Members welcomed the presentation in a virtual meeting by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on its annual performance plan, but raised concerns on the learning time that had been lost due to Covid-19, and asked if learners would be able to catch up. They were also worried that more teachers would be needed to help with mathematics and science subjects so that there could be a smooth transition for learners into tertiary education and the requirements of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).
The Minister of Basic Education assured the Members that they would be briefed on matters that needed clarity and that the Department was working hand in hand with other government departments to make sure that they provided quality education to learners across the country. The Committee heard that since the COVID-19 outbreak two years ago, the pandemic had disrupted education systems globally, affecting the most vulnerable learners the hardest. It had increased inequalities and aggravated a pre-existing education crisis. Enrolment in the first quarter of 2021 had been around 50 000 lower than expected. In 2020, 54% of contact time had been lost due to closures and rotations, and in the second half of 2021, 22% of contact time was lost due to rotations and regular absenteeism. These averages hid huge inequalities across grades and schools. In historically disadvantaged schools, around 70% of a year’s worth of learning was lost in 2020. For every day of schooling lost, around 1.3 days of learning were lost.
The Director-General told the Committee that the medium term strategic framework (MTSF) 2019/24 translated the ruling party’s electoral mandate into the government’s priorities over a five-year period. The first outcome was to have improved school-readiness of children, and the second outcome was to have ten-year-old learners enrolled in publicly funded schools being able to read for meaning. The other MTSF outcomes included having youths better prepared for further studies and the world of work beyond grade 9, so that on leaving the schooling system they could contribute towards a prosperous and equitable South Africa, and having a school physical infrastructure and environment that inspired learners to learn and teachers to teach.
Members also raised concerns over the challenge of budget cuts and asked if these were going to have an impact on the realisation of the projects that had been earmarked by the Department.
DBE: Annual performance plan 2022/23
Mr Hubert Mweli, Director-General (DG), Department of Basic Education (DBE), said the presentation outlined the Department's approach to government-wide national development plan (NDP) and education sector priorities based on the NDP 2030, the medium term strategic framework (MTSF) 2019-2024, and the action plan to 2024. The intention was to ensure programme activities in the sector were aligned with medium and long- term goals. The annual performance plan (APP) sets out what the Department intends to do in the financial year and during the MTEF period to implement its strategic plan.
Since its outbreak two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted education systems globally, affecting the most vulnerable learners the hardest. It had increased inequalities and aggravated a pre-existing education crisis. Enrolment in the first quarter of 2021 was around 50 000 (0.4%), which was lower than expected.
The action plan for 2024 was to work towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030, which was the sector plan for basic education. It had been reviewed and strengthened for the 2020/24 planning cycle. The plan was based on 27 national goals that were intended to improve basic education across all levels. 13 of these goals were output goals, dealing with better school results and better enrolment of learners in schools. The remaining 14 goals dealt with things that must happen for the output goals to be realised.
The priorities for the sixth administration had been focused on improving foundational skills of numeracy and literacy, especially reading, which should be underpinned by a reading revolution. There would be immediate implementation of a curriculum with skills and competencies for a changing world in all public schools (three stream model, fourth industrial revolution, entrepreneurship, focus schools, etc.). The administration sought to deal decisively with quality and efficiency through the implementation of standardised assessments to reduce failure, repetition, and dropout rates and introduce multiple qualifications such as the general education certificate before the Grade 12 exit qualification. There would be urgent implementation of two years of early childhood development (ECD) before Grade 1, and the migration of the 0 - 4 year olds from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to the DBE. The Department would complete an integrated infrastructure development plan informed by infrastructure delivery and regular maintenance which was resourced. It would work with Departments of Sport and Recreation, Arts and Culture, Health, and the South African Police Service (SAPS) to teach and promote social cohesion, health and school safety.
Referring to the State of the Nation Address (SONA), the Department said the government was introducing an innovative social infrastructure delivery mechanism to address issues that afflict the delivery of school infrastructure. The mechanism would address the speed, financing and funding, quality of delivery, mass employment and maintenance. Over half a million young people had been appointed as education assistants, making it the largest youth employment programme ever undertaken in the country's history.
There had been a significant increase in the number of full-time enrolments in the 2021 academic year, increasing from 610 484 in 2020 to 733 917 in 2021. This had resulted in an increase in candidates who wrote the 2021 national senior certificate (NSC) from 578 468 in 2020, to 704 021.
On the special needs education for learners who passed the NSC in 2021, the Committee was told that the core promise of the National Development Plan’s Vision 2030 was to leave no one behind, and the DBE aimed to fulfil this commitment towards persons with disabilities. A total of 1 937 learners with special needs education had achieved their NSC qualification.
On the approach to DBE outcomes in the strategic plan and the APP, the outcomes were broad in order to consolidate work contributed by the sector to encourage joint planning, rather than working in silos by individual programmes, to reflect the aspirations at an organisational level including the support to the provincial education departments (PEDs). The approach to outcomes assisted with clustering delivery areas that relate to strategic outcomes, thereby enabling new and emerging interventions to impact the basic education system meaningfully.
The strategic delivery areas and outputs bridge the gap between medium-to-long-term outcomes, short-term annual outputs and indicators in describing the intended change for the education system.
The process and approach to planning had applied the use of the Theory of Change to map the changes and impact of the Department, also using the results model to identify the critical success factors and deliverables of the sector in the implementation of the strategic intent.
The DBE strategic outcomes had been slightly amended for strengthening. The amendments were reflected in Annexure A of the APP.
On the feedback from Cabinet on the MTSF report, the DBE ECD unit had worked with Health, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the DSD, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DLRD), Treasury and the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) to develop a new vision aligned with the national integrated policy for ECD, including funding. In 2021, the DBE had started working alongside the DSD on the Second Children’s Amendment Bill that relates specifically to the ECD sections in the Children’s Act. This process would provide an interim solution to streamlining the ECD sections in the Children’s Act to consolidate them into one chapter.
In preparing for legislating the long term vision of a holistic integrated ECD Act, the DBE, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), was in the process of reviewing all legislation, regulations and policies relating to ECD with the purpose of proposing draft legislation that would embed ECD as part of the basic education system, while ensuring that it clarifies the roles and responsibilities of different role players .During the 2022/23 financial year, the DBE would establish a technical task team to review the national integrated ECD policy to ensure that it adequately reflects the ECD function shift.
The DBE infrastructure branch had established contacts with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) responsible units. A consultative process had been initiated, and the DBE was awaiting confirmation of availability. However, consultation with the DPWI would be informed by the decisions of a meeting between the DBE Ministry and the Presidency, which was yet to be scheduled.
On the recommendation of the DBE to work with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and other organisations to determine the quantum of teachers and funding needed to meet its mandate, the DBE would work with the National Treasury to put together a cost proposal. The proposal would be submitted by July 2022.
The sector had developed a concept paper and an opportunity to conceptualise, develop and implement a national mathematics improvement plan (NMIP) on the back of the deliberations and recommendations arising from the mathematics indaba of 12-14 December 2016. The national plan process would include evaluations of Phase 1 Grades 1-3 Teaching Mathematics for Understanding (TMU) pilot; Phase 2 Grades 4-7; and Phase 3 Grades 8-12. An early grade numeracy research network had been established.
The DBE had led several impact evaluations on what works to improve early grade reading outcomes. The first evaluation had measured the impact of a reading catch-up programme aimed at boosting the English proficiency of children entering Grade 4 and having to transition to English as the language of learning and teaching.
The early grade reading study (EGRS) 1 project had evaluated the impact of three alternative programmes all aimed at improving home language literacy and reading outcomes. EGRS 2 compared the impact of on-site coaching to a virtual coaching programme.
The DBE was currently running a further evaluation project in the North West Province in which departmental heads of the foundation phase were being trained to play the role of an internal coach within the school.
The Committee also heard that an annual sector report had been produced on monitoring the implementation of teacher development programmes by PEDs with a special focus on language, mathematics, physical sciences and accounting.
The DBE had approved the annual sector report on monitoring the functionality of provincial teacher development institutes and district teacher development centres. An annual national report was produced on the number of provinces monitored for implementation of the Learner Unit Record Information and Tracking System (LURITS) and the Education Management Information System (EMIS) priorities. An annual national report was produced on learning outcomes linked to the national assessment framework.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for the presentation, and asked Members to engage with the presentation.
The Chairperson read a question sent to her by Ms M Sukers (ACDP), who wanted to know if the research agenda had changed, how many staff were in the Department, how many reports had been published and what they were focused on. She also wanted to know if research was done to determine if the programmes were going to work, and she was concerned about research into the school dropout rate.
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) said the important thing was that the presentation showed that there was a good direction being taken, because there was planning at the DBE. He asked about the importance of mathematics, science and technology in the educational system, especially in the rural areas, because these subjects had to be closely monitored. He had conducted his own research and found out that there were schools that were closing down and were not offering these subjects. He urged the Minister to look closely at the situation and monitor it before it became a disaster. He asked for the promotion of home language as the medium of instruction in the local schools. The matter needed urgent attention before it exploded, because no language should be undermined, and language played an important role in the day-to-day lives of South Africans. He read an extract to the Members on the importance of using local languages, and said there was no need to teach mathematics in English because in other nations they were using their own languages, and it was an advantage to use a local language instead of English. He reminded the Committee that the Minister had mentioned in one of the interviews the matter of home languages, and asked if the DBE would provide some clarity.
Mr B Nodada (DA) was concerned about the amount of learning that had been lost due to Covid-19. He wanted to know if there had been any consideration for rural schools to be included in the programmes, because there was a need for interventions in the disadvantaged schools. Would the Committee be briefed about the interventions? Were there any plans to increase the number of electronic devices that were being allocated to learners? Had there had been an engagement to assist students when they went to tertiary institutions, for them to have a better understanding? On the local language issue, he suggested that the plan should be looked into from a holistic point of view. He wanted to know if there were going to be consequence management action against agencies whose agents had not met their obligations. Referring to the additional budget, he wanted to know if the money would be used for filling vacancies. He also mentioned that there was an allocation of R3.7 billion for the ECD for the next three years, and asked if the amount would be able to cover all that was required.
Mr E Siwela (ANC) wanted to know if there were any issues that would hamper the Department in achieving its targets. How was the APP responding to the governing parties’ manifesto and contributing to the attainment of the NDP goals?
Ms N Adoons (ANC) raised a concern about the employment initiative that was coming to an end on 1 April, and wanted the Department to give some clarity. She wanted to know which measures were in place to assist learners, especially with the lack of connectivity in rural areas, bearing in mind that the country was working towards realising the 4IR. Was there any financial support in place to assist teachers appointed by the school governing bodies (SGBs)?
The Chairperson said the presentation had covered most of the issues. She asked about the mobile ECD facilities and libraries. How was the Department going to ensure the safety of children and how were the resources going to be secured? She said the DBE should brief the Committee on how they were working on achieving the deliverables that were mentioned by the President in his SONA speech. She was concerned about the fact that when the Committee engaged on oversight, they found schools that did not have 100% delivery of workbooks, yet it was known that the academic year starts in January. She asked what other initiatives had been explored by the DBE to ensure that more young people were employed.
Ms Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, responded to the question on mathematics performance, and said that the Department had identified some of the problems from the schools around the country, and had instructed that all schools should teach mathematics and science. When the Department conducted research, they had found that the Limpopo province produced the best students in mathematics and science Limpopo had a good pass rate, and was followed by KZN, where the results were also positive. There were challenges, but the Department was working hard to make sure that students passed and were well equipped. The Department was grateful for the assistance from the Committee, and they supported the rotational system so that they could recover the lost time due to Covid-19. She said that the children around the country were smart, and the policies were made at a national level which meant that no province was discriminated against, and the Western Cape was not looked down on.
Mr Nodada raised a point of order and said that the Minister must address the Committee in a manner of Parliament and not use provinces, as they were led by different political parties.
The Minister withdrew her statement on the Western Cape.
She said that there had been progress with the connectivity issues around the schools. The Department of Communication had prioritised the DBE, and it was a good move because some of the concerns raised were being addressed. The APPs were developed by the ruling party, and they took into consideration the priorities that would be adopted by the governing party.
On the renewal of the Presidential employment initiative, the Minister was pleased that the programme was starting in April, because in previous years they had been affected because of the school calendar, and they were confident of the process. She said that the DBE did not have funds to pay teachers who were employed by the SGBs, and they could not afford to be in such a position because of the different formulas used, and it would be unfair to subsidise SGB posts.
The Minister said that the workbooks had been delivered a term before because of storage challenges, and the issues were around the textbooks and stationery, because textbooks had a lifespan of three years, and the schools needed to retrieve the textbooks since the budget was a three year cycle.
On the issue of learner admissions, she said that the DBE would interact with its counterparts in the Western Cape province to see how they could work together on resolving the matter.
Mr Mweli responded to the question about the research agenda, and said that it would take a while before they could schedule a new research agenda, and the Committee would be briefed. The bulk of the research that was carried out by other institutions had shown that the DBE must also conduct their own research.
The fact that learners had fallen behind was concerning and a team had been deployed to look into the data on the gap that had been created by Covid-19.
He added that workbooks were assisting learners in different schools, and there seemed to be confusion on the oversight visits because the electronic system was used to check if workbooks were delivered, and the person responding to questions was not the one who would have received the workbooks, and in some cases, they were stored differently. The DBE had linked their targets to those mentioned by the NDP, and they were following this so that there was a link to their performance and it was easy to measure the progress that had been made.
The Director-General said that the mother tongue issue was important. Knowledge and skills were not intimately attached, and the DBE was looking into the matter to see the alternatives that could be implemented.
Regarding the extra interventions by the DBE, the DG had been monitoring the provinces and he assured the Committee that there were extra interventions and, in some provinces, learners went for extra lessons even on weekends, and it was heart-warming that such measures had been taken to assist learners.
On the systemic tests, he said the field workers were currently working, and the Committee would be briefed on the report once everything was completed. The DBE could determine if there was an increase in the learners with special needs only from the allocation report. Tertiary institutions set the requirements for admission, but the DBE made sure that the students were equipped for any degree although they had to meet the requirements and there were interactions to assist them. Learners were advised on the requirements for studies and there was an ongoing debate between the DBE and the DHET, and the meetings had been fruitful.
Mr Mweli said that the teacher allocation was a matter to be discussed because there was a shortage of technical subject teachers.
The DBE had set up a meeting with representatives from the DPWI so that they could work on infrastructure matters. On the issue of connectivity, the Committee was told that Vodacom had supplied equipment for the virtual classrooms and the programme had started already, although it was being enrolled slowly because of the connectivity needs -- about 3 000 public schools had been covered to date.
On the remuneration of teachers, the DBE was in negotiations and was working closely with the National Treasury to see that the working conditions of teachers were improved.
The budget cuts would make it difficult for the DBE to realise their obligations, and this had been ongoing for some years because of the current economic climate. The system evaluation was used to evaluate matters in public schools. The DBE would be completing the sanitisation programme in 2023 as part of working together with the national government to achieve the NDP goals, but any new programmes would have to be looked at because of funding, although the DBE would love to do more on the infrastructure, especially the roofing of schools in rural areas. The DBE had been able to create opportunities for the youth in the built environment, and this had led to internships. Many young people have been attracted to the teaching profession and this was a positive result considering the unemployment levels in the country.
The ECD function would be taken over by the DBE, and the first year would involve doing a proper analysis on what had to be done, looking at the financials. The Department would love to introduce a model that could accommodate those in the different sectors like healthcare, and how to incorporate the equipment.
The Committee heard that the Funza Lushaka bursary scheme was working together with the different stakeholders to make sure that students did not change their subjects, but focused on the subjects allocated to them, especially mathematics and science. There were also collaborations with further education and training (FET) colleges to have a positive outcome on the technical subjects. In the Northern Cape, once students complete their courses they leave for greener pastures in other provinces, and this was making it difficult to fill the vacancies, but they were working on attracting young people to work in rural areas. Many of the youths who benefited from the bursary had been able to find employment, and the DBE was still working with the other graduates to see that they were all placed for employment.
There were different research teams within the DBE, and they covered different aspects according to their mandates. Collaboration also took place when conducting research because the DBE worked with other Departments on the research agenda.
The Chairperson thanked everyone for attending and participating in the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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