07 May 2010

Angie Motshekga on Basic Education

Basic Education

We must all work together and take responsibility to make quality education a priority

Angie Motshekga, ANC Today, 7 May 2010

We have made huge strides in education since the establishment of our new democracy in terms of ensuring access to education for the majority of our children. However, given what we have achieved, we are determined to address those challenges that continue to detract from how far we have come.

We are now focussing on ensuring the delivery of quality learning and teaching in all our schools in order to make sure that South Africa's learning outcomes will improve. In order to do this, we must all work together as a nation and all take responsibility to ensure that we achieve our goal.

Education is indeed a societal issue. Each one of us national and provincial officials, principals, teachers, parents, learners and members of the community must make quality education a priority. We need to turn the system around with bold targets and initiatives that are carefully crafted and executed and pay due attention to the already fragile nature of the system and people who work in it.

The outcomes approach adopted by the government this year seeks to improve service delivery by ensuring that the work of government is measured according to outcomes. These performance outcomes are politically determined positions of government to achieve greater and more focused development. The outcomes approach enables us to set measurable targets and deliverables, against which we can monitor progress in addressing the challenges that remain in education.

Government has made education a priority, so should everyone else. Our targets are ambitious and require a lot from us. Both budgets and priorities are informed by the ruling party's ten point plan and election manifesto commitments. We will work closely with the provinces to ensure that there is alignment between strategy and structure. The provinces play a vital role in the delivery of quality education, while the national department is responsible for policy and monitoring the system.

The legislative mandate of the Department of Basic Education that sets out the key responsibilities of the department is to develop and maintain national policies for the basic education sector. It is the responsibility of the national department to work closely with provincial departments in order to ensure that provincial budgets and strategies support national policies.

It is not the responsibility of the national department to finance and manage schools directly but rather the responsibility of the provinces. Together we must meet the responsibilities set out for us in Chapter Three of the Constitution of the Republic. We must cooperate with one another in mutual trust and good faith by fostering friendly relations, assisting and supporting one another, consulting one another on matters of common interest, and coordinating actions and legislation with one another.

Provinces must deliver on their mandate. We cannot continue to talk about the problems that we face as an excuse for non-delivery. We must instead focus on the solutions. As regards the allocations for the 2010/11 financial year, the overall budget for the Department of Basic Education has increased by R2.23 billion to R6.166 billion. Additional funds have been received for the following priorities with expected growth in the budgets over the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF): 
  • National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) conditional grant increases from 2009/10 to cater for implementation of school feeding in quintile two secondary schools.
  • The supply of learners' workbooks: R750 million is allocated reaching R1 billion in 2012/13
  • The National Education and Evaluation and Development unit is allocated R11.031 million for the 2010/11 financial year
  • Fundza Lusaka bursaries increase to R424 million in 2010/11 and reach R471.9 million in 2012/13
  • The recapitalisation of technical high schools receives an allocation of R80 million building on the R5 million that was allocated in 2009/10 for planning for the recapitalisation.
  • Kha Ri Gude allocations increase from R468 million in 2010/11 to more than R520 million in 2012/13.

Our targets are specifically focussed on improved learner achievement. By setting these targets, we are committing all levels of the education sector to deliver on them. This requires our national and provincial departments to plan around these identified targets to which we will all be held accountable. The clear targets that we have established that we must achieve by 2014 are the following: 
  • The number of grade 12 learners who pass the national examinations and qualify to enter a bachelor's programme at a university will increase from 105 000 to 175 000.
  • The number of grade 12 learners who pass mathematics and physical science will be 225 000 and 165 000 respectively.
  • The percentage of learners in grades three, six and nine in public schools who obtain the minimum acceptable mark in the national assessments for literacy and numeracy will improve from between 27 percent and 38 percent to at least 60 percent.

We have also established the following priorities in order to meet our targets: 
  • By 2014, there will be universal access to grade R for all age appropriate children
  • Adequate learning and teaching materials will be developed and distributed particularly to those schools we have identified as underperforming institutions and
  • Standardised national assessments of the quality of learning will take place in grades three, six and nine on an annual basis.

I have announced the development of a national basic education action plan. This long term plan for the basic education sector will be known as Schooling 2025: the Department of Basic Education's Action Plan. This will allow for the monitoring of progress against a set of measurable indicators covering all aspects of basic education including amongst others, enrolments and retention of learners, teachers, infrastructure, school funding, learner well-being and school safety, mass literacy and educational quality.

It will coordinate and guide all interventions in the Basic Education system in order to turn the system around. The plan will establish key outcomes and performance deliverables for the entire education system, including the national and provincial departments. It will commit provinces and provincial education departments to clear, agreed to, outcomes and to ensure that all in the system are accountable for attaining these outcomes. This plan would shortly be made available for public comment.

In terms of the legislative mandate of the Department of Basic Education, it is the responsibility of the national department to work closely with provincial departments in order to ensure that provincial budgets and strategies support national policies.

National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU)

The National Education Policy Act (NEPA), 1996, section 8(1) compels the minister and the national Department of (Basic) Education to monitor and report on the implementation of education policies as well as progress of the system. The additional funding will help us to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of our whole education system.

We have investigated the mandate, scope, name, location and modus operandi of the proposed structure of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit and on this basis, have commenced with the establishment of NEEDU. In this regard, I will shortly announce the outcome of our recruitment process for the staff that will head and direct its work.

NEEDU will be a professional facility dedicated to purposes of monitoring, evaluation and support. It will be a unit that will evaluate school quality and present regular reports to the nation on such quality. Its role will be to assess and develop strategies for improving the quality of educational outcomes and supporting schools to achieve this. It will monitor and evaluate performance across the entire system including the national department, provinces and districts as well as schools. It will be there to ensure that learners learn and achieve, teachers teach and departmental officials properly support schools.

An implementation unit

We must become solutions orientated. It is the responsibility of the Minister of Basic Education in terms of the National Education Policy Act to monitor and evaluate the performance of provinces, districts and schools. My department will shortly establish a delivery support unit to be known as the Implementation unit.

This unit will be staffed by multi-skilled, highly effective individuals who will be deployed at short notice to find solutions to any obstacles that arise in schools, in districts and indeed in provinces. This unit's primary role will be to fast track delivery and to ensure that every school is able function optimally wherever it is.

Annual national assessments

Credible and up to date information on how our learners perform is valuable for a number of reasons. First, it helps identify systemic weaknesses that might impact on the quality of learning and teaching in our schools. Second, it enables tracking progress towards the measurable learning outcomes and targets that we have set for ourselves. And third, it holds the system accountable to the citizens of South Africa.

R10 million is available for the 2010/11 financial year for the grades three, six and nine assessments. An additional R18 million will be allocated over the MTEF period. We have decided that performance at grades three, six and nine will be improved from the current average attainment level of between 27 percent and 38 percent to at least 60 percent by 2014. Approximately three million of the learner population in basic education are in these grades.

The external assessments will focus on the critical foundational skills of literacy and numeracy that we know are fundamental to all learning. The results will inform many of the decisions that the department must take regarding tracking and improving the quality of learning and teaching in the system. The Annual National Assessments (ANAs) are geared towards improving the quality of education. When you improve literacy and numeracy, you are actually impacting on quality.

From 2010, the results of these assessments will be reported to parents. They will not only be informed of the school's literacy and numeracy scores but also provincial and national scores. The assessments will be conducted in November so that the results are available at the beginning of the following school year to inform teaching and teacher support programmes. All plans and activities developed for the school will be aligned to address real issues that arise out of the findings of the assessments.

The effectiveness of the annual national assessments in improving the quality of learning and learner achievement will require commitment from all levels of the education sector. In particular, teachers and principals, who will ensure that learners are adequately prepared and district officials who will support schools to prepare for the assessments and afterwards to assist schools through, support programmes.

This intervention also will require the full commitment of our national and provincial officials to ensure that the annual national assessments are introduced properly and are administered smoothly in our schools. The national assessments should be seen as a positive intervention rather than a burden on teachers and officials.

As a country we should all become involved in the national assessments process. The national assessments will assist all of us in understanding how well schools in these areas are performing. In this way, we will begin to strengthen the partnerships that we need to build a quality education system.

Provision of relevant learning and teaching support materials will be linked to the assessment processes to ensure that teaching and learning do not only benefit from the assessments but also inform what and how assessments should be structured. Schools will be provided with training manuals outlining how the tests should be administered. Clear communication at all levels of the education sector is vital.

Improving the curriculum

We have acted on the main recommendations of the report prepared by the Ministerial Committee established in 2009 that was tasked with reviewing the implementation of the national curriculum statement. Curriculum reform is not something that anyone in the system takes lightly. At the same time we need to iron out the difficulties that do exist quickly and efficiently. We need to work differently; we need to work steadfastly, but with speed.

For this reason, I have and will continue to make changes on an ongoing basis where they can be made with minimal disruption in order to create relief and improve systems. But we are not considering changing everything for change's sake. What works stays and perhaps can be improved on, but what doesn't work must be changed. Indeed, the longer-term change to the curriculum requires coherent action and it needs to be done properly. All stakeholders will be kept properly informed at all times.

To provide short-term relief, we have reduced the number of projects for learners and did away with the need for portfolio files of learner assessments and common tasks of assessment for grade nine learners. I have established three committees to enable smooth implementation of curriculum streamlining. They are led by three able people with the experience and qualifications.

The first committee's task is to provide clear guidelines of what teachers ought to teach on a grade by grade and subject by subject basis. The time frame for this committee will be two years rather than the one year proposed by the Review Committee. This will enable it to consult widely and to test the statements with teachers.

Its work is supported by two other committees, one to plan for implementation of the recommended reduction of learning areas in the intermediate phase from eight to six and the other to consider recommendations on improving the distribution and use of learning and teaching support materials in schools.

The curriculum challenge is a comprehensive one. It requires ongoing research and development. For this reason, we will continue to build capacity for curriculum research and review within the national department to ensure that we strengthen the implementation of the curriculum. We must remember that what happens in classrooms defines the existence of the education sector.


The R750 million allocation for this financial year for workbooks will reach R1 billion in 2012/13. The allocation for workbooks is a significant contribution towards assisting us in meeting our challenges in providing support for the curriculum. This is a core responsibility on which we are taking decisive action.

During 2010, the distribution of workbooks for grades R to six will focus on literacy and numeracy. The use of these workbooks will focus largely on preparing grades R to six learners for the annual national assessments. We are also distributing lesson plans in literacy and numeracy for grades one to six to teachers in the primary school so that teachers may use them to strengthen their teaching.

It is important that if this intervention is to achieve its objectives of supporting teaching and learning in schools, our support materials must reach schools in time. This requires strong cooperation between the national and provincial departments and in particular districts, as these play a vital function in ensuring that materials are delivered on time.

It is essential that all such materials reach schools and are used in classrooms, rather than end up in provincial warehouses or district offices, never to reach their intended targets. Provinces should ensure that effective distribution and monitoring mechanisms are in place.

We are implementing the Foundations for Learning programme and have distributed learning and teaching packs for Grade R teachers to all 13 900 schools that offer grade R. These packs have proved very popular amongst grade R teachers. They will use them during their normal teaching of literacy and numeracy to improve, enrich and build on what they are already doing.

Teachers and human resource development

We acknowledge that our teachers and principals are a priority to quality education system. We recognise that there is a need for coherence and synergy across the system. We recognise that there are many role players that have a stake in the development of teachers and school leaders, not least of all the educators themselves who have a key role to play in their own development.

The key responsibility for ensuring that teachers are supported to deliver the national curriculum lies with the Department of Basic Education. Therefore all policies and planning relating to the development of teachers and managers for the schooling system must be coordinated at national level, in partnership with provincial departments, to ensure that these meet their needs.

While provinces have a responsibility to implement and have the funds to do so, the national department has the responsibility to develop policy, plan for and monitor provincial delivery. To address supply side challenges, the Department of Basic Education will, through the development of the Human Resources Management Information System (HRMIS), provide credible data on the supply, demand and utilisation of educators in the system to inform planning.

We will ensure that they are properly distributed across the system and that we have the right teacher, with the right qualifications and skills, in the right school, at the right time. This year we shall also introduce a new distribution model of posts to schools. We will use this pro-poor model as a planning tool to determine actual utilisation and future demand for teachers with regard to subjects or phases. This model will be adjusted to address changes in the curriculum.

A key deliverable in June 2010 will be the action plans emanating from the multi-stakeholder working groups established after the National Teacher Development Summit held in June 2009. Their task is completion of a detailed national teacher development action plan for the next five years nested in a longer term plan to ensure a sustainable teacher development system.

Together, we will move forward to improve teacher subject and pedagogical knowledge to realise the rights of all learners to quality education.

School governance and management

Much evidence suggests that proper learning requires functional schools, or schools that provide an enabling environment for teachers. Even the best teachers will find it difficult to do a good job if the school does not have a timetable, colleagues arrive late and there are no regular meetings with parents.

At the heart of a functional school lies a good principal. For the period 2010/11 to 2014/15, we are targeting at least 8 000 principals and deputy principals to complete the Advanced Certificate in Education: School Leadership and Management (ACE). In addition, all school leaders from underperforming secondary schools and their feeder primary schools will complete specific stand-alone ACE modules.

District offices are a vital link between the education departments and schools. Not only are they central to the process of gathering information and diagnosing problems in schools, they perform a vital support and intervention function. This includes organising training for personnel, dealing with funding and resourcing bottlenecks, solving labour relations disputes and many other functions.

They are a priority to ensuring that school principals remain accountable to the provincial department and that accountability lines within the school to the principal and to the school governing body are maintained. Districts are the provincial departments' main interface with schools. The functionality of districts depends on the overall functionality of the provincial department.


We will continue to focus our efforts on tackling our immense infrastructural challenges. The backlog is estimated at R140 billion. In 2000/01 provincial education departments spent a mere R553 million on payment for capital assets. Currently the budget for infrastructure is at R5.5 billion and will continue to increase over the medium term and reaches R9.4 billion in 2012/13.

The current rate of financial allocations means that it would take an estimated 20 years to eliminate our infrastructure "conditions" and "space" backlogs. We have to find innovative funding and infrastructure delivery mechanisms to deal with all the backlogs in the shortest possible time. In order to address these we are formulating an accelerated school infrastructure improvement programme that seeks to draw explicitly on the construction capacity and momentum created to complete the stadia for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.

The Department of Basic Education is working with the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) and National Treasury regarding appropriate financing models and capacity for this accelerated school infrastructure improvement programme. Indeed, the national department's planned Implementation unit will be used to identify and deal with infrastructural backlogs.

Schooling 2025, which is currently under development, will make provision for short to medium term initiatives to source alternative resources for school infrastructure development. These resources will be aimed at eliminating the backlog of those schools that fail to meet the basic functionality levels of provision.

Whilst addressing this backlog the proposed initiative will also strive to upgrade these schools to optimum functionality. There is a sense of frustration in many schools which lack basic facilities such as toilets and classrooms and yet do not know if and when they will benefit from a building project. There is clearly room for improvement in the way funds are targeted and planning information is shared with schools and communities.

It is envisaged that this short to medium-term initiative will be mobilised through the appropriate channels and constitute a provincial and district based programme to tie in the existing educational administrative structures and systems in the nine provinces. We call on our provincial counterparts to pay particular attention to strengthen the capacity to deliver on this vital infrastructural component. We cannot continue with schools under trees, makeshift classrooms and lack of water, sanitation or electricity.

At the same time while we focus on improving infrastructure, I call on all our communities and in particular parents and learners to commit themselves to safe guarding school infrastructure and school property. We are disturbed by reports that existing school classrooms are wantonly burnt down or school property such as computers, desks, chairs and even doors and windows are stolen.

There are far more responsible and effective ways of raising issues around education, without destroying property or disrupting schooling. We will never eradicate backlogs or ensure that all schools have adequate facilities if schools continue to be targets of criminal actions by community members.

Schools, like churches and libraries, should be treated as sacrosanct. It is necessary for our learners and their parents to take responsibility for their education and to ensure that government's expenditure is not in vain.

We have an enormous responsibility to ensure that our funds are well spent, on the purposes for which they are intended, and that we see results. Our democratic mandate is to deliver on the right to education, and this means the right to be literate and numerate when leaving school. We are fully focused on delivering on this mandate.

(Angie Motshekga is an ANC NEC Member, President of the Women’s League and Minister of Basic Education. This is an edited extract of the budget vote speech of the Department of Basic Education presented to the National Council of Provinces)