Department 2005/06 Annual Report: briefing

Basic Education

18 September 2006
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EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
19 SEPTEMBER 2006
DEPARTMENT 2005/06 ANNUAL REPORT: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
 Prof S M Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
PowerPoint Presentation by the Department of Education: Part1, Part2, Part3 & Part4
Department of Education Annual Report 2005/2006 [available at www.education.gov.za]

SUMMARY
The Department of Education presented its annual report for 2005/2006. The Department had received an unqualified audit report from the Auditor General. The amendments to the South African Schools Act (1996) affected the work of the Department. These amendments would ensure that the “no fee” schools principles could be realised. A school governing body could suspend a learner guilty of serious misconduct, without prior approval of the head of department.

Members expressed a need for a clearer policy direction regarding the status of Grade R in the general school system. The National Integrated Plan on Early Childhood Development had to ensure that poorly resourced crèche’s could access new sources of funding. Members also concentrated on teachers’ qualifications, provincial underspending, provision of textbooks and Further Education and Training colleges.

MINUTES

Presentation by the Department of Education (DoE)

Mr Duncan Hindle, Director-General of the Department of Education, revealed that the Department had received an unqualified audit report from the Auditor-General (AG) for 2005/06. The AG however noted that the department had not disclosed all ‘intangible assets’ such as computer software and copyright materials in its asset register. Furthermore, it was found that the issuing of conditional grants had been hampered by provinces’ failure to submit relevant information on time.

Important legislative frameworks focused on Early Childhood Development (ECD) and the promotion of inclusive learning had been completed. The Draft Norms and Standards for the Funding of Grade R in public schools had been released for public comment. Cabinet had approved the National Integrated Plan on Early Childhood Development. This would be implemented as a cluster programme. The National Guidelines for Inclusive Learning Programmes together with the national strategy for screening, identification, assessment and support of learners with special needs had been completed. A National Protocol on Assessment, which aimed to reduce the administrative workload of teachers, had been published.

Measures were put in place to ensure enhanced capacity of Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges. A policy framework for the National Certificate had been gazetted. These institutions would specialize in the thirteen priority areas developed by the Department. Critical areas included construction, engineering, business, ICT and hospitality. Conditional grants as part of the recapitalisation process of FET colleges, would support the development of infrastructure, facilities, staff and ITC.

The restructuring process of the higher education system had been formally completed with the establishment of the Walter Sisulu University of Science and Technology. The merging of both administrative and management policies were underway at most institutions. The Department would provide technical and financial assistance to further facilitate the restructuring process.

More equitable and pro-poor funding practices had to be promoted. The department had revised the existing financing norms and standards for education. Legislation had been revised to accommodate the introduction of no-fee schools. Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) norms had also been approved.

The Department was operating within an amended legal framework, which allowed for the inclusion of the principle of “no fee schools”, as well the suspension of a learner guilty of serious misconduct by the school governing body without the approval of the head of department.

Discussion
The Chairperson raised concerns about the different perceptions of Early Childhood Development. How was this term understood by the National Department?

Mr Hindle acknowledged the existing uncertainty around this term. He said that ECD, broadly understood, could refer to all children between the ages of 0 to 9 years. Institutionally, Grade R referred to the early learning of children aged between 3 to 5 years and described the foundation phase of the process of early childhood development. The general education system was divided into foundation years (Grades R-3), intermediate phase (Grades 4-6) and the senior phase (Grades 7-12).

Mr B G Mosala (ANC) asked whether Grade R teachers were paid as professionals employed by the DoE?

Mr Hindle responded that the Draft Norms and Standards for the Funding of Grade R in Public Schools had been published for public comment. These teachers were not appointed as part of the general staff of the school and were thus not directly remunerated by the DoE. The Department would issue a block grant to schools for the funding of Grade R, which would cover the salaries of teachers.

Mr Mosala (ANC) requested reasons for the DoE’s underspending, as reported in its annual report.

Mr Hindle appreciated the Member’s concern over this under spending. He said that further spending during that period could have resulted in overspending. The Department had to avoid this.

Mr A M Mpontshane (IFP) thanked the Director-General for his presentation. He commented that the quarterly reports of the provincial education departments would assist the Committee to better understand the state of education across the country. Provinces were supposed to act in line with policies as set by the national department. Could the national department provide these documents?

Mr Hindle responded that the quarterly reports of the provincial education departments were submitted to the respective MECs and not the national department. The DoE produced its own quarterly reports about its progress in implementing its strategic plan. Provincial departments were not merely implementing agencies for the national department but were accountable to the respective MECs. Quarterly reports were thus tabled to these provincial heads of department. The Department could obtain these documents although this was not the general practice. It worked with the provinces and monitored progress made on specific provincial matters.

Mr Mpontshane said that his question was misunderstood. Provinces had to act within the framework of the goals and plans set by the national department. Provincial quarterly reports would assist the Committee to understand to what extent the activities of provincial and national departments were aligned.

Mr Hindle apologised for this misunderstanding. Provincial departments were not obliged to report on all initiatives and programmes. The annual reports produced by the national department were assessments of how well the national budget had been utilised. The activities of provincial departments were continuously monitored and evaluated. The conditional grant report, issued on a monthly basis, provides a financial account of monthly spending by the provinces. A comprehensive report on the state of education in South Africa was needed to provide the information requested.

Mr Mpontshane asked whether people in the provinces would be able to access resources as stipulated in the National Integrated Plan on Early Childhood Development. He said that crèches wee poorly resourced and would need to benefit from this legislation.

Mr Hindle responded that the Department of Social Development was responsible for the identification and registration of the integrated planning sites. The Department proposed that an office be established through which information about this process could be obtained. These offices would function as education advice offices.

Mr Mpontshane commented that the success of the 13 priority skills programme as well as the FET colleges depended upon the availability of adequately qualified teachers. Since these institutions were responsible for the remuneration of teachers, the goal of free education may not be realised.

Mr Hindle said that the bursary programme would help to build the skills capacity of these colleges. Business had expressed their commitment to fund FET colleges to improve specialisation in specific fields. The construction industry had identified one college in every province that would become a specialist construction training college. Similarly, future specialist information and communication technology (ICT) colleges had been identified by the Department of Communications. Call centres would be created to ensure that students could gain practical experience in the application of these skills.

Mr R S Ntuli (ANC) commended the Department for the measures employed to strengthen the quality of teaching at especially Grade 10 level. He said that the figure for the upgrading of teachers had to be viewed in relation to the current number of under qualified teachers. What progress had been made in this regard?

Mr Hindle expressed the DoE’s commitment to the training of teachers. A monitoring system had been put in place to ensure that any teaching problems, subsequent to this training, could be identified and tackled. He explained that the National Professional Diploma in Education (NPDE) was intended for those teachers who lacked a post matric qualification. 9000 unqualified teachers were identified of which currently one third had completed this Diploma and had thus received qualified teacher status.

He continued that the provision of textbooks was still problematic. The Department had expressed a commitment at the beginning of the financial year to ensure that all learners would have a textbook for each subject. Although the costing of such an endeavor had been completed, provinces failed to allocate the necessary funds. He expressed the Department’s commitment to provide textbooks to all Grade 11 learners. He said that the lack of textbooks hampered a learner’s ability to self-study.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) asked how the required entry-level qualification for principals would be practically implemented.

Mr Hindle said mechanisms were currently being developed, but more deliberation and discussions were needed before a final decision could be made. Transitional measures were needed to ensure that current principals could undergo further training. This plan could only be operationalised over time.

Ms Dudley requested the reasons for the underspending on school nutritional programmes in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Mr Hindle explained that the National Treasury had allocated additional funding of R200 million to provinces for the continued operation of school nutrition programmes in especially the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. At the time this report had been compiled, provinces were not yet able to spend the additional funding – hence the underspending reflected in the report.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) expressed her concerns about the readiness of Grade 10 and 11 teachers at disadvantaged schools to write national examinations. Measured had to be put in place to ensure that all public schools were on adequate levels of competency and that schools were not experiencing a shortage of teachers.

Mr Hindle answered that schools were not faced with a shortage of teachers, irrespective of the quality of teaching provided. In this regard, the Department would continue its efforts to upgrade the qualifications of teachers.

He continued to explain that teachers were currently teaching subjects for which they were not qualified. Schools and not the Department decided how posts were allocated. A recent survey of the number of mathematics and science teachers at high school level revealed that qualified mathematics and science teachers were not teaching these subjects. The Department would investigate the deployment and management of teaching staff at schools. Additionally, the Department proposed that district education offices deploy mathematics and science teachers to ensure that these teaching skills were distributed across all public schools. Currently, these teachers were concentrated in certain schools.

Mr B Mthembu (ANC) requested the Department to elaborate on its Health and Wellness of Educators programme as well as the findings of a related study.

Mr Hindle explained that the study broadly investigated the health status of teachers. Its findings on HIV/Aids had been the focus of most media reports.

The Chairperson commented that tension existed between community crèches and Grade R teachers. He said that a clear strategy was needed to ensure that Grades R were part of the general education system.

Mr Hindle agreed that Grade R teachers should be part of the general school system. Although the funding model for this grade differed from other funding models, Grade R classes had to be provided at primary schools. He said that crèches should focus on children between the ages of 0 and 4 years. If registered at the Department of Social Development, staff of these crèches would receive funding for monthly stipends.

The Chairperson asked how and where preschool teachers were trained.

Mr Hindle responded that a Bachelor of Education degree was the minimal qualification at university level. There were various areas of specialisation offered within this degree programme. Many tertiary institutions could not currently provide the necessary training to teachers. A subcommittee established by Higher Education South Africa (HESA) would work to enhance the capacity of universities to train teachers effectively.

The Chairperson expressed concern over the provinces’ failure to provide textbooks for Grades 10 and 11 learners.

Mr Hindle shared this concern. However, provinces were faced with a myriad of problems that had to be prioritised. In this context, the DoE could not guarantee that the funding plans of provincial department remained unchanged. He reiterated the national department’s commitment to provide learners with textbooks.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for their presentation.

The meeting was adjourned.


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