2005 Matric Results: MEC Reports

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


14 February 2006

Mr B Tolo (ANC, Mpumalanga)

Documents handed out:

Report: results of the senior Certificate examination 2005 (Eastern Cape)
Presentation to the select Committee on Education and Recreation (Limpopo)
Progress Report on LTSM 2005/06 Financial year

The MEC of Limpopo and the Director-General of the Eastern Cape highlighted a tendency to focus on pushing up the overall pass rate while learners failed to attain endorsement requirements. Both Provinces commented on the need to provide support structures for educators in order to be able to produce quality education, especially in the fields of Mathematics and Physical Science. The Committee expressed its concerns around the education system, highlighting the problem of sustaining endorsement rates and the subject selection to qualify for endorsement. The problem of indigenous languages remained a challenge to the education system.

The Chairperson welcomed the delegates from the Eastern Cape and Limpopo and extended a special welcome to Mr Hindle, the National Director-General (DG). The Chairperson informed the Committee that there were apologies from Mpumalanga and North West.

Presentation by the Director-General (Eastern Cape)
Dr D Edley (Director General) briefed the Committee on the results of the Senior Certificate examination in 2005. He commented that the Eastern Cape was the only province that had improved its matric pass rate from 53,5 % in 2004 to 56,7% in 2005. The reasons for the improvement included regular school visits, the Integrated Education Transformation Plan (IETP) and the monitoring of schools that had under-performed.

He expressed the Department’s concerns regarding the improvements and drops in provincial performance. Schools seemed to improve and decline on a regular basis. However, the endorsement (exemption) rate had been stable in the province at about 8.8%. The low level of endorsement remained a challenge, because principals in some schools forced learners to undertake subjects on standard grade in order to guarantee a high pass rate.

The DG indicated that, regarding subject selection, English as a 2nd language on higher grade was one of the biggest papers in the province. Interventions were put in place to emphasise the importance of English, and an improvement in performance in 2005 had assisted a number of candidates to pass. The province intended to intensify its literacy support programme.

Reporting on the intervention strategies for the improvement of learner attainment in 2006, he said that the MEC intervened in schools that attained a 20% pass rate and the focus was on the integrated Education Transformation Plan especially in those schools with rates below 50%. The Department conducted interviews with District Directors, Principals, Education Department Officials and Subject Advisors.

Ms F Mazibuko (ANC, Gauteng) asked what the Department had done about the skewed endorsement rate as highlighted in the presentation. She enquired if the department did anything to help learners who passed their matric.

The DG replied that findings indicated that there were misunderstandings and misconceptions as far as endorsement requirements were concerned. More emphasis was placed on pushing up the overall pass rate in schools than on assisting students to choose subjects correctly. This was as a result of lack of knowledge of those requirements by some principals and teachers.

The DG responded, to the question of skewed endorsement, that the Department conducted workshops to update principals as well as teachers on the requirements and procedures regarding endorsement and examinations, however educators continued to be confused despite the workshops and updates.

Ms Mazibuko questioned the role of the Department in ensuring that parents’ fears were addressed as concerned the incorporation of some areas of the Eastern Cape in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). She asked what the Department did to assist learners who took English as a second language subject to ensure that they understood the questions and passed well.

The DG answered that the Department experienced problems because there were misconceptions around the issue and he referred specifically to the scenario in Matatiele. There was a national syllabus from grade R to grade 12. There was no question of syllabi being different between the Eastern Cape and KZN. The only thing that could change was the preference of languages in the two provinces. The DG concluded that, because of the sensitive nature of the transition the Department was going through, communication remained channelled through the office of the Premier.

Ms H Lamoela (ANC, Western Cape) asked whether or not the problem of English in schools was attributed to a lack of libraries or just a mother tongue problem. She also asked what the Department’s responsibility had been towards upgrading support systems that had contributed to the Department’s failure to sustain the tempo in good matric results, and why there were no subject advisors in the Eastern Cape.

The DG responded that there were a lot of schools being built as a result of an outcry for more schools. Demands were so great that the focus had shifted from providing library structures to just building school structures. However the Department and the Minister were working on the idea of box libraries with at least 100 books available in each classroom especially in the junior phase. The use of those books would also assist in the use of the English language more efficiently and regularly. He added that the challenge was the lack of use of the English language in terms of everyday classroom interaction. He pointed out that the other challenge was the lack of access to English language material in the form of newspapers and radios. There was a need to train educators to use resources such as newspapers as they were not familiar with this practice in classrooms.

He responded to the question of lack of support systems by indicating that there were a number of people from (teachers) Colleges who were not placed anywhere in the education system. The resolution was to place them in subject advisory positions, which was intended to help with subject advising in the Province. He highlighted that the province was faced with the problems of a limited budget and managing finances properly, which impacted on the organisation of proper systems to support schools and teachers.

Ms Mazibuko commented that there was evidence of too much pressure put on principals to perform paperwork and administrative tasks, which could have contributed to their under- performance at schools, as they found it difficult to monitor progress in classrooms. She asked, apart from conducting quarterly interviews, what mechanism was put in place to ensure that appointed principals were competent enough to hold principalships and still be better managers of their schools.

The DG agreed that indeed principals were burdened with too much paperwork. To assist, the Minister of Education in the Eastern Cape had proposed that information for principals pre-printed with very minimal and only necessary changes and updates to reduce the burden on principals. The Department also had a vision for the development of principals through induction processes whereby courses would be offered to persons intending to become principals. For that purpose, there was an Education Leadership Institute established in East London to train the Department’s own officials. The Institute would target subject advisors and Education Department Officials (EDOs).

Ms J Vilakazi (IFP KwaZulu-Natal) asked how the Department intended to ensure that students remained with two languages, the third one being an indigenous language. She also asked what was being done to improve the teacher/student ratio whereby there existed the problem of more students than were sufficient teachers in classrooms.

The DG agreed that offering three languages could, as was done in some instances, serve as an "insurance policy" that students stood a greater chances of passing matric despite failing a single subject. The Department did not encourage such practice because of the consequences to the student of having to study seven subjects instead of six. He agreed that the issue of subject provision was one that still needed time to be looked at as it had complications of its own.

The DG responded to the question on the teacher/student ratio by saying that the Department allocated teachers according to available posts in schools and based on the availability of the budget. The Department had embarked on the redeployment strategy, which unfortunately had not been popular for varying reasons. In many instances, educators were reluctant to move from their comfort zones to other areas where they were needed the most and there were varying reasons for such reluctance. The province was still faced with the problem of redeployment of educators, which they were negotiating with the educators as a Department at large.

Ms Vilakazi posed a follow-up question on the languages offered. She commented that the three languages were only offered to black learners, which meant that they took English, an indigenous language and Afrikaans, which was forced upon them. She added that the seven languages were only designed for black students and that was problematic and should be given immediate attention.

The Chairperson commented that the Department had all the good ideas to put in place, but what difference would the changes have if the relations between the Department and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), to which many educators in the province belonged, remained sour. He proposed that the Department resort to external people to intervene and normalise relations. Unless relations were normalised, education would not be normal despite the strategies that the Department proposed to implement.

The DG answered that it was incorrect to say that they were not on speaking terms with SADTU because they had chosen to disagree on some grounds and as such there were efforts being explored to mediate on the disagreements. The DG remained confident that there would be a breakthrough with time.

The Chairperson commented that matric results in Mathematics and Science continued to drop through the years. He questioned if the educators in those fields were competent enough to offer those subjects. He added that the non-existence of in-service training that had previously existed contributed to the dropping of results, as teachers no longer had a platform on which to share knowledge and experiences.

The Director-General answered that educators in the fields of Maths and Science were highly educated as they held degree qualifications. What they needed was support to ensure that they performed better. He added that there would always be those educators who would present themselves as competent even though they were just looking for jobs. The Director-General added that one of the ways to improve results was through the appointment of subject advisors to provide support to educators, and this the Department had embarked on.

The Chairperson asked if there were mechanisms put in place to monitor and improve the quality of education in the classroom. He asked if teachers were really doing their work in classes, as going to classes did not always mean that teachers were teaching and proper learning took place in the classrooms.

The DG answered that there were plans in place to monitor the work of teachers in classrooms and one way to achieve that was to work closely with the Heads of Departments (HODs). The Department also felt that surprise visits by the Department and subject advisors would also ensure that learning took place in classrooms.

The Chairperson commented that other strategies that were put in place across the country, referring to winter schools and extra classes, would not have much influence on the students mainly because by the time they reached grade 12 they could not adapt to the pressure. He enquired if there were no means to introduce those strategies as early as grade 10 so that by the time learners are in grade 12, they would at least have internalised and understood the mechanism.

The DG agreed that interventions at grade 12 were late and the Department sought to implement intervention strategies as early as grade 10 whereby at the end of the year there would be common examinations written. However, the Department experienced some resistance from some schools while other schools did not teach grade 11, but rather began teaching the grade 12 syllabus in grade 11 to give students enough time to understand the grade 12 syllabus. The DG hoped that grade 12 learners would be ready for grade 12 and would perform better.

Presentation by the MEC (Limpopo)
Mr A Motsoaledi (Education MEC) briefed the Committee on the 2005 matric results. There had been 93 459 full-time candidates in 2005 and this translated to a 64.3% pass rate. Compared to 2004, this constituted a decline of 6.3%. Former Model C schools constituted 25% of the 40 best performing schools. The three best performing schools had taken the same positions in 2004. The enrolment figures in those schools had substantially increased in 2005. The Department’s strategy to qualitatively and quantitatively improve the results included Saturday and Winter Enrichment classes focusing on subjects like mathematics, accounting and physical science. There would be curriculum advisors to monitor the process and progress reports would be submitted to the Curriculum section at Head Office. The Department would engage Institutions of Higher learning in training educators on content specific subjects.

The fee exemption policy included the ordinary policy on the exemption from paying school fees by parents who could not afford to do so. Over and above the exemption policy, there was a "No Fee Status Policy" that made provision for compulsory fee-exemption by schools in the poorest categories. The No Fee Schools policy would be implemented in the new financial year (from 1st April 2006) for all schools in quintile one and two. The process of identifying quintiles one and two schools as per the national guidelines was at an advanced stage.

Ms Mazibuko thanked the MEC for enlightening the Committee on the problems in Limpopo. She asked what performance measurements were put in place to monitor subject advisors, and if the subject advisors were competent in the subjects they advised on.

The MEC responded that Subject Advisors were competent enough, and had proper qualifications, as most were former College lecturers. The Department hoped to strengthen means to monitor the performance of subject advisors.

Ms Mazibuko was concerned that, in the field of Physical Science, learners possessed more theory than practical experience, which was crucial when they reached tertiary institutions. She questioned if schools really equipped with the necessary facilities, such as laboratories and libraries, to equip learners with practical experience.

The MEC confessed that there were problems with providing proper library structures to equip learners with practical experience. The Department hoped to provide those libraries in due course.

Mr D Qwase (ANC, Eastern Cape) commended the MEC on the great results produced, specifically in the fields of Maths and Science. Was this attributed to the historical background of the province in producing good results or was it as a result of an advocacy strategy to promote Maths and Science. He asked what advice the province had for other provinces.

The MEC indicated that there had been an outcry from people in the Limpopo who believed that the MEC came up with his own policies in relation to the issue of language. The MEC assured the Committee that the successes in the province could only be attributed to one thing. He made sure that learners from grade R to grade 3 were taught in their own languages, which ensured that they understood and passed the curriculum. The problem was that principals had indicated that parents demanded that their children be taught in English. The MEC’s intervention was to correct abnormal policies in the province whereby learners were forced into English medium schools with the hope that would be "better people" in the future.

Ms Mazibuko asked if the Department had any plan for temporary teachers who remained in temporary positions for a number of years without assuming permanent positions.

The MEC responded that the Department had met with the unions and consequently a law had been passed that teachers who had been permanently employed for more than two continuous years would be allocated to schools where their services were needed. He indicated that in many instances, those teachers taught in the fields of Science and Maths and at schools that could not do with out them. The focus would be on absorbing teachers in all other fields and placing them in schools as posts became advertised.

Mr Qwase questioned the role that parents played in education programs in their communities.

The MEC answered that the lack of participation by parents in education programs was a problem in the country, especially in black communities. However, the province hoped to capacitate parents.

The Chairperson commented that the MEC had the Committee’s support, especially around the language policy that would ensure that indigenous languages were not lost. He added that, as Parliamentarians, they contributed to the manner in which learners responded to indigenous languages because they continued to communicate to their children in "foreign" languages.

The Chairperson concluded that it was imperative that all departments ensured that policies that were discussed and agreed upon in Committees were implemented and monitored at grassroots levels and in classrooms.

The meeting was adjourned


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