ATC131105: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on its Study Tour to Botswana, dated 5 November 2013
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on its Study Tour to Botswana, dated 5 November 2013
The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, having undertaken a study tour to Botswana, reports as follows:
1.1 The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education undertook an exploratory study tour to Botswana from 24 to 28 June 2013. The main purpose of the tour was to ascertain areas of best and replicable practices South Africa could learn from the Botswana education system in order to contribute to the improvement of the quality of basic education. Specific objectives of the study tour were the following:
· To establish how the Botswana education system is among the highest in Africa in Literacy and Numeracy.
· To explore the alignment of education Acts and department policies with the successes of the Botswana education system. To establish what assists and what impedes the achievement of quality education.
· To explore the systems of Early Childhood Development (ECD), inclusive education and vocational education in upper secondary education.
· To gain insight as to how Botswana reduces the achievement gap amongst learners.
· To interact with various stakeholders in Botswana’s education system and to understand how they support schools to contribute towards their country’s academic achievements in terms of teacher performance; discipline; and, curriculum excellence.
1.2 The Committee is mandated to conduct oversight over the implementation of key interventions and priorities of the Department of Basic Education. The improvement of the quality of basic education is high on the policy agenda of government and the Department of Basic Education due to the low levels of numeracy and literacy in South Africa. The Committee decided to visit Botswana, a neighbouring country, due to the country’s higher performance in Literacy and Numeracy in the regional comparative assessment.
1.3 As part of the study tour, the Committee interacted with:
· His Excellency, Hon Keletso Rakhudu, Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development of Botswana;
· Members of the Botswana Portfolio Committee on Education;
· Senior officials of the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD);
· The Botswana Examination Council;
· The National School Heads Conference: Primary and Secondary;
· National teacher unions; and
· The Regional Parents Association.
1.4 In all the meetings held and visits undertaken, the delegation was accompanied by a representative of the South African High Commission, Ms H Goolab, Third Secretary (Political); the Director of Basic Education, Ms B Mojaphoko; a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr T Mokoti; and the Planning Team of the study tour from the MoESD, Botswana.
1.5 The Committee had an opportunity to undertake visits to a total of eight schools located in the South East and Kgatleng regions, where members of the delegation interacted with regional officials led by Directors of Regional Operations, school heads and their staff, as well as members of the Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs). Schools visited by the delegation were:
· Gaborone Secondary School (South East Region)
· Tswaragano Primary School (Australia Project Ducere) (South East Region)
· Linchwe Junior Secondary School (Kgatleng Region)
· Molefi Senior Secondary School (Kgatleng Region)
· Kgafela Primary School (British Council Project) (Kgatleng Region)
· Ramogotsi Primary School (South East Region)
· Ramotswa Primary School (Centre of the Deaf) (South East Region)
· Ramotswa Junior Secondary School (South East Region)
· Mophane Primary School (British Council Project) (South East Region)
The following Members of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education undertook the study tour to Botswana: Hon H H Malgas, MP (ANC) (Chairperson and leader of the delegation), Hon N Gina MP (ANC) (Whip), Hon C Moni MP (ANC), Hon S Makhubele MP (ANC), Hon A Mashishi MP (ANC) and Hon A Lovemore MP (DA). Parliamentary staff consisted of Mr D Bandi (Content Advisor) and Mr J Ngcobo (Researcher).
2.1 South Africa’s challenge of improving the levels and quality of educational outcomes
South Africa faces major challenges relating to the quality of education and throughput rate. While Grade 12 results have been improving in terms of pass rates over the past two years, the quality and number of passes in Mathematics and Physical Science remain low. The performance in the Annual National Assessments (ANA) in Grades 3, 6 and 9 has also been low by national and international standards, despite the fact that government spends approximately six percent of the GDP on education. South Africa performs below its own benchmarks in Literacy, Numeracy, Mathematics and Languages. In 2011, in the verification ANA, which involved applying rigorous procedures to a sample of results for approximately 1 800 schools, in Grade 3, the national average performance in Literacy was 35% and for Numeracy 28%. In Grade 6, the results were even lower. The national average performance in Languages was 28% whilst that of Mathematics was 30%.
ANA 2012 results showed an overall improvement in learner performance compared to the results of 2011. Significant improvements were observed in the Foundation Phase, though there are still areas of concern. The results indicated significant deficiencies in knowledge and skills at the Intermediate Phase, particularly in Mathematics, as well as at Grade 9 level in Languages. There were also wide-ranging deficiencies in Mathematics in Grade 9, where the national average performance was 13 per cent, as shown in Table 2. The 2012 results also revealed that top performing schools still fall below expectations. In addition, the results showed a relatively lower performance in the predominantly rural provinces, thus highlighting the need to enhance targeted interventions.
The pattern of poor quality education outcomes, despite the increased growth in real expenditure in education, is repeated in relation to comparative countries. In 2006, South Africa participated in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) which made a comparative evaluation of Grades 4 and 5 learners on their educational achievement in 45 education systems. South Africa’s reading literacy scores were significantly low, particularly for learners from previously disadvantaged schools. Overall, South Africa’s PIRLS was below the norm, achieving the lowest score of all 45 education systems. It is worth noting that Morocco was the only other African country participating in the PIRLS 2006, with most countries being from the Northern Hemisphere. Regionally, in the 2007 Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality (SACMEQ)  III test results, South Africa scored in the bottom half of the 15 African country samples in Grade 6 Mathematics and reading. Countries such as Botswana, Swaziland, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, which are less affluent than South Africa, performed higher in this assessment.
2.2 An overview of Botswana’s performance in SAQMEQ III
Botswana performed among the top of the 15 African country sample who participated in the 2001 and 2007 SACMEQ Grade 6 Mathematics and reading tests. In both years the average performance of Botswana was above the SACMEQ overall mean scores while South Africa performed below the average. Botswana’s 2007 mean scores in Mathematics and reading were 520.5 and 534.6 respectively, compared to South Africa’s means scores of 494.8 and 494.9. The overall SACMEQ III mean scores in the 2007 mathematics and reading were 509.5 and 511.8. Notable disparities among regions were observed, particularly between rural and urban areas in Botswana, as with South Africa which has a similar trend. Between 2000 and 2007 many regions in Botswana experienced an improvement in the average reading and Mathematics performances of Grade 6 learners.
Against this background, the Committee, in an endeavour to contribute towards the improvement of quality education, opted to visit Botswana for an inter-country comparative study of the education systems.
3. Meeting with the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD)
3.1 Welcome and opening address
Mr DM Ratsatsi, the Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS) of Basic Education in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD), warmly welcomed the South African Parliamentary delegation. He stressed the importance of learning from each other since South Africa and Botswana shared a border. The DPS noted that, although Botswana had performed well in the much publicised international tests in 2007, its results were declining due to factors such as availability of textbooks and competencies of teachers.
In her brief remarks on the purpose of the Portfolio Committee’s visit to Botswana, the Chairperson, Hon H Malgas, acknowledged the strong historical ties between Botswana and South Africa. She thanked the government of Botswana for the support they gave the people of South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle. The Chairperson indicated that the purpose of the study tour was to establish whether there were best practices South Africa could learn from the Botswana education system. The Committee also wished to learn how the South African education system could improve the throughput rate in primary and secondary schools. It was noted that South Africa was a young democracy, compared to Botswana who gained independence in 1966. The Chairperson shared some key priorities of basic education in South Africa. Priority had been given to inclusive education in South Africa, with the Minister of Basic Education having declared 2013, the year of inclusive education.
3.2 Briefing by the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD)
The DPS of Basic Education, supported by the DPS of Support in the MoESD, Mr K Ramoroka, led a briefing on an overview of the education system in Botswana. The briefing covered key areas linked to the purpose of the study tour, including the structure and goals of the Botswana education system, the status of teachers, the curriculum, drop-outs, involvement of stakeholders and the role of the Botswana Education Hub.
3.2.1 The structure and goal of the Ministry of Education and Skills Development
The DPS informed the delegation that, unlike South Africa which has two ministries of education, namely, the Ministry of Basic Education and the Ministry of Higher Education and Training, Botswana has a single Ministry of Education and Skills Development. The country acted on the advice from experts in countries such as Namibia, Kenya and Nigeria to opt for a single ministry of education and to increase the number of management personnel.
The main goal of national education is to improve access, ensure equity and inclusiveness for all, improve and maintain quality and effective management of education.
The responsibilities and functions of the Ministry of Education have been structured into four major groupings, namely, basic education (including the departments of pre-primary and primary education; secondary education; out-of-school education and training; technical and vocational education; and curriculum development and evaluation); regional operations; education support services; and cooperate services.
The delegation was informed that pre-primary education was provided mainly by private individuals and organisations. The strategy adopted by the Ministry of Education is to assume a coordination role, to provide support in curriculum development activities, and to provide avenues for training and professional development for teachers. It was noted that a key challenge was that private providers were not reaching out effectively to rural areas. More recently, the Ministry has started to introduce some interventions. These include piloting the implementation of pre-primary programmes in six schools in the Kgalakgadi Region in 2013 and developing a programme to train teachers in ECD.
With regard to primary education, it covers Standards 1 to 7 and is the first stage of the ten-year basic education programme. At the end of Standard 7, learners sit the Primary School Leaving Examination. It was noted that, although Botswana performed better than South Africa and Namibia in the SACMEQ III tests, they did not achieve well in comparison to some countries.
Administratively, the responsibility for primary education in Botswana is shared between two ministries: the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) and the Ministry of Local Government (MLG). MoESD is responsible for curriculum development and evaluation, purchase of textbooks, some school equipment, management and deployment of teachers, while MLG is responsible for the provision of physical infrastructure, school furniture, school feeding, the procurement of learning and teaching support material, management and deployment of auxiliary staff (cooks, labourers, cleaners).
Secondary education consists of three years of junior secondary school, which completes ten years of basic education, followed by two years of senior secondary school. It was noted that progression from junior secondary to the senior secondary was through the Junior Certificate Examination (JCE).
In respect of technical and vocational education training (TVET), it was highlighted that although there were good facilities there were insufficient trainers. Government recruits expatriates and other trainers to aid quality improvement. However, there are still challenges. Previously neglected, it was only since the 1980s that this training was prioritised. They are therefore still running under capacity.
3.2.2 Status of teachers
The delegation was informed that the Ministry was currently focusing on a number of measures aimed at raising the status and morale of teachers to enable them to perform more effectively. Such measures included both improved pre-service and in-service training and a package of incentives and improvements in the conditions of education. In terms of the 1994 Revised National Policy of Education (RNPE) the minimum qualifications for admission into the teaching profession was the three-year Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education. In line with this policy, the Botswana government upgraded many teachers’ qualifications from the former two-year teachers’ certificate to the three-year diploma. Teachers were also encouraged to pursue degrees (normally a four year programme on a full time basis). A total of 2 000 teachers were sent to universities and private institutions for training in content knowledge. The delegation was informed that this has enabled increased production of teachers trained at a higher level.
With regard to teacher incentives and improvements in their conditions of service, the Ministry was providing accommodation for teachers in rural schools and had recently bought several houses for them. There were also a range of incentives to encourage them to perform effectively.
Although Botswana was doing relatively well regarding the status of teachers, there was still the desire to improve. Teacher recruitment had been a concern for some time. There was agreement with the delegation that, as with South Africa, top candidates were not entering the teaching profession. They were prioritising other careers.
The delegation heard that Botswana has a robust curriculum which has been benchmarked with those of several countries and found to be comparable. The curriculum is diversified to include academic, technical and commercial subjects thus accommodating a wide range of abilities and interests.
A unique feature of Botswana’s curriculum is that Botswana offers English, Mathematics, Science and Setswana as compulsory subjects from Standard 1 to Form 3. Setswana is the unifying subject and a language of instruction in Standard 1. The delegation was informed that the issue of language remains a challenge.
The post-primary curriculum has a strong guidance and counselling component that is meant to equip learners with life skills and in a suitable choice of subjects.
3.2.4 Drop-outs and throughput
Like South Africa, Botswana experiences drop-outs. Some of the reasons identified for the drop-out rates were the long distances travelled to school. An elaborate concept of hostelling has been developed to address the challenge of drop-outs. The Ministry was looking at introducing hostel mothers to supervise learners. The country also relies on support from parents to mitigate the drop-out.
Regarding throughput, in 2011 a record 67 per cent of learners made a transition from junior secondary to high school. Botswana is currently looking at ensuring that some students transit through the vocational route.
3.2.5 Involvement of stakeholders in education
The RNPE supports the involvement of stakeholders in education. Local communities are encouraged to participate in Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) who work with school management teams in the school governance and promote community ownership of schools. The traditional leadership is also involved in education including addressing social values affecting the fabric of society. In addition, the Ministry collaborates with the private sector in several education projects.
Regarding the relationship with the unions, the Ministry highlighted that 2013 was declared a year of peace with them, following a period of disagreements.
3.2.6 Inclusive education
As in South Africa, Botswana has prioritised inclusive education. The RNPE spells out explicit goals for the provision of education for learners with special educational needs. These include ensuring that all citizens including those with special needs have equality of educational opportunities and are prepared for social integration, where possible, with their peers in ordinary schools.
Botswana has also drawn up an inclusive education policy and implementation plan for the policy. The policy is being implemented at primary, secondary and tertiary education levels. Notable achievements include the establishment of additional special education units within the conventional school system to ensure inclusive educational provision. Botswana is collaborating with Namibia, South Africa, Sweden and private organisations to improve the implementation of inclusive education.
3.2.7 Botswana Education Hub
The Botswana Education Hub (BEH) is a key strategic office established by the Botswana Government to expand the country’s economic diversification drive and sustainable growth through the provision of a competent national human resource skills base. It is mandated to think outside the box and provide solutions. BEH links all education providers, both government and private. Key programmes to drive the BEH’s mandate that affect basic education include the following:
· Invest in Botswana Education Programme : This programme facilitates partnerships between local tertiary institutions and world renowned universities to enable improvement in the quality of education offered by local institutions. This initiative is extended to basic education (primary and secondary education levels). Private and public institutions are encouraged to form partnerships with each other locally and with international education providers. These include staff, student and programme exchanges as well as research projects.
· The Top Achievers Scholarship Programme : In an endeavour to improve academic excellence at basic education level, the MoESD introduced the Top Achievers Programme in 2009. The programme rewards learners who attain 6 A* grades in the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) or equivalent examinations by sending them to top educational institutions abroad to study courses relevant to the economic diversification strategy of Botswana. This motivates learners to work hard and achieve.
· Adopt-a-School Programme: As in South Africa, this initiative is meant to facilitate long term private sector participation (organisations, non-governmental organisations and individuals) in the delivery of quality education and training. Partners can either adopt a school, schools or a learner to provide support services such as tutoring, mentoring teachers, sponsoring of special events and maintenance of facilities. It was mentioned that the adopt-a-school programme is functioning well and that the private sector is supporting the project.
Key challenges noted included the following :
· Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM) : Botswana has challenges as in South Africa, particularly in processes of book acquisition. In 2012 Botswana experienced a challenge with the supply of books. The country intended to supply books to all learners in 2013.
· Learner pregnancy : Just as in South Africa, Botswana has a challenge of learner pregnancy but this is on the decline. The DPS attributes the decline in learner pregnancy to being vocal against its occurrence and instituting pro-active discipline.
· Drug abuse : Alcohol and drug abuse poses a challenge. Several measures are in place to address this challenge. These include the following:
o Support is offered to learners at school level through guidance and counselling programmes.
o Traditional leaders are also on board to assist with possible solutions.
o There is a system in place to provide counselling over the phone for learners.
o The Ministry is also piloting multiple disciplinary centres to support learners.
3.2.9 Observations of the delegation
Members of the delegation were impressed with the courteous manner in which they were received. They also appreciated the information they received from the Ministry.
The delegation noted certain similarities that Botswana and South Africa share. These included the main goals of education, current priorities such as teacher development and inclusive education as well as strategies to improve the quality of education such as the adopt-a-school initiative and the turn-around strategy.
The delegation was heartened by Botswana’s adopt-a-school initiative, which seems to be working. The Portfolio Committee previously observed during its oversight to provinces that this initiative was implemented with varying successes in South Africa. The importance of, and lessons learned from the good results emanating from its implementation in Botswana needed to be noted.
The delegation noted that Botswana was investing in the development of teachers and in improving their status and morale. Members of the delegation appreciated the incentives that Botswana gives to teachers, such as the provision of accommodation to those teaching in rural schools. This encouraged them to take up posts in rural areas.
The delegation was interested in knowing the arguments against having two separate ministries of education given that the system is effective in South Africa. A report on Botswana’s position on the matter would be made available.
The delegation noted with appreciation the role of the Botswana Education Hub in enhancing the quality of education, including through facilitating partnerships between public and private educational institutions and private sector participation in education.
The delegation acknowledged that South Africa faced similar challenges to Botswana such as teacher recruitment, the delivery of LTSM, parental involvement, learner pregnancy and drug abuse.
4. Visit to schools
4.1 Visit to schools in the South East Region
4.1.1 Meeting at Gaborone Senior Secondary School
The meeting at Gaborone Senior Secondary School (GSS) focused on the turn-around strategy of the school to improve its results and broad issues of education at a regional level. It was attended by senior officials of the South East Region and representatives of the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, including the chief education officer of the region, director of the region, the director of Basic Education, acting director of curriculum development and evaluation, assistant director of Basic Education; principal education officers; representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; a representative of the South African High Commission, members of the study tour coordinating team from Botswana and the Botswana media.
a) The state of education in the South East Region
The Director of the South East Region, Mr B Rawe, welcomed the delegation and gave a broad overview of the state of education in the region. He noted that the South East Region was one of the 10 education regions in Botswana. Based on the decentralisation policy, regions were aimed at taking education closer to the people. They played a crucial role in the development and delivery of education by supervising and coordinating all functions at regional level relating to curriculum implementation, delivery of out of school programmes, special support services as well as technical services. It was noted that regions dealt with issues such as the delivery of books, teacher recruitment, and promotion at a lower level, absenteeism and discipline.
The South East Region was a relatively small region, made up of two districts, namely, Gaborone City Council and South East District City Council. The region has 75 schools (48 primary, 21 junior secondary and six senior secondary), three Brigades, a technical college, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) and a college of education.
The region has several departments who work closely together. These include primary, secondary, out of school, the brigades and technical colleges.
Basic education has two important sections, namely, inspectorate and in-service training. There are 15 inspectors in the South East Region (five for primary and 10 for secondary). There is also an education centre where most workshops are held to keep teachers and officials abreast with changes in education. The delegation was informed that staff development was held highly, and in the previous week, teachers participated in a workshop on inclusive education, with a component of action research.
In terms of the curriculum, the delegation was informed that Botswana has a wide spectrum of school subjects. In primary schools there are about 11 subjects, junior secondary phase around 14 to 15 subjects and in the senior secondary phase there are approximately 24 subjects.
The emphasis in primary education, particularly in Standard 1, is on a programme called Breakthrough to Setswana, which is progressing well in the region. This is a stimulating programme that teaches initial reading and writing skills in young learners’ mother tongue. Learners write about what they know and have experienced. They make sentences based on what they see on the posters. The delegation was informed that the concept was initiated in Australia and adapted by the University of Rhodes in South Africa before it was introduced in Botswana. It was noted that if the programme is well taught and effectively implemented, learners in Standard 1 are able to read Setswana well. Most schools in Botswana have adopted this method to teach learners at this level.
Certain schools use the Strengthening Mathematics and Science Education (SMASE) programme in secondary schools to improve the quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics and Science. The programme helps teachers and learners to understand why they are teaching and learning their subjects, respectively. It adopts a learner centred approach. Learners are encouraged to participate in competitions in subjects such as Mathematics and Science from cluster level to national level.
b) The turnaround strategy to improve results at Gaborone Secondary School
Gaborone Secondary school (GSS) is located in the Central Business District of Gaborone. According to the school’s student prospectus, the school was established in 1965 as the first government secondary school in Botswana. It started as a junior secondary school with 90 learners and in 1966 it enrolled four form four learners to start the senior section. The school prides itself for having produced several prominent people in Botswana. The school population has been expanding over the years and currently has a learner enrolment of 1 634 and a staff complement of 140 academic staff and 59 support staff. The school is a 42 stream with 21 Form 4 and 21 Form 5 classes.
In terms of results, it was noted that in 2011 Gaborone Secondary School did not perform well. The region intervened in 2012 to assist the school to improve its results. The school obtained 19.9 per cent in 2011 which improved by close to 20 per cent in 2012 to over thirty per cent.
Key elements of the turn-around strategy to improve the results in GSS were noted as follows:
· The region believed in the capacity of the school to improve its results.
· The school accepted that it was not performing well and needed to improve.
· The school then identified areas where it was not achieving well, which included curriculum monitoring and supervision and coverage of projects in the syllabus.
· The school introduced a forum where senior teachers met regularly to discuss issues of curriculum delivery and assessment.
· Regular supervision and monitoring of curriculum delivery was conducted. This included in lesson attendance, written work of learners, lesson observations and project coverage.
· The school introduced team teaching and teachers were encouraged to benchmark teaching with each other.
· Measures to motivate learners were introduced, including the publication of results of learners who showed improvement and the introduction of incentives such as prize giving for good performance.
· The school increased its focus on the teaching of the four core subjects (Mathematics, English, Setswana and Science) and revived subject clinics where learners refer problems in their subjects to teachers for support during specified times.
· The Parent Teacher Association urged parents to support learners at home through monitoring their homework.
· The school introduced extra lessons which the ministry supports through paying teachers overtime.
· Commitment from stakeholders was effected whereby performance targets were set.
· Discipline was intensified through reviving the disciplinary committee.
· Motivational speakers were brought in to motivate learners.
· Workshops were introduced for parents to improve parenting skills to support the school environment
c) Observations of the delegation
The delegation observed that education officials in Botswana attribute competitive performance in literacy to programmes such as Breakthrough to Setswana which seems to be effective in improving reading and comprehension skills at entrance levels.
The delegation welcomed the foresight and thorough turn-around strategy of Botswana Secondary School that seemed to be effective in improving learner performance. It was agreed that the Committee should benchmark the school’s turnaround strategy with turn-around strategies in South African schools to explore best practices that may be emulated to enhance learner performance in South Africa.
There was interest shown as to how the results were sustained with the enormous staff at the school and the level of parental involvement. The school head, deputy school head, six heads of department and senior teachers constitutes the school’s senior management team and together, in consultation with other stakeholders, decides on matters of general policy and overall administration and management of the school. The school is organised into six Houses (smaller schools) for administrative purposes, led by heads of departments who contribute to operational efficiency. It was noted that some of the key advantages of large schools is the economies of scale that the schools potentially obtain due to size and the ability to offer a wide range of subject options.
Members of the delegation also wanted to know how the system of paying teachers for overtime work was managed, to ensure that learners were the ultimate beneficiaries. The delegation was informed that this system started in 2011 after the national civil service strike where schools had to close and were behind schedule regarding the syllabus. The Ministry decided that teachers should do extra lessons. Since then it has become a norm to pay teachers for extra work including extra-mural activities conducted after hours. Schools make requisitions on the number of hours they want to put in for extra work, which they then get paid for. It was noted that the money paid for overtime for teachers in 2012 was high and the need for stronger controls was stressed.
The adopt-a-school programme in Botswana was similar to the one implemented in South Africa. The Portfolio Committee previously observed during its oversight that this initiative was implemented with varying successes in South Africa. The importance of, and lessons learned from the good results emanating from its implementation in Botswana needed to be noted.
The delegation wanted to know about the sustainability of the initiatives. In response, it was emphasised that the Breakthrough to Setswana Programme was introduced in the 1980s and is still being implemented. The delegation noted with appreciation the Breakthrough to Setswana Programme that seems to be effective in improving reading and writing skills of young learners in mother tongue. The need to consider implementing this programme in South Africa as part of efforts to improve reading and learning was noted.
4.1.2 Meeting at Tshwaragano Primary School
The meeting at Tshwaragano Primary School focused on the school’s turn-around strategy, challenges and the Australian Ducere Project designed to enhance learner performance. It was attended by the Director of Basic Education; Director of the South East Region; Principal Education Officer One, the South East; an official from the Education Hub; the organising/coordinating committee from the Ministry of Education (Basic Education) and Skills Development; a representative of the Ministry of foreign Affairs (Mr Mokoti); an area inspector; the coordinator of the Ducere Foundation. Also in attendance were the school head, deputy school heads; heads of department; senior teachers; Standard 7 teachers; mentors; and the chairperson of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of the School.
a) The turnaround strategy to improve results at Tshwaragano Secondary School
Tshwaragano Primary School is a large school and had a learner enrolment of 957 and a staff establishment of 30 teachers and nine non-teaching staff. It is situated in an informal settlement on the periphery of the city, where parents are either unemployed or low income earners. The school had enough classrooms and was equipped with facilities such as a library, which was recently renovated by a company supporting the school and a computer room with ten computers intended for learner use.
The school was currently underperforming and had obtained pass rates of below 50 per cent in the past two years (in the ABC exams). The school head had been appointed in January 2013 in an endeavour to improve results. The regional director reported that the school was beginning to show improvements. Key elements of the school’s turn-around-strategy included the following:
· Benchmarking from other schools
· Using the library to support teaching and learning
· Using the Ducere Project
· Setting homework
· Enforcing study
· Motivation measures such as making public the results of well-performing learners
· Regular monitoring, support and evaluation of curriculum and strategies employed
Challenges noted at the school included the following:
· Lack of parental involvement in the education of children
· Vandalism and theft of equipment at the school
· Many learners come to school hungry since parents are unemployed
c) Presentation on the Ducere Project
The presentation gave an overview of the Ducere Foundation, its School Improvement Programme, what mentors generally conduct in schools and the Peace Centre initiative. The Ducere Foundation is part of the Australian Ducere brand, which is based on a philanthro-capitalist philosophy. It invests into growth and development in Southern Africa. In respect of education, the Foundation aims at promoting a model for educational excellence. In a bid to improve the quality of education in Botswana, the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, and the Ducere Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 14 February 2012. The main objective of the Memorandum of Understanding was to create a world leading education programme aimed at developing contemporary skills requirements which include the following:
· innovative thinking;
· problem solving;
· communication and presentation skills;
· community engagement;
· project-based learning;
· debate; and
· complex skills for dealing with uncertainty.
The School Improvement Program focuses primarily on improving the quality of education in English, Mathematics and Science in Standard 7 primary school-leaving education. The Programme started being piloted in six Botswana primary schools on 23 April 2012. Tshwaragano Primary School is one of the six schools participating in the pilot project.
Central to the integration of programmes for school improvement, is the role of Mentors and Peace Centres. Mentors are young accomplished graduates in Mathematics, Science and English, selected to expand the Ducere educational philosophy within their allocated school and across the school community. They also underwent an internship programme. Mentors work side by side with schools, teachers and learners in all aspects of learning, from maintaining weekly schedules to establishing the needs of each child in their care. They focus on the individual; build relationship, trust and confidence of learners as well as teachers. Learning becomes central to the life of the each child.
The mentors also work during the school holidays with the Standard 7 teachers to catch up on the syllabus in order to improve the results for the primary school-leaving exams. The Ducere Foundation provides the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) revision books to support teaching and learning, as well as food to encourage learners, particularly those from under-privileged communities, to attend the programme.
When the Ducere Programme started in 2012 there were four mentors in Gaborone, shared between the two schools that were participating in the Programme. The number of the mentors increased to 11, by the time of the study tour. One mentor is assigned per class. Mentors focus in establishing a trusting relationship between the learners and the teachers. While it was challenging at the beginning, mentors have gained the confidence of learners, who look up to them as their role models. The first group of Mentors designed a manual based on their experiences, which guides the activities of the Mentors.
d) The School Improvement Programme of the Ducere Project
The School Improvement Programme focuses on four basic programmes, namely: anti-bullying, advocacy, reading and debating. To facilitate these programs, Mentors employ strategies which include:
· one-on-one support for learners which includes reading sessions and writing exercises;
· small group support;
· Activities for the whole class such as regular compositions, reading and, spelling exercises and homework; and
· Parental involvement in supervising work written by learners.
The Ducere Foundation provides iPads to Mentors which are used as tools to enhance learning.
The Peace Centre initiative builds on the ancient tradition of the Kgotla as a meeting place to discuss and resolve issues and disputes within the community. It has been designed as an extension of activities of the School Improvement Programme in the classroom. Learners engage in the reading, debating and anti-bullying programmes in an open environment at the Peace Centre where parents and members of the community are part of the audience. Reading and debating programmes focus on topical issues such as human rights, gender equality, racism, animal rights and social justice. The anti-bullying programme involves peace clubs, development of peace leaders and other activities designed to inspire positive learning environments and contribute in empowering learners to stand up for their rights.
It was stated that the first Peace Centre in Botswana was opened in 2012 at Ithuteng Primary School, the other Gaborone-based school participating in the Ducere Foundation Project. Tshwaragano Primary School had submitted plans for the construction of the Peace Centre, which wa s underway.
The delegation was informed that the School Improvement Programme as designed was effective since learners participating in the programme are able to improve their reading and language proficiency as well as to develop confidence and skills in research, analysis, communication and teamwork, through activities such as debate.
4.2 Visit to schools in the Kgatleng Region
The delegation visited three schools offering inclusive education in the Kgatleng Region, namely, Linchwe II Junior Secondary School, Molefi Secondary Schools and Kgafela Primary School.
The meetings at these schools were attended by the District Leadership, led by the Member of Parliament for Kgatleng West District, Hon Gilbert Manwale; the Council Chairperson; the Deputy District Commissioner; representatives of Botswana Police, Regional officials led by Director of Operations of Kgatleng Region, Sir W Masebola; officials of the Department of Basic Education; the Organising Committee; Regional PTA Chairperson; Secondary School Heads Chairperson for Kgatleng Area. Also in attendance were the school heads; deputy heads (where applicable) heads of departments and senior teachers.
4.2.1 Meeting at Linchwe II Junior Secondary School
The meeting at Linchwe II Junior Secondary Primary School focused on the state of education in the Kgatleng Region and the model of inclusive education offered in the region, as well as at Linchwe II Junior Secondary School.
Honourable Mangole, in his welcome address, highlighted that a number of tribes/clans in Botswana share common history and borders with their counterparts in South Africa. Historically, the Bagatla tribe in Botswana and South Africa share a common royal leader. He commented that they felt privileged that Botswana was chosen for benchmarking purposes.
a) The state of education in Kgatleng Region
The Director of Regional Operations, Kgatleng Region, Sir W Masebola, gave a broad overview of the state of education in the region as well as some measures to improve the quality of education in Botswana. It was noted that the Kgatleng Region offers all levels of education including pre-schools [which are predominantly owned by the private sector], primary education and secondary education. Apart from these levels, the region also has Out Of School Education and Training (OSET) (commonly known as non-formal education), Brigades (for vocational education) and a technical college (Oodi College of Applied Arts and Technology).
The Director of Regional Operations highlighted the following key measures to improve access to quality education in Botswana:
· Botswana was recalling and reregistering retired educationists as mentors to support schools to achieve quality education.
· It was also noted that as in South Africa, education took the largest portion of the government budget in Botswana.
· Botswana was also initiating the back to school programme to accommodate learners who were out of school, in order to afford them another opportunity to obtain qualifications. They were re-engineering the curriculum to focus on vocational and technical courses and education to ensure that learners leave school having acquired skills to be independent and self-sufficient.
· Boarding schools with modern facilities were provided in primary schools to increase access to quality education, particularly for children in rural areas.
The Kgatleng Region’s strategic plans focused on the following key areas:
· The learner
· Curriculum implementation
· Infrastructure development and maintenance
· Staff motivation
· Retention and attraction
· In-service Education and Training (INSET)
· The monitoring and evaluation of curriculum implementation through a team of inspectors who conduct regular visits to schools, both announced and unannounced, and provide feedback for improvement.
· Involvement of parents on matters pertaining to learners at school.
The delegation was informed that Botswana Parliament was appreciative of the good work performed in the region. The importance of supporting one another as a country was stressed, particularly in the context of the SADC protocol and bilateral relations.
b) Overview of the School
Linchwe II Junior Secondary School started operating in 1967 as a community night school guided by a governing body made up of community elders. At the time, teachers were mostly volunteers and part timers. The school became government aided in 1982 and a fully funded government school in 2005. The school introduced a special education wing in 1990, to cater for visually impaired learners. The unit was funded by the Royal Commonwealth for the Blind in the United Kingdom and the Blindon Mission in Deutschland. To date, the school has 18 streams with an enrolment of 438 learners (214 boys and 184 girls), and 41 visually impaired learners. The visually impaired learners are weighted at 4 to 1 in terms of government weighting norms and standards. The school has a staff establishment of 50 teachers and 36 support staff.
The school is well-equipped with facilities including boarding facilities, two science laboratories, one Art laboratory, one Home Economics laboratory and Design and Technology laboratory, one library, one computer laboratory and a multi-purpose hall with a kitchen.
To ensure subject diversification, the school offers the two compulsory languages (English and Setswana), Mathematics, Integrated Science, Social Studies, Agriculture and Moral Education. In addition, learners choose two other practical subjects which include Design and Technology, Art, Home Economics and Business Studies as well as general subjects including Physical Education, Music and Religious Education.
c) Model of inclusive education
The model of inclusive education adopted in this school is that of total inclusion (i.e. disabled learners are in mainstream classes, not in separate special education classes). To carry out inclusive education effectively, the school has teacher aides, special education teachers, Braillists or Braille interpreters (who Braille scripts into transcribe ordinary writing), a Braille centre where lessons and activities are prepared for both visually impaired and sighted learners. University students who specialise in inclusive education do their experiential learning in schools that have included disabled learners. It is noteworthy that schools in Botswana only provide for one specific form of disability rather than providing for a variety of disabilities.
Since its inception, the school has excelled, and obtained position one in the 2011 and 2012 Botswana Examinations. It also received cash awards and trophies for best performance, with individual teachers being awarded with certificates and cash prizes.
d) The Pastoral Policy
With regard to discipline, the school is guided by the Pastoral Policy launched on 3 August 2008, as the brainchild of the Department of Secondary Education in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development. The policy seeks to address indiscipline, poor academic performance and moral decadence in schools. It calls for schools to endeavour to develop the concept of Botho ( Ubuntu in South Africa) amongst learners. It is also intended to empower and equip the youth with skills that promote accountability, responsibility and patriotism. The main idea is to involve learners in school governance and total participation in the running of their schools, and also to involve staff and other stakeholders in the school programme. Schools are divided into smaller schools or house units managed by Heads of Departments (HODs) Pastoral. The delegation was informed that the pastoral programme at the school has been able to prevent challenges of indiscipline, truancy, vandalism and drop-outs. The school also has a Guidance and Counselling department led by a Senior Teacher qualified in Psychology.
4.2.2 Meeting at Molefi Senior Secondary School
a) Overview of the School
Molefi Senior Secondary School started operating in 1964 at the current site and offers Forms IV and V. It has a learner enrolment of 1 693, a staff establishment of 131 teachers and comprises five houses (mini schools) for administrative purposes. The school has a boarding facility with 210 learners (109 boys and 101 girls). It offers Special Needs Education for visually impaired learners, and various options for learners whose capabilities may not be within the academic stream. It has 21 learners with special education needs. The school offers a wide range of subjects totalling 27. Of this, learners are expected to take the four core subjects, choose two practical subjects and two management subjects. For examinations purposes, learners are graded over performance in the best six subjects. Sporting activities include football, softball and netball.
The school has a fully-stocked classroom for visually impaired learners with assistive devices such as print magnifying and brailing machines. Other facilities include several laboratories including Science, Home Economics and Agriculture, a computer laboratory and a well equipped library with assistive devices for the visually impaired learners. Library staff included a teacher librarian, two library officers and a library assistant.
The school has set up a complex that provides learner counselling services to learners experiencing various psychosocial pressures. There is a staff member allocated for the running of the complex. The school also offers art as part of its curriculum in order to increase options for learners. The art centre had a staff of four teachers led by a head of department. The delegation appreciated the learners’ art work displayed at the centre.
b) Observations of the delegation
During the discussion, members of the delegation observed that Botswana was making a mark in the implementation of inclusive education. The country was investing in the requisite human resources as well as the necessary facilities and devices suitable for the effective implementation of inclusive education. Also evident, was the role of partnership with the private sector and other stake holders in the improvement of quality education. This seemed to have a positive impact on learner achievement.
With regard to South Africa, it was highlighted that inclusive education had been prioritised. White Paper 6 of 2001 provided a legislative framework for inclusive education though it was yet to be fully realised. Some provinces that the Committee visited for oversight, most notably Mpumalanga and the North West, were beginning to make some progress in its implementation. However, there were still challenges to be addressed that included the need for further training of teachers, greater access to professional support services, assistive devices and improved infrastructure. There were efforts to address some of these challenges. The Minister of Basic Education had taken the lead and declared 2013 as the year of inclusive education. Flowing from this, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) was planning to train district officials on guidelines for full service schools and special schools. In addition, teachers would receive training in specialised areas of visual and hearing impairment, as well as on curriculum differentiation across the system through to 2014 In addition, plans were underway to make Sign Language a national language and the DBE will complete the South African Sign Language curriculum development for Grades R-12 and prepare the system for implementation..
4.2.3 Meeting at Kgafela Primary School (British Council Project)
a) Overview of the School
Kgafela Primary School was established in 1978. It is named after the great grandfather to the present Paramount Chief of Bakgatla, Chief Kgafela II. The school has a Special Education Unit for intellectually challenged Learners who are categorically classified into three levels. Learner enrolment stands at 668 including 61 learners in the Special Education Unit and there is a staff complement of 25 teachers and seven non-teaching staff. There are also three teacher aids assisting three specialist teachers in the unit.
In terms of infrastructure, the school has 22 classrooms, of which 18 are for mainstream education while three are for the Special Education Needs (SEN) Unit and one for the Information Technology (IT) Hub Educational Activities. It also has an administration block, 24 pit-latrine toilets for learners, 12 teachers’ institutional houses, one ablution block for learners with Special Education Needs and a traditional hut. In addition, the school has a modern garden which was funded by the Loo Company in Wales, United Kingdom, through the connecting classroom programme. The garden caters for all learners and occasionally economically disadvantaged learners receive harvests from the garden.
The school prides itself in that approximately 50 per cent of learners are IT oriented due to the school IT Hub activities. Schools in the region have access to the Hub. The community also has access to use the Hub and other resources such as photocopying and classrooms for adult education and political meetings. The Hub was set up by the British Council as part of the Connecting Classrooms programme that links the United Kingdoms’ school sector to others around the world (including Sub Saharan Africa) to enrich education and promote international understanding.
In terms of curriculum subjects, the school offers nine subjects for standards 5 to 7 and six subjects for standards 1–4. These subjects include Mathematics, Setswana, English, Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), Environmental Science and Cultural Studies for Standard 1-4 as well as Science, Social Studies, Agriculture and Religious Education for standards 5–7. Guidance and Counselling is offered in all standards. Extra-curricular activities include sport and music.
For administrative purposes, the school is managed by a school head, assisted by a deputy school head, five HODs and senior teachers. The HODs include two for Learning Difficulties serving all standards.
The delegation was informed that the school has a strong PTA who initiated the building of the traditional hut. Parents are also strongly involved. They volunteered without being paid to participate in the building of the hut. They also visit classes to observe and participate in analysing the results.
b) In-loco site visits of the school’s IT Hub and the traditional hut
The delegation undertook an in-loco site visit to the IT Hub where members appreciated the impressive modern technology designed to promote learning. These included an interactive whiteboard operating with a projector, and collaborative software that quizzes responses from learners. They were also impressed with the artwork of learners and appreciated the medals won by the school. In addition, they were taken to the traditional hut at the school where they were welcomed in the traditional African way by parents and gained first-hand knowledge of some important aspects of Tswana cultural traditions including the infusion of the practice of consultation in kgotla (a meeting place where members of the community have their say and decisions are taken by consensus) to foster parental participation in the education of their children.
4.3 Visits to additional schools in the South East Region
4.3.1 Meeting at Ramogotsi Primary School
Ramogotsi Primary School was originally built by the community. It has a learner enrolment of 300 and a staff establishment of 13 teachers. The school is performing well and according to the school head it has never performed below 70 per cent.
During the meeting held at the school, the following key issues were highlighted:
· Teachers at the school were well motivated and the school offered awards for the best teachers.
· Although access to school had improved over the years, it stood at approximately 89 per cent with children of mainly the San community and farm dwellers not attending fully.
· The Brigades and technical schools accounted for about 30 per cent of learners who were not proceeding to senior secondary schools.
· Government was working together with teachers and the community through OSED (Out of School Education) to target the disadvantaged youth who were out of school.
The delegation appreciated Botswana’s programme of reaching out to out of school youth.
The delegation also shared the language policy of the South African education system touching on the right of the School Governing Body to choose the language of learning and teaching, and plans to promote indigenous languages by making African languages compulsory from 2013
4.3.2 Meeting at Ramotswa Centre for the Deaf
The delegation was welcomed to Ramotswa Centre for the Deaf by a choir of well motivated deaf learners who were using sign language. Most of the learners at the school were totally deaf while others were partially deaf. The Committee was encouraged to hear the way the learners were singing and expressing themselves in sign language.
The Centre moved to its current site in 1989. An NGO runs the Centre with the support of the Botswana government. It has a learner enrolment of 96 and a staff establishment of 15 specialist teachers. The school also has a boarding facility.
The school head highlighted the following key issues about the school:
· Learners are admitted at an early age, spending three years at pre-school and then are admitted to formal education. They are assessed appropriately before being placed at the school.
· Learners follow the same curriculum as learners in mainstream schools and sit for examinations after seven years. The Centre offers vocational skills and learners excel in handiwork and sport.
· Teaching these learners posed a major challenge but there was hope that with new technology things would improve.
Challenges experienced at the school included the following:
· The school requires additional specialist teachers and some were still in training.
· The curriculum was dense. It had to be taught in a rushed manner because learners sit for the same examination with other learners in the mainstream, and they were moving at a slower pace. To address the situation, discussions were underway to adapt the curriculum to accommodate deaf learners. Their assessment was also being reviewed. In addition, workshops were being conducted with parents to improve communication at home.
· The school required educational software and projectors to enhance teaching and learning. A private company had sponsored technology software which would soon be acquired.
· Finding employment after leaving school posed a challenge.
· Parental involvement was inadequate since parents stayed far from the school.
The delegation noted that the School for the Deaf experienced challenges as in South Africa, including the pacing of the curriculum for deaf learners, the underperformance of learners based on existing examinations, limited vocabulary of sign language and the employability of school leavers.
Appreciation was shown towards South Africa’s plan to make sign language a national language. It was believed that this will help alleviate challenges experienced by Deaf learners regarding the current pace of the curriculum.
During the guided tour of the school, the delegation appreciated work produced by learners including bags, shoes and other artwork.
4.3.3 Presentation on the Reading Challenge Programme of Mophane Primary School
a) Overview of the Mophane Primary School
Mophane Primary School was established in 2001 and is one of the three schools in Gaborone (10 schools in Botswana) piloting the Reading Challenge Programme, a British Council initiative introduced in Botswana in 2009.
The school has been performing well and scoring above 90 per cent since its inception. One of the unique features of the school is that learners are taught in English from Standard 1 when other schools employ Setswana as a medium of instruction at lower levels. The school also has a strong Parents Teacher Association (PTA) which supports the activities of the school.
b) Key elements of the Reading Challenge Programme
The main objective of the programme is to inculcate a culture of reading in young learners for pleasure, discovery and improvement of academic performance. The programme also aims to support parental involvement in their children’s English Language learning. Mophane implements the programme from Standards 2 to 7 and uses story books donated by the British Council as well as other supplementary readers from the library. Learners summarise the books and retell them to teachers, parents and peers to show their level of comprehension. There are other learning activities arranged to stimulate learners’ comprehension of the books, such as role play and debate. For motivation, learners receive stickers based on their level of comprehension and the number of books they have read.
The school allocates 10 minutes daily for the programme, before lessons start, under the supervision of teachers. Mophane, as the benchmark school, supports other schools participating in the programme. It was stated that all these schools showed significant improvement in the 2012 Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), particularly in the English language.
Benefits of the Reading Programme include the acquisition of new words, improved literacy skills, greater confidence, excellent communication skills and excellent results. The success of the programme depends on commitment and passion from teachers, parents and learners. The programme also involves team work from teachers
In response to the issue of the sustainability of the programme raised by the delegation, Botswana’s Department of Basic Education indicated that they were engaging other partners for support to ensure that the programme is sustainable and extended to other schools.
The delegation was taken on a tour of the school’s well-stocked library which had an effective library system to encourage learners to become involved.
5. Meeting at the Botswana Examinations Council (BEC)
Dr J Tsonope, Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) Chairperson, warmly welcomed the delegation. He stated that the BEC was currently a work in progress. It was undergoing changes of great magnitude. Part of this included the rationalisation of roles and responsibilities where there may have been areas of overlap across entities reporting to the Ministry of Education and Skills Development. The BEC was going to be taking over some of these functions. Another change being considered was to work more closely with the curriculum division.
a) Overview of the BEC’s mandate and governance structure
Dr M Thobega, BEC Acting Executive Secretary, gave an overview of the BEC’s current mandate and governance structure.
The BEC is mandated by an Act of Botswana Parliament (Act No. 11 of 2002) to conduct national school examinations and any other examinations for the Ministry of Education and Skills Development and to issue certificates in respect of these examinations.
The BEC conducts the following national school examinations:
· The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), at the end of seven years of schooling
· The Junior Certificate Examination (JCE), at the end of Form 3
· The Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE), at the end of Form 5 (similar to matriculation certificate in South Africa).
The BEC’s key business activities include the development of an assessment policy, assessment instruments and regulations for the conduct of national school examination programmes in the general education subsector as well as maintaining international competitive standards.
In terms of the governance structure, the BEC is governed by a Board referred to as the Council. The Council is appointed by the Minister of Education and consists of 14 members, with representatives from the Ministry including its Parastatals, representatives from the Directorate of Public Service Management, the Botswana Police, the public, the private sector, teacher organisations and the BEC Executive Secretary. The Chairperson is an independent non-executive member of the council who is appointed by the Minister.
In accordance with the BEC Act, Council has established seven committees to assist in the discharge of its activities. These are the Executive, the Audit, the Human Resources, the Finance and Procurement, the Research, the Examinations and the Final Awards Committees.
The organisational structure is divided into five departments as follows:
· Product Development and Standards
· Examinations Administration and Certification
· Research and Policy Development
· Corporate Services
· Information and Communications Technology.
Examination work has been clustered into two core business areas. The functions of the two business areas are performed by the Directorate of Product Development and Standards and the Directorate of Examinations Administration and Certification. The remaining three directorates provide support services required to ensure that examinations are conducted efficiently and cost effectively. There are specialised support units that fall directly under the supervision of the Executive Secretary who deal with strategy management, quality and compliance assurance, internal audit and public relations.
Key challenges facing Botswana’s examination system were noted as follows:
· There is competition from private schools that prefer to enter in the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), which is an internationally recognised qualification for secondary school learners, developed by the University of Cambridge International Examinations.
· The automatic promotion system from primary school level education to Form 1 results in a lack of competition from learners.
· To safeguard the security of examination question papers for high stake BGCSE and JCE, which are selection levels, all question papers are printed in the UK, which is costly.
· There are also cases of malpractice and maladministration either involving officials at examination centres or candidates copying from each other.
· Uncertainty exists regarding the terms and conditions of teachers’ involvement in examination processes due to their level of unionisation.
· Securing suitable marking facilities poses a challenge.
During the discussion, the delegation reflected that in South Africa the functions of administering examinations and conducting quality assurance were allocated to two different entities. The national examination system was managed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) supported by the nine Provincial Education Departments (PEDs). The DBE sets examination question papers for the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations while Umalusi, an independent body, quality assures the examinations.
In response, it was highlighted that plans were underway, as part of the system-wide rationalisation in the Ministry, to set up the Botswana Qualifications Authority as a statutory body which will focus on the function of quality assurance. Currently, the BEC was working closely with the Cambridge International Examinations with whom they have an accreditation agreement on matters of quality assurance of the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE).
Further plans which would be legislated included transforming the BEC into a national assessment body which, besides focussing on general education, will also be responsible for the assessment of qualifications in non-tertiary vocational education and training as well as assessing indigenous skills, including the recognition of prior learning.
On the issue of the comparability of the Botswana examinations, the delegation was informed that the BEC interacted with organisations such as Umalusi in the region through the Southern Africa Educational Assessment Association to exchange ideas and share research. The Council’s research department also conducted comparability studies to ascertain how its assessments compared with other assessments. It was noted that South Africa’s National Senior Certificate is generally considered to be slightly higher than the BGCSE. In this regard, some South African universities required students from Botswana to do bridging courses before gaining admission. There were, however, some universities which were admitting Botswana students directly. This issue of the articulation and mobility across institutions in the region was explored at a Southern African regional conference in 2012. Another Southern African regional conference was underway which would create a research project to harmonise examination standards across the region. As part of its forthcoming transformation, the BEC was also planning to look at ways of to ensure that its qualifications were internationally comparable.
Other measures of ensuring comparability of Botswana examinations included the country’s participation in international assessment studies such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), which compare performance across education systems.
The delegation highlighted that South Africa was faced with similar security challenges regarding the safeguard of question papers though there have been remarkable improvements to date.
For the selection of markers for the high stakes BGCSE, teachers are first trained as examiners before coming to mark. Those who pass the training are selected. Due to the small size of the school system in Botswana, most teachers who are trained actually automatically find a place into marking. For the JCE marking, the number of years of experience is considered. BEC members expressed interest in benchmarking the competence tests proposed for markers in South Africa.
d) In-loco site visit of the security system
The delegation undertook an in-loco site visit to the examination facilities of the BEC. The delegation was impressed with the high standard and the heightened security at these facilities as well as the state-of-the-art technology.
6. Discussion on the role of the National School Heads Conference Primary and secondary
In attendance were Chairpersons of the National School Heads Conference Secondary and Primary; Secretary General, National Executive of Secondary School Heads Conference; Vice Secretary, National Executive of Secondary School Heads Conference; a member of the National Executive of Primary School Heads Conference; Secretary General, National Executive Primary School Heads Conference; and President, Botswana Teachers Union.
The Chairperson of the National Secondary School Heads Conference led discussions on the overview of the School Heads Conference and its role.
The Schools Heads Conference is a forum of principals, one for primary schools and another for secondary schools, where they discuss and support each other on professional matters of common interest such as curriculum implementation, school management, resourcing and parental involvement. They also provide advice to the Minister on these matters.
Each of the ten education regions in Botswana has a committee of principals called the Regional Executive Committee for both primary and secondary schools. These bodies come together to discuss general issues but meet separately to discuss their specific issues (primary or secondary). The National executive Committee is made up of Chairpersons and Secretaries from the ten regions. There are also portfolio members elected in biannual conferences of these two bodies, sponsored by the Minister.
One of the milestones of the School Heads Conference was the development of guidelines on exam resources required in each size of the school.
With regard to their relationship with unions, the delegation was informed that Botswana government policy prohibits managers to belong to the same unions with their supervisees/subordinates. However they relate well with the unions.
Members of the School Heads Conference attribute the following as contributing to the success of the Botswana schooling system:
· Botswana government promotes private partnership to improve education, and
· The house system in secondary schools is managed well, where a bigger school is divided into several smaller schools led by heads of departments.
· There is a well entrenched award system to motivate teachers and learners to perform well.
· The appointment of teachers does not take long.
· As in South Africa, pro poor programmes of school nutrition and no fee policy contributes to keeping learners at school.
7. Meeting with the Regional Parents Association
The delegation met with the Regional Parents Association (RPA) to reflect on and compare parental involvement in Botswana and South Africa. Apart from the delegation, those in attendance were the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Regional PTA, Chairperson of the South East District PTA, two members of the Regional Committee of the PTA, one member of the National PTA and one member of the local PTA.
7.1 Briefing by the delegation
The delegation gave an overview of the functions of the School Governing Bodies (SGB), in terms of the South African Schools Act, highlighting their key role in the following:
· ensuring the smooth and efficient running of the school;
· the encouragement of parental involvement in the activities of the schools;
· the appointment of educators;
· The management of school funds; and
· Making policies related to issues of language, admission, school fees and code of conduct.
7.2 Briefing by the Regional PTA
The Chairperson of the Regional PTA gave a synopsis of the national PTA. The national PTA is an umbrella body ensuring that associations established at regional and local level function effectively. It comprises of chairpersons of regional associations. The national PTA also serves as a link between regions and the Ministry on matters affecting the PTAs.
The membership of the regional PTA includes representatives of local PTAs and persons nominated by the Minister. In addition, individuals can apply through the regional offices for consideration by the Ministry to be part of the regional PTA. Alternatively, individuals in the community or local schools can nominate a suitable candidate for consideration. At a local level, PTAs perform a number of functions, many of which are similar to the functions of the SGBs in South Africa. These include the following:
· Encouraging parents and the community to be involved in the education of their children;
· Fund-raising to augment the resources supplied by government.
The Revised National Policy on Education recognises PTAs as an effective forum for schools to keep in close contact with the communities that they serve. Due to Botswana’s commitment to values, PTAs also foster social and cultural values at school. In addition, they support the well entrenched reward system of Botswana through giving awards and recognition to well performing learners and teachers. One of the measures in place to ensure parental involvement is that parents are encouraged to collect reports from school instead of learners. Unlike in South Africa, parents in Botswana are allowed to observe teaching and learning in the classroom, though without disrupting proceedings.
PTAs are also involved in the Adopt a School Initiative through mobilising individuals or groups to work with schools to provide financial or material support to enhance the quality of education.
On the issue of how the PTAs interact with teachers, the delegation heard that the PTA executive sometimes hold meetings with teachers to discuss issues requiring their attention. Heads of Departments (HODs) are also ex officio members attending PTA meetings. Community leaders were also expected to attend the meetings.
The delegation appreciated Botswana’s encouragement of parents to collect reports. Members shared some of the activities of parents in South African schools, including the following:
· Teachers shared learners’ work with parents during parents’ days.
· In some schools, parents supervised classes when teachers were absent, to promote discipline.
· Parents also acted as invigilators during exams.
Key challenges facing PTAs were identified as follows:
· Parental involvement was not as strong as desired in some schools particularly in rural areas.
· The national and regional PTAs had limited resources to travel around to support local PTAs and schools.
7.3 Observations of the delegation
The delegation highlighted that experiences and challenges were similar. It was indicated that South Africa had voluntary national associations provided for in terms of legislation which SGBs could join. The Department of Basic Education had established the National Consultative Forum, to facilitate formal negotiation, discussion and interaction with associations representing SGBs of public schools at national level. In terms of limited resources for SGB associations, the national norms and standards for school funding had been amended to enable schools to pay membership to the associations.
The South African education system also had awards similar to Botswana to encourage learners and teachers to work hard.
8. Meeting with the Portfolio Committee of Education in Botswana
There was agreement that Parliamentarians should consider attending SADC’s meetings on basic education to participate in and oversee international relations as well as keeping abreast with developments in the sector.
The Portfolio Committee on Education of Botswana stressed that the country sent many students for studies in South Africa, recognising the high standard and competitiveness of the South African education system.
Although Portfolio Committees had been there in Botswana for some time, it was only with the 10th Parliament that they were structured to mirror the ministries of government.
One of the challenges facing the committee is that Botswana’s Parliament is small, resulting in members sitting on several committees. There is also the challenge of capacity in executing certain functions, such as passing the budget. Plans are in place to address these challenges with the support of the Speaker of Parliament.
9. Meeting with the Unions
The delegation met with five Botswana teacher unions, namely, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), the Botswana Primary Teachers Union (BPTU), Botswana Primary Teachers Association (BPTA), the Sectors of Educators Trade Union (SETU) and the Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU).
9.1 Briefing by the delegation
The delegation gave an overview of the mandate and approach of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education with regard to oversight, how they interact with the unions and how the unions in South Africa operate.
On the issue of the mandate, it was explained that the Committee oversees executive action, including through conducting oversight to schools to monitor the implementation of government programmes. In respect of the Committee’s interaction with the unions, it was highlighted that unions are recognised within the 1996 Constitution of the country, which provides for the right to join trade unions and for them to collectively bargain and strike. The Committee holds meetings with the teacher unions and other stakeholders as part of their consultation and facilitating public participation but does not interfere with their core work. The Committee refers critical issues raised by the unions to the Department of Basic Education for consideration and reporting back to the Committee.
The delegation also covered issues of the regulation of strikes within the education sector and its challenges; the roles and responsibilities of the unions; the role of the South African Council for Educators (SACE) in the enhancement of the teaching profession, as well as the role of the Education Labour Relations Council as a body established to promote labour peace within education. It was highlighted that concerns about the impact of the strike action on learners had led to a reflection on education as an essential service. There were increased calls to minimise strikes and ensure that teaching and learning take place optimally. However there had not been an official position to declare teaching as an essential service. The delegation encouraged the Botswana unions to meet their South African counterparts for their views on the matter.
Key roles and responsibilities of the South African unions highlighted included the emerging role of teacher development which is funded by government; the promotion of the interests and representation of their members; participation in interviews of educator posts; and contributions to policy development and law-making.
With regard to SACE, the delegation reflected on the Council’s main activities to enhance the status of the teaching profession, namely, the registration of teachers, the management of professional development and the safeguarding of a Code of Ethics for all teachers.
9.2 Briefing by the Botswana Teachers Unions
The unions highlighted that they had working relationships with certain unions in South Africa. They appreciated the South African government’s consultation of the unions in policy development and the involvement of unions in the selection of educators. In the matter of making teaching an essential service, the unions mentioned that they are not in favour of the idea since it takes away the teachers’ right to strike which is their key bargaining tool, a matter that arose after the 2011 industrial action in Botswana.
The unions highlighted that school heads and their deputies are not allowed to be members of the same unions as their teachers but rather are expected to have their own associations.
The unions mentioned that Botswana was still trying to establish a council for educators. As a result, they appreciated information given on activities of SACE in South Africa which could assist in speeding up the process of establishing Botswana’s council. The Labour Relations Council was also recently established and needed to be strengthened.
The unions noted that they were not satisfied with the level of consultation from government. They felt that they were normally engaged at the tail-end of processes. They acknowledged the efforts of government in attracting teachers to rural areas through incentives.
It was indicated that Botswana teachers are employed in terms of the Public Service Act which regulates their conditions of service. One of the implications is that they work for eight hours a day like other public servants. Work beyond these hours is deemed overtime and is remunerated.
Some unions believed that the introduction of the Public Service Act to regulate conditions of service of teachers contributed to the decline in results in Botswana, since teachers are now limited by the eight hours working requirement.
9.3 Observations of the delegation
The delegation observed that the functions of unions were more or less the same between the two countries. However there were also areas of difference. For example, unlike in Botswana where school heads and their deputies cannot belong to the same unions as their teachers, in South Africa school managers are allowed to join any teacher union of their choice.
The study tour to Botswana has provided the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education with an opportunity to benchmark the South African education system and to ascertain areas of best and replicable practices South Africa could learn from the Botswana education system and implement these lessons to improve the quality of Basic Education.
The delegation found that there were many areas of remarkable similarity that Botswana and South Africa share. These include the main goals of education; current priorities such as teacher development and inclusive education; strategies to improve the quality of education such as the adopt-a-school initiative and the turn-around strategy; as well as the reward system used to intensify well performing schools, teachers and learners . The delegation recognised the value of the South African education system to continue to invest and focus purposefully on these areas and other similar current priorities since they provide an opportunity to improve the quality of Basic Education. The importance of continuing to focus on and refine strategies such as the adopt-a-school initiative and individual schools’ turn-around strategies was also noted. The success of Botswana’s adopt-a-school initiative and other similar initiatives has also affirmed the importance of government to forge strong collaborations and partnerships with the private sector and other stakeholders.
The study tour highlighted further areas of sound comparative practices that could be further explored to enhance the quality of education in South Africa. The delegation observed that Botswana is implementing a range of programmes designed to improve reading and comprehension, such as the Breakthrough to Setswana and the Reading Challenge Programme (implemented at Mophane Primary School) that seem to be effective in improving reading and comprehension skills. The feasibility of implementing such programmes, along with key programmes that have proved to be effective in South Africa, should be investigated.
Botswana’s incentives designed to attract teachers to rural areas that include the provision of accommodation, provides a broadening of perspective and an example of a model that should be explored in South Africa in order to enhance the quality of education in rural areas.
The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, having conducted a study tour to Botswana and considered the issues that were highlighted, makes the following recommendations:
The Minister of Basic Education should consider ensuring that:
- The Department of Basic Education, together with Provincial Education Departments, should continue to invest, focus on and refine its key current priorities such as teacher development, inclusive education and Early Childhood Development, since they provide an opportunity to improve the quality of learning outcomes.
- Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) should investigate the feasibility of adapting positive aspects of proven programmes dedicated to improving language literacy, such as the Breakthrough to Setswana and the Reading Challenge Programme, with a view to implementing them in needy South African schools. This should be conducted in conjunction with the implementation of the valuable recommendations to improve language literacy as contained in the recently released National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) report.
- The Department of Basic Education, together with Provincial Education Departments, should intensify the forging of strong collaborations and partnerships with stakeholders to provide support in the provision of facilities to needy schools. The Botswana experience and recent experiences in South Africa demonstrate the vital role that stakeholders play in the improvement of basic education.
- To attract and retain suitably qualified educators to deep rural areas, all PEDs should roll out motivational incentives. The implementation of these incentives should be closely monitored to ensure that they have the desired effects. A report on plans to ensure that all provinces implement existing incentives for all qualifying teachers in rural areas should be submitted to the Speaker of the National Assembly, within three months of the adoption of this report. The Department of Basic Education should also engage with the recently established Presidential Remuneration Commission to ensure that the remuneration and working conditions of teachers in rural areas are considered favourably.
The delegation, led by Hon H Malgas MP, would like to thank her Excellency Ms Sibongile Rubushe, Acting South African High Commissioner to Botswana and Ms H Goolab, Third Secretary (Political), South African High Commission, as well as their office for the support and guidance in preparation for and during the study tour. The delegation would also like to thank the Ministry of Education and Skills Development and their Planning Team for the manner in which the delegation was received and for making their visit an extraordinary experience.
Report to be considered.
 SACMEQ III comprised of a consortium of 15 African countries coordinated by UNESCO.
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