Department of Education Budget 2007/8 & Strategic Plan 2007-2011

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


9 May 2007

Mr B Tolo (ANC, Mpumalanga)

Documents handed out
Strategic Plan 2007-2011 and Budget and Operational Plans 2007-2008

Audio Recording of the Meeting Part1 & Part2

The Director-General and Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Education presented its strategic plan for 2007-2011 and the budget and operational plan for 2007/8. The Department was committed to strengthening its information systems with regard to school infrastructure, enrolment and individual learner performance, early childhood development (ECD), learners with special education needs (LSEN) and continuing support to Further Education and Training (FET) college recapitalisation and enrolment, and teacher recruitment and development. It was also committted to planning a mass literacy campaign in line with Millennium Development Goals. Questions raised by Members included schools’ poverty ranking, learner transport, school safety, special schools, Grade 11 failures and adult literacy.

Briefing by Department of Education
Director-General of the Department of Education, Mr D Hindle, and its Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Mr P Benade, conducted the presentation. The informed the Committee that, in line with the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative South Africa (ASGISA), the Minister’s vision was to reduce poverty and unemployment and improve social cohesion. The Department’s goals for 2007-08 were to improve access to early childhood development (ECD) programmes; improve schools and foundation phase numeracy and literacy, prioritise mathematics, science and technology and support further and higher education. The Department would continue to review policy and implementation, and assess and monitor learning outcomes and learner performance. It would also conduct a study into the use of ICT to enhance teaching and learning and build partnerships between business and NGOs. The Department would strengthen its monitoring and evaluation mechanism, use research to improve the system and it planned to re-engineer the Education Management and Information System (EMIS) to track individual learners. Teacher development and strengthen district offices would also be prioritised.

The Department was auditing school infrastructure, developing norms and standards for provision and working with the World Bank on a total refurbishment plan. Plans to ensure funding norms and standards for all components of the system, including Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET), ECD, Learners with Special Education Needs (LSEN) and Further Education and Training (FET) colleges were awaiting approval from the Minister of Finance.

Universal enrolment in ECD was the target for 2010. The recent past had seen an ‘over-emphasis’ on Inclusive Education (IE). Some of the 400 special schools had been neglected because of this trend, but this would be corrected. A national bursary scheme to attract people to the teaching profession had been oversubscribed. Four hundred principals had completed an Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE) in school leadership. The achievement of 30 000 randomly selected Grade 6 learners would be conducted this year as a follow up to a previous systemic evaluation. These results had been poor but were useful as a diagnostic and development tool to provide precise feedback to teachers.

In the FET system, the aim was to increase participation overall and proficiency in language, mathematics and science, as well as to ensure appropriate curricula and support their delivery and implement a national examination system. A national catalogue of Grade 10-12 textbooks would be published. Dropout and repeater rates in these grades would be investigated by a ministerial committee. The number of Dinaledi schools would be increased. Requirements for the National Certificate (Vocational) (NCV) would be gazetted and FET college recapitalisation would continue. Throughput and placement rates would be improved.

As part of the social and school enrichment programme, the participation and success of girls in gateway subjects would be promoted, school sport would be facilitated and curricula-drive HIV activities through peer education would be supported, The National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) would be promoted. Access and throughput in ABET would be improved and a mass literacy programme would be planned.

National institutes of HE in Mpumlanaga and the Northern Cape would be established and HE institutions (HEIs) would continue to be supported and regulated.

With reference to provincial education budgets, Mr Benade explained that the apparent decline in some provincial education budgets was due to the new demarcations of provinces. There was no budgetary provision for preparation of the national Senior Certificate and the Department had approached the Treasury. Funding for Inservice education of teachers (inset), provision of libraries, laboratories and other school infrastructure, systemic evaluation and funds to strengthen district offices would all be greatly boosted (by R2bn and R4bn) in 2008 and 2009.

The Chair thanked the presenters and asked for questions and comments.

Ms J Masilo (ANC, North West) asked whether there were management-level vacancies in the Department, whether there was provision in the budget for increasing teachers’ salaries and what the implications for the transfer of children aged 0-5 to the Department of Social Development were.

Ms F Mazibuko (ANC, Gauteng) asked what conditions conditional grants covered in the Department’s 2007/8 budget, how much was allocated to school nutrition programmes overall and per learner and what would happen to Provincial Education Department (PEDs) that did not spend their budgets? Also, what would happen to Grade 11s who failed in 2006?

Mr M Sulliman (ANC, Northern Cape) asked if there would be more special and reform schools in future, when the programme to upgrade principals’ qualifications would be complete and if there were many Grade 11s who were doing mathematics for the first time.

Ms J Vilakazi (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) asked why the Kwazulu-Natal education budget was decreasing year-by-year.

Mr T Setona (ANC, Free State) asked what the difference was between ABET and mass literacy, and sought clarity on the status of national examinations. He would also be pleased to learn about Conditional Grant Funding to enable him to carry out oversight functions at the NCOP. The pass rate during the struggle years had been better than the present and asked why this phenomenon had not been researched. Furthermore, provisions for school governance and management did not seem to be included in the budget. He commented that many students chose courses that were easy rather than being keen on a courses that would benefit their vocation, but acknowledged that nobody could tell students what courses to take. Lastly he asked whether conditions conducive to learning existed in all communities.

Mr Hindle answered that all schools would be encouraged to establish Grade R (reception) classes. Children aged 0-5 had always been the responsibility of the Department of Social Development. At present, once an ECD site was registered, the departments of Social Development, Health and Education would all have a duty to check it. PEDs that underspent were the responsibility of the provincial legislatures and their failure had very serious consequences to the system.

Grade 11s who followed the old curriculum and failed in 2006 had four options: to repeat the old curriculum; to be promoted and be assisted with the new curriculum, to enrol in ABET courses or register for learnerships. PEDs had autonomy with regard to the first two options. At the end of 2007, learners who failed Grade 12 would present an even more difficult problem. The Department was planning to have several supplementary exams for them.

In answering Mr Sulliman’s question, he stated that the Department was conducting mock examinations for those Grade 11s. Those results would be used to determine the necessary action. No new special schools would be set up; rather, the functioning of the existing ones would be improved. South Africa had only three reform schools which was a problem because many juveniles ended up in prison because there was nowhere else to accommodate them. All provinces were attending to this problem. The 400 principals who had participated in the ACE were part of a pilot project, which would be expanded.

The existing ABET qualification was a four-year programme taking learners to the General Education and Training Certificate. It was not always appropriate for adults, many of whom just wanted basic literacy. A Ministerial Committee had presented a plan for mass literacy to Cabinet. By 2013, illiteracy should be halved. Exams were set at a national level by a panel. There were many studies of the education system and learner results. Mr Hindle said that it should be acknowledged that the standard of matric had increased. The 96% pass rate produced by the Department of Education and Training in the 1980s was as a result of a different exam. School government and management was itemised in the Department’s 2007/8 budget. School Governing Body elections had been held in 2006. He admitted that some students chose the easiest courses but to counter this, HEIs had planning targets. He predicted that when FET college graduates got good jobs, Grade 10s would plan to enrol in FET colleges.

Mr Benade answered that the Department was a small one and did not include teaching posts. Out of a total of 940 posts, 200 were vacant. Staff turnover was very high, especially in the internal audit unit. The Department organogram was revised by the Minister and only approved in 2006. The research unit had been strengthened. Both of these changes had resulted in the creation of 100 new posts. The vacant posts were being advertised. The Department did not have the capacity to recruit for all of the vacancies simultaneously. Most of the vacancies were for deputy directors and above. There was no provision for the 12% increase demanded by COSATU. Cost-of-living increase (5-6%), promotion and ‘notch’ increases had been provided for.

Sixteen thousand schools had benefited from the nutrition programme in 2006 and 18000 were being provided for in 2007. Six thousand schools had food gardens. Three provinces provided food in secondary schools. Altogether six million learners benefited. The cost per individual learner varied across the country as the model of provision differed. The matter continued to receive attention. The change from determining poverty quintiles per provincial to determining them nationally presented additional problems as it was difficult to stop feeding a school when its ranking changed.

The budget for the Kwazulu-Natal education department budget had increased by 15%.

Mr M Thetjeng (DA, Limpopo) asked whether there were physical sites for adult literacy and how it was conducted or implemented. Who provided FET college bursaries? How were potential students notified? Would publish catalogues of learning and teaching support materials promote uniformity?

Ms H Lamoela (DA, Western Cape) welcomed the strengthening of monitoring and evaluation systems in the Department because it would improve the pass rate. She asked that the committee investigating the feasibility of ICT. This was especially important for schools for the deaf, who relied on this technology. Was there funding to provide for the safety of learners and teachers at school?

The Chair asked what South Africa should do about the disjuncture between policy on the one hand and actual implementation on the ground. A school that he had visited had an old copy of the South African Schools Act (SASA); how could that school act in accordance with the amendments to the Act? He asked why South Africa had withdrawn from the Trends in Mathematics and Science Survey (TIMSS). Was transport policy formulated at a national or provincial level? He proposed that it should be national and well funded. He understood that there would be anomalies in the poverty quintile rankings of schools in different provinces but the reality was that there were schools serving the same communities across the street from each other which had different rankings! Mr Sulliman shared this perception.

Mr Hindle replied that R20m had been allocated to planning and developing courses and resources for adult literacy. The budget would be greatly increased in 2008. ABET used to happen at ABET centres but the physical provision was more flexible. One of the more successful sites was for informal traders under the Warwick St bridge in Durban.

The National student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) provided bursaries. The Department had advertised the bursaries but should do more. The textbook catalogues were drawn up nationally but schools, not provinces, chose which books to buy so there would not necessarily be uniformity. He noted and appreciated the comments on monitoring and evaluation, ICT and schools for the deaf. An amount of R15m had been allocated to school safety, targeting those worst affected with lights, fencing etc. Most schools were safe and where there were problems, there were community problems, not school problems.

Regarding the Chair’s question about the gap between policy and implementation, Mr Hindle responded that on ‘funding and concurrency within a federal context’ the Department’s research showed that it had ’over-interpreted’ the Constitution. The matter should be explored more because, for instance, there was a poor school in Limpopo with an excellent pass rate and the Minister had been unable to find funding in the PED budget for a laboratory for it. When the Department had further findings on the mater, they would report tot the Committee. The district manager should have arranged for the school to have an up-to-date copy of the SASA.

The Human Sciences Research Council had advised the Department not to participate in TIMSS in the current year because there was not sufficient time since the last test for the strategies used to show improvements. Other reasons were that as the test results were released only three years after the test, too late for them to be used as a diagnostic/development tool and the tests did not take context into account. The Department would participate in Southern and Eastern African comparative assessments by the Southern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) and participate in TIMSS some time in the future.

Monitoring and evaluation would continue to be strengthened. The Department had asked the Auditor-General to audit for compliance of school funding norms. Some schools did not get notification of their budget and did not give an audit report.

Transport policy was not devised or funded at a national level. A status report had recently been finalised and its guidelines would converted into policy. There was a formula for determining which quintile a school fell into but this was meant to be a preliminary exercise and provinces were expected to exercise their discretion and change the ranking in line with their local knowledge.

Mr Benade answered by stating that the Department had more than 80 employees in learnerships. More than a third had received permanent posts as a result of completing the learnership and another third received posts in other government departments.

He indicated that a total of R13m had been allocated from the National Treasury for EMIS. Development had been slower than planned but funds would be rolled over.

Mr Hindle announced that the full strategic plan would be available to the Committee on Monday and questions would be welcome then.

The meeting was adjourned.


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