Click here to read the comments on draft Action Plan 2014 submitted by Equal Education
Purpose of the Action Plan to 2014 Schooling
Must contribute towards an improved schooling system. The overriding purpose of the Action Plan and Schooling 2025 is to contribute in concrete ways to the realisation of a better schooling system, one which adequately prepares young South Africans for the challenges of a rapidly changing society. The schooling system should above all ensure that our youth have acquired the basic skills and knowledge they require for life and instil the values needed for a united and democratic nation. It is widely recognised that achieving these overriding goals is vital if society-wide scourges such as poverty and crime are to be eradicated and South Africa is to prosper and develop.
The need for long-term planning. Schooling 2025, within which the Action Plan is located, represents South Africa's first ever long-term vision for schools. The reasons why a country like South Africa needs long-term planning are explained in the Green Paper on national strategic planning in relation to the envisaged country plan South Africa Vision 2025. Schooling 2025 in fact embodies the schooling sector's participation in the larger South Africa Vision 2025 process. Essentially a long-term planning approach for schooling is required to discourage ad hoc and fragmented planning, to encourage everyone to think of the long-term implications of decisions taken, or not taken, now, and to provide inspiration in our current work by means of a clear picture of where we want to take South Africa's schools.
Practical uses of the Action Plan. On a practical level, the Action Plan must be able to explain in clear terms what the existing best evidence says about improving schools so that education managers can be better informed in this area, bearing in mind that how to improve schools is not a straightforward matter and the evidence can be conflicting. The Action Plan must also provide guidance to schools, districts, provinces and non- government stakeholders on what key issues to include in their plans. It should be remembered that improvements in schooling are dependent on the effectiveness of literally thousands of plans that are formulated on an annual basis throughout the system. The national plan should also offer The Presidency and a range of government and non-government monitoring bodies with a clearly stated set of goals against which to hold the leadership and management in the schooling sector accountable. The plan must moreover instil confidence amongst South Africa's trading and investment partners across the world that we are committed towards ongoing improvements in the country's human resource base.
A dynamic plan that is not cast in stone. The Action Plan cannot be cast in stone. Clearly there will be a need for periodic reviews. In this sense, the Action Plan and Schooling 2025 provide a framework for organising the national debates on how to improve schooling. In fact, the plan should encourage these debates, not stifle them. The Action Plan will support fully the planning philosophy put forward in the Green Paper whereby planning must embody a right mix of bottom-up activities, in which the national department takes cognisance of planning and best practices at the provincial, district and school levels, and top-down activities, whereby the national department and the Minister provide sufficient direction and leadership for the sector. In fact a major component of the Action Plan is monitoring and action on the part of the national department to ensure that provincial departments adhere to their own annual and medium-term plans in a more consistent manner.
Moving forward on the basis of existing building blocks. It is not the purpose of the Action Plan to re-invent the policies of the schooling system. Fundamental changes will need to occur in future, but it is acknowledged that many important building blocks have been laid since the advent of democracy in 1994. A school governance system that enjoys wide support, even if it is need of better levels of participation, exists. A system of pro-poor public financing of schools that is largely in line with best practices elsewhere has been established. Monitoring of the learning outcomes in schools below the Grade 12 level through standardised national assessments was started in 2001, and has become more widespread in the last couple of years. This too follows best practices elsewhere. All the education programmes that exist are in need of at least some change, and in a few cases there is a need for fundamental change. Certain details in this regard as explained in this document. However, the Action Plan needs to focus largely on re- aligning what exists, rather than on re-inventing the education policy landscape completely.
Promotion of more rigorous monitoring. One purpose of the Action Plan is to bring greater rigour into the monitoring of the schooling system, and promote better research into the challenges faced by the sector. The Green Paper of The Presidency states clearly that for government action to succeed, it must be based on good data and sound research. The monitoring of schools, in particular the monitoring of issues such as the quality of learning, time use in schools, the professional needs of teachers and grade repetition amongst learners, runs into a variety of problems, not just in South Africa but across the developing world. The measurable targets put forward in this document need to be carefully researched on an ongoing basis to ensure that they are realistic and indeed measurable. Moreover, the monitoring reports that must flow from the Action Plan should be seen as accurate and reliable. The approach towards education statistics needs to be a critical and professional one, and wherever feasible the latest methodological improvement advocated by UNESCO and other key organisations should be followed.
Communicating the plan to the nation. The Action Plan must be clear enough to be understandable to the great majority of our parents. Two versions of the plan should exist. A more comprehensive one will include all the technical details that managers, including school principals, and researchers need to know (currently this document and the Goals, indicators and targets document comprise the comprehensive version of the plan). A summarised version of the Action Plan has also been produced to communicate to the nation as a whole, and in particular to parents, what improvements can be expected and what ordinary citizens can do to contribute towards better schooling.
The e-Education strategy. As part of the Department of Basic Education's e- Education strategy, the web presence of the Action Plan and Schooling 2025 will be strong.