from those of the provinces, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and the Education, Training and Development and Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDP SETA). The difference was that the DBE programme aimed to provide something more holistic in comparison to the other programmes provided. The Department was looking at developing a blended support pack that would look at addressing the different needs of learners. The support package involved face to face teaching, with LTSM. The Department wanted to introduce technology and self-study which would be through support centres across the country. The four methods of the support package were highlighted in the attached presentation.
In terms of broadcasting, the Department had a Telematics programme from Stellenbosch University and this was available to all provinces except Gauteng. An Internet Broadcasting Programme ((IBP) for the programme the DBE offered for maths and science was available in the Free State and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. There were Vodacom centres as well. Learners should make use of the DBE website which had listed all resources available to learners. The Department would be printing text books and self-study guides that would be available to all learners, including current Grade 12 learners.
Ms Govender mentioned the progress the DBE had made. It had met with all the provinces and had consulted with them and various other stakeholders, like National Treasury, DHET, HEDCOM and CEM, in terms of the roll-out. Vodacom had a platform which learners could access for free. The pilot this year would be in two districts per province and two venues per district. There would be three teachers per subject, and this had been implemented in the supplementary examinations that had just been concluded. The DBE was looking at a teacher to learner ratio of 1:30, with 12 hours of face-to-face lessons. There were 19 499 learners who had registered across the country for face-to-face lessons. Regarding digital support venues, there were 322 telematics venues across all provinces expect Gauteng, 60 IBP schools in the Free State, 828 Mindset schools, with a planned roll-out of 1 000, and 74 Vodacom/Teacher centres. There was a total of 1 325 venues across the country where learners could access some kind of support.
Phase two of the programme involved support for progressed learners. There were 7 000 learners that the Department knew of across the country, and it would work with the provinces. The Free State and the Northern Cape would be having camps. The Department was busy with the printing of material. The national DBE team and provinces would form part of the management team, with each province having a representative. For now, the DBE had employed the best teachers from best performing schools which have been identified. Advocacy and recruitment was key to getting these learners into the system.
She mentioned the host of stakeholders the DBE had worked with: the DHET, SAQA, Stellenbosch University, and a comprehensive list found in the attached slides. Treasury had approved funding of R5.3 million for last year, which would be used mainly for advocacy, printing of and distribution of question papers and ‘Mind the Gap’ text books. For the 2016/17 financial year, Treasury had approved R50 million, which would go to the paying of teachers, printing and broadcasting. The DBE would be looking for other funders and collaborators.
Ms Govender highlighted the challenges that the Department was still facing. These included access to digital support, the low number of progressed learners, time constraints for planning, the recruitment and motivation of learners, as well as class attendance.
Mr H Khosa (ANC) asked if there was a system in place to discipline the learners. The community, teachers and parents needed to be ready to support such a programme. The DBE had to be careful in the implementation, as well as look to the managers to see if they were ready and committed. On appointment of teachers, there needed to be fewer temporary placements to avoid tardiness. Who was being given the 2nd chance? In this programme, what was the Department looking at? Would teachers who had resigned and left the system be considered for the programme?
Mr Davis asked for the base documents that informed the presentation to be made available. He asked for clarity on how a learner qualified for a supplementary exam? What was the key reason behind learners who had enrolled not writing the exams? What plans were in place to try to close that gap? Why was the supplementary failure rate so high, and what was being done to remedy this? How many people fitted the profile for a 2nd chance learner that had been outlined in the presentation, and how would they be identified and contacted to get involved in the programme? Would teachers employed for the programme have an option, or would it be mandatory? Would they be paid extra for this work and would steps be taken to ensure this did not distract from their core responsibilities?
Ms Boshoff asked if there were sufficient qualified teachers to give support to learners. With regard to internet connection, rural learners were already discriminated against because of poor and weak coverage and did not have access to the material being broadcast. What about learners who needed to register in rural areas where there were no centres? Would transport be provided for learners who lived far from centres? He sought clarity on the number of centres in Mpumalanga, as one slide had said there were two centres, but Mpumalanga had been allocated four in another slide.
Ms J Basson (ANC) applauded the DBE for the initiative, and believed that this progrmme would close the gap of learners who enrolled but did not write, as they would now receive support they did not have before. Most of the learners that needed this programme were from poor schools that lacked resources and were taught by teachers of poor standard. What about using community centres as the teaching centres, so that rural learners could have access to these resources?
Ms Mokoto said that the programme was currently targeting those learners who were doing supplementary exams, or who were planning to do so in June. What justified the 12-hour face-to-face time that the DBE had allocated? What was the role of parents in this programme, as they would still face the same social issues? What monitoring mechanisms would be put in place at the district level for the national Department to ensure that all planned activities and outcomes were achieved? Who would the people running the centres be reporting to?
The Chairperson asked how the DBE intended rolling-out the programme after the pilot stage? Who was being targeted through this programme? What were the plans to open up this programme to all learners who had failed or not performed well at high school? She also asked for clarity on the 12 hours quoted by Ms Govender. How was the programme arranged to cater for all learners, given that there were three examination periods throughout the year?
Mr Mweli replied that for the first year, the programme would target learners doing supplementary and progressed learners. Going forward, all learners who had not met the requirements of the NSC from 2008 to date would be catered for. The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), the Education, Training and Development Practices (ETDP) SETA and the DHET were making provision for all learners who wrote exams before 2008. The intention was to not target the same areas as the other programmes. The pilot would be extended to only two districts per province for 2016. It would, however, cover all of the 81 districts over time. With regard to rural areas, face-to-face lessons would be extended to these areas, as there were issues with broadband access. Priority would be given to rural areas in this regard, with more urban area learners being encouraged to use internet services and other platforms that were accessible.
In future, people running the centres would report to provinces and districts, as the programmes would be managed at these levels, but run by the national Department. All three bodies -- the DBE, provinces and districts – would do the monitoring and use the existing mechanisms to monitor. In encouraging parents to participate, there had not been a dedicated focus on parents. The DBE would, however, look at ensuring that advocacy targeted parents as well, and got parents involved in order to help improve the governance of the programme.
In response to the 12 hours questions, he said this time period was based on what the DBE could afford. The supplementary failure rate was influenced by the fact that learners had no support, not even access to past papers, and had no real support from the home. The profile was one that matched learners from child-headed families, as revealed by data. Going forward, the Department would consider providing transport for learners who were far from teaching centres.
Mr Mweli said that teachers would be qualified and would be those with a proven track record. Even teachers who had resigned would be considered, provided they could produce a good track record. For current teachers, the lessons would have to be offered outside of the seven hours dedicated to their schools. Teachers would have an option to join the programme. The Department did not have a figure of how many learners fitted the profile.
Ms Govender welcomed the advice and support offered by the Committee, which could only enhance what the Department was doing. Regarding venues, there would be two districts per province and two venues per district, making it four venues per province. The 12 hours was budget related, but also took into consideration the time between the release of the results, the registration of learners and the supplementary exams period.
She replied to a supplementary question on the situation where a learner needed to write a maximum of two subjects in order to qualify. A learner may have either failed one and may want to improve another, or failed two subjects. The Department still had some work to do on advocacy, and wanted to go on a drive to speak to community leaders and School Governing Bodies (SGBs) to gain support. This would not only help motivate learners, but would help in monitoring and making sure the Department achieved thegoals they had set out.
Ms Govender said that the Department would look at forming clusters in order to address the transport issue. In some areas/provinces, it would be easier to hold camps. Vodacom would extend the number of centres available, with priority given to rural areas. If a learner had registered for an exam, they could use any of these centres. The Department needed to increase the number of schools that had internet access. The long term vision was to have enough resources so that any learner could access a teaching centre or have digital resources available.
Ms Boshoff asked, if the Department was using teachers with a track record, why results were so poor. There should be better result outcomes if learners were being taught by such good teachers.
Mr Mweli responded that the programme was starting this year, so the Department could judge only this year’s results to see if the intervention was working or not. Before then, learners did not have support.
Mr Seliki Tlhabane, Chief Director: MST and Curriculum (DBE), said that his presentation would cover progress that had been made to implement information communication technology (ICT) in education and also to outline future plans for engagement.
He started with the status of schools, where 91.6% of schools in the country were on an e-administration system -- schools that were using systems that were commercially sourced. There were three provinces, where every school had a computer for administration and connectivity to perform administrative functions. Regarding connectivity for curriculum use, at the end of 2014/15 the Department was at 46.2%. The Department had been able to connect 1 107 schools between April 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015 through collaboration with the Universal Service and Access Obligation (USAO) roll-out. This had brought the connectivity percentage up to 51%, which covered 12 482 schools. These additional schools were done by Vodacom and MTN, with Cell C having just started with a roll-out in mid-February in Mpumalanga.
Mr Tlhabane showed how connectivity had been divided between broadband and no broadband, which referred to connectivity that met broadband standards and that which did not. Broadband connectivity was at 2mb per second and more, while those that did not meet this standard were below 2mb per second. The Department was engaging the telecommunications and service providers to ensure that they were provided with highs speed connectivity. There was a total of 147 teacher centres across South Africa, and these had been rolled-out in partnership with Vodacom. The presentation outlined the connectivity progress for these centres.
Mr Tlhabane spoke about Operation Phakisa, which was a methodology that had been driven from the Presidency. The ICT main laboratory had been hosted from September 6 to October 2 2015 by the Presidency and the DBE, with 120 participants from a number of organisations and parastatals. The aim of the lab was to develop a systematic and detailed roll-out plan for the delivery of a curriculum and quality administration in the education sector. The Department had presented this programme to the Ministerial Managerial Meeting (MMM), where it had been recommended that they focus on the main challenges and current priorities in the basic education sector. It had also been advised not to go full force, but to take a phased-in implementation approach while keeping the timeline in check -- by 2019, all plans should be achieved. The Department was to start with the neediest sections of the sector, namely multi-grade schools, inclusive and rural schools. The DBE must ensure cost saving in their approach and come up with solutions that were affordable.
Mr Tlhabane went through the framework for the implementation of ICT, with detailed activities and initiatives outlined in the presentation. He said there was a lot of digital content that available, but the Department had not produced norms and standards to regulate what got into schools and classrooms. It was therefore important for the Department to develop norms and standards as quickly as possible. It was also important for higher education institutions to agree on standards for ICT integration into the curriculum, so that teachers who came out of the system must already possess certain skills and competencies.
Mr Tlhabane spoke about the Department’s organogram and how the DBE believed there should be a branch that dealt with issues of ICT, so that all ICT activities in the sector could be located in one branch and driven from the same point. Operation Phakisa was also looking at establishing a delivery unit that made up the ICT branch that the DBE was talking about.
Mr Khosa asked whether the universities preparing future teachers were offering ICT. This was so there would be no need to train them further when they entered the workplace. He also asked about security in schools -- what was the targeted timeframe from the DBE to ensure that all schools had security?
Mr Mnguni asked whether schools with e-administration access were under Operation Phakisa, or was the DBE also counting schools that had made these provisions themselves? With regard to the issue of speed per minute, had they tried to monitor that? Were teachers able to access the ICT services? Would the Department monitor the necessary upgrades needed on the systems and on the teacher curriculum?
Mr Khoza said he could not over emphasise the issue of security in schools, as it would be useless to provide equipment which was then stolen. He asked who would be responsible for the maintenance of the equipment.
The Chairperson asked what the main challenges were that the DBE had faced with Operation Phakisa.
Mr Mweli said that the one of the challenges was the policy in play. The role of the national department was to develop a policy framework, monitor and support -- the implementing agents were the provinces. Gauteng and the Western Cape took conscious and deliberate efforts to prioritise ICT, but this was not the case with all the provinces. Rural provinces received something called a redress factor from the Equitable Share (ES), which considered the rurality of a province, meaning rural provinces get more funds because of this factor. ICT was, however, viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity in these provinces. The Premiers and Provincial Executive Council decide how much needs to go towards ICT from their ES. The second challenge had to do with inter-departmental relations, where broadband roll-out was the responsibility of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS), and not the DBE. E-learning was crucial in learning outcomes, which was the responsibility of DBE. The other challenge was security, but this was cultural issue in South Africa. India was very poor, but ICT equipment was put in a public space and nothing happened to it. He was not sure whether the Department could provide security for over 20 000 schools. Another challenge was the cost of procuring gadgets, but they had found ways to curb this and were working with Treasury in this regard.
Regarding maintenance, the contracts with service providers would cover maintenance and the upkeep of equipment. The achievements on e-administration were not part of Operation Phakisa, but had been part of a long running programme. The current graduate teachers the DBE was getting were not trained in ICT, but they wanted this to be changed and for teachers to be exposed to ICT from their first year.
Mr Tlhabane spoke on the issue of bandwidth speed and how this continued to be a challenge. They were in discussion with the DTPS on a way of not just providing a certain size capability, but on ensuring that when 50 computers logged in at the same time, there was no overload of the system. These were the types of connectivity systems they were looking at. Teacher centres were located within communities, so accessibility was not an issue, as they were within reach. The Department was monitoring how many teachers were being trained in partnership with Microsft and Neotel, with an active data base. Provinces themselves indicated in which areas the teachers needed training. Another challenge that they faced was accessing the Universal Service and Access Fund (USAF), which was managed by the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA), so that schools could benefit from the e-rate. Schools were ultimately left with high bills for the procurement of ICT equipment.
Mr Khoza had a follow up question on the statement that provinces were implementers and the DBE could not dictate on how they used their funds. He wanted to know about conditional grants that other departments and municipalities had implemented.
Mr Mweli responded that the fact the Operation Phakisa stemmed from the Presidency meant the President was aware of the need and the importance of ICT., there A proposal had been made to Treasury for R15 billion to cover the issue of conditional grants for ICT, but now Operation Phakisa had come with a figure of R130 billion. They had asked Treasury to consider this as a conditional grant, but Treasury had rejected this on the basis that there were too many conditional grants already in the system. He was optimistic, however, that by 2019 all schools would be connected.
The chairperson thanked the DG and the rest of the DBE delegation for the presentation. She then excused them.
Adoption of Minutes
The minutes of 10 and 27 October, 3 November 2015, 10 and 23 February, and 1 March were adopted..
The meeting was adjourned.