PARTY

The state of education - Angie Motshekga

Minister says planned biometric system to monitor staff attendance not a policing tool

Briefing statement by Minister of Education Angie Motshekga on the occasion of the post-State of the Nation Address Ministerial briefing on government priority: Education

26 Feb 2013

In his 2013 State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma acknowledged the National Development Plan (NDP) as a strategic framework to form the vision and basis of future government planning towards 2030. The President emphasised the importance of elevating education to its rightful place, and to improve the quality of learning and teaching and the management of schools.

He further reiterated government's mandate to focus on massive public infrastructure development, which includes building schools and institutions of higher learning.

Quality education and skilling were singled out as being of paramount importance to our country's advancement. Whilst government acknowledged that the education system is more equitable than it was before 1994, which is a significant achievement; there continues to be a lot that needs to be done to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

On Basic Education, we will report on government's plan to improve the quality of learning and teaching in schools, using as a blueprint, Action Plan to 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025. This plan speaks to key aspects of education, that include teacher recruitment and development, learner enrolment, school funding, mass literacy and numeracy, and overall quality of education. It has specific measurable targets.

We will also report on progress, in line with the mandate of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), on the strategy to increase the ratio of young people who are in education, employment or training by 2014/15. It will address various initiatives to improve the quality and standard of our higher education system in the interest of the country's skills development.

These plans include professional, vocational, technical and academic learning programmes, and the promotion of the Further Education and Training (FET) institutions, the goal being to turn them into centres of excellence for skills-development and training.

We reiterate the President's call for improved school performance, particularly in the context of education being South Africa's apex priority. We note also the steady and positive improvements in the performance of the Class of 2012, increasing the previous 70.2% in 2011 to a 73.9% pass rate in 2012.

Significant improvements were noted in the provincial and district performance as well as in subject performance. To this end the National Diagnostic Report on Learner Performance for the year 2012 has been published and will serve as a basis for all provinces to engage in their own diagnostic analysis of learner performance.

Early Childhood Development (ECD)

The Department has committed to improving the quality of basic education, across the system, and with added emphasis on laying a solid foundation from the lower phases. To this end, there has been an increase in the number of children benefitting from Early Childhood Development.

According to the School Realities 2012, a total of 767 865 learners are enrolled in Grade R. The major focus will be on improving the quality of provision in Grade R. Whilst being pleased with great strides with access and curriculum alignments and improved skills development for practitioners, issues for the conditions of service for ECD practitioners needs to be finalised through a national framework of national norms and standards for this phase.

In an effort to improve the quality of education, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) will pay special attention to gateway subjects and, in collaboration with teacher unions, step-up teacher development.

Accountability in the system

We have noted with great concern the calls by various role players also including parents who have observed the trend in teachers' absenteeism and lack of accountability. As Education remains a key government priority, we have taken swift interventions in this regard. The Department has taken some measures to enforce teacher accountability. These include: effective and reliable staff attendance registers and learners' class attendance registers and monitoring the utilization of accountability instruments. We are currently exploring various mechanisms to monitor staff attendance.

The biometric system will be piloted as done currently in the Western Cape and the Northern Cape. And this is not a policing system, but a management tool to monitor school attendance for both teachers and learners.

The system is aimed at relieving the school principals of the burden of clocking in teachers manually. It is simply a modern way to monitor the TTT, and will replace the manual attendance register, which every school currently uses.

The process of rolling out the system has not yet started. The DBE will consult widely before implementation, hence the cost; time frames etc. are still not available.

The main aim of the system is to ensure attendance, contact time between learner and teacher, which in turn has been proven to improve learner performance.

The President has made a call on strengthening Quality and Accountability in the basic education system, in that call an option of introducing the school inspectors was mooted as one amongst others.

I have looked at the system as the Minister of Basic Education in the context of the President's call to see what needs to be done with what is currently in the system and that which might require new introduction. It is a fact that quality and accountability measures are not operating at the intended efficacy levels at this moment in time.

In response to the President's call and in appreciation that more needs to be done systemically to push the bar higher in terms of quality outcomes and accountability, we will immediately review and strengthen the functions of three major mechanisms which are already there in the system. It is this review of the existing mechanisms which will guide the system as to whether we introduce a new mechanism or we strengthen and refocus the current one's to perform optimally their functions.

School Management and Governance Support

This above mechanism is already there in the system and is a direct replacement of the School Inspectors in terms of values, approach, methodology applied to support and develop schools. But they are the ones who supervise school principal's work, monitor compliance, intervene when the School Management team is not taking the school forward in terms of academic performance, policy compliance, Governance and management of the school as a whole.

Their mandate is to monitor schools at any time. With or without prior announcement they enter schools and check on the systems, policies, compliance and hold both the principal and the school governing board (SGB) accountable when things are not happening as expected.

Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS)

This mechanism oversees the nine key areas of school functionality from outside the immediate environment of the circuit, as they evaluate and assess the school in terms of the 9 agreed areas of school functionality. They are also evaluating the work of both the School Management Team.

The department must also have a clear process, section and Senior official responsible for receiving these reports, organising their review sessions and conducting accountability session within the provisions of the South African Schools Act, which calls for accountability to HODs and MECs, an alignment to National Ministry must be clearly defined and given time frames.

Annual National Assessment

In September 2012, about 7 million learners in Grades 1 to 6 and Grade 9 participated in the Annual National Assessments (ANA).The Department of Basic Education prioritised ANA to test literacy and numeracy skills of the county's learners and it proved to be a pivotal mechanism for monitoring and tracking achievement of goals as set in the sector-based Action Plan.

The 2012 ANA results recorded a noticeable increase in the performance of learners in Grade 3 in both Language and Mathematics. However, the Department acknowledges the shortfalls of the grade 9 dissatisfactory performance in Mathematics which will receive immediate attention through additional and more intensive structured intervention programmes.

We are satisfied with the explanation that the President gave on the matter of declaring during the State of the Nation Address on considerations to declare education an essential service. Key to this position is the reiteration of government's conviction that education is a societal issue and therefore must necessarily be a concern of all South Africans.

Government is currently revising salaries and conditions of service of teachers in order to, attracts, motivate and retain skilled teachers. In this regard, the Presidential Remuneration Commission has been established to investigate the appropriateness of remuneration and conditions of service provided by the state to all its employees.

School infrastructure

We have prioritised the eradication of unsafe and mud schools. Over three years, our plan is to eradicate 496 inappropriate structures. We are confident that by end March a total of 35 will be completed and handed over. With some additional pressure five schools can be completed which will then take us to the 40 schools that the President spoke about in the SoNA.

Learner wellness

More effort will be placed on the Integrated School Health programme (ISHP). Major strides have been made in this regard as government seeks to address immediate health problems of learners as it implements interventions for promoting health and wellbeing of learners.

Government also noted with great concern periodic reports about violence in our schools. The rape of schoolgirls and sexual violence and abuse, threaten to become a feature of the schooling experience of many boys as well as girls, and this is unacceptable.

The horrific rape of the young teenager in Bredasdorp and the continued violence against our children cannot be tolerated. As a Department we bear the responsibility to protect our children and ensure their safety while in our care. We acknowledge that we need the support of all stakeholders and the general public in turning the tide against gender based violence. Hence, the collective rage in the country has to be turned into tangible action.

It is within this context that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and LEAD SA have announced details of a major initiative to raise rape awareness and educate the 10, 2-million learners in South African schools. The Lead SA partnership with the DBE will go a long way in heightening awareness and educating schools about rape and gender-based violence.

In his reply to the State of the Nation address in the National Assembly, President Jacob Zuma commended the Department of Basic Education for looking at inculcating values of nationhood at an early age, and promoting rights and responsibilities among children. In line with the impetus to promote fundamental human rights, we thus request that on the 1st of March 2013 at 08h00, special school assemblies be convened in all our schools to take a stand against rape and violence. The Minister has issued a directive to all provincial education departments to instruct schools across the country to call special assemblies to highlight the scourge of rape and gender-based violence.

SADTU demands

In the last few weeks the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) has presented demands to me concerning the Director-General of the Department, Mr Bobby Soobrayan. Yesterday I wrote a letter to the General Secretary of SADTU, Mr Mugwena Maluleka responding fully to the issues raised with me. I remain hopeful that this matter will be resolved.

Progression in the further education and training (FET) band

In response to questions raised relating to the regulation stipulating the maximum number of years to be spent by learners in the further education and training band, the Regulations state that a learner should not be retained for longer than four years in the phase, which includes Grades 10, 11 and 12. This implies that a learner can only fail one of these grades and if a learner fails a grade in the phase for the second time, he must be progressed to the next grade. However, the learner will not be awarded the National Senior Certificate if he does not pass the Grade 12 examination.

The rationale behind this decision is that the curriculum for the FET band is a three year curriculum spanning three years and the learning outcomes for each of these grades, although they need to be obtained at the end of each grade, are finally assessed at the end of grade 12 in the National Senior Certificate examination. Learners may therefore be allowed to progress from grade 10 to grade 11 or from Grade 11 to Grade 12, without meeting the required performance level of that grade, but finally the learner must satisfy the requirements of the NSC examination that is taken at the end of the phase.

A National Senior Certificate is only issued if the learner achieves the standards or qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) i.e. the candidate complies with the three-year programme and promotion requirements of the National Senior Certificate as stipulated in policy and regulations.

The school has a responsibility towards a learner that fails to meet the grade requirements and is retained in the grade for the second year, to provide the learner with additional support so as to assist him to meet the grade requirements in the second year.

There is a Gazette published in October 2012 that establishes the National Senior Certificate task team. The task team is looking at the general standard of the National Senior Certificate with particular focus on the quality of the pass mark, whether life orientation should be an examinable subject, enrolments in mathemathics and science, publication of results in newspapers and the drop out rates.

In the State of the Nation Address, The President announced Ministerial Team to investigate the reasons why performance of maths and science is poor in schools. The team is chaired by Professor Bradley from WITS University and members include provincial maths and science coordinators, experts from the NGO sector and a reference team. A report from the team is expected by end of April 2013. Thereafter a roundtable meeting will be held. Its objectives will be to strengthen the national mathematics, science and technology plan which will improve participation and success rate of girl learners, provide a revised plan for all the private public partnerships of channelling resources to schools amongst others.

Higher Education

Government has reached a major milestone in regard to the quality of higher education and the structures, initiatives and programmes that have been put in place in this regard. Infrastructure development has also become one of the major priorities of government and in this regard government has invested more than R6.8 billion for the upgrading and expansion of infrastructure. This financial year the Department of Higher Education and Training has allocated a further R3.8b for infrastructure expansion. The construction of the two universities comes purely after the realisation that there is inadequate capacity to accommodate the growing number of qualifying school leavers.

The Department of Higher Education and Training has developed a vision for Post-School Education and Training and in this regard, the department has noted the sharp increase of FET college enrolments which have almost doubled from about 350 000 in 2010 to over 650 000 in 2012. This is as a result of effective strategies which include the introduction of fee-free education for poor students and the expansion of shorter skills courses offered in FET Colleges with the assistance of the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).

In 2010 two task teams were appointed to investigate the feasibility and possible models for the establishment of universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. The task teams engaged stakeholders in the provinces, and, taking into account provincial and national needs, made recommendations on the type and size of the two new institutions, including information on possible sites for the institutions. Consultations held with various role players confirmed that there was wide-ranging support for the establishment of the new universities in both provinces.

The university in Mpumalanga will comprise facilities for 15 000 students, including general lecture theatres, seminar rooms, laboratories, accommodation for 60% of students on campus, multi-purpose sports fields, academic and administrative offices and ancillary services. The university in the Northern Cape will have the same resources but its facilities will only accommodate 5 000 students with accommodation for 80% of students on campus. The establishment of these universities is informed by the President's SoNA which touched on a number of planned social and economic development interventions focusing on the building of roads, schools, universities and others.

In addition the department is also establishing a new comprehensive University of Health Sciences on the Medunsa campus, which is currently being demerged from the University of Limpopo. This will be more than just a demerger as the new university will be an expanded institution which will include not only the training of medical doctors, but also other health professionals such as dentists, veterinarians, nurses, physiotherapists, medical technologists, radiographers, and so on.

It's important to note that significant capital investment and operational expenditure is required because currently, this initiative is only funded by government. Up to 2018/19 total of R16.5bn is required. The projects are labour intensive and create both temporary and permanent jobs. Full support is therefore required over a period of time before universities become self-sustainable. There also needs to be a concerted effort to attract high level academics and build up the necessary human resource capacity. Government will therefore need to work closely in partnership with a range of private and public institutions so that it is able to address these and other challenges.

Also; over the period 2006/07 to 2009/10, R3,628 billion was allocated to all universities for infrastructure, for the period 2010/11 to 2011/12, R3,265 billion was allocated and over the next three years 2012/13 to 2014/15, R6 billion has been allocated. It is projected that this allocation will result in the creation of 37 470 direct job opportunities.

The briefing by Minister Trevor Manuel on the National Development Plan charts the direction of where the country is heading with regards to critical skills for the economic growth of our country. The green paper on Education and Training also seeks to mitigate these plans through producing more graduates with the in-demand skills necessary to grow the economy. As such, the paper outlines targets linked to various government expansion strategies, including the National Development Plan.

Just to re-emphasise the major milestones with regards to skills development; an exciting new development has been the declaration of 2013 as the Year of the Artisan, under the theme: "It's cool to be an Artisan" which was launched on February 4th. It is also important to also boast about our country which sits as one of its highest priorities the development of qualified artisans to support the economy, particularly when one considers the fact that to successfully deliver on the strategic infrastructure projects, the country needs artisans. Statistics attest to this, indicating that our country is currently producing 13 000 qualified artisans per year.

The Department of Higher Education and Training has allocated over R100 million from the National Skills Fund for the establishment of the South African Centre for Renewable Energy. The project will create high level capacity for the production of skills in the area of renewable energy. This project is in partnership with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the University of Stellenbosch and FET Colleges. Construction work is expected to commence in the first quarter of the 2013 calendar year.

The Department of Higher Education and Training recently announced the turnaround strategy for FET colleges. This comes after the realisation of the uninformed perceptions that FET colleges are "weak institutions"- Government is in a mission to ensure that FET colleges are seen as viable and credible higher learning institutions; therefore a radical overhaul is needed in order for these colleges to become colleges of choice. The National Development Plan stated that the current FET college system was not effective and too small, while its output was poor.

In 2007, the allocation for the Bursary Scheme was R100 million from which 12,371 students received bursaries. By 2010, a total of R649 million had been allocated to FET Colleges with over 173 000 student beneficiaries. In 2011, however, the DHET ensured the fourfold increase of the Bursary Scheme from R318 million in 2010 to over R1, 2 billion in 2011, which, in 2011 alone, benefitted over 100,000 students across the FET College sector. This was followed by an allocation of R1,7 billion in 2012, making it possible for the state to provide financial aid to more than 130,000 students. It is expected that the number of students assisted in 2013/14 will grow from 331 842 in 2011/12 to about 350 000 in 2013/14.

For the 2013 academic year, the Department of Higher Education and Training has allocated R1,988 billion to the Bursary Scheme and it is expected that this amount will benefit 178 000 students. What this means is that by the end of the current academic year, more than half a million FET college students would have benefitted from state-sponsored financial aid since the creation of this facility for the College sector.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme continues to offer loans and bursaries for first undergraduate degrees at the 23 South African public Universities and Universities of Technology, as well as bursaries for the National Certificate (Vocational) and certain NATED courses at public further education and training (FET) colleges. For 2012/13 financial year, National Student Financial Aid Scheme had a budget of R7.5 billion made up mainly of a grant from the Department of Higher Education, and other government departments such as Basic Education and Social Development. Funding from Department of Higher Education and Training alone is R5,1 billion and is expected to increase in 2013/14 financial year.

The President in his state on the Nation address emphasised the importance of linking all government programmes to be in line with the recommendations outlined in the National Development Plan; the turnaround strategy addresses exactly what has been highlighted in by the National Development Plan. The strategy also encompasses some interventions to stabilise some of the weaker colleges.

Education is the key responsibility of our entire country and of the building of a good education system is a collective responsibility of all citizens. Government would therefore like to call on all role players to take their part in making the future of our children.

The Minister of Higher Education recently released the new SETA Grant regulations that include a massive estimated R3 billion increase in discretionary funding for SETAs to use on PIVOTAL grants that include artisan training programmes. We call upon employers in all spheres of our economy to seriously consider the needs of the country and the youth in particular, especially since an apprentice at a workplace actually helps an employer to produce products or render services that benefit the employer, all at a very low stipend for the apprentice.

It is with great excitement to announce the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development which aims to strengthen the capacity of the formal teacher education system to the DHET.

The establishment of new teacher education campuses aligned to universities is a strategy outlined in the Framework, and aligned to the implementation of the Framework. In the short term, plans are in place to establish new campuses in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo. These new campuses will offer approved higher education programmes for Foundation Phase and Intermediate Phase teachers. Where possible and feasible, former teacher college sites will be used for this purpose.

The launch of the first of these, the Siyabuswa Teacher Education Campus in Mpumalanga province, is currently being launched by Minister Blade Nzimande as we speak. The campus will be supported to grow until it is fully utilised for Foundation Phase and Intermediate Phase teacher education. The campus will become part of the new university in Mpumalanga when it is formally established. This event marks the advent of a new and exciting era for teacher education in South Africa.

South Africa belongs to all who live in it and collectively, we have a crucial role to play for future development of our children. Government is also aware of the challenges facing our country's education system and the impediments that could possibly impact on our children's future. Government pledges its commitment to ensuring ongoing professional running of our schools and to ensure that education receives the attention and priority that it deserved.

Issued by Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), February 26 2013

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