Early Grade Reading Study; NEEDU progress report; Basic Education BRRR

Basic Education

17 October 2017
Chairperson: Mr H Khosa (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education’s (DBE’s) research unit presented the findings of the Early Grade Reading Study to the Portfolio Committee. The study had been conducted to formulate the best ways to support the teaching of reading in the African languages in the foundation phase. It focused on the dropout of learners in Grades 10 to 12 by addressing the root causes through the improvement of early grade literacy and reading outcomes. The programme had run a pilot phase by working with 230 schools in the North-West province since the start of 2015. The study had conducted three intervention programs within these schools, two of which were teacher interventions, while the other involved the parents of learners.

The findings from the study revealed that girls were outperforming boys, although the coaching and training interventions had reduced the gap by assisting boys to catch up. Large classes were benefiting the most from the interventions, and the impact of the interventions was seen mostly in urban schools, as opposed to rural schools. The study also identified parental involvement and attendance at meetings as a major challenge. The Department recommended that the Committee discuss the significance of the impact evaluation and possible policy responses.

The Committee asked why the North-West was particularly chosen as a suitable area for the study. Were the findings of the study limited to the province, or could they be used as a generalisation for the whole country? They also sought an explanation as to why large classes were benefiting from the interventions, because in most cases large classes were disadvantageous. The Members expressed concern with the costs associated with the programmes, and asked the Department how it would be funded. The Committee also expressed concern at the insignificant impact of the interventions at rural schools, and asked what plans were in place to involve rural districts. They also asked what kind of assistance was being provided to parents who were illiterate, and how the challenge of parent involvement was being addressed.

The National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) presented a report on the systematic evaluation of the basic education system. The report presented was a build-up from a previously presented report, with the focus on presenting the findings of how time management was affecting teaching and learning outcomes in schools. The study was based on a small-scale sample of 694 schools, and had found that in 40% of the schools, teachers were often absent, and teacher and learner absenteeism was a problem. The study also revealed that in 40% of the schools, teacher punctuality was a problem, and this affected maths classes the most. Early departures also accounted for a significant amount of lost teaching time.

The Committee asked what role NEEDU played in areas of unrest like Vuwani. The Members pointed out that the findings were based mostly on former Model C schools, and asked what plans were in place to transform poorer schools. They expressed concern at the Department’s lack of prioritisation of special needs.  They asked what legal framework NEEDU was functioning under, and how it complemented the Annual National Assessment (ANA). It was suggested that the Department should invest in structures like NEEDU to engage in continuous research that would inform the Department and monitor its performance. The Chairperson asked the Department how it planned on addressing the management issues raised by NEEDU. 

Meeting report

Early Grade Reading Study

Dr Stephen Taylor, Director: Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, DBE, said that the purpose of the presentation was to present the findings of the study. The study was conducted to formulate the best ways to support the teaching of reading in the African languages in the foundation phase by comparing different approaches, with onsite coaching and a parental support programme. There were a lot of donor partners in the project.

The study was focused on the dropout of learners in Grade 10-12 by making a strong case that the root cause behind that was a weak foundation in the early grades. The study addressed this through effective strategies to improve early grade literacy and reading outcomes.

The programme ran three different interventions in North West Province, which all targeted home language literacy (Setswana). Two of these interventions were teacher interventions, while the other one was a parental intervention program. There had been 230 schools since the start of 2015 which were categorised into four types of groups -- control group, training, coaching and parental involvement. It was important to note that the interventions did not seek to change the curriculum, but instead just to ensure a better enactment of the existing curriculum. The allocation of schools into groups was done on a random computerised basis, thus any systematic difference that might arise would be because of the interventions and not pre-existing differences. 

The most expensive intervention was the coaching intervention -- it was about 30% more expensive than the centralised training workshops. The parent intervention was less costly, and could be seen a cost-effective permanent solution.

Most of the presentation was focused on the two teacher intervention programmes, partly because there had been less impact on the parent involvement programme, so it was focused on alternative ways to support teachers.

  1. Lesson Plans:

The interventions were Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) aligned, so the lesson plans could be seen as mechanisms to ensure the enactment of what was in the curriculum, and allowed teachers to implement what they have learned.

  1. New Resources

The intervention allowed for existing and new resources to be incorporated into daily learning.

  1. Coaches

Coaches provided additional mechanisms to ensure that enactment was happening through implementation and providing monitoring and evaluation.

The Early Grade Study was based and built on earlier research work conducted within South Africa and elsewhere. The intervention attempted to involve parents to change readings outcomes. Parent attendance had been the biggest challenge the programme had faced. About a third of the parents attended three sessions per year. It was hard to reach the parents that needed the programme the most. 

The average oral reading fluency at the end of Grade 2 showed that children were reading at 35 words per minute on average, compared to 27 words per minute in the control room. Girls were performing better than boys. It highlighted the way girls outperform boys throughout high school and university.

There was a positive impact on English associated with the coaching intervention. Two things could be causing the impact -- it could be the benefit of home language literacy, or how teachers shifted their own practices in English lessons through what they had learned in the context of the home language intervention.

Parent intervention had a small impact. It was difficult to teach parents to teach children to decode or write. It was easier to do that in a classroom setting.

There was a large variation between classes on reading fluency at the end of Grade 2.

Who benefited most from the interventions? Girls were still outperforming boys, but the gap was reducing. Coaching and training was assisting boys in catching up to some extent. A second finding was that large classes benefited the most. There had been a strong emphasis on group reading exercises. Thirdly, the impact was concentrated on urban schools. Out of 18 of the 20 control schools, it was observed that no learner handled a reader.

The case study findings were:

  • Large classes made it difficult for teachers to provide individual attention;
  • There was still an absence of a culture of reading; and
  • Teachers displayed a restricted understanding of what it meant to teach children to read independently.

It was recommended that the Committee discuss the significance of this impact evaluation and possible policy and programmatic responses in the sector.


Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC) sought clarity on two points. Firstly, besides further research needed on parent involvement, were there proper plans and strategies in place to deal with the issue? Secondly, in most cases large classes usually gave teachers problems, so why did they benefit from the programme in this instance?

Ms C Majeke (UDM) asked why the North-West province was selected as the area of research. How were the tools used for the study field tested? How prepared was the DBE to seek for partners to fund the study on a regular basis? Teacher interventions of both models revealed that one was most effective on teachers who performed better on the baseline of comprehension test. This required a certain level of teacher competency, so that whatever was being taught to learners could be taught effectively.

Mr I Ollis (DA) sought clarity on what Mr Taylor meant when he highlighted that 58% of children were not able to read by grade four (pre- Progress in Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS))? The presentation did not take note of the impact of strikes and stayaways on access to schools -- why had that not been addressed? Based on the findings presented, had the intervention worsened parent involvement? Did the findings on teaching practices mean that 18 out of 20 learners were not reading a reader, and 12 out of 20 never handled a book?

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) asked how Mr Taylor fitted into the department. Was he part of a non-governmental organisation (NGO), or part of the Department itself? Was the study in its pilot phase and was the intention to expand it to other schools? She expressed her concern about the costing of the study. If the programme was rolled out on a large scale to include schools in quintiles four and five, it would cost the DBE R80 000 per year. Was the focus only on quintile one to three schools, or did it expand to quintile four and five? The DBE would depend on the NGO for training, which would cost the Department’s budget. Did the programme have plans to train teachers within schools to lessen this dependency?

Ms H Boshoff (DA) asked how many of the Grade One learners in quintile one to three schools come to school exposed to some form of learning? Had the study been able to determine that, because many of the younger learners often do not have access to Grade R? She expressed concern on the excessive absenteeism in rural schools. How would the programme ensure the involvement of rural districts? The programme’s focus on early grade maths was impressive -- had it been costed; if so, how much would it cost? Dr Graham Block had written about the effectiveness of early grade maths, but he had said it was cost effective. How did his analysis differ from the Department’s? What catch-up plan was in place to ensure that boys’ reading level was equal to that of girl students?

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) observed that research was a continuous process. The study focused on North-West, but were the findings a general statement for the whole country? If so, was it realistic? If not, how would the programme be sustained, considering all the competing priorities outlined in the presentation? What was the meaning and understanding of the presenter’s use of the words “urban” and “rural”? He asked if the numbers Mr Taylor had presented were indexed.

Ms J Basson (ANC) expressed her concern on the neglect of rural schools. Based on the criteria the programme used, all rural schools fell under quintile one to three schools, so they should be the main beneficiaries of this programme because of the disadvantaged situation rural schools found themselves in. Was the problem with the coaches or with the programme itself that led to the criteria not being implemented in rural areas? Parental involvement was declining -- what did that indicate? Did it indicate that the programme was ineffective? Parents do not see the results and thus lose interest. How effective was the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC) in the areas where the programme had been piloted?

Ms N Mokoto (ANC) raised her concern on the lack of libraries in rural schools as an issue that had a significant bearing on the programme. The presentation had not addressed this, so what was the plan to deal with tit? There was a shortage of subject advisers in the foundation phase and with the inadequate capacity in the current cohort, what plans were in place to correct this situation? How did the programme empower the few subject advisers that were available? What were the implications of funding? Were the provinces ready to re-allocate funding for this programme? She sought clarity on differentiated learning -- how did the interventions hamper differentiated learning? Lastly, had the DBE started implementing some of the recommendations presented?

The Chairperson said the report was silent on what was being done to learners whose parents worked on farms and in other forms of hard labour, and were illiterate. What kind of assistance were they being afforded? Were the learners being identified and given special attention?

DBE’s Response

Mr Enver Surty, Deputy Minister: DBE, responded that the programme was being funded externally. The purpose of the research was to have targeted, sustainable, controlled research in a defined area to determine the outcomes as a result of the interventions. The study aimed to achieve not only the ability to read, but to read with understanding, to write and to calculate. The other different element about this study was that it involved two significant actors which previously had not formed part the base, which were the parent and the coach. Most studies focused on the learner and the educator, and less attention was paid to the parents’ role.

He addressed Ms Mokoto’s question by highlighting that coaches were similar to subject advisors, and reassured the Committee that currently the national collaboration trust was working with the DBE to provide quality education in districts nation-wide. The districts that had been selected included Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. The collaboration paid particular attention to the foundation phase, and also focused on the role subject advisers played in the provision of quality education by ensuring that subject advisors had the capacity to monitor and oversee the performance of schools. The third element of focus was the reality of information communication technology (ICT), and its assistance as an enabler in facilitating learning and teaching, and administration and oversight. Oversight was important because empirical evidence showed that the best ten performing districts were data-driven districts -- they oversaw performance of schools, which allowed the districts to make interventions accordingly.

The research spoke to external factors such as the rurality of the province in terms of transport and infrastructure, and first additional language. The Department had identified and was dealing with the resources at both electronic libraries and under-resourced libraries. The DBE had targeted 1 000 libraries per year, and had exceeded the target by more than 2 000. It also had 345 readers which it owned intellectually, which could be downloaded on any phone and tablet in preparation for the objective of digitising textbooks per subject per grade. This investment paid particular attention to two things. One was the digitisation to be utilised by learners, and the second was that the content was interactive. All digitised content would also have teacher guides to assist educators with navigation. Because the content was intellectually owned by the Department, it would be an open source and so parents and caregivers would be able to use it to enhance teaching and learning.

Why the North-West? The research was a collaborative exercise. The Department had received funding and the funder had independently selected the North-West. Part of the reason was because there had previously been a study on the North-West, and its comparison with Botswana on their similarity in terms of language, economy, infrastructure and development. This research built on other research.

 Mr Ntshayisa interjected by requesting Mr Taylor to respond to the questions raised by the Committee.

The Deputy Minister said he took into account Mr Ntshayisa’s other commitments, but the Ministers themselves also had executive responsibilities to assist the Portfolio Committee.

He concluded by reiterating that a key feature of the study was parental involvement, which had not formed part of other research. The study analysed to what extent parents assisted in teaching and learning, and whether coaching was available to teachers and learners. It had identified that large classes were a factor that affected the basic education system. It was a myth was that only urban schools were overcrowded, as township schools revealed the reality. It was a reality that had to be dealt with systematically, and had been addressed in the report.

Ms Mokoto commented that the study had been commissioned by the Department, which accounted to the Committee. It was therefore inappropriate and unnecessary to stop the Deputy Minister, because they were the first port of call for accounting to the Committee.

Mr Hubert Mweli, Director General: DBE, said that most of the questions raised by the Committee members were related to the study, but were not addressing the core focus of the study. He clarified that Dr Taylor was the director responsible for the research unit of the Department. The study was carried out by him on behalf of the Department.

Dr Taylor said that he was not an NGO, but there was an NGO involved as a service provider. The study was in its pilot stage, and was explicitly an impact evaluation. The Department wanted to know what worked before scaling up, and the study had revealed some evidence which would be used to inform a larger scale programme.

He responded to Mr Ollis question by explaining that South Africa had participated in the Pre-PIRLS study, an international study which revealed that 58% of South Africa’s Grade 4 learners fell below a particular score regarded as necessary to be reached. It was a benchmark set at an arbitrary threshold -- experts say that learners below that level were not able to read with comprehension. The North-West province was chosen as an area of study because it built on a previously conducted study. It was also a province that had one predominant language. The selection process ruled out Gauteng and the Western Cape because they were unique provinces, and also because the study aimed to conduct research that would be relevant to most provinces which included largely rural areas. The North-West was also relatively geographically close to where the Department was based.

He addressed Ms Majeke’s question by noting that the research developed its own tools, but drew heavily on the early grade reading assessment tool, which was an internationally used and well piloted tool, and had been developed in South African languages. 

Dr Taylor cautioned against the interpretation of small differences by highlighting that this was a sample, so it was not based on an infinitely large population. The difference between training and coaching, for instance, where more teachers experienced positive support in the training, the gaps were not concerning as opposed to the gap between the coaching and control rooms. He therefore would not conclude that there was a negative impact on the professional support received by teachers.  He clarified that the lesson observations were conducted in 60 schools, and the results presented were that in 18 out 20 classrooms it was observed that learners were engaging in group readings, not 18 out of 20 learners. Learners were not reading themselves -- it was more classroom-based, teacher-centred reading. The interventions had placed emphasis on small group-guided reading methods.

He said he had assumed that the service provider had included strikes under “unrest”. The information presented under “unrest” meant that there was no coaching visit to schools that was disrupted during the rainy season. He acknowledged that large classes were disadvantageous, but the intervention might have more of an impact on large classes. Around about 95% of Grade One children had had access to the Grade R programme.

There was a lot of research about teaching at the level of the child. Lesson plans were critiqued for reducing teacher autonomy and reducing the ability to teach in a differentiated away by promoting teaching at a particular level. That was something that the study had taken into consideration but on the other hand, the interventions had placed emphasis on small group and individual reading -- methods which promoted differentiated learning as opposed to the dominant approach of whole class teaching. Therefore, there had not been a negative impact on any learning range. The study recognised the important of empowering subject advisers. The training that coaches received could be beneficial for subject advisors, but the programme was not yet well placed for subject advisers to play a role that coaches played in this specific intervention.

The findings spoke specifically to the North-West, but it was taken into consideration what could work in other areas. The libraries question was not the focus of the study. Building a library study was a different theory of change, although it was a specific resource that was important for foundation learning.

He clarified that rural schools were a priority, and the results simply meant that the programme did not have much of an effect in those settings. It related to the “Matthews effect,” which states that often interventions work best in advantaged contexts. It was hard to shift parent involvement, and there was no plan in place -- it required further research. He concluded by stating that the Department was prepared to seek partner funding with other provinces.

Ms Carol Nuga-Deliwe, Chief Director: Strategic Planning Research and Coordination said the Department was working with colleagues and the curriculum because they had implemented coaches in particular areas. Oral reading was important in building infrastructure for language, therefore the study complemented the implementation of African languages in schools, but also solidified the mechanisms of building fluency in these languages. In a highly unequal society with huge levels of poverty, the Department had to compensate parents in the social sector in the form of nutrition, health assistance, home coaching, psychosocial support and identifying vulnerable learners. These were the various programmes that would be beneficial for improving parent involvement. There were logistical and structure-related reasons that accounted for parents not being able to provide the kind of assistance needed. The Department was not looking to expand, but rather upscale, because research had shown that dilution was not the best approach, and that instead there should be increased focus on schools that needed reading intervention. The costing was therefore very conservative. The Department would like to focus on the monolingual Setswana North-West province and use that to build methodology tools and mechanisms, and then only later expand it to other provinces and other languages. She reiterated that the programme served 60% of schools that served the poorest students in the North-West.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said that two of her questions were not answered.

The Chairperson advised that in the interests of trying to save time, all follow up questions should be referred to Dr Taylor in writing through the Secretary.


National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU): Update on Systematic Evaluation of DBE

Dr Sibusiso Sithole, Chief Director: National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU), said the report had previously been presented to the Committee, therefore what would be presented today was on the focus area of time management. Time management was found to be one of the issues affecting teaching and learning outcomes in schools.

Factors that led to loss of teaching time were:

  • Non-adherence to notional time allocation prescribed in the curriculum;
  • Poor attendance by learner and teacher;
  • Late coming by learner and teacher;
  • Teachers leaving school early for a variety of reasons;
  • Teachers and learners retuning to class late after breaks;
  • Poor time management for the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP);
  • Early commencement of examinations.

Dr Sithole cautioned Members that the NEEDU findings were based on a small sample. Both rural and urban schools revealed that teacher and learner absenteeism was a problem. In the senior phase, teachers were more absent than learners. This was a problem, because if teachers were not at school, the whole class missed out. The study examined timetables in 694 schools, and teachers in 40% of the schools offering SP and further education and training (FET) were often absent.

In over 40% of schools, teachers in the Foundation, Senior and FET phases came to school later than learners. Teacher punctuality was a problem because it affected maths classes, as first periods were mostly allocated to maths lessons.

Early departures accounted for a significant amount of lost teaching time, because teachers had to leave early to attend workshops and memorial services. In 95% of the schools, teachers’ early departures were the main reason for time loss. Much time was also lost between lessons and at the end of breaks.

In most schools offering the NSNP, time was well managed. It was in only about 10% of the schools that time was lost.

Most schools highlighted that they did not have enough space and furniture, so classes were suspended early so that there were enough desks and space for matriculants to write their exams.

NEEDU was not responsible for acting on the findings. It had presented its findings to different forums, including the South African Principals Association (SAPA) and provincial officials. 

The Department had to define what schools that work were. There had not been a yardstick for how to measure primary school, so the NSC results were used. The NSC was chosen as the yardstick for high schools. The Minister had expressed her concern with this, because the primary schools formed the foundation. The schools that were selected had to be performing well, with a 95% pass rate, presented more than 100 students and included basket of criteria approved by the Council of Education Ministers (CEM).

Schools reported that they did what they were supposed to do. The results were categorised into six categories: System’s Support and Partnership; Learner Centred Climate; Enabling conditions; School leadership; Professional development and collaboration; and Quality of teaching

The Department agreed that taking lesson from schools that worked would help the sector achieve the National Development Plan (NDP) and sector goals.

To ensure that the NEEDU findings had a bearing, the findings would be presented at different levels of the system. NEEDU would also work closely with the Department to bring about systematic change by addressing its findings.


Mr Ollis said the presentation was helpful by calling a spade a spade, and clearly detailed where the problems are. 40% of teachers were often absent and maths lessons were compromised because first periods were allocated to maths lessons in most schools. The maths results reflected this. What was being done about it? SADTU had promised the Department that classes would not be disrupted, but it had been reported to him that some classes in Gauteng were empty and no learning was taking place on the day. South Africa had the worst record of strike actions that affected school days in the South African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ). There needed to a push to get teachers back into classrooms without infringing on their rights to protest. He echoed Mr Sithole’s recommendation that schools should follow the method of sending a representative to workshops while the rest of the teachers remained to teach. South Africa was not like India, however, and the Committee should not think it was doing well.

Deputy Minister Surty clarified that 25% of teachers in India translated to ten million teachers, and so the two countries were not comparable.

Ms Basson asked what would be done with all these findings. She requested NEEDU to highlight its achievements against the findings that had been presented. Was it possible to give the Committee an outline of the organogram? How were the means spread to cover all these schools? What role had NEEDU played in areas of unrest like Vuwani? How were unions accepting the researchers -- were they not labelled as the replacers of former inspectors? What was the relationship with other entities and stakeholders like the South African Council of Educators (SACE) and school security? The presentation had focused solely on the behavioural problems of educators. The presentation revealed that the findings were mostly based on formed Model C schools – what could be done to transform the poor schools and resource them to have extra school governing board (SGB) teachers? It was a pity that the study’s results used National Senior Certificate (NSC) as a yardstick, because there were primary schools that performed well, which the study ignored. Why had the research started at the top? Why had NEEDU decided to use the NSC results as the yardstick?

Ms Boshoff suggested that maths lessons should be moved to the third period, because it was indicative that teachers were not trained to teach maths, and that was why they arrived late at school. Last year, the Committee had asked when it would be receiving a report on special needs education. What had been done to address the early commencement of examinations? What was being done in relation to libraries? What access did learners have to reading resources in cases where there were no libraries? Was there a plan in place where the Learning Tracking System (LTS) was not optimised, to be moved to schools where there was no LTS available?

Ms Majeke asked what role NEEDU played in improving the performance of learners in multi-grade schooling. Statistics showed that urban schools performed better than rural schools in early grade reading. What was the rationale in creating NEEDU as an independently functioning unit? How was it able to function without the necessary legal framework in place? How did NEEDU complement the Annual National Assessment (ANA)? Were there no duplications?

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi asked how precise the study had been. The study was based on a small-scale sample -- was it indicative of the national situation? Did the sample need be increased to get a proper analysis of the national state? Why was 10% of time lost on the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP)? What had informed the results? Most learners used transport that was often in a bad condition and not licensed to get to schools, so once the vehicle stopped working, learners missed school. Had the study looked at the issue of transportation?

Ms Mokoto appreciated the DBE’s regular self-evaluation efforts and the perspective that the presentation gave on where the Department is. The Department should start operating schools as communities. The approach had been adopted by COGTA with regards to municipalities, and the Department should model itself around the same thinking. Issues surrounding parents, environmental and external factors, had been raised throughout the meeting, and showed that the Department should start moving towards the community approach. How did NEEDU fit into the rural education directorate? Most of the issues bordered on the rural area. Some schools had school improvement plans but did not implement them – how could the situation be corrected? The Minister had come up with a programme of strengthening district support and monitoring, but in some areas the circuit managers did not monitor schools. How were these schools being supported? The Committee had raised the consequence management issue with the Department several times -- how did principals ensure that teachers accounted for lost time? She echoed Ms Majeke’s point on the ANA by noting that the ANA was a diagnostic tool. How would the ANA and NEEDU be merged?

Mr Mnguni said that the Department needed a structure like NEEDU to engage in continuous research. Was there any legal framework in place which may assist NEEDU with their functionality? If not, were there plans to formulate the framework? What support were these “well-functioning schools” getting from the district and circuit managers? Some schools failed because of a lack of support from senior management. What was the attendance of the parents in high performing schools? The results should be compared with those of poorly performing schools. The schools selected were mostly model C schools -- why was that the case? Most rural schools were no-fee paying schools -- how would these schools recruit teachers from universities? It created tension between the haves and have-nots, because these schools were allocated teachers by the district. What were the findings in the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal, where both provinces were allocated teachers by districts, which reduced schools’ autonomy for teacher selection?

The Chairperson asked to what extent the issues raised by NEEDU were taken seriously. The issues raised showed that there was a challenge with management at both the higher and lower levels. How was the Department dealing with issues like less written work given to learners, teacher and learner attendance and punctuality -- these were management issues? What was the plan in place in dealing with lost time due to memorial services, as the report had outlined?

DBE’s Response

Deputy Minister Surty responded that Department had a system in place that had already been rolled out to some districts, The system monitored the presence and absence of educators and the impact of absenteeism on learning. The Department planned to make it universal. The Department had also profiled teachers based on their qualifications and experience to ensure that they taught in competent subjects and areas. NEEDU was an advisory body that advised the Minister on macro issues, so the legal framework within which NEEDU had been established enabled the Minister to receive reports and recommendations from it.

NEEDU was not an assessment body, it was different from the ANA.

The Deputy Minister gave the Committee the assurance that he would raise the prioritisation of special needs with the Minister.

The Department had applied a different mode of appointment of principals and deputy principals to enable schools to function as they should as part of addressing management issues.

It was important to deal with rural issues systematically. There have been improvements in dealing with learner’s access to transport, but the roadworthiness of a vehicle did not fall within the paradigm of the school itself. The DBE had urged that the Department of Transport should have one person allocated from the provincial Education Department to sit in meetings with the Department of Transport to ensure that priority was given to this issue.

One could not look at school performance in isolation without districts and circuits. Schools required support from senior management.

He concluded by reiterating that a school did not function based on the interaction between the learner and teacher -- it required community and parent involvement.

Mr Mweli said that the value of the reports must not be seen as episodic views. They were used throughout the year to monitor the Department’s performance. He cautioned and highlighted that some of the data that had been presented was gathered in 2012. The context within which the Department shared data and information was crucial. He echoed Dr Sithole’s comment that some of the work was done a while ago.

Mr Ollis interjected that the report presented today was partly out of date. How did the Committee know which parts of the report were out of date?

Mr Mweli responded that Dr Sithole had made it clear in his report that the study was conducted between 2012 and 2016. Findings and reports still remained relevant even after years, and also depended on the progress that Department had made. The Department had acted on some of the recommendations, and in some cases district managers had been fired. 

Mr Ollis repeated that the reports were out of date and that the Committee could not fulfil its oversight functions if the correct information was not available to them.

Ms Basson clarified that the report clearly outlined the dates. What the Committee should be asking was what the status quo was now.

Mr Mweli said that the presentations were not outdated. They provided baselines, and the Committee should question where or how far the Department was in achieving the recommendations. It was very rare to get real time data in education. The Department had deployed IT services to assist in monitoring teachers’ absence, but besides those types of initiatives it was rare to get real time data.

NEEDU was dependent on how the Department configured it. In some countries it was fully independent while in others it was semi-independent. The Department had conducted a school monitoring in 2011 and was in the process of conducting another one as part of the plan to increase the support for schools. He agreed with Ms Majeke on the performance of multi-grade schools compared to mono-grade schools. NEEDU had started the work on special needs learners, but it had not yet been concluded. NEEDU’s studies did not provide specific real-time data, and this was compliant with best international practices.

Ms Boshoff’s solution of moving maths to the third period was not sustainable -- the solution was getting teachers to arrive on time.

Some of the issues Members raised had been addressed, and this was reflected in the NSC results. Provinces that improved were provinces that placed emphasis on improving schools in quintiles one to three, as by doing this, it improved the whole system.

He responded to Mr Ollis by informing the Committee that there had been a march by SADTU to the DBE office in Gauteng. This did not disrupt the practical IT exam, however, which was successfully written in 4 000 schools across the country, and the Computer Applications Technology (CAT) exam written the day before had done exceptionally well. He clarified that it was not a strike, but a march to deliver a referendum to the DBE. The Department was assured that only 10 000 out of 200 000 members of SADTU would be attending the march. He said that teacher absenteeism used to be a huge problem, but it was not a chronic problem any longer.

Adoption of Portfolio Committee Budget Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR)

The Chairperson requested that the Committee not review the budget page by page, in order to save time.

Ms Basson expressed her irritation with the first few pages of the document. She said it seemed as though it highlighted only the bad aspects and assumed that nothing had been done. However, towards the end of the document she got clarification. She asked the Chairperson what was the way forward now, since Members had read the review?

The Chairperson requested a mover for the adoption of the budget review in the absence of the other members.

Ms Basson said that she had noted corrections within the document, but they were minor and included the replacement of the word “amount” with the word “number”. Besides these minor corrections, she proposed the adoption.

Ms Mokoto proposed the word “expand” should replace “strengthening” the size of internal audit in page five of the review.

Mr Dennis Bandi, Committee Content Advisor, agreed with Ms Mokoto, and said that page five reflected the recommendations of 2015/16.

Ms Mokoto seconded the adoption.

The Chairperson said the document would be sent to where it needed to be sent.

Mr Bandi highlighted that minor changes had been made in Section seven, which dealt with the assessment of service delivery performance.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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