In a virtual meeting, the Committee was briefed by the Department of Basic Education on the National School’s Quintile system and by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) on the National Quintile System in order to see how it affected schools in the Western Cape. The Committee heard that the quintile ranking system was inherited from the former Department of Basic Education and Higher Learning as set out by the National Resource Targeting Table (NRTT) taking into account five principles which included Access, Redress and Equity. These five principles had been embedded in the sustainable development goals as set out by UNESCO.
The Committee was informed that South Africa divided all public schools into five quintile rankings. quintile’s one to three schools were "no fee paying” schools and quintile’s four to five schools were "fee paying" schools. The DBE looked at the income, literacy and unemployment levels in a community as the indices to determine a school’s quintile ranking. The Cape Winelands had the most quintile one schools. There are about 170 quintile one schools in this region whereas Metro central had no quintile one schools. These figures indicated that the majority of "no fee paying” schools were situated in rural areas or previously marginalised communities.
The Committee asked for clarity on the 200 quintile four schools that had been reclassified as “no-fee paying” schools; to be taken through the dispute process and how quintile determinations were made; what the DBE has done to foster and promote African languages in schools as most questions papers are still in English and Afrikaans; and that the DBE put in place a review process of the quintile system.
Members heard that appeals to be reclassified as a “no-fee paying” school had to be made to the Education HOD in the respective provinces with detailed socio-economic profiles of the schools and the wider community that the school serviced.
Members were disappointed to hear that the Covid-19 pandemic would have a disastrous effect on the quintile system as many parents and caregivers had lost their jobs. Members were informed that there had been an incremental introduction of African languages into the curriculum. The Western Cape was commended for the giant strides the province had made in the introduction of African languages.
Members proposed that funding be directly linked to learners instead of the schools they attended because they could not understand why the discussion revolved around money, yet there had been total silence on the quality of education. Members asked how many children from quintiles one to three schools ever reached university level and escaped their socio-economic circumstances. The DBE explained to Members that it did not only focus on money as it was pertinent to remove all obstacles to quality education, and at some stage they would be able to talk about an individual poverty index per learner.
Briefing by the DBE on the National School’s Quintile system
Opening remarks by the Department of Basic Education (DBE)
Mr Mathanzima Mweli, Director-General, DBE, informed the Committee that it had always been a pleasure to appear before it to account to the DBE’s mandate. The purpose of these meetings was to share information and to elaborate on matters that arose from these discussions.
He stated that South African schools had been divided into five quintile rankings. The quintile ranking system was inherited from the former Department of Basic Education and Higher Learning as set out by the National Resource Targeting Table (NRTT). The NRTT took into the account the following five principles;
• Access – School fees should not hinder learners from attending school;
• Redress – It is important to address the socio-economic imbalance brought about by apartheid;
• Equity- That everyone receives an equitable chance to attend school;
• Quality- That South African learners should receive quality education; and
• Efficiency- That the education system should be efficient and responsive to the needs of South African learners.
He added that these five principles had been embedded in the sustainable development goals as set out by UNESCO. He further noted that the NRTT set the minimum standards that had to be met in order for schools to be able to provide quality education.
The following are the quintile rankings;
• Quintiles one to three are “no-fee paying schools”
• Quintiles four to five are “fee-paying schools”
Ms Modise, DBE, took Members through the presentation [see attached]
Opening remarks by Western Cape Education Department
Mr Brian Schreuder, Head of the Department, stated that Western Cape schools faced a myriad of challenges and that the poverty rate was steadily increasing. Schools could apply for “no fee” status provided that funds were available. In order for any school to be accepted as a quintile one to three school, the WCED would have to take out another school in that same group. He also decried the ever increasing student-teacher ratio.
Mr R Allen (DA) appreciated the presentations especially the comments on the misclassification of certain schools. He recalled an oversight visit that the Committee undertook to the Milnerton area. One of the schools there had been classified as a quintile four school; however the school serviced learners from outside Milnerton as well. He wanted to ascertain what could be done in such an instance.
He also requested clarity on the 200 quintile four schools that had been reclassified as “no-fee paying” schools.
Ms N Makamba-Botya (EFF) requested that the DBE should take Members through the dispute process and how quintile determinations were made.
She also asked what the DBE had done to foster and promote African languages in schools as most questions papers are still in English and Afrikaans.
Mr F Christians (ACDP) also recalled that during oversight visits to schools it was discovered that many schools had been classified into higher quintiles. This created several problems for these schools as they did not have additional funding streams.
Mr Christians took issue with the formula used to determine a schools quintile. He called on the DBE to review the formula.
Mr M Kama (ANC) proposed that the DBE should put in place a review process of the quintile system.
He further requested clarity on whether a schools poverty ranking could be reviewed as some schools host learners from outside their geographical position.
Responses by the DBE
Mr Mweli replied that any appeal to be reclassified as a “no-fee” school had to be made to the Education HOD in the respective provinces. Schools are not asked to send a motivation that detailed the socio-economic profile of the schools and the wider community that the school serviced.
He added that the DBE has been faced with the reality that there would always be “one way traffic” towards quintiles one to three schools as these were “no-fee paying” schools. The DBE had never seen quintile’s one to three schools becoming quintiles four to five schools.
The Covid-19 pandemic will have a disastrous effect on the quintile system as many parents and caregivers had lost their jobs. This will surely influence quintiles four to five schools as well. The DBE had already received requests from private schools for funding. These schools were directed towards the Solidarity Fund.
At some stage the DBE would have to consider the requests from these private schools as the public education system might be “overrun” by learners from these private schools.
The DG further informed Members that the DBE looked at the income, literacy and unemployment levels in a community as the indices to determine a school’s quintile ranking.
On the introduction of African languages in schools, the DG added that there had been incremental introduction of African languages into the curriculum. He commended the Western Cape for the giant strides the province had made in the introduction of African languages. He reiterated that all learners in public schools should at least be exposed to one additional African language.
There was a team within the DBE that was busy looking at having exam papers in African languages as well. Thus far the team had been working with the Eastern Cape Education Department on the introduction of Xhosa exam papers. These efforts all formed part of government’s commitment to decolonise the South African education system.
He conceded that there had been many schools that had been wrongly classified and that the country will experience a sharp uptick in applications to change from “fee paying” to “no fee paying “schools. This situation would become untenable if the equitable share to the Department was not increased.
The DG further added that the problem was not with the formula that determined a school’s quintile. The problem had to do with available financial resources. The more resources you had the more schools could be reclassified as “no fee paying” schools.
He relayed that there had been discussions about abolishing the quintile system and to link funding directly to individual learners as was being done in certain other countries.
Mr Kama noted that it would probably be more prudent to link a poverty index directly to a learner rather than a school. He made the example that many learners travelled from communities outside their school’s geographical reach. In some cases learners even travelled from one province to another. He proposed that funding be directly linked to learners instead of the schools they attended.
Ms Makamba-Botya reiterated her previous comments about the dispute process. She stated that it was imperative for schools to be given a clear timeline on when their requests would be entertained. Failure to timeously reply to requests impacted on the performances of schools.
Mr P Marais (FF+) expressed his concern with the trend of the debate. He questioned why the discussion revolved around money, yet there had been total silence on the quality of education. According to Mr Marais money had not been the only challenge.
He asked whether the DBE considered a learner that attended a quintile one school in Bishop Lavis to be equal to a child that attended a quintile five school such as Bishops. He asked how many children from quintiles one to three schools ever reached university level and escaped their socio-economic circumstances.
He was adamant that the DBE had focused on the wrong things.
The DG replied that the DBE had statistics on the five social justice indicators.
He further informed Members that in 2019, about 55% of bachelor passes emanated from quintiles one to three schools. A couple of years ago this stood at 20%.
He stated that he could make additional information available to the Committee. He was at pains to explain that the DBE did not only focus on money. He added that it was pertinent to remove all obstacles to quality education and that the playing field had to be levelled.
He hoped that at some stage the DBE would be able to talk about an individual poverty index per learner. This would assist the DBE greatly.
He expressed his confidence in the appeals system. Part of the appeals process relied heavily on available resources. The DBE had been faced with the reality that even though a school’s ranking might change, that did not necessarily translate into the availability of funds. He lamented the lack of funding.
Mr Leon Ely, Deputy Director-General: Corporate Services, WCED, took note of the comments on the individual poverty index as a barometer to determine funding. He explained that should the DBE change the policy to a poverty index than it should be done thoroughly. He also explained that the WCED dealt with Quintile appeals in a timeous manner (within six months).
If a school found itself in the wrong quintile grouping, that school was probably in the same boat as a 100 other schools. Every year the WCED received countless applications/appeals for reclassification.
He noted that the question about quality education was important; however one cannot achieve something like quality education without having funding. Minimum standards had to be put in place.
Mr Ely also stated that since 2020, the WCED had been able to bring quintiles one to three learners on par with quintile four schools. The WCED had seen better results across the board.
Mr Marais stated that the Department should provide information to Members so that Members could be up to date with the latest developments.
Briefing by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) on the National Quintile System
Ms Erna Veldman, Chief Director: Financial Management, WCED, briefed the Committee on how the Quintile Ranking System of schools impacted on the Western Cape.
The Committee was informed that out of 1444 schools 270 had been classified as quintile one schools. 168 schools had been classified as quintile two, 204 as Quintile three, 356 as quintile four and 446 as quintile five schools. This meant that the Western Cape had 634 "no fee paying" schools.
The Cape Winelands had the most quintile one schools. There are about 170 quintile one schools in this region whereas Metro Central had no quintile one schools.
These figures indicated that the majority of "no fee paying” schools were situated in rural areas or previously marginalised communities.
Many quintile four and five schools who applied for reclassification did so in the hope of accessing “no fee “school benefits. She explained that the WCED could not remove a school from quintiles one and three and replace it with a quintile four or five school.
Instead, the WCED gave schools an option to retain their quintile five ranking with the proviso that the school would become a “voluntary no fee paying “school. This way the school could still access the financial benefits of “no fee paying” schools.
Mr Marais noted that he was a great-grandfather already and that he could see the difference in education that they received versus to what a learner in Bishop Lavis was receiving.
He wanted to know from the WCED whether a child that stayed in Bishop Lavis would be able to attend a quintile four or five school in Bishops Court and be subsidised by the WCED. This could be akin to a bursary. Many learners from poor backgrounds had shown great talent, not only in academics but also in sports.
The Chairperson asked Mr Marais to stop making statements and to pose a question.
Mr Marais took exception to the comments by the Chairperson and stated that he had already posed a question. That question was whether the WCED would subsidise a learner from a quintile one to three school to attend a quintile four or five school.
Mr Christians touched on the appeals that had been approved by the WCED. He wanted to ascertain what happened with these approvals as schools that used to be quintile four and five had now been classified as quintile one schools. He wanted to know how this decision had been derived at.
He added that everybody was struggling in South Africa and that those who could afford to pay should be made to pay.
The Chairperson recalled that due to the Covid-19 pandemic many parents and caregivers had lost their jobs. What influence would this have on “fee paying” schools and the quintile rankings?
Responses by the WCED
Ms Veldman replied that many quintile four and five schools who applied for reclassification did so in the hope of accessing “no fee “school benefits. She explained that the WCED could not remove a school from quintiles one and three and replace it with a quintile four or five school.
Instead, the WCED gave schools an option to retain their quintile five ranking with the proviso that the school would become a “voluntary no fee paying” school. This way the school could still access the financial benefits of “no fee paying” schools.
She also informed Members that the WCED had already begun to review the 2019 applications to be exempted from the need to pay school fees. The WCED had set aside R50 million to address this. She noted that the WCED expected a spike in applications for the 2020 financial year.
She added that Members should be made aware that many fee charging schools are within the lowest fee charging band. This meant that the WCED had to provide top up funding to these schools. The WCED regarded this as a priority and earmarked R100 million for this purpose.
Responses by the DBE
DG Mweli replied that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic had gone beyond debates on fee exemption. A number of quintile four and five schools would simply request to be reclassified to quintile three schools given the dire economic situation in the country. He added that a good indicator of the economic malaise could be seen with the increased requests by private schools for funding. Some school governing bodies had indicated that some of them might not survive beyond the next six months. This had major implications for the public education system.
He further noted that the DBE always made information available to the Committee and that Members could always visit the respective websites of the DBE and or the WCED to access additional information. The DBE also stood ready to furnish any information to the Committee.
In response to Mr Marais, the DG stated that South Africa faced a myriad of socio-economic challenges that were both systemic and structural. The South African economy had failed to produce jobs. This had a dire impact on the jobs market with many graduates not being able to find meaningful employment.
He also lamented South Africa’s preoccupation with the need to obtain an academic qualification. He recalled that countries like Germany, Switzerland and Finland invested heavily in vocational training. This investment paid off as these economies are basically powered by small to medium sized enterprises brought about by artisans. South Africa should invest more in vocational training.
He was also at pains to explain that no learner could be refused access to any school. Every learner had the right to an education. Many deserving learners from poor areas received bursaries to attend quintiles four and five schools.
Mr Schreuder noted that poor parents still ended up paying exorbitant fees to transport their children to more affluent schools. This was another reality of attending schools outside of one’s geographical areas. Nevertheless, many deserving students from quintiles one and three schools have received bursaries to attend quintiles four and five schools.
He added that the WCED also continuously called on wealthier schools to offer bursaries to deserving poor learners.
The Chairperson thanked the WCED and DBE for the presentation and requested the DG and HOD to deliver their closing remarks.
Mr Schreuder thanked the Chairperson and Committee for the opportunity to present. The WCED was committed to empowering the Committee and thanked Members for the quality of the engagements. He also thanked the DBE for their assistance.
The DG agreed with Mr Schreuder’s assessment. He stated that he was looking forward to future engagements and that the quintile system was the topic of the moment.
Mr Marais stated that the DG had been wrong in his assessment that quintile’s one to three schools had shown improvement. It was only natural that there would be an improvement as these schools represented almost 80% of the population.
He asked that Committee should request the WCED and the DBE to look at the quality of education at schools.
He also proposed that the Committee should visit schools in order to compare the state of the infrastructure.
Mr Kama proposed that the Committee should look at the schools it conducted oversight visits of. These schools could serve as a barometer.
The Chairperson stated that the WCED had a slide on the number of appeals that had been considered. She proposed that the WCED be requested to provide a detailed list of all schools that applied for reclassification. She also wanted the unsuccessful applicants to be listed.
Mr Christians also stated that it was pertinent to ascertain why only some schools had been successful in have their ranking changed whereas others were not.
Adoption of Minutes
The Committee adopted the minutes of a meeting that was held on 2 June 2020.
The Committee also adopted an Activity Report dated 31 March to 30 June 2020.
The Committee also approved the Oversight Report for a visit due to take place from 28 September 2020 to 2 October 2020.
The meeting was adjourned.
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