Matric results 2016, National Strategy for Learner Achievement, 3-stream curriculum: Department Basic Education briefing, Deputy Minister present

Basic Education

14 February 2017
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC)

Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education (DBE), in the presence of the Deputy Minister, briefed the Committee on the recently released 2016 matric results, the National Strategy for Learner Achievement (NSLA), and the Three-Stream Model which is geared towards the provision of learners with alternative pathways for professional development of skills. Although a DA Member asked that the presentation on the Three Stream Model be deferred to the next meeting, this was not agreed to.

The Department gave a full presentation on the statistics for enrolments, absenteeism, progression of learners, comparisons to the previous year, provincial pass rates, bachelors' pass rates and others.

Full time enrolments increased in 2016. 64 474 did not write their exams. Candidates who wrote seven or more NSC examinations in 2016 decreased, compared to 2015, with KwaZulu-Natal accounting for the highest number of enrolments. Part time enrolments, the number of progressed learners, and the pass rate increased in 2016. Western Cape Province had the highest percentage of Bachelor passes (40.9%) followed by Free State and Gauteng Province with 35.8% and 36.2% respectively, whilst Limpopo achieved the lowest of 18.43%. The majority of the Bachelors passes were found in quintiles 1-3 schools and there was an increase in the number of schools that achieved 80-100% pass rates, whilst Gauteng had the highest number of schools with 100% pass rate. The significant gains identified include an increase in the number of candidates that wrote Mathematics in 2016, an increase in the percentage of candidates that passed Mathematics and Physical Science.  41.9% of the schools attained a pass percentage of 80% and above, 59.9% of the schools from quintile 1-3 attained a pass percentage of 80% and above, 78   878 learners from quintiles 1-3 schools qualified for admission to Bachelors studies, and the number of districts attaining a pass rate of below 50% decreased from 8 to 5 districts.

The next presentation noted that National Senior Certificate (NSC) results were achieved from a standardisation process and the Evidence Based Report (EBR). In an attempt to improve language proficiency nationwide, State of the Province public speaking competition debates were conducted in different languages in Eastern Cape. 14 subject advisors were trained by the trainers from the British Council and several other interventions were made across the remaining provinces. Support for African languages was also fostered in the Eastern Cape and intervention and support for Accounting was provided in Northwest Province. DBE developed a repository of electronic aligned curriculum content resources with a monthly download average of over 130 000. Text books for 12 key subjects were distributed to grade 12 learners across all provinces. More provinces are utilising ICTs, and have been using top achieving current and former learners to support other learners through study groups and homework assistants. More partnerships with stakeholders have been set up. Key NSLA objectives include enhanced accountability at all levels of the system, protecting time for teaching and learning, and resource provisioning. Key improvement areas include coordination of NSLA management, alignment and support of structures. Plans for 2017 include the alignment of the provincial and district strategies for learner achievement, to the national strategy, and in-depth profiling of progressed and repeating learners throughout the system, amongst others.

The intention of the Three Stream Model is to allow different pathways for learners. The academic stream will rationalise schools offering the same subjects side by side, and will improve subject selection and combination. The technical vocational stream, which is aligned to the NDP target to produce 10 000 artisans annually, involves Engineering Graphic Design, Civil Technology, Electrical Technology, Mechanical Technology, Technical Mathematics, and Technical Sciences. Notable progress in the technical vocational pathway includes the enrolment of 37  093 learners, training of 1 471 educators, and establishment of industry partnerships. Progress on the technical occupational pathway includes the completion of 26 subjects, development of a new qualification, training manuals, and establishment of partnerships with corporates and industries. Manuals for the orientation of teachers in the pilot project were also completed and the national orientation would take place from 27 February to 3 March, involving 300 provincial delegates, and programmes for professionalisation of artisans were now under discussion. There are currently 67 schools, 30 683 learners, and 2 507 teachers. LTSM will include learner workbooks as well as equipment and consumables for workshops and further LTSM needs of schools will be determined, upon finalisation of the audit report by the end of February 2017. A framework for the proposed General Certificate of Education (GCE) was completed in 2016 and the GCE was handed over to Umalusi in October 2016 for finalisation and registration with SAQA.

Members asked for clarity on the publicised 20% pass mark for Mathematics, asked if failed matric learners are afforded the opportunity to write supplementary exams in March and if the ICT partnership with Vodacom can be extended to rural areas. Members asked about the performance of schools with disabled learners, the articulation between DBE and DHET on TVET colleges, and fluctuations in the number of progressed learners, as well as any plans to include additional schools of skills. They asked for further justification on the current ranking system, a timeline on the pilot programmes in the 67 skills schools and whether there is a comprehensive database of the schools. They were concerned on how learners could be mentally prepared for technical schools, if the matric papers of Accounting and other commercial subjects can be restructured, and if the abolished positions of DSLA officials can be reinstated.

A DA Member asked if section 58 (b) of the South African National Schools Act had been applied to serial underperforming schools and why 44% of grade 10 learners of 2014 failed to make it to Grade 12 in 2016. He asked if there had been any investigation into schools that discouraged weaker learners from writing matric, in an attempt to achieve high pass rates, and wanted to know more about the selection process of learners for occupational schools. Mr Davis challenged the transparency of the standardisation process, by enquiring why the standardisation meeting was held behind closed doors on 23 December 2016, why the data was still being regarded as confidential, why Umalusi refused to answer his questions, and why the Minister issued public threats against him for allegedly breaching confidentiality.

Other questions related to the numbers of learners who were absent from the examinations, the targeted percentage increase for Bachelors passes, and how the support to progressed learners was monitored. They also questioned why schools were measured against the same standards irrespective of their unique challenges posed by geographical locations, and why many learners failed to progress to Grade 12. They asked questions about school nutrition, especially during weekends and holidays, the number of teacher learner centres built and why the current report failed to reflect statistics on disabled learners. Members asked that large print materials should be produced, and commented that schools needed to be fenced. Other questions related to other school infrastructure needs, transfer of power between school governing bodies and management and how recruitment of teachers was being handled, to try to overcome absenteeism of teachers, and how skill programmes were to be certified. National statistics on the quality of teachers were questioned. More questions were asked on why there were two examination bodies.  The impact of withheld results in Limpopo on the pass rate of learners was questioned, as also why only 1.2% of learners achieved distinctions in English. Members asked that the statistics be presented also in quintiles.

Meeting report

Deputy Minister of Basic Education opening remarks
Mr Mohamed Surty, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, said findings from the analysis of the recent National Senior Certificate (NSC) results revealed that poor language usage contributed immensely to underperformance, there is a deficiency in the use of Mathematics and calculation skills. Deficiencies were also highlighted in some subject content knowledge as well as timely syllabus coverage. He said there is an on-going effort to enhance teacher performance in areas identified with deficiencies and also to enhance the analytical skills of learners to allow them cope with the high cognitive demand of examination papers.

He informed Members that the Director General was unable to attend this meeting due to on-going active engagements with the relevant stakeholders across provinces, in line with the National Strategy for Learner Attainment (NSLA), to ensure that the strategy acquires momentum early enough in the year. He also conveyed the Minister’s apology to the Committee who had compelling reasons for her inability to attend.

2016 National Senior Certificate (NSC)  examination result analysis: Department of Basic Education briefing
Ms Priscilla Okubanjo, Director of Examinations; Department of Basic Education, briefed the committee about the 2016 NSC examination. The action plan 2019 ,which is geared towards the realisation of Schooling 2030, includes increasing the number of grade 12 learners who become eligible for Bachelors programme at university, increasing the number of grade 12 learners who pass Mathematics, and increasing the number of grade 12 learners who pass Physical Science.

She highlighted the following points:
- Full time enrolments increased from 667 925 in 2015 to 674 652 in 2016.
- 64 474 of the total 674 652 who enrolled were absent from exams.
- Candidates who wrote 7 or more NSC examinations in 2016 decreased compared to 2015, with KwaZulu-Natal accounting for the highest number of enrolments.
- Whilst part time enrolments increased from 131 381 in 2015 to 153 368 in 2016, the number of progressed learners also increased from 65 671 in 2015 to 108 742, but Western Cape and Free State witnessed a decrease in the number of progressed learners.
- Historical trends revealed a substantial increase in the pass rate over the years
- The overall performance (progressed learners inclusive), showed that all provinces except Limpopo and Mpumalanga had significant improvements. The Northern Cape Province reflected the highest improvement.
- 43.5% of progressed learners who wrote matric achieved their results,  and compared to 2015, all provinces except KwaZulu-Natal improved in overall achievements.
- The NSC passes by type of qualification showed that Western Cape Province had the highest percentage of Bachelor passes (40.9%), followed by Free State and Gauteng Province with 35.8% and 36.2% respectively, whilst Limpopo achieved the lowest of 18.43%. Compared to the 2015 NSC examination, provinces that witnessed a decrease in the number of Bachelor passes include North West, Free State, Gauteng, and Western Cape.
- The majority of the Bachelors passes were in quintiles 1-3
- 74.3% of males who wrote the NSC achieved, whilst 71.1% of females learners achieved.
- Compared to 2015, there was an increase in the number of schools that achieved 80-100% pass rates and Gauteng Province had the highest number of schools with 100% pass rate. As regards school performance by quintile, most schools fall within 60% and 100%.
- Candidates’ performance at the 30% level depicted improvements in subjects such as Accounting, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences whilst performance at 40% level depicted improvements in History, Mathematics, Mathematical Literacy, and Physical Sciences.
- Performance in home languages at the 40% level revealed a decrease in achievements in languages such as Afrikaans, IsiZulu, Sepedi, and SiSwati.
- The percentage of distinctions in the 12 key subjects depicted an increase in distinction in subjects such as Physical Sciences, Afrikaans First Additional Language, English First Additional Language, amongst others.
- Speaking to the district performance, 32 of the total 81 districts achieved 80% and above pass rate as opposed 29 in 2015.
- All districts in Free State and Western Cape achieved 80% and above pass rate, 13 of the 15 districts in Gauteng Province achieved 80% and above pass rate, none of the districts in KZN, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga achieved 80% and above pass rate, and only 1 of the 23 districts in Eastern Cape achieved a pass rate of 80% and above.
- It was also reported that 5 districts in Eastern Cape underperformed by achieving below 50% pass rate.
- Compared to 2015, there was an increase in the number of part time learners enrolled whilst the performance in most selected subjects dropped.

In summary, the significant gains identified include;

-Increase in the number of candidates that wrote Mathematics in 2016

-Increase in the percentage of candidates that passed Mathematics and Physical Science

-41.9% of the schools attained a pass percentage of 80% and above

-59.9% of the schools from quintile 1-3 attained a pass percentage of 80% and above

-78 878 learners from quintiles 1-3 schools qualified for admission to Bachelors studies

-The number of districts attaining a pass rate of below 50% decreased from 8 to 5

Presentation on National Strategy for Learner Attainment(NSLA)
Dr Mamiki Maboya, Deputy Director General; Department of Basic Education, reported that NSC results were derived from the standardisation process and the Evidence Based Report (EBR) which is the primary tool to support the standardisation process. This is presented bi-annually to allow sufficient time for the Umalusi Assessment Standards Committee (ASC) to study the targeted interventions and their impact on improved learning outcomes.

In an attempt to improve language proficiency nationwide, the State of the Province public speaking competition debates were conducted in different languages in Eastern Cape. 14 subject advisors were trained by the trainers from the British Council on English First Additional Language (EFAL) and EAC, and several other interventions were made across the remaining provinces. Support for African Languages was also fostered in the Eastern Cape and intervention and support for Accounting was provided in Northwest Province.

In relation to Information Communication Technology (ICT) provisioning and support, the Department of Basic Education (DBE or the Department) developed a repository of electronic aligned curriculum content resources, with a monthly download average of over 130 000. Text books for 12 key subjects were distributed to grade 12 learners across all provinces, adequate support was provided for progressed learners in North West Province, the holiday programme in Gauteng Province culminated in an increase in the pass rate of tests whilst the winter classes in Northern Cape also resulted in an increase in pass rates.

According to facts from the 2016  Evidence Based Report (EBR), a growing number of provinces are still utilising ICTs, provinces are utilising top achieving current and former learners to support other learners through study groups and homework assistants to assist learners after school hours, there has been increase in partnerships with stakeholders as part of the improvement plans, amongst others.

The NSLA objectives include enhanced accountability at all levels of the system, protecting time for teaching and learning and resource provisioning. Key areas of improvement include coordination of NSLA management, alignment and support of structures, improvement of data utilisation, EBR across the system.

The identified 2017 NSLA plans include alignment of PSLA and DSLA to NSLA, in-depth profiling of progressed and repeating learners throughout the system, strengthening of tracking systems, monitoring and implementation of a circular on the regularisation of progressed learners.

Dr Maboya concluded that the NSLA remains the tool to drive improvement of school functionality and learning outcomes in the sector from grades R to 12. NSLA should be institutionalised at all levels in the system, and there should be digitalisation of reporting to improve accuracy of reporting and early intervention.

Discussion
The Chairperson commended both presentations. Vision 2030 which includes the improvement of the pass rate of Mathematics is already on track. She then sought clarity on media publications that learners are allowed to proceed with a score of 20% in Mathematics, which was a clear indicator as to the quality of education.

The Deputy Minister responded that the 20% progression rule which was sent out in circulars emanated from instances in which learners passed all subjects but failed Mathematics. He stressed that the rule is only applicable in instances where learners achieved high grades in other subjects but had no inclination to enrol for pure Mathematics and instead enrolled for Mathematical Literacy or any of the three stream models. He said such opportunities for alternatives and such intelligence never existed in the past. Vocational learning now applied to grade 10, and the motive is not to reduce the cognitive demand of the level, but rather to allow a form of condonation for learners to proceed.

He added that until around eight years ago the subject Maths Literacy was not in place, and the annual pass rate for Mathematics was only between 24 000 and 28  000 nationally. He compared that to 2016, when over 31 000 students passed Mathematics with over 60% and of the 31 000, over 19  000 were from quintiles 1-3 schools. He said there has been a remarkable increase in the pass rate of Mathematics with high grades The current intervention is to have a Mathematics teacher in every class, and whilst there are still challenges, grades 4 -6 and 10-12 have digitised Mathematics textbooks and grades 6-8 now have a manifold edition of Mathematics and Science textbooks. The ultimate goal is to have digitised Mathematics textbook throughout the system, to facilitate professional development. He said the 20% is neither a pass mark nor a reduction of the cognitive demand but rather a condonation to allow the progression of learners who might otherwise have been stuck in a particular grade. He said the Free State Province achieved results via effective utilisation of ICT, focus on teacher development, and collaboration with universities and in KZN, 54% of the learners enrolled for Mathematics as compared to 32% in Western Cape. He added that Mathematics enrolment in KZN exceeds that of the largely resourced Western Cape even though Western Cape achieves more in terms of the quality of passes.

Ms J Basson (ANC) commended the presentation. She said that on oversight visits in KZN, there is a concern that the ranking system is unfavourable for KZN. She then asked how the ranking system can be justified as a true reflection of results, as the number of learners in the province clearly doubles or triples most of the other provinces and the number of learners who passed in KZN exceeded those of other provinces. She also asked about strategies in place to support districts in Eastern Cape that underperformed. Ms Basson enquired why the positions of previous district officials that were mainly MSLA or DSLA officials were abolished as they played very significant roles. She added that DSLA officials used to fetch Khoisan learners who were seen as major attractions in the province and seasonal learners were catered for as well. She suggested that the examination papers of Accounting and commercial subjects be restructured (to contain papers 1 and 2) in a manner similar to that of other science streams to provide a better chance for learners to achieved better grades.

Mr G Davis (DA) enquired why the Minister was not available for engagements and if the 2compelling reasons” for her absence, as mentioned by the Deputy Minister, are personal or political. He maintained that a discussion of matric results is arguably one of the most important committee meetings and the Minister is expected to account to the Parliament in such engagements. He said the report was poorly presented as the Committee expected a detailed analysis, rather than mere statistics that had been public information since 4 January 2017. He asked, in relation to the underperforming schools, whether section 58(b) of the South African National Schools Act has been duly applied on the 38 schools who are serial underperformers, having received a pass rate of below 40% for over 5 years.  He said this section spells out an obligation for the Minister, through the Director-General (DG) to identify underperforming schools on an annual basis, issue a written notice to the schools to request a plan for correction of the underperformance, take reasonable steps to assist the school, and take actions against educators of the school that demonstrate incapacity. He asked why there is still underperformance in the schools if that process had been duly followed.

Mr Davis then spoke to learner retention, and said 44% of the Grade 10 class in 2014 did not make it to matric 2016, which indicates a high drop-out rate despite the Progressed Learners Policy. Mr Davis then asked if learners were stuck in the system, or they had dropped out, and if an analysis had been conducted to ascertain why almost half a million learners failed to make it through the system between Grades 10 and 12. He said there is a concern that is an incentive system in place where schools encourage weak learners not to write matric exams. Mr Davis said it is beyond mere speculations. Educational expert Dr Nick Taylor had confirmed the allegations as schools are under pressure to achieve a high pass rate in matric exams.

He said in oversight visits to KZN early February 2017, only 10% of grade 12 learners (87 of 870) wrote matric at a secondary school which achieved 94% pass rate, and not a single progressed learner wrote matric. He added that about 110 learners failed to make it from grade 10 to grade 12 in the school. He then enquired again why many learners are not progressing through the system between grades 10 and 12 and if any investigations have been conducted on “gaming the system” in which schools are discouraging weak learners from writing matric. As regards the transparency of the standardisation process, he said the adjustment of marks of 32 out of the 58 subjects and the upward adjustment of marks of 28 subjects resulted in an unprecedented public interest in the standardisation process. He reiterated that the refusal by Umalusi to provide any explanation for the adjustment of marks fuelled public suspicion. He then asked about the Department’s interventions to ensure the transparency of the adjustment process, and if there are any compelling reasons for the standardisation process to be conducted behind closed doors, beyond public scrutiny.

Mr H Khosa (ANC) inquired about the general reasons for the absence of over 64 000 learners who enrolled for matric Mathematics exam in 2016. He inquired about the percentile targets in an attempt to increase the number of grade 12 learners who become eligible for Bachelors programme at university, who pass Mathematics, and Physical Science. He said progressed learners are expected to be given adequate attention and academic support; he then inquired about the measures in place to ensure that such learners receive adequate support as required and also if an active monitoring tool exists to track the effectiveness and adequacy of support rendered.

Mr T Khoza (ANC) commended the Department for adopting a holistic approach of the entire system. He asked how learners can be further supported to boost academic performance. He commented that a main concern is ranking schools with the same standard whilst the playing field is uneven. Mr Khoza affirmed that with the right attitude and approach, the pass rate of Mathematics can improve nationwide as the performance of schools in quintiles 1-3 is a clear indication that learners can perform well irrespective of geographical challenges. He inquired why the number of learners in grade 12 keeps decreasing when compared to the number of students enrolled in grades 10 and 11 and said he had been told that there is a common trend in which learners switch schools when once fail grade 10 and their new schools have to bear their academic burdens in grade 12.

Ms H Boshoff (DA) affirmed that from the oversight visits, it was observed that the nutrition of learners has substantially improved nationwide. She said the current challenge posed to learners is that most learners do not receive adequate nutrition on weekends and holidays and the Department of Social Development must be engaged with on this point. She added that the structures are non-existent and utensils were in a bad state for the quintiles 1-3 schools . Ms Boshoff also said every school in rural areas should be fenced - rural schools in Mpumalanga are notable examples. She said building more teacher development centres is not negotiable, as results are lacking because of inappropriately trained teachers. She asked about the number of teacher development centres that have been built and the numbers of centres that have undergone renovation. She finally asked why the presented report does not reflect the results for disabled learners as not all learners have cognitive disabilities.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) commended the Department for the substantial improvements made and the manner in which the Department conducted itself when standardisation was conducted. He then asked if there are any measures in place to facilitate recruitment across provinces as there were instances seen from recent oversight visits where there were no teachers in classrooms in January because temporary educators had not been paid and contracts of foreign educators have been terminated. He inquired why no maintenance has been carried out on schools that have been on the priority list of the Department for over 7 years. He sought clarity on the transfer of powers between school governing boards and school managements. Mr Mnguni also asked why there are currently two examination bodies (IEB and NSC) instead of just one for the entire country. He asked about the impact of the results withheld in Limpopo on the pass rate of learners. He said whilst the objectives of NSLA included leadership, the role of governance is equally important.

Ms N Marchesi (DA) commended the presentation. She then asked if statistics could be provided on the quality of teachers nationwide. She said that during a recent oversight visit to KwaZulu-Natal, a matric Mathematics teacher was found to have a matric certificate only. She asked why there are only 1.2% distinctions in matric English nationwide. Ms Marchesi inquired if English language can be introduced simultaneously with home languages as English Language is currently introduced only in Grade 4. She asked if percentages can be provided on the pass rate of quintiles.

The Chairperson inquired if the ICT programme introduced by Vodacom can be extended to the rural areas. In relation to the 64 000 learners that were absent from the 2016 matric exams, she asked if the failed and absent learners are allowed to write supplementary exams in March. She asked for a detailed analysis based on the decrease in the number of progressed learners in the Free State and Western Cape in 2016 whilst some other provinces increased. The Chairperson also inquired about the performance of schools for disabled persons. She said whilst there is a standardisation workshop booked for 17 February 2017, knowledge of the detailed guidelines on the standardisation process is imperative.

The Deputy Minister responded that ranking is conducted in the context of realities, as the educational system is unequal. He added that the ranking system provides positive indicators to real circumstances on ground. He said the Department is currently engaging in interventions to streamline the 20 districts in Eastern Cape (roughly 20% of districts in the country) to 11 or 12 at most and an Head of Department has been appointed for the purpose of rationalisation and post-provisioning. He informed Members that only five of the 23 districts in Eastern Cape are underperforming, which signifies a substantial decrease when compared to statistics from previous years. He concurred that a mechanism is needed to ensure the accurate tracking and tracing of learners.

He said that there is a high retention of learners up to grade 9 and there has been a change of focus to ensure that learners in grades 8 and 9 well catered for, to ensure a throughput of learners in the system. He added that a major observation is that less competent teachers were employed in lower grades 8-9 whilst more qualified teachers were employed in higher grades 10-12. He explained that this poses a major concern as learners without adequate foundation will struggle with their studies in higher grades.

Mr Surty clarified that the Minister was absent for private, medical reason and the presentation was presented in its current form considering the vast information available versus the limited time given to present the report. Giving a general analysis of the results, he said;

-Poor language skills was identified as a major challenge throughout the system

-There are currently deficiencies in Mathematics and calculation skills

-Many schools did not cover their curriculum on time

-Teacher deficiencies were identified in certain areas.

He said that in Eastern Cape, the dominant language isiXhosa whilst exams are written in the “alien” English Language, unlike schools in Western Cape which mainly speak English and Afrikaans. He confirmed that English, as an additional language, has been added from grade 1 adding that the Gauteng Province performs better in matric results due to exposure to the vast multilingual environment in which learners have to build extensive skills to grasp the different languages. As regards “serial underperformers”, he said departmental officials offer substantial support to provinces and there is an active tracking of districts. He said over 25   000 principals and vice principals have been trained on effective leadership skills, there is an Annual Performance Plan (APP) for schools which is assessed by districts, and the APPs clearly indicate key challenges of schools as well as intended corrective actions. The DM added that the Minister has written to 3 provinces based on the 2016 Auditor-General’s findings and there is a proactive engagement to support underperformers.

In regard to questions on learner retention, he said the learner retention is below 85% in the Further Education and Training (FET) band and some learners perhaps changed to the vocational TVET colleges. Mr Surty said that if learners are not exposed to a proper foundation at the early stages of their education, they will invariably find Grades 10 to 12 difficult and they have a high tendency to drop out. Other causes of drop-outs he identified included teenage pregnancy and gangsterism.

He noted that the Western Cape Province initially opposed the progressed learners policy before later accepting it, and the North West province achieved 60% pass rate amongst its progressed learners. He said whilst it is obvious that some provinces provide lesser support for progressed learners, the learners are all expected to be punctual in school, attain a minimum threshold, attend classes, and also complete assessments. As per the standardisation process, he said a mathematical formula is applied based on several predetermined factors and there is a tolerance level of 10% based on the identified factors.

He clarified that the DBE does not engage directly with Umalusi in an attempt to ensure the transparency of the standardisation process. He said that shortly after the release of results, there was a media announcement calling on interest groups to write to Umalusi if there are any inquiries or concerns about the adjustments.

He concurred with Ms Marchesi that human resources is extremely critical and a teacher profiling programme has been completed in four provinces to match teachers with the appropriate subjects and grades. He said that in order to address the major challenge of attracting teachers in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, and Eastern Cape Provinces, a rewards and incentives scheme is being developed to retain and attract teachers.

Speaking to the challenges posed by language barriers, he affirmed that English language is currently taught throughout the curriculum as research revealed that English has become a major barrier for the indigenous African child. The DM said a thorough investigation will be conducted to ascertain why over 64 000 registered learners in 2016 did not write matric. In relation to the questions on quintiles and performances, he said the percentages would be made available. He said substantial improvements have been made in quintiles 1-3 as previously, 80% of Bachelors passes were from quintiles 4 and 5 schools and currently quintiles 1-3 schools now produced more Bachelor passes than quintiles 4-5.

Mr Surty said the nutritional scheme expanded its reach, from 250 000 at inception to currently over 9.5 million learners. He said the Department ensured that schools were localised and women were empowered in the communities. He affirmed that other improvements have been made in the nutritional scheme, include the training of food handlers, more oversight of the nutritional content of schools and hygiene, and the Eastern Cape has become a model for decentralised provision of nutrition. He said the Department of Social Development would perhaps be in the best position to address the nutrition of learners during weekends and holidays.

Mr Surty agreed that schools must be fenced to ensure the safety of learners.

He informed the meeting that there are currently 147 teacher resource centres and 90% of the centres are equipped with highly sophisticated Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure to empower educators. The goal is to ensure that all the centres are fully equipped and all teachers are well trained before the end of his tenure.

He said that the disability statics was reflected on page 64 of 2016 Annual Report. He explained that Vodacom’s partnership with DBE ensures that contents downloaded from the website (including interactive contents) are free of charge. He added that more than 50% of schools nationwide have connectivity for teaching purposes whilst 95% have connectivity for administrative purposes.

In his concluding remarks, he gave a case study of Dr Oliver Tambo, who only had the opportunity to study at the University of Fort Hare after passing his matric; when asked why he chose two seemingly difficult majors for his Bachelor of Science (Mathematics and Science), Dr Tambo replied that if he does not choose and pass those majors, it would always be in the mind of an African child that Mathematics and Science are difficult. Not only did Dr  Tambo pass his majors with distinction, he also taught Mathematics and Science for five years.

Mr Davis asked if a copy of the Deputy Minister's detailed response could be forwarded to the Committee. He asked again if the process highlighted in the SA Schools Act was adhered to when dealing with serial underperformers and sought clarity whether investigations had been conducted into allegations that some schools are discouraging weak learners from writing matric, and reasons why  no investigations have been conducted. Mr Davis challenged the transparency of the standardisation process by asking again why the standardisation meeting on 23 December 2016 was held behind closed doors, why there is need for signing a confidentiality agreement by attendees of the meeting, why the data is confidential, why Umalusi refused to answer his questions about the standardisation process after several requests, and why the Minister issued public threats against him for allegedly breaching confidentiality, if the process is indeed transparent as stated by the Deputy Minister. 

Dr Mamiki Maboya responded that engagements with underperforming schools are conducted at both provincial and national levels. She said letters were sent out to underperforming schools requesting reasons for non-performance and detailed improvement plans. In relation to learner retention, she said the interest of the DBE is to ensure measures are in place to discontinue the practice of discouraging weak learners from writing matric exams. She added that several policies have been put in place, including the progression policy. She said special programmes rolled out included the progressed learners programme and the “second chance matric programme”. She informed Members that that the throughput plan of the Department includes those learners out of school as well to ensure their academic needs are addressed. Dr Maboya said in Limpopo, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces, programmes are being run for the total 13 districts that performed below 60%.

The Deputy Minister responded that in relation to the recruitment of teachers, the Department was particularly concerned about Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.  He said the Department sent a dedicated team to KwaZulu-Natal which assisted with the profiling of teachers and a similar process in ongoing in the Eastern Cape. As regards maintenance of schools, he said an arrangement has been made with the National Treasury that 10% of the Department’s budget will be utilised for maintenance purposes, without approaching the Department of Public Works. He requested the names of the affected schools and promised to engage with the MEC and district Director to get an indication of the way in which the 10% allocation is being utilised.

He explained that IEB only caters for grade 12 learners, about 12 000 learners. Standardisation occurs with IEB, TVET colleges, as well as DBE. He repeated that the Department does not in any manner engage with Umalusi or IEB, in order to ensure transparency of the process. He said that, as witnessed previously, there would be a significant drop in the number of learners enrolled for science subjects if standardisation is not applied. He clarified that adjustments are not meant to inflate marks and it remains a concern that in previous years where adjustments downwards were more than those upwards, there were no complaints. Whilst giving analogies of the judicial system and educational system, he explained to Mr Davis that there are internal processes in different organisations giving rise to major decisions. He then inquired from Mr Davis if it is appropriate to sign a non-disclosure agreement without ethically signifying disinterest and divulging the information from such meeting to the public bearing in mind the meeting was based on confidentiality. He also asked Mr Davis if it is ethically and morally acceptable for a delegate to attend a confidential meeting and divulge information in the booklets handed out in the meeting to the general public. He said the enforcement of progression principles was directly as a result of the concerns of the national Department to ensure that learners are not delayed within the system but rather have a better chance of passing through adequate support. He said discouragement of weak learners from writing matric would not be condoned and ranking is based on both the quantity and quality of passes. He gave a scenario of a special focus school in Western Cape in which 10% of its learners enrolled for pure Mathematics and 90% enrolled for Mathematical Literacy and Accounting. He said such learners enrolled for Mathematical Literacy and Accounting have slim chances of becoming chartered accountants, due to the combination of subjects hence the necessary intervention of the Department in such scenarios.

Mr Davis said there is no adequate time to properly scrutinize the report on the three stream model. He said the model is “the big idea” for the Department in the next decade and should not be rushed within 10 minutes of the presentation. He proposed that the presentation should be deferred to the next Committee meeting.

The Chairperson suggested that the presentation be adopted to prevent a reschedule of the whole Committee programme.

Mr Mnguni appealed that Members adopt the presentation in order to avoid a pileup of committee work. 

Mr Davis said members need to prepare for engagements in the House at 2pm which is an important occasion to reply to State of the Nation Address. He added that the meeting was scheduled to end at 12:30pm and whilst the Committee failed to meet the previous week, the current meeting should not be a catch up of the previous week’s meeting.

The Chairperson said Mr Davis was wrong as the current engagement is not a catch up of the previous meeting.

Mr Khoza suggested that the meeting continue instead of a lengthy debating on the issue.

The Chairperson noted that Members are allowed to depart early from meetings to attend to pertinent issues and Mr Davis is allowed to depart if he needs to.

Mr Davis restated his objection and said the Committee was supposed to have a meeting the previous week but the Chairperson unilaterally postponed the meeting without stating any reasons and there is currently an attempt to rush the most important presentation of the day. He said the approach is wrong, the Chairperson is handling the meeting badly and the presentation could be easily deferred to next week. 

The Chairperson said Mr Davis’ opinion is a single view as other members have suggested that the meeting continue. She re-emphasised that Mr Davis can depart from the meeting if he is uncomfortable with the presentation. She added that Mr Davis’ argument is out of context.

The Deputy Minister requested permission to depart from the meeting as he had important issues to attend to in the office.

Mr Davis said since the Chairperson has made a ruling that the meeting should continue, the Deputy Minister is expected to honour members by availing himself.

The Chairperson mentioned that the Deputy Minister may reserve the right to depart from the meeting but it is advisable he avails himself till the end of the engagement.

Presentation on the Three Stream Model
Dr Moses Simelane, Curriculum Director; DBE, identified the three streams as academic stream, technical vocational stream, and technical occupational stream. He added that the motive is to allow different pathways for learners. The academic stream is to rationalise schools offering the same subjects side by side and improve subject selection and combination. The technical vocational stream, which is aligned to the NDP target to produce 10   000 artisans annually, involves Engineering Graphic Design (EGD), Civil Technology, Electrical Technology, Mechanical Technology, Technical Mathematics, and Technical Sciences. Notable progresses in the technical vocational pathway include the enrolment of 37   093 learners, training of 1471 educators, and establishment of industry partnerships. Progress on technical occupational pathway include the completion of 26 subjects, development of a qualification approved by CEM and handed over to Umalusi, development of training manuals, and establishment of partnerships with corporates and industries.

As regards teacher training he said that manuals for the orientation of teachers in the pilot have been completed, national orientation will be held from 27 February to 3 March 2017 involving 300 provincial delegates, and deliberations have commenced with Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) on programmes for professionalisation of artisans, amongst others.

Speaking to institutional readiness, there are currently 67 schools, 30 683 learners, and 2 507 teachers. Learning and Teaching Support Materials (LTSM) for the pilot will include learner workbooks as well as equipment and consumables for workshops, and schools will use existing textbooks, as the subjects are already on offer in schools. Further LTSM needs of schools will be determined upon finalisation of an audit report, by the end of February 2017. As regards exams and assessment, a framework for the proposed General Certificate of Education (GCE) was completed in 2016 and the GCE was handed over to Umalusi in October 2016 for finalisation and registration with SAQA.

Discussion
Ms Basson enquired when the programme will be implemented in the pilot schools and requested a comprehensive database of all schools involved. She said that in a technical school visited in KZN during an oversight visit, many learners with a “failure mentality” were faced with Mathematics as a compulsory subject. She then inquired how learners can be mentally prepared for technical schools as there are currently challenges with the quality of teachers.

Mr Mnguni also inquired about the database of schools for the pilot programmes in-order to assist Committee Members conduct oversights. He then inquired how programmes will be certificated and if there are physical human resources to train artisans or if there are plans to utilise undocumented artisans to train learners.

Ms Boshoff inquired if textbooks are available in large print to accommodate disabled learners. She then asked if the curriculum of welding and sheet metal work has been completed. 

Mr Davis inquired about the selection process for learners who attend occupational schools and if the three stream schools assess learners based on a diagnostic approach of needs. He explained that to qualify for a vocational school, a prospective learner currently is expected to be diagnosed by a social worker or a psychologist, as someone who can neither cope in a traditional academic nor technical schools. He said the big concern is the unintended consequences -  if learners and parents are afforded the opportunity to attend occupational schools, with many cognitive requirements on the subjects, the schools might be flooded with learners who could have succeeded in the academic or technical school if they had the right resources.

Mr Khoza asked about security measures in place to ensure that installed school equipment is not looted.

The Chairperson asked about the articulation between DBE and DHET as many learners approach Technical Vocation Education Training (TVET) colleges after failing in traditional academic schools. She inquired about the future plans for additional schools of skills.

The Deputy Minister thanked Mr Davis for his questions. He stated that the Western Cape is almost “the shining star” as regards skills opportunities for learners with cognitive disabilities. He said whilst the range of skills is described as being for those learners with cognitive learning challenges, they need aptitudes and inclination, in view of the depth and scope of the training offered. He said substantial progress is being made on the quality of teachers (specifically mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and civil engineering teachers). During a recent visit to a teacher training site  in the Free State teachers showed enthusiasm and gave positive feedback, due to the depth and scope of the training they received.

Dr Simelane responded that the database of skills schools will be provided to members. He said the implementation of the pilot programmes in the school of skills will commence in 2018 and some mainstream schools have also been selected to offer the skill-based training. Discussions with the Quality Council agreed that GCE (NQF Level 1) should be a qualification open to learners. The audit report due at end of February 2016 will provide vital information on available human resources. If artisans in a particular school are not qualified, there is an arrangement with DHET to professionalise their skills. Certification is only issued at the end of grade 9 (NQF level 1) and Pioneer Printers is used to print books for the pilot programmes to cater for disabled learners. He affirmed that the curriculum of all subjects had been completed including those of welding and sheet metal work. Addressing Mr Davis’ inquiry, he said the training would not be dependent on cognitive ability of learners but rather on interests. He added that DHET officials and lecturers from TVET colleges were part of the curriculum drafting process.

The Chairperson said a proper report is needed from the Department on its engagement with relevant stakeholders to realise plans, and on the financial implications of plans and programmes in order to facilitate proper engagements.

The meeting was adjourned.