Schools that Work; Early Grade Reading; 25 Year Review

Basic Education

27 November 2018
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the Department on Basic Education on Early Grade Reading Studies; the Schools That Work Survey II and the 25 Year Review of Basic Education. The Minister had tasked the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit to conduct a study into why some schools performed better than others.

111 schools were sampled, that had a 95% or more pass rate for the last four consecutive years. The survey found that with schools that were high performing, there was nothing that they did that was out of the ordinary, but found common set behaviours that either had a direct or indirect impact on the performance of the school. The study also found that system’s support and partnerships, a learner-centered climate and an enabling environment were found to be factors that indirectly influenced the high-performance of the schools surveyed. Members asked what was found as the cause of the inequalities in expenditure across all quintiles; why only eight provinces were involved in the study; the reasons for serial underperformance and the size of the learners sampled. Members heard that size does matter in the learning process because some quintiles are smaller in class size and some are bigger. It was ascertained that the School Governing Body had a vital role to play in the performance of a school.

The Committee was briefed on Early Grade Reading Studies which showed as a key finding that structured learning programmes seemed to be successful in improving instructional change and learning outcomes. Members agreed with early grade readings however they felt that this must start before grade 4 because by then children were already reading and interacting with the teacher. The Committee heard that ring-fenced finances for the proposed implementation of the home language and English first additional language curriculum have been provided to facilitate the programme. Members asked if the Department could propose ways to prevent teachers teaching subjects that knew nothing about; how the Department attempts to balance the scales to support slower learners and  if the South African education system is benchmarked with countries that have similar in conditions.

The Committee was briefed on the 25 Year Review of the Basic Education Report. The purpose of the report was to provide an update on the compiling of the review of the basic education system towards its final version. Also this was done so as to obtain feedback from different stakeholders. Some Members felt that it was disingenuous to write a 25 Year Review of Basic Education having compared it to 1978 because the population then was much younger than the one now, so it does not give a good reflection of the progress that the education system has experienced. Members felt that the Department needs to find and train teachers for subjects that ready learners for the world of work. This would avoid amassing teachers who taught  easy subjects such as English and History.

The Committee asked if the graphs in the report included learners with disabilities because those learners normally started to attend school later than the rest because of their disabilities. Members felt that the 25 Year Review of the Basic Education Report should be added to the legacy report that the Committee had to submit. It was emphasised that the 25 Year Review of the Basic Education Report was a work in progress and would be updated continuously.

Members commended the Department on the good work done and said that that the Department needs to consider developing indigenous languages along with English.

Meeting report

The Chairperson Ms N Gina (ANC) welcomed the Portfolio Committee and delegates from the Department of Basic Education.

An apology was sent from Mr M Majeke (UDM) for being unable to attend the meeting.

The Chairperson highlighted that this meeting was one of the last remaining and critical meetings leading to the end of the term. She acknowledged that most of the points that will be discussed might not be covered to the satisfaction of the Committee. However, the remaining meetings will be used to consolidate critical points before the end of the term.

Briefing by the Department of Basic Education on the Schools That Work Survey II
Dr Sibusiso Sithole, Chief Director, Department of Basic Education (DBE) presented the first report on the Schools That Work Survey II. The following points were highlighted:

After the Minister of Basic Educated Ms Angie Motshekga  tasked the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit team to conduct a study as to why some schools performed better than others and some did not perform well at all, the team went on to use the same method used in 2007 that was commissioned by the then Minister of Education.

111 schools that had a 95% or more pass rate for the last four consecutive years  were sampled.. In addition, the basket score of about 70% or more was a qualifying criterion for all the schools to participate in the survey.

These schools must also have presented 100 or more candidates in the NSC examinations.

The survey was inclusive of all quintiles 1 to 5 and from all the provinces.

The survey found that with schools that are high performing, there was nothing that they did that was  out of the ordinary, but found common set behaviours that either had a direct or indirect impact on the performance of the school.

Dr Sibusiso Sithole said that these key findings are characterised as factors with a direct  and  indirect influence on the schools’ performance. He said that the Department found that professional development and collaboration, quality of teaching and school leadership are factors that are found to have a direct influence on the high-performance of the schools surveyed.

Dr Sithole said that system’s support and partnerships, a learner-centered climate and an enabling environment were found to be factors that indirectly influenced the high-performance of the schools surveyed. The Department notes that there is still a huge gap between the high performing and low performing schools and it is still a work in progress compared to the previous years.


Briefing on Early Grade Reading Studies
Dr Stephen Taylor, Director: Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, the DBE highlighted that the study did find significant results that the report detailed more clearly. He highlighted that the early grade reading studies showed that structured learning programmes seem to be successful in improving instructional change and learning outcomes. He pointed out further that the study showed that there had to  be intervention in reading practices by the Department prior to grade four as it is critical that leaners are taught these practices earlier to be able to comprehend them later on.

Dr Taylor acknowledged that with every school, some solutions were effective and some needed more work. He pointed out that language, particularly English, came out as a problem for predominately indigenous communities and non-native English speakers. The Department has established a steering committee to manage and facilitate the implementations proposed. The Department has adopted the structured learning programme and it has developed guidelines for on-site coaching for instructional support.

The Department has provided ring-fenced finances for the proposed implementation for the home language and English first additional language curriculum. It has proposed that an early grade mathematics project should be rolled-out to address issues of maths literacy from early grades.

Briefing of the 25 Year Review of the Basic Education Report
Dr Taylor presented the 25 Year Review of the Basic Education Report. The purpose of the report was to provide an update on the compiling of the review of the basic education system towards its final version. Also this was done so as to obtain feedback from different stakeholders. The report highlighted teacher development resources and assessments as two of the outputs that the Department has been monitoring carefully. He highlighted that although the Department faces challenges, the report does show significant development in most areas. The Department has to-date benchmarked its progress in comparison with countries that posed similar characteristics particularly with their education system, and noted that there is more that could be done.

Discussion

Ms H Boshoff (DA) commended the Department for a nice presentation and the good work done. She then asked where was a report of the under-performing schools as it is also a concern to know what the factors were that influenced the underperformance  so that the Committee and the Department could discuss the best practices that may improve these schools. She also asked how many of the schools surveyed are from the rural areas because in the report the Department suggested the taking away of cell phones so that children could do their homework as one of the suggested practices. In the rural areas and some urban areas this approach may not necessarily be relevant as some households are headed by children.

Ms  Boshoff said  that apart from what she already asked, most children cannot do their homework at home because of various reasons which included travelling long distances, having home chores to do, no parental involvement and other things which may not allow them to do their school work at home. She therefore asked what the Department was going to do about that situation.

Ms  Boshoff said that  most teachers are not equipped to handle the current curriculum and asked for a report on the point of a focused curriculum as the Department had suggest.

Ms Boshoff said moving with a learner from one grade to the next is both good and bad. It is bad particularly if you are a maths and science teacher because it is close to impossible to learn the background knowledge of grade 12 and then take that to a grade 8 learner.

Ms Boshoff also said that if the teacher is to move with a learner from a lower grade to and an upper one and there is tension between the teacher and the learner because of a disagreement, this could be discriminatory towards the learner.

Ms Boshoff asked how the Department balances the scale to support the slower learners.

Ms C King (DA) said that there is a benefit to moving up with learners, such as that the teacher is like a  witness to the behaviour of the learner and knows what could be done to improve it. She said  that one of the reasons that most schools perform better than others is because the Principles know what they are there for, unlike sometimes when teachers only teach when they know someone from the Department is coming to observe which  unions they do not like.

Ms King pointed out that there are many changes to the  curriculum, some of which some  teachers could not  keep up with.  Some teachers also said that they were not considered when changes were made  and this process was  just on paper to  get people across the system.

Ms King said  that the Department needed to consider ways to help schools that are under-performing because most schools surveyed are in quintiles 4 and 5 because of the facilities they had. She asked  what  about those that do not have those facilities.

Ms King said subjects should not be used to find more teachers, instead the Department needs to find and train teachers for subjects that ready learners for the world of work. This would avoid amassing teachers who taught easy subjects such as English and History.

Mr H Khosa (ANC) says he was delighted about the fact that the Department knows what needs to be done in the system. The only problem that the country faced had to do with that of implementation.

Mr Khosa sought clarity on why only top performing schools were in quintiles 4 and 5 and excluded those that were not performing well? He added that maybe there could have been information gathered that the Department could use to improve the performance of those schools.

Mr Khosa asked the Department if this type of programme could be implemented in other schools so as to address the challenges of underperforming schools and perhaps improve their performance.

Mr Khosa said that in many rural schools teachers are allowed to teach subjects they knew nothing about. He asked if the Department could propose ways in which this could be addressed.

Ms N Tarabelli-Marchesi (DA) asked for clarity regarding the methodology used and said that with quintile 4 and 5 schools they usually performed better whether with or without government intervention and wondered if these studies gave the Committee a good reflection of the countries’ education system.

Ms Tarabelli-Marchesi asked what steps are to be taken to address issues regarding the socioeconomic factors that affected the schools in the lower quintile groups.

Ms Tarabelli-Marchesi said that she would have loved to see the impact analysis and expenditure of the study.

Mr A Botes (ANC) said that when a school has a focused Principle, the school would perform well. He then asked what the role of the School Governing Body is. He said that since the last time  this was brought up, the Committee did say that the SGB had a critical role to play in the performance of the school they governed and that of their learners.

Mr Botes said that the Committee needed to also focus on the performance of the school Principle over a period of time, because when the Principle has been at a school for x amount of years and no progress has been seen, the Department needs to ask what is it that the person is not doing right.

Ms J Basson (ANC) asked why only eight provinces were represented in the study.

Ms N Mokoto (ANC) commended the Department for the study and asked how far the implementation process of the recommendation outlined in the report was.

Ms  Mokoto asked about the size of the learners sampled and said  that size does matter in the learning process of the learners because some quintiles are smaller in class size and some are bigger.

Ms Tarabelli-Marchesi said that since it was found that grade four learners cannot read for understanding, what strategies are proposed to address the issue as it is not highlighted in the report.

The Chairperson acknowledged that moving up with learners worked in some cases and others it does not. She said that sometimes there had to be consequences for underperforming school so to address the issue. She had reservations about the proposed focused curriculum of the Department as it might disadvantage most learners and this was not what the work of the Department was supposed to do.

Ms Palesa Tyobeka, Deputy Director-General: Planning and Delivery Oversight, DBE, replied to the question of sampling and said that schools sampled themselves through their meeting the criteria. The Department did not go out and find the schools as their marks were recorded.

Ms Tyobeka highlighted the fact that only quintiles 4 and 5 schools in both the Northern Cape and the Western Cape made the criteria and told the Department more about what needs to be done to address the matter. The Western Cape MEC and HOD were amongst the first to come to the Department of Basic Education to say that they are struggling with both black and colour schools in terms of performance.

Ms Tyobeka replied to the question about serial underperformance and said that all departments under basic education were informed to first ask about the circumstances of underperforming schools so as to understand what may not be working, and it was found that not all schools have similar problems. She says that issues were attended to uniquely as to how the schools experienced them.

On the issue of recruiting teachers using subjects currently offered, Ms Tyobeka replied that in most cases districts have an abundance of teachers for particular subjects and in some a lack thereof , so the Department saw fit to balance it with the number of teachers to subjects within districts.

Dr Sithole said that the study was not about quintiles but about schools found in those quintiles which the Department wanted to know how best this could help underperforming schools.

Dr Sithole replied to the question of only having eight out of nine provinces been represented. He says that the reason why was because there were only eight provinces which were represented for the roadshows that the department did and  the Northern Cape asked for the report and said they will do it themselves.

In response to the question on balancing the scale between good performing schools and learners compared to those who are not performing well Dr Sithole said that different solutions were used for different schools because not all situations were the same. He referred the Committee to the report the Department had submitted to them.

Mr Mathanzima Mweli, Director-General (DG), DBE, said that out of all the quintiles sampled, quintile 1 to 3 were the ones that showed the most improvement over the years. This   showed that the Department and the system had a hold on the issues that affected it.

Mr Mweli acknowledged that moving up with learners was beneficial when it was effective and he also acknowledged that this could yield bad results if it was not based on a healthy relationship.

The Chairperson said that they hoped the Department will present a better detailed report than the one used in this meeting because the Department only speaks about things they know which the Committee Members had not been given the opportunity to view and engage with. However, she continued to say that she was happy that the Department was making provisions to address the issue of the education system of the country.

Ms Boshoff said  that the Department should have not presented the document word for word as it has already taken up a lot of discussion  time, the documents should have been sent to  Members prior to meeting.

Ms Boshoff said that she agreed with early grade readings; however, this must start before grade 4 because by then children were already reading and interacting with the teacher.

Ms Boshoff said that the completion of grade 12 was 50% and this was worrisome. It suggested that the Department needed to track these numbers from grade1 until the end to check where the dropouts occurred.

Ms Boshoff said that the Provincial Department of Basic Education must ‘adopt an effective programme’ proposed by the Department and  those PDBE’s that do not adhere to the programme should face consequences.

Ms Basson said that sometimes it is difficult for some children to learn effectively and receive quality education because they are taught by teachers who do not care or understand the conditions of most of those children in those schools. This needs to be looked at.

Ms Basson asked what support strategies can be implemented to support staff in district areas of schools that are underperforming but have willing staff members that can help.

Ms Basson asked the Department what they had found as the cause of the inequalities in expenditure across all quintiles.

Ms  King (DA) said  that having learners use black and white paper as a substitute for textbooks disadvantages most of them because often they would be asked about identifying something that is not how they know it. For instance a teacher would request the learners to identify a red colour but because the paper is in black and white, they would not learn that correctly.

Ms King said that the introduction of indigenous languages makes it hard for learners to learn English, which makes them struggle with reading because they have not mastered the English language first.

Ms King asked if the Department really needed a steering committee which would be more money spent, whereas the Department could just get back to basics and get qualified teachers that would be able to read the guidelines.

Ms  King said that it is disingenuous to write a 25 Year Review of Basic Education having compared it to 1978 because the population then was much younger than the one now, so it does not give a good reflection of the progress that the education system has experienced. She also said that we need to only write about the education system in the democratic era and what the democratic government has done for the system.

Ms Mokoto said that only quintiles 4 and 5 are recorded to have been good performance in the Western Cape because those schools have inherited the historic resources of the past. This should also be given to schools in Khayelitsha.

Ms Mokoto said that the 25 Year Review of Basic Education needs to be added to the legacy report that the Committee has to submit.

Ms Mokoto seconded Ms Boshoff’s suggestion of having children start reading before grade 4.

Ms Mokoto said that English should be taught by good local English  speakers because it is difficult to understand English let alone someone who does not speak the English used in the country.

Ms Mokoto says that parental involvement is important in ensuring that children learn, however, it is difficult to do so when the parent does not know what is being taught in schools and also having no orientation for parents is disadvantageous.

The Chairperson said says that the Department needs to consider developing indigenous languages along with English.

Ms L Meso (ANC) referred  to slide 48 bullet 3 of the 25 Year Review of Basic Education and asked since there is a need to build new facilities and destroy old ones, what is the proposed plan by the Department to ensure that this process is initiated and concluded.

Mr  Khosa referred to slide 14 of the 25 Year Review of Basic Education Report and asked  the Department if the graphs  included learners with disabilities because the Department needed to look into learners who are disabled and only started to attend school way later than other kids because of their condition.

Mr Botes asked if the South African education system is benchmarked with countries that have similar in conditions.

Mr Mweli reminded the Committee that the 25 Year Review of Basic Education Report is a work in progress and it was brought to the Committees’ attention for deliberation more than anything.

Dr Taylor replied to the concern of a steering committee and said that this a work in progress which is still being developed and the development is working on the cost analysis.

Dr Taylor said that parental involvement is an important aspect in early childhood learning and the Department is trying to find ways in which parents could be effectively included particularly those who do not have prior knowledge or teaching.

Dr Taylor replied to the English being introduced early question and said that this is done at the lower grades already.

Dr Taylor said that in the report it was found that boys are quicker to disengage than girls which could explain why girls outperformed boys in literacy and early grade reading.

Dr Taylor replied to the question of learners with special needs and said that within the study, there is at least one teacher designated in most schools to address that area within the system.

Dr  Taylor replied to the question of comparing the 25Year Review of Basic Education Report to the past and said that the number of the population of learners in schools has not increased that drastically, however it is important to note the differences.

The Chairperson said that the Department and the Committee have ongoing discussions about what is written in report and the questions will never stop. She thanked the Department for a job well done.


The meeting was adjourned.
 

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