No-Fee Schools; 2005 Senior Certificate Examination Results

Basic Education

06 March 2006
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
7 March 2006
NO-FEE SCHOOLS; 2005 SENIOR CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION RESULTS

Chairperson:
Mr S Mayatula

Documents handed out:
No Fee Schools presentation
Towards 2008: Analysis of the 2005 Senior Certificate Examination Results
Senior Certificate Report on 2005 Examination Results: Part
1, 2, 3, 4, 5

SUMMARY
The Department of Education briefed the Committee 2005 Senior Certificate examination results and on no-fee schools which would be fully operational in 2007.

The class of 2005 was the first to have 12 years of schooling in a non-racial education system and the first group to be exposed to the new curriculum from Grades 7-9. A total of 508 363 had written the exam and 347 184 (68.3%) had passed. Stringent procedures for verifying the results were described and the future and value of the Senior Certificate was assured. The total number passing with and without endorsement had increased every year since at least 2001 although the percentages of passes with and without endorsements had declined since 2003. The reasons for high enrolment and a low pass rate for endorsement in Limpopo and the opposite in the Eastern Cape were speculated on. So was the higher number of girls writing and their lower percentage pass rate.

The number of schools with a pass rate of 0-20% had decreased since 2004 Enrolments in mathematics and physical science in higher and standards grades had increased over the last three years.

Teaching, development and administration time were discussed and problems with teacher development appraisal (the Integrated Quality Management System) was briefly alluded to. The need for more data on completion rates was agreed on. The manipulation of marks was labelled a myth by the Director General.

Questions about the relationship between quality education and inputs; capacity to spend allocations responsibly; and the arrangements for schools in wealthier areas where learners were drawn from poorer areas; and provincial autonomy were raised and answered.

MINUTES
Mr Doug Hindle, Director-General and Mr Nkosi Sishi, Chief Director: Measurement, Assessment and Public Examinations in the Department of Education briefed the Committee and answered questions on no-fee schools and the 2005 Senior Certificate examination results.

No-fee schools presentation
Although the South African Schools Act made provision for exemptions from fees for poorer learners, the policy had been flouted. This was one of the reasons for implementing no-fee schools. Implementation would be transitional in 2006 as the Act was passed only in January 2006 and it would be fully operational in 2007.

Mr Hindle noted that from 2002 it had become clear that the fee exemption policy was not being applied in many schools and that learners, mostly in the poorer quintiles, were being victimised for inability to pay fees as low as R30 to R100. The gains the system made from such small amounts was not worth the "mischief" wrought by attempting to recover these fees. In addition, the quintiles were calculated per province which resulted in inter-provincial inequalities. (For instance, learners deemed "poorest" in Gauteng might be richer than the "least poor" in Limpopo.) There was also a lack of clarity around what a basic schooling package cost. In 2005 stakeholders were consulted, funding priorities determined and legislative amendments were undertaken.

The President passed the Education Laws Amendment Act in January 2006. This Act amended the South African Schools Act by abolishing fees in poorest schools and strengthened the rights of parents regarding exemptions. It also provided for a national framework of quintiles. New national norms and standards for school funding would be published in April 2006 and come into effect in 2007/8. The North-West, the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape, the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo had identified no-fee schools (ranging from 588 in the North West to 2 074 in the Eastern Cape). This would affect about 30% of learners (12m) or 6 975 out of some 27 000 schools. It was hoped that the remaining provinces would identify no-fees schools shortly. The Minister of Education would publish a list of no-fee schools by September 2006 based on schools where the state’s school allocation exceeded the ‘no-fee threshold’ level. This would enable schools to know their funding allocations and three-year planning cycles to be implemented in line with the medium-term expenditure framework. The adequacy amount for 2006/8 proposed by the national Department was R527 rising to R581 in 2008 but allocations could not be guaranteed as provinces had some financial autonomy. Non-attainment of adequacy targets should prompt special collaboration between national and provincial Treasuries. The Department would produce annual provincial compliance reports.

Discussion
Ms M Mentor (ANC) commented that the principal of Maitland High had asked whether the adequacy level of R527 was correct. He was concerned as most of his learners came from an area much poorer than the area in which the school was situated. Ms Mentor also expressed concern that schools would not all spend their allocations sensibly and asked what measures were in place to ensure that inputs resulted in quality.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) thought the government was moving away from provincial inequalities and asked whether the different learner allocations by provinces would not increase inequalities.

Mr I Vadi (ANC) reiterated Ms Mentor’s concern about systems of accountability regarding spending, especially as new School Governing Bodies (SGBs) would be elected shortly. He proposed that the Department should mount an education campaign for SGBs. He was disappointed that the adequacy level was R527 and not R703.

Mr Hindle answered that the concern voiced by the principal of Maitland High School was shared by many but he assured the Committee that provinces would have discretion to identify no-fee schools in richer areas if such factors warranted such classification.

He shared the Committee’s concern regarding ability to spend, especially as schools and provincial departments would be encouraged to use local Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), which had the potential for abuse. An auditing and monitoring system had been successfully piloted in three provinces and the Department was "getting better at monitoring". The real control was that schools had to submit annual budgets and statements of expenditure but he was not completely confident that provincial education departments had the capacity to interrogate these. He agreed that an adequacy level of R703 would be better but provinces had discretion to determine these as they had a constitutional right to control their funding.

He took Mr Vadi’s point about training SGBs seriously.

Mr D Visser, Director of Financial Planning in the Department, added that poverty quintiles were determined by Treasury. No-fee schools did not change the way funds flowed to provinces. Section 21 schools would have access to cash and autonomy over spending but non-Section 21 schools would not. Non-Section 21 schools could attain Section 21 status if they met minimum standards. Provincial education departments would still be responsible for procurement in non-Section 21 schools but they would have bigger amounts to spend.

He continued that that in 2004 the Department had put out a tender for the development of a system of auditing, budgeting and procuring and piloted it. Although the Department could not force provincial education departments to use it, they recommended it and would provide the software and training for free.

The Chair perceived a problem in that the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Treasury quintiles were theoretical and provincial education departments could choose not to comply with them.

Mr Mpontshane asked if the learner to educator (L:E) ratio remained the same if a no-fee school attracted increased enrolments.

Ms Mentor wanted to know whether the statistics used to determine quintiles were gathered by Statistics SA or the Treasury and whether the norms could be interrogated. She expressed a reservation about piloting projects because she had never heard of one that had not gone to scale.

Mr Hindle answered that Statistics SA was part of the Treasury. He agreed that Ms Mentor and the Chair’s points were cause for concern but insisted that the Department would have influence over provincial education spending. Regarding the L:E ratio, management issues would not disappear when schools stopped levying fees. The L:E ratio would remain the same with increased enrolments but there would be a delay between enrolments increasing and the appointment of additional educators.

The Chair was uncomfortable because he could not envisage how the committee could monitor the numbers, progress and status of no-fee schools on the ground, particularly as some provinces had stopped levying fees at some schools and other provinces had not. Mr Hindle said the publication of lists would make this monitoring easier. Ms Mentor proposed asking provincial education departments that had not identified no-fee schools to report to the Committee. Mr Hindle proposed that the Department report on behalf of the provinces and this was accepted.

Summary of presentation on the analysis of the 2005 senior certificate results
The class of 2005 had symbolic value in that they began school in 1994 and were the first cohort to have had 12 years of schooling in a non-racial education system. A total of 508 363 had written the exam and 347 184 (68.3%) had passed. They were the first group to be exposed to the new curriculum in Grades 7-9. The results were deemed credible, fair and reliable by Umalusi. The total number passing with and without endorsement had increased every year since at least 2001 although the percentages of passes with and without endorsements had declined since 2003. Endorsement rates had dropped in all provinces except the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga. Entries for endorsement ranged from 92.2% in Limpopo with a 19.2% pass rate to 26.9% in the Eastern Cape of whom 38.8% passed with endorsement. It was speculated that this might be because a Western Cape learner might find a job with only a matric certificate but all Limpopo learners had no option but to aim for higher education. In answer to a query from Ms C Dudley (ACDP), Mr Hindle said that learners could convert to a normal pass.

More girls than boys had written the examination but the percentage of boys passing with and without endorsements was higher. The number of schools with a pass rate of 0-20% had decreased since 2004 (148 and 183 schools respectively) but the number of schools with a pass rate between 81 and 100% had declined (2527 and 2278 respectively). Enrolments in mathematics and physical science in higher and standards grades had increased over the last three years.

For the next three years the Department would focus on
- linking the General Education and Training(GET) numeracy and literacy strategies to Further Education and Training (FET)
- auditing learning and teaching support material (LTSM) delivery, including the 100 books project and a - common media exam for Grades 10-12
- three-year teacher development plans in each district with a focus on content knowledge
promoting a co-ordinate programme for school effectiveness by linking all programmes

Mr Sishi presented a pie graph labelled "key areas of focus in 2006" showing the "sources and average percentage estimates of explained variance in students’ achievement outcomes" i.e. 5-10% of focus should be on home, school, principals and peers, 30% on teachers and 50% on students.

Other research perspectives included:
- Youth comprise 36.2% of the total population, largely concentrated outside urban areas where services and school resources are worst
- One tenth of children spend eight hours a week or more gathering water and wood and five hours a week on school maintenance
- Boys have a higher attrition rate and higher exit levels prior to matric, although there is a "systematic under-evaluation of the competencies gained by learners who do not pass matric"
- A Race Relations Survey showed that in 1997, one in 312 African gained matric exemption with maths and science compared with one in five whites.
- New educators not trained in new practices perceive that they are overworked
- Out of 41 hours a week, an average of only 16 hours is spent teaching. Assessment portfolios take up to 23% and transitions between lessons take up 13% and 9% on the Integrated Quality Management system (IQMS).

At the end of the presentation, Mr Hindle described the procedure for processing marks, aimed at laying to rest the myth that marks were manipulated. Once papers were marked, Umalusi established a statistics committee which mostly comprised independent academics. This committee compared results with previous years, according to a "norming process" which was not new and was an internationally accepted practice, and made recommendations regarding adjustments to Umalusi. The Department and teacher unions observed the process.

Discussion
Ms Dudley asked whether learners were being advised to aim for Standard Grade. Mr Hindle replied that this was one of the reasons why there would be no more higher and standard grades.

Ms Mentor was interested to know why the number of girls writing was higher than the number of boys and speculated that this might be because girls spent longer in the system than boys. Mr Sishi replied that he and his colleagues were also interested to know this and would ask provincial education departments to investigate. Ms Mentor suggested that it could be because girls had to complete domestic work and to drop off siblings before going to school and Mr Sishi agreed that an HSRC study had supported that view, especially in rural areas.

The Chair asked whether higher secondary schools (Grade 10-12) were disadvantaged in preparing for Senior Certificate. Mr Hindle agreed that the many categories of schools – middle/combined/junior secondary/senior secondary etc should be ordered and organised. In Grade 9 there were common tasks for assessment (CTAs) and common testing would be introduced in Grades 3 and 6.

Mr Mpontshane asked what could be done for Senior Certificate holders who had no further opportunities and were deeply frustrated. Mr Hindle said that the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) was flawed in that after Grade 12, the only option was higher education unless a learner backtracked to NQF level 2 and entered college.

In reply to Ms Mentor asking whether the Senior Certificate exam would be around for the foreseeable future, Mr Hindle said that the public need for the Senior Certificate would persist.

Ms Mentor suggested that teacher development be undertaken while concurrently reducing teachers’ administrative duties. She also commented that Early Childhood Development (ECD) had enormous impact on Grade 12 and throughout the system. Mr Sishi commented that teachers found that their training did not equip them for their duties and teachers trained in the old system perceived that they were overloaded.

Mr B Mthembu (ANC) was concerned about educator attrition, although it was not the topic of the meeting and he wanted to know more about completion rates and how the drop-out rate could be calculated because retention was critical. The reduction in the number of under-performing schools was appreciated but he requested a breakdown of where these schools were situated.

Mr Mpontshane questioned the value of the Senior Certificate since universities had their own entrance examinations. Mr Hindle replied that a matric certificate with all As would be far more valuable than one with Gs and Hs. There had to be differentiation but any kind of matric certificate was not a failure. He would provide a list of schools with a pass rate of below 20%. He agreed that the completion rate should be more fully investigated. He pointed out, though, that the drop-out rate before Grade 12 was not 50% because more than 300 000 learners were registered for a Further Education and Training qualification before they finished matric and other students were registered to write matric part-time and not included in the overall rates.

In response to Ms Mentor, he said that teacher development should be based on research. He added that the IQMS had not worked well because most teachers had given their peers good marks which were not warranted by learner performance. He said the Minister was speaking of an external monitoring agency. He agreed that ECD was vitally important.

The future of matric was assured because of the public need for it but in 2008 all learners would write a national Senior Certificate. Mr Sishi added that 11 subjects had been written nationally in 2005.

Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked when rural schools would compare equally with urban schools in terms of facilities. Mr Hindle replied that in 2007 all facilities in rural schools would be comparable with those in urban schools but that infrastructure such as roads was not in the Department’s control.

The meeting was adjourned.

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