Department of Basic Education
Government is committed to improving the quality of basic education.
With this in mind, an agreement signed recently by minister of basic education, Angie Motsheka, and her department’s delivery partners sets out four key outputs and related activities. These are to:
· improve the quality of teaching and learning;
· undertake regular assessment to track progress;
· improve early childhood development; and to
· ensure a credible, outcomes-focused planning and accountability system.
According to the agreement, a number of international testing programmes have demonstrated that South Africa’s learner performance in reading, writing and mathematics is “well below what it should be”. This is especially given the resources available to the schooling system.
Further, “the capabilities and level of motivation amongst many teachers need to improve”.
Consequently, in-service training for teachers will be taken to “a new level”. The agreement states that policies are being finalised for developing new training packages. These will be accessed “to a large degree through distance education and e-Education”.
Nationally standardised workbooks of a “high standard” are to be introduced to all public schools for learners between grades R to 9. According to the agreement, this is a cost-effective way to ensure that minimum standards in both depth of learning and scope of subject content are “communicated” and “upheld”
During 2011, grade 9 will be included in the annual national assessments (ANA) programme introduced in 2008 to grades 1 and 6. “It is envisaged that ANA will become … a cornerstone of quality improvements in South African schools”. Performance in ANA is already being used in setting targets at national and provincial levels.
The department hopes to “universalise” access to grade R by 2014. With this in mind, the “appropriateness” of existing policy on grade R funding is to be assessed: particularly regarding its impact on class size and teacher qualifications.
In order to strengthen school management and promote functional schools, a new national monitoring system will equip district offices with tools to assess programme completion “in qualitative and quantitative terms”. According to the agreement, time management is one area “requiring improvement”.
Incentives for teachers to work in rural areas will be used “to a greater degree than before”. It is anticipated that a re-designed system for distributing teachers amongst schools will deal “more directly” with the reduction of over-sized classes.
Signatories to the agreement are the minister, deputy minister, the nine provincial education MECs and an additional 17 ministers whose departments have a direct or indirect role to play in improving basic education. However, the agreement concedes that – whilst these signatories form the “core team of delivery partners” – their work is dependent on “good relations and ongoing collaboration” with a number of organisations, including teacher trade unions and “labour unions in general”.
Sabinet Cape Town Office