2006 Senior Certificate Results; Framework for National Strategy for Learner Attainment

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

Education and Recreation Select Committee

28 March 2007

Chairperson: Mr B Tolo (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Framework for the National Strategy for Learner Attainment
Powerpoint presentation: 2006 Senior Certificate Results
Powerpoint presentation: National Strategy for Learner Attainment


Audio Recording of the Meeting

The Director General and the Chief Examinations Officer from the Department of Education briefed the Committee, partly on the matric results, but mostly on plans for 2007.

The Chair welcomed all to the last meeting of the session. It had been intended that representatives from the education departments of Limpopo and the Eastern Cape should attend because less than 50% of learners in these provinces passed the Senior Certificate, but they had not been invited because of a ‘technical error’. There was a delay in beginning the meeting because the audio-visual equipment was not working.

Mr Duncan Hindle, Director-General of the Department of Education, said that new Superintendents-General had been appointed in the provinces in question. As it was quite advanced in the year, the presentation would focus on future plans as well as the matric results.

2006 Senior Certificate Results
Mr Nkosi Sishi, Chief Director: Measurement, Assessment and Public Examinations, presented. The Department was happy with the improved matric results and with Umalusi and Higher Education South Africa (HESA) findings that the examinations were fair, valid and reliable. HESA said that the cognitive and conceptual demands of the papers should be increased and that these should be reflected in teaching practice. Only 13 out of 6500 schools nationally have more than 100 learners who passed mathematics and science (they are members of the Deputy President’s 100 Club.) Sixteen per cent of matriculants progress to higher education (20% is the international ideal.)

National Strategy for Learner Attainment
The National Strategy for Learner Attainment (NSLA) is an over-arching programme to integrate nine provincially driven complementary strategies to improve learner attainment. The overall priority is to increase access to quality education at all levels. Its systemic priorities are teacher recruitment and retention and training and support; Learning and Teaching support Materials (LTSM) and time spent teaching.

The national Department of Education manages the following special projects:
- The NSLA
- Dinaledi schools (disadvantaged but better resourced and performing schools which focus on maths and science)
- Examinations
- Improved communication and understanding of policy
- Evidence-based policy-making.

The NSLA’s strategic targets deal with increasing the numbers of passes in gateway subjects; the lowest 20% of schools and districts in the Senior Certificate (SC) exams; schools with performance decline above 10%; new matric teachers and first matric classes; more endorsements and better subject combinations in better-resourced schools; and pushing historically disadvantaged learners in top schools to compete nationally. The NSLA rests on five pillars (school development, teacher development, learner support, community involvement and youth development). All of these are integrated and educator and school development plans are informed by exams and other credible data to monitor and improve performance. The plans should be matched with budgets. The NSLA is based on local and international research, for instance an average of 16 hours of a teacher’s time is spent teaching in a 41-hour week. An integrated database for tracking learner progress is envisaged.

The Chair commented that the strategy was excellent but the challenge lay in its implementation.

Mr J Thlagale (UCDP) asked to what extent the Department had prepared teachers who were ‘groping in the dark with the new systems’ and how well did the 16% of learners who progressed to Higher Education, fare there?

Ms N Madlala-Magubane (ANC) said that teachers did not know how to teach and to attract learners. She had recently met with a very disillusioned principal of a school where a whole class had failed the new subject of mathematical literacy. The teacher had not come forward to say that he or she was not able to teach the subject. Teachers were at schools for their salaries, and not to teach. They pushed learners up to the next grade when they failed. Child-headed households were a personal burden to teachers and increasing – did the Department talk to Social Services about them. The decline in Higher Grade (HG) mathematics and science passes was worrying as these were necessities to access Higher Education.

Mr M Sulliman (ANC) said that there should be a special focus on the Northern Cape pass rate and principals also needed attention. Was the Department engaging with unions on this matter?

Mr Hindle said that the Department’s focus was the three Ts: teachers, textbooks and time on task. The newly released framework document for teacher development would make a difference. The National primary Diploma in Education and the Advanced Certificate in Education bursaries had and would make a difference, as would SABC educational broadcasts. Teachers, however, needed to be receptive. He was not sure where the saying ‘pass one, pass all’ originated and he likewise questioned the reality of low morale among teachers. Diagnostic tests were available to inform teachers’ practice and showed that South African learners listened well, probably because theirs was an oral culture. The matter of time on task (teacher contact time) was in hand. The Department was also considering using biometric scanners for teachers to clock in and out of work, a lamentable but possibly necessary measure for professional people. The auditors KPMG had recently conducted an audit of learner enrolments at 1400 schools. Fifteen of the 1400 were closed on a normal school day. The survey had shown that principals over-reported their enrolments by between 10 and 15%. District officials had signed reports of enrolments that were obviously inaccurate. The Western Cape and another province had a database of learners, which made it impossible for schools to over-represent their enrolments and this system would be extended to other provinces. Child-headed households were a Social Cluster problem. Gauteng was the only Provincial Education Department (PED) to work well with its Department of Social Services. The pass rate in HG maths and science was disappointing. Schools were given a R1000 bonus for every learner who passed these subjects in matric. The throughput rate in Higher Education was low, but Higher Education institutions should also address the problem with bridging programmes etc.

The Minister wanted Academies (better equipped schools focusing on excellent performance in gateway subjects) to be nationally controlled but this was a politically sensitive issue. Teachers were given a tool kit to teach reading because some of them were unable to teach literacy.

Mr Sishi, in answer to the Chair’s question about implementation, said that progress in meeting the targets was good.

The Chair said that the teacher appraisal part of the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) was subjective, as teachers could choose an aspect of their work to be evaluated. Mr Hindle acknowledged the truth of this but said that it had been 30 years since school inspections had been allowed. In 2006, most teachers got a satisfactory review. The Minister would set up external moderation for appraisal and this would ‘send the message’ that unwarranted high appraisal would not be condoned. 10% of teachers were rated unsatisfactory but the bar was set low. He felt that the system had functioned reasonably for its first implementation. All teachers rated satisfactory got a 1% increase. The Department was about to introduce rewards for the top 10% of teachers in a system that would be far more rigorous and include external evaluation.

The Chair said that Learning and Teaching Support Materials
(LTSM) were always late. PEDs were responsible for their delivery.

Mr Sulliman said that PEDs could not be blamed as suppliers and binders were the cause of non-delivery.

Mr Hindle said that the problem was worst in the Northern Cape, Mr Sulliman’s province, because they were the smallest. Suppliers would fulfil bigger orders first. The Department spent R3 billion on books in 2006 but there were ‘none on desks’. In some cases they had been delivered but left in the storeroom. In some cases this was because the teacher felt threatened by the textbook, which contained more subject knowledge than he or she knew. Another problem was that publishers were monopoly suppliers. Overall, ‘the market let us down’ and some publishers were now very rich and some learners had nothing. The Department would now print and publish a guidebook for each learner in all seven core subjects. The system had functioned best in the Western Cape, where each school secured its own supplies.

The meeting was adjourned.


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