Campaigns: Improve General Education & Training / Quality Learning & Teaching: update form Department and input by unions

Basic Education

16 February 2009
Chairperson: Prof M Mayatula (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department provided an update on the Campaigns to improve education throughout all grades. The unions were present and they pledged their support for the campaigns. The first briefing looked st the csmpaign to improve the quality of learning at all levels of General Education and Training, an endeavour that had been started in March 2008. The new policy shift was to build a solid foundation and the lower levels, and not just focus on Grade 12 results. The focus had literacy and numeracy at the centre. It included setting and communicating clear targets and monitoring learner progression. They outlined the steps taken to communicate campaign expectations and the progress to date. The current literacy performance of provinces (with a 50% target in mind) was discussed as was the focus for 2009.
 
The Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign briefing looked at its objectives with keywords being Teachers, Textbook and Time. The national communication and brand strategy was explained as was the need for regular meetings and going over the pledges of the various stakeholders.
 
Several unions gave their representations. They addressed the need for regular teachers’ hours and emphasised the need for support from other stakeholders, especially the Department of Education. They all pledged their support for the campaign.
 
Comments from Members included the need for all stakeholders to be committed and the need to provide, resources, support and to empower teachers. Questions included concerns about teacher training and re-training, what classifications were used to determine quintiles, what measures were in place to receive documents in time and if there were there any monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the plans were implemented. Further, what the schools and department were doing to develop capacity and how the department was going to balance political appointments and appointing qualified professionals.
 
The meeting concluded with a recognition that there had been a change of approach from concentrating not only on Grade 12 but from Grade R, and that all stakeholders were going to work together and were committed. 

 

Meeting report

Prof Mayatula gave a nostalgic review of the Committee, as it was the last meeting before the elections. Members thanked Prof Mayatula for his leadership of the Committee.
 
General Education and Training (GET) presentation
Ms Palesa Tyobeka (Deputy Director General: General Education) noted the need for a focus on the General Education and Training level because quality had been judged by the Grade 12 results. The focus on Grade 12 results had been to the detriment of lower levels. The new policy was a shift in focus to include lower levels so as to build a solid foundation.

She went through the presentation (refer to document). This included a focus on quality at the GET level with literacy and numeracy being at the centre. She emphasised the need for communicating clear expectations to all and the setting of clear targets, with increased monitoring of progress, especially of those in the poorest conditions. She discussed the foundations of the Learning Campaign, the key focus of the update being the mobilisation for broad involvement in the campaign after its launch in March 2008 and the steps DoE had taken to communicate directives and expectations. She highlighted the progress to date and noted the importance of standardised assessments in order to get some sense of where they were. Grade educators would mark these. Addressing the concern about honesty and the fear of inflating marks, she said the approach could not be to question the honesty of educators. 
 
She discussed what the focus would be in 2009. She then looked at current literacy performance aiming for a 50% benchmark. To this end she looked at the performance of provinces and district results. The Western Cape was markedly above the national average and this was as a result of the strategies working, which had been started some time back there. Eastern Cape and Limpopo were markedly lower than the national level.
 
She emphasised the need for supporting schools serving the poorest communities, which included resourcing schools properly, building good leadership and teacher capacity, and resources for things such as toilets, which was about dignity and bringing hope.
 
She went over some of the common problems that persisted, such as the poor attention to Grade R, the lack of water and sanitation, overcrowding and multi-grade classrooms, poor classroom environments and the matter of special schools.
 
Quality Learning and Teaching campaign: briefing
Ms Vivienne Carelse (Deputy Director General: Office of the Director General) discussed the background of the campaign launched in October 2008. She emphasised that this campaign was a unified approach, with unions and the Department working together in the context of lagging learner achievement. She stated that the campaign was as a result of the post-Polokwane focus on education and health.
 
She discussed the objectives of the campaign:
Teachers, textbooks, which was better viewed as learning support material that includes an innovative approach, and time, with teachers having to be timely and providing revision and support timeously.
Building partnerships between the DOE and the teachers unions.
Supporting teachers and holding them accountable.
 
She talked about the operationlising of the campaign, noting that a national steering committee had been established, which would be replicated at local level.
 
She went over the National Communication and Brand Strategy to get the public to buy into the campaign and emphasised her desire for corporate support for the campaign. This consisted of using resources for posters, flyers, pocket cards to indicate the commitment to the QLTC) and advertisements reflecting the commitments of the stakeholders.
 
Regarding the next steps, she emphasised the need for regular meetings to determine focus and that teacher agency was critical. In connection with the latter, a national teachers summit preceded by round table discussion by all stakeholders would be held.
 
She went over the pledges of the various stakeholders, namely the departmental officials, teachers, learners, parents and the community.
 
She concluded with an emphasis on a broader commitment to quality, supported by all the stakeholders with well-made policies and the need to ensure that all the stakeholders intensify the communication strategy.
 
Union Representations
Prof Mayatula (ANC), before allowing the input of the Unions, read out an extract from a document about working hours. He questioned whether proper school hours were being implemented, noting issues such as early ending on Fridays or teachers that leave early or have too much free time during school hours. His belief was that school governing bodies feared principals and teachers so did not enforce school hours, and emphasised that even if teachers were not teaching for certain periods they must still be there physically.
 
Mr Dave Balt (NAPTOSA President) noted that the concerns and frustrations that the Campaign focused on, such as literacy and numeracy levels, have been articulated publicly. He expressed his belief that the two campaigns had provided a new unity, professionalism and commitment to addressing the challenges. On the point raised by Prof Mayatula about the1800 hours required by teachers, he asserted that the problem was that there were no consequences for such infringement. He also emphasised that district and departmental support was needed, and that when it was poor then it impacted on motivation. He stressed that it needed combined responsibility with consequences, and that the district could not be on the outside but rather needed to support. He stated his belief that some of the commitments were not a wish list, that many could be achieved quickly, but needed support and professional consequence.
 
Mr Allan Thompson (National Teachers Union) reaffirmed his commitment of the QLT campaign. He stated that it needed principals and districts monitoring and supporting to enforce the goals. He believed that it was irresponsible to point fingers at teachers when many did not receive support from departmental officials and he suggested strict measures regarding school times. He urged section 20 schools to be given section 21 status believing that money went into wrong areas. He believed that the budget was sufficient but was used badly or inefficiently.
 
Mr Jon Lewis (South African Democratic Teachers Union) agreed there was a system problem, but that the breakthrough of the campaign was that it provided compartmental and individual commitments and responsibilities. He stated that the non-negotiables were very simple, but the issue was how to roll it out. He said that his union printed newspapers and newsletters to all members, which he believed was a start but not enough. He stressed that early Fridays and similar things must be relegated to the past. He highlighted that the commitments were discussed in leadership meetings but would take time to roll them out, but that it was important that provincial and national leaders understood and endorsed them. He hoped that by the next meeting there would have been much more progress in rolling out the commitments.
 
Mr Malose Kutumela (President: Professional Educators Union) pledged support for the campaign and emphasised that all stakeholders needed to pledge their support.  
 
Mr Doug Hindle (Director General of Education) pledge his department’s support and gave a reminder that all statements were on record.
 
Prof Mayatula (ANC) thanked the unions and opened the floor to the members.
 
Discussion
Mr G Boinamo (DA) stressed that the objectives could only be achieved if all stakeholders were committed, including parents. He asserted that the problem was that the quality of education was judged through matric results and so one forgot that the foundation should be laid properly. That resulted in students being under prepared when reaching matric and then being pushed through. He emphasised that it was important to start with a quality teacher before being able to speak of a quality education because you cannot give what you do not have. He believed the presenters were silent on teacher training and re-training, and also emphasised schools being undersupplied with resources such as textbooks and science labs. His questions were what classification was used to determine quintiles and now that teachers unions had committed members to be on time, he hoped that SATU members whose teachers were insubordinate to non-SATU members would be corrected.
 
Ms P Mashangoane (ANC), referring to the first presentation, asked if there were any measures in place to receive documents in time and were there any monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the plans were implemented. On the second presentation, she stated her concern with appointments of incompetent principals and with unprofessional behavior. She was concerned where parents and communities did not eliminate behaviors such as sending children to shebeens or selling to them.
 
Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) stated that he was glad that there was no union partisanship for this endeavour. 
He questioned how the department was going to balance political appointments with appointing qualified, professionals. He noted that political appointments killed quality education and the impacted the system. 
 
Mr R Van den Heever (ANC) thanked the unions and department for this historic initiative. 
  
Mr R Ntuli (ANC), states that he was glad that there was consensus, but noted that there were issues that needed attention. He listed the issue of there being two centres of power: the province and national spheres, and the lack of synergy between school management and parents. He also queried what the schools and department were doing to develop capacity. He stated that if there were agreements made, they must be honoured and if not, then there would have to be sanctions.
 
Mr B Mosala (ANC) emphasised the need to empower the teachers, and that this was what they were committing themselves. He stated that they had all that was needed, all the resources, and now the commitments would make it a duty that what happens on the ground would be to the benefit of the children. He stressed that there needed to be more interaction with the MECs and HODs to know what they were thinking. He thus made a plea to interact with all stakeholders.
 
Prof Mayatula (ANC) recognised that there had been a change of approach, to concentrate not only on Grade 12 but throughout from Grade R. He also placed emphasis on working together with stakeholders and keeping commitments. He highlighted the new spirit that all stakeholders were going to work together from Grade R.
 
The Department of Education gave an invitation to all to use the call centre for any issue such as needing resources or when a teacher was unprofessional.
 
Meeting adjourned.

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