Basic Education Legacy Report; Committee Study Tour Report to Finland

Basic Education

12 March 2024
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education convened a virtual meeting to address internal Committee business items, including adopting minutes, the Legacy Report, and the Finland Study Tour Report. Members gathered to deliberate on these matters, aiming to conclude their duties effectively before the end of the Sixth Parliament.

During the meeting, Members adopted the Legacy Report, which encapsulated the Committee's activities and offered valuable insights into their oversight and legislative roles during the Sixth Parliament. After careful consideration, the Legacy Report was adopted, signifying the culmination of the Committee's efforts and offering recommendations for a future committee.

Following the adoption of the Legacy Report, the Committee Content Advisor presented a summary of the Finland Study Tour Report, outlining its purpose, implementation, and key findings. Members took part actively in the discussion, sharing their perspectives and seeking clarification on various aspects of the report.

Upon thorough deliberation and exchange of views, the Finland Study Tour Report was adopted, affirming the Committee's commitment to learning from international best practices and implementing relevant strategies in the South African context.

Transitioning to administrative matters, the meeting went ahead with the adoption of minutes from previous meetings, ensuring the accurate documentation of past proceedings for record-keeping purposes.

As the meeting drew to a close, Members took the opportunity to exchange farewell messages, expressing gratitude for the collaborative efforts and camaraderie experienced during their tenure. The Chairperson extended heartfelt thanks to all participants, invoking blessings for their continued well-being and acknowledging the conclusion of their term with a sense of optimism for the future.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed all attendees to the meeting and requested that the roll call be conducted.

The Committee Secretariat provided a list of all the Members present and mentioned that the Committee had received an apology from the Minister of Basic Education.

The Chairperson then proceeded to outline the agenda for the day which included the adoption of the minutes from 27 February 2024 and 5 March 2024, as well as the Legacy Report. She mentioned that the Legacy Report had been reviewed the previous week and invited Members to submit any corrections. If there were no corrections, she proposed adopting the report.

Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) suggested adopting the agenda. The Chairperson agreed and apologised for the oversight.

Mr S Ngcobo (IFP) seconded adopting the agenda.

Final Legacy Report: Portfolio Committee on Basic Education 2019-2024

The draft was first presented in the meeting last week

The document provides a comprehensive overview of the activities and initiatives undertaken by the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education during the Sixth Parliament. It aims to inform Members of the seventh administration in Parliament of key outstanding issues pertaining to the oversight and legislative program of the Department of Basic Education and its entities. The report summarises the key activities, challenges, and issues that emerged during the period under review and provides recommendations to strengthen operational and procedural processes to enhance the Committee’s oversight and legislative roles in the future.

The report includes key statistics, such as the number of meetings held, legislation and international agreements processed, oversight trips, and study tours undertaken by the Committee during the Sixth Parliament. It also highlights the matters referred to by the Speaker/Chairperson, including the recommendations of the High-Level Panel (HLP) on the basic education sector. The HLP report made several findings and key recommendations, including the need for more reliable national assessments of learning, new ways of teaching basic reading skills, broadened access to quality and standardised Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes, tightening up school management and governance, and improving the returns on investments in education.

The document also outlines the oversight activities of the Committee, including oversight visits to provinces and entities, strategic and operational workshops, and engagements on basic education. It lists key oversight trips undertaken during the Sixth Parliament, focusing on areas such as state-of-school readiness, exam readiness, functionality of schools, and implementation of priorities. The report also includes briefings and public hearings received by the Committee, covering a wide range of topics such as school infrastructure, ECD programmes, teacher development, inclusive education, and social cohesion.

Further, the document provides insights into the Committee's engagement with various entities and stakeholders, such as the Department of Basic Education, Provincial Education Departments, and Chapter Nine institutions. It also addresses the need for standardised formats for presentations and the importance of addressing deficiencies in curriculum coverage, teacher training, and infrastructure provision.

Ms M Moroane (ANC) expressed her support for adopting the legacy report after reviewing its contents.

Mr Moroatshehla reiterated his support for adopting the legacy report.

Mr B Nodada (DA) thanked the Chairperson and colleagues but noted that he had sent some additional notes regarding the report to the Committee Secretariat. He clarified that these notes were not material changes but hoped they were included for accuracy.

Finland Study Tour Report

Ms Portia Mbude-Mutshekwane, Committee Content Advisor, provided a summary of the draft report on the international study tour to Finland conducted by the Portfolio Committee on Education. The report was divided into three main parts:

Purpose and Overview

Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane outlined the purpose of the study tour, which was to explore the Finnish education system and potential collaboration between South Africa and Finland. She highlighted meetings with various stakeholders in Finland, including diplomats, education experts, and government officials.

Implementation of Finnish Education System

The report describes the structure and implementation of the Finnish education system, its impact on citizens, and observations made during school visits and meetings with education officials.

Lessons Learned and Collaboration Opportunities

Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane summarised key observations and lessons learned from the study tour, including the integration of technology in classrooms, individualised instruction, and potential collaboration areas such as mathematics, science, and teacher/student exchanges. She emphasised the importance of sharing best practices between the two countries.

Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane highlighted the preparation for the study tour, including logistical arrangements and protocol training for effective engagement with Finnish counterparts. The report concludes with an executive summary and appreciation for the delegation's efforts.

Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane continued by providing contextual information about Finland. She mentioned that Finland shares borders with Sweden, Norway, and Russia, and is situated between the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland. The population is around 5.6 million, comparable to the Western Cape Province in South Africa. Finnish and Swedish are the main languages spoken, with other languages also being considered.

She emphasised Finland's strong emphasis on education, considering it a key driver of the economy. Investments are made across all levels of education, from basic to teacher education, reflecting a commitment to human capital development.

Regarding the areas visited by the delegation, Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane mentioned Helsinki, Turku, and Tampere. These areas were chosen to ensure that the delegation had a comprehensive understanding of Finland's education system and were not just confined to one location.

Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane elaborated on why Finland was chosen for the study tour, emphasising its reputation as one of the best-performing education systems globally. She referenced a report from 2003 that ranked Finland as the second-best in public education, following Sweden. Finland's Constitution guarantees the right to basic education free of charge, emphasising equal opportunities for all regardless of ethnic origin, age, wealth, or location.

The principles of equity and equal opportunities in Finland's education system were particularly interesting to the Committee, especially in areas such as ECD, mathematics, science, technology, and legislative matters. Finland's strategic focus on Africa and global partnerships and its historical support for South Africa during the liberation movement further justified its selection for the study tour.

Additionally, Finland's commitment to global responsibilities, such as mitigating climate change and promoting women's rights, aligned with South Africa's interests. Finland's willingness to increase partnerships with African countries was evident during discussions with the Ministry of International Affairs and Culture.

Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane then provided an overview of Finland's education system, highlighting its two-tier structure. She described a graphical slide used by Finnish stakeholders during presentations, which outlined the pillars of the education curriculum, duration of studies, and types of degrees offered at universities and universities of applied sciences. The distinction between universities and universities of applied sciences was also addressed.

Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane continued by discussing the structure of Finland's education system and its funding.

Firstly, she highlighted the two-tier structure of Finland's education administration: the Ministry of Education and Culture, responsible for policies, legislation preparation, and state funding, and the Finnish National Agency for Education, focusing on curriculum development, evidence-based policymaking, and support for education reform.

She explained the importance of this structure, where the Ministry handles legislation while the Agency supports reforms and implementation, including services for educators and learners. Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane reflected on the proposal to give the Minister authority over education expenses, emphasising the importance of ensuring equality and high-quality education.

The funding section discussed Finland's state budget, which included €9.6 billion for education, covering early childhood education, pre-primary education, and lower and upper secondary education, among others. Municipalities play a significant role in allocating funds to schools, and funding is based on the number of students. Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane presented budget allocations for various education levels, demonstrating Finland's substantial investment in education.

Additionally, she discussed educational support, emphasising Finland's commitment to inclusive education and mainstreaming learners with special needs in regular schools. Every school in Finland is expected to cater to the needs of students with physical or intellectual disabilities. Teacher development in Finland is also notable, requiring teachers to have a master's degree, ensuring a high level of education and competence in the teaching profession.

The report also covered various aspects of education in Finland, including homeschooling, visits to educational institutions, and diplomatic engagements. Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane discussed Finland's approach to teacher training, legislative framework, assessment methods, early childhood development, and inclusive education. The delegation's interactions with stakeholders provided valuable insights into Finland's education system and its ongoing efforts to improve educational outcomes for all learners.


Mr Nodada thanked the staff for the comprehensive coverage of their experiences in Finland, emphasising their aim to learn and benchmark for potential implementation back home. He expressed uncertainty about whether the discussion included a recent or proposed policy mandating compulsory schooling until matric. He praised the report for accurately reflecting their experiences and thanked Exposure for its compilation. Mr Nodada highlighted the trip as a valuable learning opportunity for himself and hoped the same for all participants.

Ms N Adoons (ANC) acknowledged that the report encompassed nearly everything that occurred during their time in Finland. However, she noted an observation regarding the presence of unisex toilets in schools during their oversight visits, which she believed South Africa could learn from a developed country like Finland. She emphasised that these unisex facilities were used by both learners and educators alike, fostering inclusivity.

Ms Adoons highlighted that the report did not explicitly mention the low prevalence of homeschooling in Finland, which she felt was important to note. She mentioned that homeschooling accounted for less than 1% in Finland, suggesting its relative insignificance compared to other countries.

Additionally, Ms Adoons raised a query regarding the transition age from compulsory schooling, mentioning a discussion during the trip about potentially extending it from 16 to 18 years. However, she sought clarification on whether this proposal had been enacted into law or was still in the legislative process, as it was not explicitly addressed in the report.

Ms M Sukers (ACDP), who did not participate in the Finland trip, raised a couple of questions regarding the report's findings. She expressed appreciation for the insights provided by the report and proceeded to inquire about two specific aspects.

Firstly, Ms Sukers queried whether the Committee had visited any small or rural schools during their time in Finland. She noted Finland's significant rural areas, with approximately 30% of primary schools being small establishments with a few permanent teachers. She sought clarification on any lessons learned from such visits, if they occurred.

Secondly, Ms Sukers inquired about Finland's approach to curriculum development. She mentioned that Finland has a national core curriculum but allows individual schools or municipalities the freedom to develop their own curriculum to meet local needs. She referenced a report mentioning different curriculum streams and asked to what extent the Committee examined or discussed Finland's curriculum framework. Ms Sukers highlighted the importance of this flexibility in contributing to the success of the Finnish education system.

Ms P Sonti (EFF) proceeded with a comment on the presentation, sharing insights she gained from the experience in Finland.

Ms Sonti highlighted the high level of trust observed in Finland compared to South Africa, emphasising the importance of trust within communities. She also noted the significance of comprehensive sexual education in Finland, which she found to be well-structured and essential for young people's understanding of parenthood and pregnancy prevention. Expressing appreciation for the presenter's efforts, Ms Sonti acknowledged the thoroughness of the report despite its length, commending the presenter for delivering all the relevant information to the Committee.

Mr Moroatshehla began by thanking the Content Advisor for her well-prepared and comprehensive report on the trip to Finland, describing the experience as historical and enlightening. Drawing from his extensive travel experiences, he remarked that Finland stood out as an exemplary model in education, particularly in its division of responsibilities between policymakers and education experts.

Mr Moroatshehla emphasised the importance of leaving the execution of education to professionals in the field, highlighting the effectiveness of Finland's approach. He expressed hope that the insights gained from the trip, as presented, would prompt a revaluation and implementation of valuable lessons in South Africa's education system.

Reflecting on the visit, Mr Moroatshehla touched on the issue of steak, humorously suggesting its presence across continents. He also noted the timing of a women's protest in Finland shortly after their visit, speculating humorously about its connection to their delegation.

Mr Moroatshehla thanked everyone and expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to learn from the Finnish education system.


Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane thanked Members for their comments and questions, acknowledging that she might not be able to address all of them but would do her best to respond to those she could. She mentioned that any unanswered questions would be referred to counterparts in Finland for further input.

Addressing the first question about the age requirement in legislation, Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane referred Members to pages 14 and 18 of the report. She highlighted that compulsory education in Finland extends up to 18 years, as stated in the report. She also pointed out that the report discusses legislative changes related to raising the school leaving age to 18 years, from the previous age of 16 years.

Regarding the issue of homeschooling and the unisex toilets mentioned, Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane noted that the Ministry of Basic Education would address it. She clarified that she was not involved in policy planning or implementation at this stage.

On the topic of rural education, Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane explained that the delegation did visit rural schools during their trip to Finland and provided examples of areas visited, such as Turku, and Tampere, which encompassed rural parts of Finland. She highlighted one specific school in Turku that was in a rural area.

Regarding the curriculum, Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane mentioned that schools in Finland follow a national curriculum, with local municipalities having the authority to determine local aspects within the framework of the national curriculum.

Mr Moroatshehla moved to adopt the report.

Ms Adoons seconded the motion.

The report was duly adopted.

Mr R Madlingozi (EFF) expressed his appreciation for the enlightening insights shared by Ms Mbude-Mutshekwane regarding the educational tour. He emphasised the need for South Africa to adopt similar legislative amendments as seen in Finland, particularly in subsidising early childhood care, primary education, and higher education. Mr Madlingozi underscored the importance of unity in protecting the future of South Africa's children, criticising the current education system for its outdated focus on rote learning, which he deemed ineffective in fostering critical thinking skills.

He highlighted the well-paid status of teachers in Finland. He suggested that South Africa should adopt a more socialist approach to education, emphasising the need to empower teachers and learners. Mr Madlingozi emphasised the importance of equipping students with problem-solving skills rather than solely focusing on exam performance, stressing the need for effective techniques to navigate complex subjects. He expressed hope that the insights gained from the Finnish education system would be implemented in South Africa to benefit future generations.

Committee minutes

Minutes dated 27 February 2024

Mr Moroatshehla expressed his support for adopting the minutes as a true record of the meeting's proceedings. Ms Adoons seconded the proposal, leading to the adoption of the minutes.

Minutes dated 05 March 2024

Ms Moroane moved for the adoption.

Mr Moroatshehla seconded the motion.

The report was duly adopted.

Farewell Messages

The Chairperson expressed gratitude for the collaborative efforts of the Basic Education Committee, emphasising the importance of unity and completing pending tasks before the term concludes. She commended Members for working together effectively despite differences and thanked staff for their dedication. Farewell messages were exchanged, with expressions of gratitude and well wishes for the future.

Mr Ngcobo echoed the Chairperson's sentiments, acknowledging her fairness and leadership in navigating challenges. He fondly recalled moments of camaraderie within the Committee and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to work alongside colleagues.

Ms A van Zyl (DA) thanked the Chairperson and colleagues for their support, highlighting the need to address shortcomings in basic education and offering individual reflections on each Member.

Ms Moroane expressed gratitude for the warm welcome and inclusivity experienced within the Committee, extending well wishes to all Members.

Ms Adoons thanked the Chairperson and Committee Members for their dedication and teamwork, acknowledging the support staff and the Department of Basic Education.

Ms Sonti expressed gratitude for the positive changes experienced within the Committee and wished for their extension to South Africa as a whole.

Ms Sukers thanked everyone for working together despite ideological differences, emphasising personal and political growth achieved through challenges.

Mr Moroatshehla commended the Chairperson's leadership and professionalism, expressing gratitude for the collaborative efforts within the Committee and offering blessings to departing Members.

Mr T Letsie (ANC) wished all political parties taking part in the upcoming elections well, praising collaboration among Members and expressing gratitude for the Chairperson's leadership.

Mr Nodada expressed heartfelt gratitude to colleagues for their support and friendship, acknowledging their differences but emphasising the brotherhood and unity shared within the Committee.

The Chairperson concluded by expressing gratitude to everyone and invoked blessings for their well-being. She thanked everyone for their contributions and wished them all the best, whether they were returning or not. She acknowledged that life goes on and emphasised the presence of God in their lives. She noted that their five-year term had come to an end and reminded everyone of the remaining two meetings for budget processes before bidding farewell.

Meeting adjourned.


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