THEME: “Repositioning Basic Education Sector for Accelerated Quality, Equity and Efficiency”
Honourable Members and Colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen
Honourable Speaker, we thank you for this Debate on Vote 14, Basic Education.
We know how important basic education is to a nation’s current and future prosperity, development and growth. We owe our children a better life, and a better world and we have the opportunity to contribute to this through a quality, efficient and accountable basic education system. In this Budget Vote Speech, I will lay out the plans that we have for committing the resources of our country to this important priority of the ANC-led government.
We have made progress in securing access and participation of our children to schools, and we have, through our own assessments and international assessments, shown that our schooling system is indeed making a difference to the lives of our young people. Completion rates are edging up; performance rates of our learners are increasing, especially for learners from poorer households; and retention rates have improved especially in earlier grades. We have committed, in our Delivery Agreement, signed jointly with the Sector and our national sector plan, to making these improvements more sustained and more visible in all aspects of our basic education system. The sector plan encapsulates our response to the priorities, targets and programmes articulated in the National Development Plan, 2030; and provides a detailed five year plan and fifteen year targets and programmes for the whole Basic Education Sector.
The new Sector Plan replaces the 2014 Sector Plan; which detailed programmes we had initiated in the previous cycle; and which were widely consulted in the Basic Education Sector. In the next few years, we will build on our successes in attaining the Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs) for access, participation, and gender equity. In the post-2015 period, the emphasis will be on quality of schooling outcomes, and on better preparation of our young people for the life and work opportunities after they leave school. We have, to this end, developed three streams of (academic, vocational and technical) curricula, which address the diverse needs of young people for learning and development in our schools. We are working with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to better influence the quality and preparation of our teachers and ultimately, our learners, in critical subjects including maths, science and technology, and the African languages.
Around a third of our schools have achieved high levels of performance, despite serving learners from the poorest households; and we will use these schools as the focus of attention in repositioning our Sector. These are live sites of best practice and innovation; and these schools with their teachers and learners within them, deserve our acknowledgement. At around 99%, we have universal primary education, gender equity, and universal access to schooling, including going out of our way to solicit development programmes.
The General Household Survey (GHS) 2013, indicates that the percentage of Grades 10-12 learners, having access to textbooks, ranged from 79% to 82% in provinces, almost double the 45% reported in 2007 survey carried out by UNESCO’s Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Measuring Education Policy (SACMEQ). The Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) show improvements in the quality of education, surpassed by few in the developing world, though off a low base. Our own internal assessments and international benchmarking assessments confirm that, while progress has been made on access, equity and redress, the emphasis for this Administration will be on attaining quality, efficiency and accountability in the system.
We will endeavour to increase the number of Grade 12 learners, who can gain entrance to university, moving incrementally from 172 000 candidates in 2013, to 250 000 candidates in 2019. We will work harder to improve the quality and quantity of passes.
Our focus is to reposition the Sector to deliver on the mandate for quality and efficient schooling in the 2015/2016 financial year. We remain resolute in our quest to improve quality and efficiency throughout the schooling Sector, with a renewed emphasis on curriculum coverage, improving assessment and strengthening quality, efficiency and accountability in our schools, districts and provinces, as well as in our administrative departments and sectoral partnerships.
This Budget Vote acknowledges the gains we have made, the current constrained fiscal context, and the need for us to do more with less, focus more and build on the bold steps that have been taken by our country in modernising the curriculum, improving access to materials, books and reading materials to millions more learners than ever before, and focusing on improving the quality of schooling, the quality of learning, and the quality of teaching in our Sector.
Honourable Speaker, I separate these because they require careful attention.
Our schools are now more well-resourced, more diverse, and much more understanding of what is expected of them. Our brave and sometimes vilified introduction of a means of measuring learning, is yielding results, which we can now leverage as we have achieved a level of curriculum stability in our system. Our focus in the first decade of freedom was on improving equity in resourcing and in funding, as well as in eradicating backlogs in the basic education system. We now have the means to diagnose weaknesses in learners’ competences in different areas of our curriculum, so as to improve, adjust and enhance the effectiveness of teaching in our schools.
Through the introduction of the Annual National Assessments (ANA), which test all learners in all our schools in Grade 1 to 9 in our system, we have successfully managed to focus all officials, schools, teachers, school governing bodies, and communities on learning and teaching achievements. We can now diagnose weaknesses, and act on these. We will strengthen the diagnostic use of Annual National Assessments, as the ANA has proven to be useful, and we now have to work on the systemic assessment function of these annual learning assessments to more carefully refine them so as to accurately work out the trends and progress in our system.
We are fortunate to have existing entities, whose mandates include supporting the Sector in these functions, and provincial colleagues and the sector have agreed that the Annual National Assessments are useful for continued improvements at school level. Umalusi, the quality assurance body, will help us in respect of the diagnostic use of ANA; and Umalusi as well as the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) will be embarking on a programme of work to strengthen the assessment of learning trends in our Sector in coming years.
It is imperative that we support our schools as institutions of effective and quality learning. Too often, we increase the burden that those teachers, principals and learners at our schools have to face, without supporting them sufficiently. Reports and information from our schools, community and through the media, point to the fact that we cannot continue to have a fragmented approach to learner well-being, as schools are a microcosm of society. We have developed a set of programmes addressing learner well-being, as part of learning and teaching improvement. We will test the effectiveness of our Learner Unit Records and Information Tracking System (LURITS) – the live database to generate monitoring and tracking information for each learner – in a special project to evaluate its impact on a sample of schools so we can clearly and more carefully estimate repeaters, as well as the drop-out and retention rates in different parts of our country.
Learning and education extends well beyond acquiring skills, into acquiring and internalising the values, attitudes and behaviours that contribute to nation-building, social cohesion and reconciliation. We have to learn from the shameful experiences and behaviour of the last few weeks of xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals and the defacing of historical statues, and set the example for our young people to live in a world that is diverse, different and forward-looking. We also have the responsibility as the Sector to ensure that the young people in our schools make a positive difference to their own lives and the lives of all, whom they live, work and learn with.
The revival of History in and through the curriculum, as well as a diverse set of social cohesion programmes, including values in education, will have different emphases, depending on whether we are addressing Foundation Phase learners’ needs or the needs of older children in terms of their civic and social responsibilities as Africans.
We now believe that diversity management, anti-xenophobia and anti-bullying programmes in all our departments and hotspots will require commitment and resources from Government in coming years, as we confront barriers to social cohesion and a culture of human rights, non-racism and non-sexism in our schools.
In the same vein, we need to overcome that history which promoted cultural isolation and linguistic separation that today still causes tensions within our diverse society. Through the promotion of African languages we can address some aspects of social cohesion. As a country, we will better communicate and understand each other, if we understand those cultural and language idiosyncrasies that at times isolate us in our own land. The Sector is committed to strengthening all African Languages. In respect to this, the Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL) is considered a priority to promote social cohesion.
Hence, our pilot programme, which started in 2014 in selected Grade 1 classes, will continue in 264 schools during 2015. Preparations are underway for the implementation of (IIAL) in the 3 558 schools across all provinces that don’t currently offer an African language.
National School Nutrition Programme
The National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) has proven over the years to be a key lever, especially for learners coming from poor households, to address hunger and contributes to quality education and improved health among learners. This pro-poor programme, coupled with learner transport – which is provided to learners who have to travel 5 kms and more from their homes to the nearest schools, have been key in ensuring access and the retention of our learners in our basic education system. It must be stressed that scholar transport must be reliable and ensure the safety of learners while in transit.
My department, with the collaboration with the Department of Transport, has gazetted for public comment the learner transport policy. The intention is to have such a policy finalised for implementation in the current financial year.
Research indicates that bullying, violence, drugs and other social challenges remain scourges of our communities. A minimum well-being package for our learners includes the strengthened implementation of the Integrated School Health Programme, which we developed with the collaboration of the Departments of Health and Social Development. We have specially focused programmes on sexual and reproductive health with priority areas including HIV, AIDS, STIs and TB. Our multipronged strategy, including advocacy, provision of LTSMs, and training of Life Orientation educators is well developed. Specifically, the target for this financial year, is to procure and distribute 500 000 sets of LTSMs to 17 500 schools.
The learner well-being programme for our learners must continue to provide recreational activities, including school sport, arts and culture programmes to ensure that our learners continue to receive a well-rounded basic education.
Finally, as part of the learner well-being programme, we have completed the National Strategy for the Prevention and Management of Drug Use in South African Schools and the Drug Testing Guidelines. Through the support of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), we have secured funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to conduct a follow-up Educator HIV Prevalence Survey, and to implement a novel programme of combination prevention for girls (Keeping Girls in School Programme) in three provinces.
Human Resources improvement
Because our human resources strategy for the Sector has to be comprehensive and be informed by emerging research on what teaching and non-teaching support staff we need to reposition our Sector, we will be working with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to develop a survey on teachers perceptions and the necessary conditions for ensuring quality teaching, efficiency and accountability in our Basic Education System. Support without accountability, breeds a dependency syndrome; and we are working with our people at all levels to increase teaching time (time on task) and effectiveness and the quality of teaching and learning in our schools.
Incentives and awards
We have seen over the years the effects of the national and provincial awards in the Sector in providing an incentive for sharing effective practices in our schools and in public acknowledgement of those who go above and beyond the call of duty to improve the lives of our learners. Our national and provincial teacher awards will now recognise most improved schools; innovations for the use of ICT for learning; innovations in teaching methodology; innovations in dealing with diversity in the classroom; innovations for effecting practical and comprehensive learner well-being solutions; and the teaching and promotion of African languages in our schools. These additions are intended to encourage and celebrate creativity and innovation in the Sector.
Reading, libraries and literacy
Reading and writing catch-up programmes for early grade learners are critical, and we will be working with our partners who are involved in making South Africa a reading society. International, regional and national research identifies that support for reading activities, and stimulation for the practice of reading and writing in all aspects of society and in our schools in particular, is crucial for deepening literacy and numeracy in developing countries. Getting young people to read and write for school, for leisure, and even in the world of work, is a critical aspect of the development of the social fabric of our country. It must occupy all our minds.
Madam Speaker, we must become a reading nation!
In order to encourage reading, I have decided to launch the 1 000 School Libraries per year Project in those schools that have existing spaces that may be converted into school libraries. We are encouraged by the wonderful work done by many NGOs, communities and individuals who have volunteered to establish or refurbish school libraries and classroom library corners. An outstanding example of volunteerism in their efforts to provide a reading space to young people in their community, the Mohlakeng Youth Movement (MYM) led by Neo Mathetsa have started a library in a one-roomed house to assist young people in their efforts to read.
Madam Speaker, we are encouraging all communities, and in particular the youth, to donate time, books, and even space as well as basic furniture and shelving to support reading in schools in their communities. We take up the theme of A reading nation, is a winning nation more seriously, and mobilise all South Africans to take up this challenge in the name of uTata Madiba, who so cherished education. I wish to encourage the Honourable Members of this House, to be actively involved in this endeavour.
Sectoral priorities and partnerships
Based on the evidence that we have, and a realistic understanding of the priorities in our system, we will focus on comprehensively deepening our work and improving the quality of teaching and learning; refining and undertaking more careful assessments and evaluations of the work we do so that we can track progress; improving the foundational skills our children have; and in ensuring a credible outcomes-focused planning and accountability system in support of wider national development priorities. The Sector must continue to expand its own relevant research and evidence base to inform policy and good practice.
In response to the National Development Pan (NDP) 2030, sectoral partnerships have resulted in the establishment of the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), which is working in eight districts, and which has annual targets related to generating improvement for sustainable scalable application in the Sector. Mr Sizwe Nxasana, the CEO of First Rand and Chairperson of the NECT Board, has indicated that he will dedicate a substantial portion of his valuable time in the future to supporting sustainable education development.
My provincial colleagues and I, in partnership with the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency, the National Treasury, and the Auditor-General of South Africa, will work on deepening our work on operational efficiency and the alignment of the departments and administrative structures dedicated to the public provision of basic education, so as to improve performance. Too often, the performance of structures designed to provide quality education, are not geared to the task; and we have re-examined existing structures to more effectively enable oversight, monitoring and remediation. Procurement, planning, and management systems need to be functional and work efficiently, and people – the officials, need agency and effective leadership to carry through the vision articulated in the Action Plan 2019: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030.
Better alignment, oversight of the sector
We will use existing inter-provincial and inter-governmental structures to more closely link policies, programmes and resources to impact on quality improvement in our system. We have started the repositioning and realignment of my department for more impact on implementation; and this will be finalised within the next quarter with the relevant organs of State. This means that nationally, we will establish a more exacting set of norms and standards for planning, monitoring and reporting in detail as well as analysis and feedback in relation to shortcomings. We have to do more to closely monitor performance and work on sectoral goals. Budget programmes, plans and reporting will receive deeper scrutiny at all levels on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis, so that our goals and targets for the five years of our tenure, may be more effectively met. All programmes will generate sector plans incorporating monthly activities and actions; and all provinces have unanimously agreed to improve the quality and integrity of mandatory quarterly reports with more emphasis on coherence and impact.
Budget allocation Vote 15
Madam Speaker, the overall budget allocation for 2015/16 for the Department of Basic Education is R21.511 billion. Last year, the budget allocation was R19.699 billion. This is an increase of R1.821 billion, which is equivalent to 9.24%. This, once again, confirms the ANC-led Government’s commitment to place education as its apex priority.
A new Conditional Grant, namely the Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) Grant, intended to promote the teaching and learning of Mathematics, Science and Technology in our Schools. This Grant, an amalgamation of the Technical Schools Recapitalisation Grant and the Dinaledi Schools Grant, has been allocated a total of R1.1 billion over the 2015/16 to 2017/18 MTEF period. The allocation for 2015/16 is R347.185 million; which will increase to R367.670 million and R385.145 million in 2016/17 and 2017/18 financial years, respectively. The MST Grant will strengthen the implementation of the National Development Plan and the Action Plan to 2019 by increasing the number of learners taking Mathematics, Science and Technology subjects, improving the success rate in the subjects, and improving teachers’ capabilities in teaching these three gateway subjects.
The Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign receives a reduced allocation of R439.584 million in 2015/16. This campaign has impacted the lives of more than 3.5 million of our people. Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) – Kha Ri Gude has been allocated R65.099 million. This allocation will contribute significantly towards job-creation by recruiting and training Kha Ri Gude volunteers.
The importance of public-private partnerships is a prevalent theme of the National Development Plan; and it is also consistent with the President’s call to make education a societal issue. To this end, the National Education Collaboration Trust will receive an additional R200 million over the MTEF, bringing the total allocation over the MTEF to R326 million. This allocation is meant to leverage the partnership contributions from the private sector.
But allow me, Madam Speaker, to just highlight the following in relation to the Budget Vote for Basic Education
Infrastructure delivery – both funded through the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) at R29.622 billion for the MTEF period; and the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) funded to the of R7.042 billion over the MTEF period. Madam Speaker, I can proudly report that the ASIDI programme is gaining momentum; and that the challenges of yester-years, are now behind us. The programme has delivered more than 107 new state-of-the-art schools thus far. Last week, we handed over the 100th ASIDI School (Dorington Matsepe Primary School) to a jubilant community in the Free State.
We are finalising a dedicated Infrastructure Delivery, Management and Oversight Unit to enhance school maintenance, development and provisioning in our system. This Unit will comprise built environment experts and specialists with the requisite skills; so that we can, on a named school basis, improve and monitor infrastructure, equipment and furniture provisioning in support of quality education. This unit must finally get to grips with the crippling and unacceptable sanitation situation that continues to plague too many of our schools. Regular maintenance is at the heart of many of our infrastructure problems, in addition to our emerging needs as a result of demographic shifts and pressures, and variable unit costs in our country. Small and unviable schools, will be merged or closed where the quality of learning and teaching is compromised.
Teacher placement, deployment and development – any quality education system, is reliant on the quality of its teachers. Our education system is no different. As a Sector, we want every learner in every classroom to be taught for the required number of hours per day, by a qualified and competent teacher. To support teacher training, R3.094 billion will be awarded in Funza Lushaka bursaries over the 2015/16 and 2017/18 MTEF period.
Curriculum and inclusion, particularly focusing on:
- improving the quality of the current Grade R; incorporating Grade R in all public primary schools; and on the preparation for the implementation of the two-years of pre-Grade 1 programme;
- the central procurement of LTSMs through a transversal tender. This is done in collaboration of the Office of the Central Procurement Officer in the National Treasury;
- workbooks have proven to be essential learning and teaching resources for our schools, and the department will continue making these resources available. These workbooks have been translated into Braille to benefit visually impaired learners. An allocation of R3.025 billion of the MTEF period for the production and distribution of workbooks to all schools;
- the introduction of the newly promulgated Policy on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS), the Institutionalisation of Curriculum Differentiation, and the Policy on Concessions as key drivers of inclusivity in the country;
- the implementation of the South African Sign Language (SASL) Curriculum; fifthly, the promotion of reading as well as library and information services;
- the extension of ANA to include Grades 7 and 8, thus covering approximately 9 million learners. The refinement and management, of the ANA has been allocated R528,632 million over the MTEF period;
- the majority of our schools are located in rural areas. It is necessary therefore to dedicate resources to support our rural schools. To effectively address the needs of the most disadvantaged learner population of our country, we will use a multi-disciplinary and multi-grade approach to improve learner performance in rural schools. The Regulations Relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure have created a clear legal position on what constitutes a small or large school; and
- HIV and AIDS, as well as the National School Nutrition Programmes, which are essential components of the learner well-being package, have been allocated R697.187 million and R18.016 billion over the MTEF period, respectively.
General challenges to the sector
A number of challenges have resulted in a need to establish Ministerial Task Teams to investigate various irregularities. I wish to provide an update on some of these issues that my Ministry is tackling head-on:
Update on Group Copying – One such challenge that we have had to deal with is the matter of group copying. It is important for me to update the House on the investigation into the group copying detected in 2014 NSC exams. The investigations regarding the 22 schools in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal and the 14 schools in the Eastern Cape Province are at an advanced stage and formal charges against the implicated candidates have been formulated. I am confident that this process will be finalised in the next two months.
Measures are being put in place to eradicate this phenomenon from all future examinations in the country by strengthening invigilation and monitoring especially at high risk centres. We will increasingly apply statistical and other methods to detect examination fraud and deal with it where it occurs, and we will develop the integrity of school based assessment capacity in our classrooms so as to improve curriculum mastery across our system.
Progress on Jobs for Cash Investigation – The Task Team which was established to look into alleged irregularities around the selling of posts has been working hard and has conducted investigations in six provinces to date. Investigations in the three remaining provinces will be held during this month. National teacher unions as well as the SGB Associations and individuals who are familiar with the education landscape have been interviewed. We expect the final forensic report and recommendations very soon.
Supplementary National Senior Certificate Results – A total of 90 389 candidates enrolled for the 2015 NSC supplementary examination. I am glad to announce that the national pass rate, with the inclusion of the results of the 2015 Supplementary examinations, now stands at 77.1%, an increase of 1.3% from the 75.8% achieved in the 2014 NSC examination. This means that the number of candidates that obtained admission to Bachelor studies has increased from 150 752 to 152 018; an additional 1 266 more candidates to those announced in January earlier this year.
Conclusion and tributes
We have started the repositioning and realignment of my department for more impact on implementation; and this will be finalised within the next quarter. With the results of a recent strategic review and reflection convened in the sector, and the various roundtables we have convened in a listening campaign, we have obtained valuable advice and shared information with strategic partners and organisations on levers that will enable us to perform better in order to achieve our sectoral goals and priorities.
In conclusion Madam Speaker, I wish to thank Deputy Minister Enver Surty, Chairpersons of the Education Portfolio and Select Committees and their respective members, education MECs, HoDs, our Acting Director-General, and his team of Senior Managers, as well as officials in my office, for their support. We are immensely grateful to all the teachers, principals, parents, learners, SGBs, individuals and strategic partners who are work daily to make quality education a reality in the various parts of our country. Last but not the least, I must thank my family for their unwavering support.
I thank you.