Computer Model on Easy Science; International Centre for Scientific & Technical Information Membership; Committee Reports

Science and Technology

08 November 2005
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


8 November 2005

Chairperson: Mr E Ngcobo (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Committee Minutes 18 and 25 October
Powerpoint presentation: Direct-Science on Computer Model on Easy Science

A delegate from Direct-Science, University of Pretoria briefed the Committee on a programme designed to enhance science education for both learners and educators, using both paper and electronic media.
The Committee recommended approval of South Africa’s membership to the International Centre for Scientific and Technical Information. It adopted the Committee Report on the 2004/05 Annual Report of the Department of Science and Technology and some October committee minutes.

International Centre for Scientific and Technical Information membership
The Committee recommended that the House approve SA's membership of the International Centre for Scientific and Technical Information.

Briefing on Computer Model on Easy Science
Professor J van Wyk (Direct-Science, University of Pretoria) briefed the Committee on a programme to improve learner involvement with the physical sciences. He demonstrated what had been done using electronic media to enhance and stimulate an interest in science.

South Africa had a problem with attracting learners to science as there was a perception that science was difficult, too much work and too demanding. Most science students studied on the standard grade level and the average mark was about 40%. Teachers needed to be better prepared for teaching science and there was a need for a standard for teachers. The use of both paper and electronic media was part of this programme. The programme assisted human resource development of teachers and students. The fact that it was available in paper and electronic form meant that it was accessible to schools with and without computers. The dynamic illustrations assisted teachers to understand and enhance their teaching.

Mr Mphahlele said that the Department of Science and Technology had been piloting similar programmes and they were thinking of spreading the programmes to a wider audience. He asked about the price of the Easy Science programme and how could rural schools that do not have computers use the programme.

Prof Van Wyk replied that schools that do not have computers could use the hard copy format. The programme was not for sale and he did not expect to make money out of it but rather he wanted to make science more accessible.

Prof I Mohamed (ANC) asked whether student grades improved after they had gone through the programme. He wanted to know whether the grades that were below grade eleven could be catered for so that they could use the programme.

Prof Van Zyl replied that a significant number of students had shown an improvement in their grades. He said the programme was developed for grades 11 and 12 but it would be extended to the lower grades.

Ms J Rawjee, Eskom Manager for Science outreach programmes, said that the Easy Science programme could work together with the Eskom Science centres.

Prof Van Zyl replied that he would be delighted to work with Eskom's Science centres.

Prof Mohamed said that the problem was the dire shortage of science teachers. One needed to encourage more people to be trained as science teachers at universities so that they could explain the concepts to learners rather than having learners regurgitate what they had memorised from text books. He commented that sometimes even Masters students could not explain these concepts.

Ms F Mohamed (ANC) asked who had been funding the programme and how did the Easy Science programme differ from those that were already in the market.

In response to Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) asking if there was any difference between the performance of boys and girls in science, the professor replied that girls were better performers. In terms of attendance, boys and girls were equal.

The Chairperson concluded that the purpose of such meetings was to create an enabling forum for people to share ideas and network.

Committee Report on Department of Science and Technology Annual Report and minutes
It adopted the Committee Report on the 2004/05 Annual Report of the Department of Science and Technology and its 18 and 25 October committee minutes.

Committee Programme
The Chairperson observed that the Committee Report on its Oversight Tour was incomplete as it did not reflect the last part of the tour. He recommended that approval of the Committee Report be deferred until it was completed, possibly until next year. Mr Dithebe objected to the delay as the tour had taken place in 2005 and the report should be completed before the end of this session. The Chairperson replied that he had asked the previous Committee Clerk to complete the report at least two weeks previously and was not sure that it would be possible to finalise it within the next two weeks.

Mr Nkem-Abonta (ANC) pointed out that it was the responsibility of the Chairperson to ensure that the report was completed. Mr P Nefolovhodwe (AZAPO) suggested that the new clerk be asked to interview the previous clerk regarding the tour. A member pointed out that two clerks had been on the tour, and that the second one should be contacted as well.

Mr J Blanche (DA) requested that the Director General of the Department of Science and Technology be asked to investigate quality control of consumer products as there was a need for standards.

Mr Nefolovhodwe observed that only matters arising from the minutes should be discussed, not general matters. The Chairperson replied that this was correct but that Mr Blanche had the right to ask questions and could ask for this matter to be placed on a future agenda for discussion. Mr Dithebe added that the point raised reminded the Committee of the institutions that were accountable to it. The concern expressed by Mr Blanche was correct as South Africa needed to be competitive in its economy.

The Chairperson raised the matter of the forthcoming function at Sutherland to launch the new telescope. Parliament had stated that the Committee could not attend but could be represented by the Chairperson. Mr Nkem-Abota felt this was not right and that the Committee should attend. Mr Nefolovhodwe thought that the reason was financial but had been unaware that the reason was that it was an ANC caucus day. If so, that was a party matter and members from other parties could accompany the Chairperson.

Mr Dithebe suggested that as the Sutherland facility was so important, Members needed to go and interact with the scientists. The Chairperson should clarify this matter. Mr Nkem-Abonta added that the Committee could not be banned from the function and the decision was procedurally incorrect. Mr Blanche said that the Chairperson should have taken a stand and used his authority to clear this with the Committee Section.

The Chairperson replied that Mr Doidge was in charge of controlling programmes and he would discuss the matter with him. Mr Nefolovhodwe added that the Chairperson should speak at Sutherland as it was an important event and the Committee should be reflected in the programme. Mr Blanche observed that it was part of the Committee’s oversight function to visit such facilities and the Committee Planner could not interfere with this.

The Committee resolved that the Chairperson should investigate why permission had been excluded and request that the Committee Planner rescind his decision.

Meeting adjourned.


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