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EDUCATION AND RECREATION SELECT COMMITTEE
23 February 2005
MATRIC RESULTS AND DISTRIBUTION OF LEARNER AND TEACHER SUPPORT MATERIALS: BRIEFING BY MPUMALANGA, GAUTENG, FREE STATE AND NORTH CAPE
Documents handed out:
Mpumalanga’s MEC January 2005 speech on Matric Results
Western Cape’s MEC briefing
Eastern Cape’s MEC presentation
Gauteng’s MEC presentation
FreeState: Provision of LTSM
Free State Infrastructure Plan
Free State: Analysis of the 2004 Senior Certificate Results
North Cape briefing
The MECs for Education in Mpumalanga, Gauteng, the Free State and Northern Cape presented their provinces’ results in the 2004 Senior Certificate examinations, as well as providing a progress report about their distribution of learning and teaching support materials (LTSM).
Mr S Masango, MEC for Education, commented on media reports that his failure to attend a previous Committee meeting indicated that he held it in contempt. Students in Mpumalanga had staged a march on the day of the meeting and he had explained the situation to the Chairperson, who agreed that it would be better if he met with the students. The Chairperson confirmed this and said that he took the apology in good faith.
Mpumalanga’s results had improved by a few percentage points to 61.8% and the number of learners who acquired matric endorsement had also increased in 2004. Less than 20 schools’ results had been withheld pending an investigation into irregularities in the system, but this would not affect the overall result. Mr Masango summarised events around the discovery of irregularities as follows: a marker had detected irregularities and the police and Umalusi (Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training) had been contacted. All results (59 000) had been blocked. Umalusi had constituted an investigation team. Ten schools were discovered to be involved and 550 learners affected. Mr Masango had met with the Minister of Education to discuss corrective and punitive measures. A report would be sent to Cabinet, the Steering Committee and others. Of the learners affected, invigilators had assisted them with between one and five papers. Measures to be taken against learners would be decided on each case’s merits. Invigilators would be sanctioned according to the guidelines in the South African Schools Act and the Educators Employment Act. The sanction would be "very unkind" as their conduct gave the province and the country a bad name and such an offence "should be nipped in the bud".
Regarding strategies to improve results, all stakeholders had been consulted. Traditional leaders had now agreed to include education in their oversight function. (They had not previously commented on the disparity between the performances of two schools, similarly resourced and close to each other, one with a pass rate of 5% and the other with a 100% pass rate because, they said, they did not think it was their role as they were uneducated). KwaNdebele under-performed relative to other areas and a special indaba would be held to understand the reasons for this and to develop strategies to address the problems there. Winter schools would be continued (for learners and teachers) and the Congress of South African Students would be encouraged to "inculcate a new cadre of learners". Under-performing schools would be addressed partly by the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS), whole school evaluation and outreach programmes.
Learning and Teaching Support Materials (LTSM) had been completed in time but learner migration had led to shortages. There were now delays in sending out textbooks from some warehouses. Mr Masango had investigated personally and found some personnel "not up to scratch". He would summon the head of the appropriate division.
The change from the Tender Board to Bid Committees had caused delays in infrastructure delivery, with contractors only coming on site on 1 November. This would lead to additional problems because schools built during the course of the year would not be used until the beginning of the next year and would probably be vandalised. Overall, however, Mr Masango was confident that performance in 2005 would be better than in 2004. He related an anecdote about a misleading City Press article which reported on an Mpumalanga school where learners sat in desks under trees which he had later been able to show the media was a staged incident and was untrue.
Mr M Sulliman (ANC) said that stationery supply should not be a problem even if learners had migrated. He asked whether mathematics and science enrolments were increasing and how learners were encouraged to enrol.
Ms H Lamoela (DA) said that tenderers should not be overloaded but could be penalised for non-delivery.
Mr Masango said that the Head of Department dealing with infrastructure had been suspended on 18 October pending a disciplinary hearing because the pace of delivery had been unacceptably slow. To improve results and enrolment in mathematics and science, more schools should be enrolled in the national Dinaledi project, which meant that more schools should be provided with "enabling facilities". The Mpumalanga Development Trust had provided R14 million for academies (institutions with a special focus on mathematics and science for learners.) More such partnerships were needed to increase the rollout of Dinaledi schools in the province. He agreed that a campaign to increase enrolment in mathematics and science was needed. Stationery was delivered before the cut-off date. The problem lay in textbook delivery. He added that publishers sometimes mislabelled boxes of books and didn’t "want to publish in indigenous languages".
Mr Thetjeng (DA) asked what impact the migration from township schools to former Model-C schools would have and how the Department was addressing the issue of one township school overflowing while a nearby one was nearly empty. He had heard that farm schools would close and boarding schools would open – was there any truth in this? What was the status of the whistle blower (who had alerted authorities about exam irregularities)?
Mr J Thlagale (UCDP) commented that learners who had been implicated in exam irregularities had been made offers that they could not refuse.
The Chairperson said that performance had improved but he was still not satisfied. He agreed that resources played a role in determining performance but were not the only determining factor. He cited extremely poorly resourced schools in Limpopo whose performance was top in the province. He said that management and administration were bigger problems. The phasing out of a system was no excuse for non-delivery of school infrastructure because the Medium Term Expenditure Framework allowed Departments to plan three years ahead. The Committee would be debating the report on 8 March. There appeared to be too much centralisation in the province. For instance, workmanship at a school he had visited in Nelspruit was very shoddy. On enquiry he had discovered that the builder came from Pietersburg. This would not lead to community ownership of schooling. School nutrition programmes should also be decentralised, as could be learnt from the Northern Cape.
Mr Masango agreed that the Department should learn from other provinces and agreed that bureaucracy and vested interests limited transformation. The Department was installing chief directors in regions and devolving power down. He added that all Departments in the province had suffered delays in delivery because of the phasing out of the Tender Board. He agreed that resources were not the most important factors in determining performance and said that what was needed was a "determined learner and teacher. We must encourage resilience". He was not aware of moves to close farm schools and open boarding facilities so could not comment. Admissions policy was that principals should enrol learners at the end of each year but this was not happening both because learners moved with their families but also because learners migrated on the basis of a school’s performance which was only known at the end of a year. He emphasised that the whistle blower would not be disciplined and gave examples of other whistle blowers who had not been penalised. He did not know the identity of the whistle blower but suggested that he or she should make a statement at a police station if he or she feared repercussions.
Ms A Motshekga, MEC for Education, said that the pass rate declined by 4.75% to 76.7% although the number of candidates had increased. The English Second Language pass rate decreased, only by 5.56%, but a failure in a language would result in an overall failure for 70% of the learners. The pass rate for Afrikaans Second Language increased (by 2.25%). Only 1.4% of the decrease in the pass rate was as a result of increased failures in other subjects. Continuous assessment was most apparent, not in its effect on overall marks, but on preparing students.
A service provider would be appointed to support learners directly in the "gateway subjects" as well as learners identified as being at risk in Grade 11. More than 50% of all learners in total would therefore be supported from March onwards. Senior Certificate candidates would be organised into peer-group study syndicates.
Arrangements for on-time delivery of textbooks in 2005/6 included using LTSM co-ordinators on school and district bases. LTSM would be procured electronically. The Department adhered to an 18-month pre-implementation period to keep pace with curriculum rollout. It was in the process of developing an evaluation instrument, upon completion of which, an electronic catalogue would provide details of approved materials
The Chairperson noted that the recovery plan focused on Grade 12. He asked about plans for Grades 8-11. Limpopo had a common paper for Grades 8 and 9 (because teachers hadn’t finished the syllabus). Why could the best mathematics teachers not move from school to school? Without proper in-service training, a teacher could teach the wrong syllabus for the whole year. Why had so many registered but failed to write (22 000)? Some principals feared the elimination of fees for poorer learners as it would reduce parental involvement and school income.
The MEC said that learners failed the English Second Language examination because they were ill-prepared. She pointed out that the top pupils in the province were from former model-C schools, which indicated a problem with language.
Interventions were not restricted to Grade 12, comprehensive evaluations were carried out in Grades 4 and 7 and appropriate steps taken although she agreed that in-service training was insufficient.
She shared concern about the wastage incurred in preparing for learners who did not register. The Department would have to find a way to understand and then address the problem.
A very small portion of poor schools’ income was from fees and parental involvement was lacking in all schools.
Free State briefing
The Deputy Director-General, Mr T Khunyeli, presented (see documents). He was accompanied by Mr M Rakometsa, Chief Director. [The discussion period was not minuted by PMG]
Northern Cape presentation
The Head of the Northern Cape Education Department, Mr E Williams, gave an overview of the province’s 2004 matriculation results, its provision of Learning Teacher Support Materials (LTSM) for 2005, its National School Nutrition Programme and progress on the removal of learners under trees (see document).
In terms of the matric pass rate, the Northern Cape was ranked second amongst the nine provinces. However, last year’s results reflected a decrease in the percentage of passes and the drop from 90.7% in 2003 to 83.4% in 2004, was due to under performance in gateway subjects.
Most learners had written their examinations in Afrikaans. The total number of candidates was 6 723 and 5 609 passed. Female candidates performed better than male candidates did, even when a subject by subject analysis was made.
Mr Williams provided reasons for the drop in results. Poor results in languages, Biology, Physical Science and Mathematics, had the effect of pulling the overall results down, particularly languages. Conditions that affected learning and teaching were low morale, high absenteeism and educators’ lack of experience in matric teaching, mismatch between the preparation of learners and what they had encountered in the examinations and an over-dependence on departmental interventions. Cost containment was also cited as a reason for the Northern Cape drop in results. The Department had lost about R56 million from its operational budget. Many intervention and support programmes had to be sacrificed due to the cost containment. Lack of funding resulted in a drop in the number of participants in winter schools and weekend classes.
The Department’s response to this drop was to lessen the dependency on departmental intervention programmes and locate responsibility for improved results with the schools. It would implement a more comprehensive and integrated programme to develop schools. He outlined the programme’s strategy.
It was also agreed that each Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL), and provincial senior officials would adopt a school, and form a relationship with them so as to pick up on problems early. All 425 schools should be adopted.
There would be an infusion of Mathematics, Science and Technology and the Department’s name would change to the Department of Education, Science and Technology. This related to the growth and development strategy in the province. A National Institute for Higher Education would be established as part of encouraging tertiary level research. Contact in the province with partner universities was an important component of the strategy.
Mr Williams also reported on the province’s provision of learning and teaching support materials (LTSM). Speaking about its school nutrition programme, he said that all grades higher than seven would no longer be beneficiaries, as there was not enough funding. The Department wanted to move away from using suppliers and to prepare food on site and thus create at least two jobs per school for unemployed women.
Ms H Lamoela (DA) suggested provinces exchange previous examination papers as this enhanced the performance of learners. There was also a process of translating all past papers into indigenous languages so learners could be able to experience and get a firmer grip on them. The strategy ensured that learners would not be surprised in the exam room by the format and style of the paper.
Ms J Masilo (ANC) commended the Department for creating jobs for women by means of the feeding scheme. She asked if the school governing bodies devised fundraising programmes to assist with the school nutrition programme. She also asked if the infrastructure at schools was conducive for learning.
Mr Williams said that very little additional money was raised by the school governing bodies. The Department had a programme for infrastructure development over the next three years,. There was a list of schools that identified what was due to each, regarding maintenance, toilets, classrooms and so on. The Department was specific about what was needed at each school, as the Minister of Public Works required.
Ms Mazibuko (ANC) asked the amount of the overall budget of the Northern Cape Department and what the pass statistics for each subject was.
Mr Williams replied that the total budget was R1.4 billion of which 84% went into salaries. He would provide the subject pass rate statistics at a later stage.
Ms H Lamoela (DA) asked what would happen to schools that did not order textbooks. She also asked if they photocopied from textbooks or if they were using modules.
Mr Williams replied that there were orders but the schools had not given complete orders for their stationery or textbook materials. He added that there was no school that had not ordered anything.
The Chairperson asked why the educational system produced mediocre students. The government was spending 18% of its Budget on education, and he asked if this was value for money. He asked how the Department planned to turnaround the situation.
He commented that there should not be a provincial tender board and that the each provincial department should deal with its own issues. He commended the province for their feeding scheme and felt that other provinces should look at the Northern Cape as an example.
He mentioned the endorsement rate of 25% and said that there had to be more career guidance around the possibilities of not getting endorsements for admission to Higher Education institutions. The Northern Cape turnaround strategy outlined in the presentation had worked in the past.
Mr Williams responded that four provinces had already requested to visit the Northern Cape to see the model in action. He said they were willing to share and learn together.
The meeting was adjourned.
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