Targeted Quality Improvement & Developement Strategy : progress report

Basic Education

09 June 2008
Chairperson: Prof S Mayatula (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Deputy Director-General: General Education of the Department of Education briefed the Committee on the Department’s Foundations for Learning Campaign and the Quality Improvement and Development Strategy.  Both programs were intended to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of learners at schools.

Members asked questions about the training of teachers in implementing the program, what was done to promote mother tongue instruction, the support for the program at district level, the availability of funding for maintenance and repairs to schools, ensuring that schools were built with the necessary facilities, the monitoring and evaluation of the program and the quintile system used to classify schools.

Meeting report

Briefing by Department of Education

Ms Palesa Tyobeka (Deputy Director-General: General Education, Department of Education) briefed the Committee on the Foundations for Learning campaign launched by the Minister of Education on 18 March 2008 (see attached document).

The key focus of the campaign was to improve the level of basic reading, writing and numeracy skills of learners in both primary and secondary schools.  The presentation included an outline of the background, objectives and expectations of the campaign.  Details of the assessment criteria, evaluation of the program and the management of the campaign were provided.  The presentation was concluded with suggestions to Members and parents on ways of assisting the campaign.

Ms Tyobeka briefed the Committee on the Quality Improvement and Development Strategy program (QIDS UP), which was intended to resource poor schools and monitor learning outcomes (see attached document).

Key objectives of the QIDS UP program were to provide 15000 of the poorest primary schools with a basic resource package and support for teachers and managers in the effective implementation of the curriculum and improving the levels of literacy and numeracy of learners.  A target date of 2011 was set.

A profile of the targeted schools was compiled.  A summary of the provincial allocations for the QIDS UP program for the 2007/08 and 2008/09 financial years was included.  The achievements to date and the deliverables set for 2008/09 were summarised.

Discussion

Adv A Gaum (ANC) welcomed the initiatives from the Department.  He said it was a shame that people left school but were unable to read and write properly.  He asked if instruction in basic literacy and numeracy formed the core of the program.  He asked if teachers were competent to implement the plan and if there was a training plan.  He said that there was a need to change teachers’ mindsets regarding teaching basic skills.  He said that the advocacy of home language education at primary level was very important.

Mr G Boinamo (DA) said that in the past, many schools in black communities were built without halls, libraries and playgrounds.  He asked why schools were still being built without running water, electricity and toilets.  He found that in certain schools, children could speak very eloquently but were unable to spell, write or read the language.  He suggested that reading and comprehension classes were re-introduced.

Mr R Ntuli (ANC) said that education can not move forward unless basic literacy and numeracy were achieved.  He asked if the program will add to the learning time of five and a half to six hours per day.  He said that not all teachers had the necessary skills to teach effectively.  He asked what was being done to ensure that the districts provided adequate support for the program.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) welcomed the introduction of the program as well.  She remarked that parents were taught different methods to those currently being used by teachers and may have difficulties in teaching their children.  She suggested that parents were encouraged to interact with teachers so that they were able to assist their children in learning basic literacy and numeracy.  She noted that allocations were made according to the needs of the provinces and asked why the amount allocated to the
Western Cape increased by 82% for the 2008/09 period when she was under the impression that facilities in the schools in the Western Cape were adequate.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) recalled that during a briefing held the previous week, the Department advised the Committee that there was an urgent need to introduce teacher evaluations.  The Teachers’
Union was however against such a measure.  He asked if the monitoring and evaluations included in the programs would be affected.

Ms Tyobeka agreed with the comments made by Adv Gaum.  She said that the current situation resulted from the under-development of schools in the past and the low quality of education offered by the poorer schools.  Although access to university had improved, many students lacked the basic numeracy and literacy skills.

Ms Tyobeka explained that the use of learning time was gazetted.  The program did not require additional learning time but guidance was provided on the way the available time for reading and writing was utilised. She said that a pilot program was scheduled for September 2008 to introduce teachers to the program.  The program will be phased in during 2009.

Ms Tyobeka said that monitoring progress against specific targets was very important for the success of the program.  The Department tried to simplify the program as much as possible and made it as clear as possible for teachers to implement, using the available resources.  She mentioned that the Department planned to hold a curriculum round table with the Minister on
23rd June 2008 to address the challenges at national and district level.

Ms Tyobeka agreed that the issue of home language instruction remained a challenge.  She said that parents resisted home language instruction and admitted that more needed to be done to advocate mother tongue instruction.  The Department provided the resources and materials in all the official languages and insisted that the program was presented in the child’s home language.

Ms Tyobeka explained that the
Western Cape had more resources available for the program and had started from a higher base line than the other provinces.

In response to Mr Boinamo’s comments, Ms Tyobeka said that a team of representatives from the Departments of Water Affairs and Forestry, Public Works and Education was investigating the schools with inadequate infrastructure.  It was unacceptable that new schools were being built with inadequate facilities.  Mr Boinamo listed the schools in question and Ms Tyobeka undertook to investigate and report back to him.  She mentioned that new designs for schools were currently under consideration.

Ms Tyobeka admitted that support for the program in the districts was a challenge.  There was a lack of capacity at the district level.  The Department was providing guidelines to districts to assist them.

In response to Ms Matsomela’s comment, Ms Tyobeka said that the Department encouraged parents to get involved in the education of their children and to interact with the school.

Replying to Mr Mpontshane’s question, Ms Tyobeka explained that the monitoring and evaluation of the progress made in learning was supported by the union.

Ms Tyobeka agreed that the
Western Cape was more developed than other provinces and was less likely to apply its allocation to other priorities.

The Chairperson was concerned about the relatively low amounts allocated to provinces like the
Eastern Cape for the program.  He asked if the Committee can assist the program by requesting that conditional grants were allocated for the development of schools.  He was concerned that certain schools appeared to be unaware of the program and asked if the Department can assist the Education Development Officers (EDO) and subject advisers by prescribing the questions asked during visits to the schools.

Mr Ntuli remarked that if a learner was well-grounded in the mother tongue, a second language can be learned more easily.  For economic reasons, parents will always prefer instruction in English.  He suggested that learning the mother tongue was strengthened at the primary school level.

The Chairperson noted that the school governing body had the power to decide on the instruction medium.  He asked if the power should be removed from schools in order to enforce instruction in the mother tongue.

Ms Tyobeka said that the Department would welcome it if funding was ring-fenced or if conditional grants were allocated for the major policy initiatives.  In particular, the Department needed to know that funds were available for the building of capacity in the districts.  Indications were that National Treasury was prepare to provide funding for the first year for planning and restructuring purposes but thereafter, funds would have to be provided by the provinces.

Ms Tyobeka said that guidelines were compiled for the
EDO’s.  She said that EDO reports needed to be more substantial and in some cases, the EDO did not know where the all the schools were situated.  When the Department sent out 16000 letters to schools, 4000 were returned undelivered because the addresses were unknown.

Ms Tyobeka said that the school governing bodies decided on the employment of teachers.  In some cases, the school refused to employ the Department’s candidates even though the teachers were better qualified than the persons employed by the school.  She said the Department’s objective was to deliver quality education and it may be necessary to take back control over the employment of teachers.

Ms Tyobeka said that the learning of African languages in schools was a priority, along with mathematics and science.  It was found however that few black students majored in African languages and were not interested in teaching the languages at the foundation stage.  She said that not all bursaries available for African language studies were taken up.

The Chairperson referred to the profile of target schools mentioned in the presentation.  He said that schools without toilets, water and furniture were no schools at all.  He asked if the funds allocated per province was linked to the provision of services and infrastructure at schools.

Ms Tyobeka explained that no funds were available to the Department for the maintenance and upgrading of schools.  The funding for this purpose was allocated to the provinces.  Provinces did not always appreciate the importance of the conditions in schools in allowing pupils to learn.  The Department drew up the profile of the poorest schools in order to address the problems holistically as and when funding became available.  She said that the Western Cape allocated more funding than the other provinces and was able to provide a specific budget for the purpose.  She said that the focus tended to be more on providing infrastructure in secondary schools because parents placed more importance on high school education.

The Chairperson said that no-fee schools used to receive R50 per pupil per annum.  This amount was increased to R600 per pupil per annum but still appeared to be insufficient to properly maintain schools.

Ms Tyobeka replied that the Department was in the process of developing guidelines aimed at the poorest schools, on how to apply the funds available to them.  She said that part of the problem was that funding was not always available to the school at the time when it was needed.

The Chairperson commented that the quintile system of categorising schools do not work in practice.  The decision on which quintile applies to a particular school was made in Pretoria, regardless of the situation of the school.  As a result, some schools were incorrectly classified and received less funding than another even though the pupils at the schools were very poor.

Ms Tyobeka advised that the quintile system was being done away with.  She understood that a simpler classification of fee-paying or non fee-paying schools was in the process of being developed.

The Chairperson requested that Members considered ways in which they can support the programs in their constituencies.  He thanked the delegates from the Department for their input.

The meeting was adjourned.

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