Department Budget and Strategic Plan 2007/08

Basic Education

21 May 2007
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
22 May 2007
DEPARTMENT BUDGET AND STRATEGIC PLAN 2007/08

Chair:
Mr S Mayatula (ANC)

Relevant documents:
Department of Education’s Strategic Plan 2007-2011 & Budget and Operational Plans 2007-2008
National Policy Framework For Teacher Education and Development in SA

SUMMARY
The Department of Education briefed the Committee on planning for the next two years. Priority goals are to strengthen quality and access to Early Childhood Development (ECD), improve schools, foundation phase literacy and numeracy, prioritise mathematics, science and technology and support further and higher education. Information-based planning and monitoring featured strongly. Research reports on the use of ICT in education, special schools and implementation of a mass literacy campaign are being undertaken. The framework for teacher development, including the Continuing Professional Development points system will be gazetted shortly. Two new courses (on ECD and safety and security) have been added to the Further Education and Training recapitalisation programmes.

Members were concerned with disabled children’s access to education, school nutrition and determination of quintile rankings, the internationalisation of higher education at the expense of local development, provision of school laboratories, whether there really is a teacher shortage, learners being unoccupied after school.

MINUTES
Department of Education presentation
Dr Penny Vinjevold, Deputy Director General: Further Education and Training, made apologies on behalf of Mr D Hindle, who was out of the country. The Department’s overarching contribution to the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative South Africa (ASGI-SA) would be to continue to strengthen General Education and Training (GET) goals. All high-level skills were based on these. Goals for 2007/8 were to:
• strengthen ECD programmes
• improve schools
• improve Foundation Phase (FP) literacy and numeracy
• prioritise mathematics, science and technology
• support further and higher education

The Department would continue to review policy in light of learning outcomes. This was done  throughout the system because measuring outcomes at Grade 12 alone was too late. The role of ICT in education was controversial: some said it was central while others maintained that basic numeracy and literacy were necessary first. A feasibility study of the issue was being conducted. Districts would be strengthened because they were important both in terms of delivering support to schools and feeding information back to the Department.

Dr Firoz Patel, Deputy Director General (DDG): System Planning and Monitoring, said that system planning included physical provision, Education Management Information System (EMIS), analysing education investment; labour relations, human resource development and funding norms and standards. An audit of school’s infrastructure, the setting of a minimum package and a plan to provide all schools with this minimum would be complete in the year.

The Western Cape Education Department had piloted a system to track individual learners, class size, school enrolment etc. The system, using free software, would be implemented nationally and district information systems would also be improved. A sample would be audited to ensure data quality.

The post-provisioning model would be revised to reduce ‘unrealistic’ class sizes in 2007. Ten percent of all classes fell into this category. The Department would continue to implement the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) and would include robust moderation. Proposals for an independent body to look at teacher evaluation were being considered. Regarding the occasional difficulty in filling mathematics and science teaching posts, a personnel management system would be finalised after consultation with the Council of Education ministers (CEM) and the Education Labour Research Council (ELRC).

Learner attendance and retention, home education, and implementation of laws and policies in provinces were all the focus of investigations. No-fee schools would be monitored. Schools that performed well despite inadequate resources would be rewarded. Fee exemptions in quintile 3 and 4 schools were causing problems and would also be investigated. Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET), Reception and Further Education and Training (FET) funding norms were being scrutinised by the Minister. Norms for special schools had not yet been submitted to her.

Dr Palesa Tyobeka, DDG: General Education and Training (GET), said that the early focus of the Department was on access to ECD among the poor. There would be one million learners in the system by 2010 but quality was the new focus. Model sites would be set up in all provinces and guidelines on resourcing, layout and teaching would be made available.

Classroom practice, learning and teaching support materials (LTSM) and reading and numeracy would be the main focus. A standards framework for special schools would be developed alongside policy for inclusive education (IE). Some special schools would become resource centres.

The campaign to recruit new teachers in priority areas had been more successful than expected, with 400 at higher education institutions (HEIs). A framework on teacher education and development would be gazetted shortly. A Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points systems was being set up, by which teachers would have access to accredited courses. This would be managed by the South African Council for Educators (SACE) and the Department. Leadership in schools and districts was also a key focus area and 400 principals had completed an Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE) in leadership in 2006.

As part of the Southern African Consortium for Measuring Education Quality (SACMEQ), an early grade reading assessment tool would be piloted in 3 500 schools and it was hoped that this would a tool for teachers to use.

Dr Vinjevold said that access to quality education for learners aged 15-24 would be improved. Poor quality in this period placed a strain on FET. The most important inputs were textbooks, teachers and assessment. A Grade 12 national catalogue of textbooks would be published in 2007 and one for Grade 10 in 2008. In Grade 12 in 2008, three out of six subjects would be written by all learners. The number of Dinaledi schools would be increased.

The number of programmes in FET colleges that were the focus of recapitalisation had been increased from 11 to 13. There was the addition of courses on policing and ECD, and support to the 25 059 students and their lecturers would be continued. The ICT facilities at 200 FET sites had been audited and a connectivity project in KwaZulu-Natal would be rolled out to all provinces. Students’ results would be published alongside matric results. The framework for vocational education would be completed in 2007.

Ms Gugu Ndebele, Deputy Director General for School and Social Enrichment, said that there were two research projects on the nature and extent of violence in schools. MECs had identified 65 schools which were worst affected by violence in each province and these were being audited. Fences and security guards would be provided and programmes on values and codes of conduct would also be implemented. Ms Ndebele’s division, with the FET division, would also focus on girls’ participation in gateway subjects in HE. School sport would be supported with input form GET and FET divisions. Peer education would be used in Life Orientation to tackle HIV/AIDS and gender-based abuse. School nutrition would be reviewed before expansion – procurement models would be scrutinised for best practice. A committee would advice on an implementation plan for mass literacy and the link between ABET and FET would be examined.

Dr Molapo Qhobela, Acting DDG: Higher Education said that his division was responsible for the following:
• providing regulatory support for transformation
• academic and research support
• supporting mergers
• promoting internationalisation and developing Africa
• strengthening the planning framework
• enhancing diversity and
• monitoring and evaluation.

He gave as an example reviewing the manner of regulating private provision of HE. South Africa had many foreign students but South Africa could support other African states in other ways too, for example by sharing best practice. Enrolment planning was not the same as capping but no system had infinite capacity – if an HEI grew, it had to grow within constraints. National institutes of higher learning would be established in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, the two provinces without HEIs.

Discussion
Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked how science could be taught without laboratories and whether the Department had a plan to provide equipment and audit what each school needed. He was also concerned about children with disabilities in rural areas who were denied access to education. He suggested that marking should be outsourced to ensure time on task and standardisation (because teachers sometimes set tests only on what they had taught when they had neglected other areas of the subject).

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) asked why the EMIS pilot was donor-funded – because it was deemed unimportant or because there was insufficient funding available? Were other government departments also involved in school safety programmes. With respect to the debate around HE autonomy and state interference, she asked that internationalisation not be carried out at the expense of developing South African capacity. For instance, the teaching staff at an HEI in the North West were all foreign. The country should develop and retain its own expertise. The GET and FET sectors should also be involved in HE planning.

Dr Vinjevold said that HE planning began at ECD level. She acknowledged that schools needed science laboratories but there were a number of topics that could be taught without a laboratory and the Department had provided science kits and manuals for these and guidelines on which topics would need a laboratory. Laboratories had been provided at many Dinaledi schools but here were also some non-functioning laboratories. Dr Patel said that the audit of school infrastructure had been completed at the end of March and the report would provide information on needs, which would be unlimited. After analysing and prioritising the needs, there would have to be innovation in meeting them. Part of the problem arose because provincial education departments had not taken backlogs into account and this issue would be dealt with at a national level. Since the 1996 and 2001 audits, progress in building classrooms and providing sanitation and water had been made but the lack of labs and libraries was cause for concern so minimum norms would be set.

The national and provincial departments had sufficient funding for EMIS.

Dr Tyobeka said that there were too few special schools (385) and they were mostly in urban areas. There was also no standard control over who was placed in these schools. A policy to remedy the unnecessary placement of learners in these schools would be designed. Starting in rural areas, some special schools would become ‘full-service’ schools and learners would be screened to ensure whether they should be placed there. District-based support teams would support special schools. The needs of special schools would be audited along with all other schools.

Ms Ndebele said that members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) sat on the national school safety forum and that members of the Department sat on provincial safety boards. At school level, safety committees should involve SAPS and the Departments of Health and Social Development.

Dr Qhobela said that the Department navigated the issue of supporting HEIs - without being accused of interference - because HEIs invited them to consult, although the Minister had the authority to intervene. The HE system should respond to South African needs but was still part of Africa. The staffing profiles at ex-homeland HEIs were an historical legacy.

Dr Vinjevold said that it would be too time-consuming and expensive to outsource marking. Moderation was needed but subject advisors carried out this function.

Mr R van Den Heever (ANC) said that teacher unions alleged that there was a teacher shortage – what was the exact situation and what was the Department doing about it?

Mr L Greyling (ID) said that the Education Laws Amendment Bill had very ambitious norms. Was bureaucracy a problem in meeting provision, as it was in water and sanitation or was it just funding? In HE, post 1994, growth of 30% had been expected but real growth had been about 2%. Students should be encouraged to enter HE. Opportunities for rural students especially had shrunk.

Ms P Mashangoana (ANC) commended the progress at FET colleges. She asked for statistics on ECD centres and whether teenage pregnancy could be included in the HIV/AIDS peer education programmes.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) said that research had shown that being alone in the afternoons increased the likelihood of drug addiction and asked the Department to increase extra-mural programmes. Also, what would it take to get ECD functioning the way it should?

The Chair had a number of comments and questions: how were no-fee schools determined? He gave examples of extremely impoverished communities where the schools were deemed to be in Quintile 4. Why were Grade R classes often not attached to schools and why were they funded differently? For instance, many Grade R teachers were not paid. Why was a tool for recruiting maths and other scarce teachers not utilised? The EMIS system had not been found in his constituency, which for instance, had a school with three classes. Then the teacher responsible for biology and agriculture was promoted to another school and not replaced. With regard to school sport, he asked who would be responsible for taking charge of this at school level as teacher were ‘migratory. They arrive at eight and leave at three in a Venture’. Learners in his constituency were given only bread, if they were lucky, and not after Grade 5. These learners were the poorest and he could not understand why they were not fed, as the nutrition programme was funded by conditional grants.

Dr Patel replied that the Education Laws Amendment Bill would set minimum norms and standards for a range of inputs which would deal with inequalities. The teacher shortage questions were difficult to answer because recruitment and selection were decentralised and the issue should be examined. Provincial education departments had said two years ago, that there was no shortage.

Provincial education departments were now spending their budgets more since the problems with Public Works had been remedied but there were still difficulties. A national agency might be needed. It could be, for instance, that the Eastern Cape was spending conditional grant funding on something other than school nutrition. Poverty was still relative between provinces and it was questionable whether enough funding was allocated to Quintile 4. He asked that Committee members report individual school problems to the Department.

Dr Tyobeka said that the national framework on teacher education would provide information on teacher supply. Current recruitment drives were directed at scarce skills. Bursary students were obliged to serve the system on graduating and could be directed to geographical areas where they were needed.

The Department focused on expanding access to ECD at school but there was no prohibition against ECD out of school. The 500 000 ECD learners were not all attached to schools and were not necessarily in the education system. Guidelines and model sites for the provision of ECD sites were forthcoming. For children between 0 and 4, the Departments of Health and Social Development had some responsibility and information on numbers. These sites were not registered with the Department which only guided the programmes. There was a backlog of registration of ECD sites but that was not the Department’s responsibility. The Department did not penalise these sites, however, and the programmes were still available to them.

Ms Ndebele said that the peer education programmes were anchored around issues like HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence. It was true that learners were insufficiently occupied after school and added that safety on the way home form school was also an issue. Nutrition in the Eastern Cape actually ceased at Grade 4, not 5 as previously stated. The programme had been inherited from the Department of Health. In the Eastern Cape, it would be reviewed with the Treasury and the Premier and then overhauled.

The meeting was adjourned.

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