Today the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education will review the annual Performance of the Department of Basic Education and possibly adopt a report on it.
Equal Education has sent a briefing note to the Committee highlighting shortcomings in the Department’s performance – including issues related to literacy and numeracy, the provision of textbooks and workbooks, school libraries and school infrastructure
The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education will meet at 11:00 today (20 October) to consider its Draft Budget Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR). This is the Portfolio Committee’s report on its view of the Department of Basic Education’s performance during the 2010-2011 financial year, and will look at how well the Department has done in achieving the objectives it set out for itself; as well as whether it has been spending its budget properly and in accordance with its own strategic plans.
The BRR Report is an important document because it provides the Portfolio Committee’s assessment of the DBE’s performance. It will also provide recommendations for the Department future planning and use of resources.
There have been some positive developments in education during the 2010/2011 financial year:
- The education budget allocation continued to increase, including a massive injection of R8.2 billion for the improvement of school infrastructure along with a plan to get all schools up to a basic level of functionality.
- Improvement of the Matric pass rate from 60.6% in 2009, to 67.8% in 2010 despite a long teachers’ strike.
- The School Nutrition Programme has continued to expand and is feeding close to 10 million learners.
- The provision of free education through no-fee schools – the Minister of Basic Education declared that nearly 80% of public schools are now ‘no-fee schools.’
Equal Education has provided input to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education for its consideration in drafting is BRRR, through a briefing note. EE looked at key programmes of the DBE and provided and evaluated the Department’s performance in these areas:
- PROVISION OF WORKBOOKS AND TEXTBOOKS
Although the Department of Basic Education has done well with the roll-out of workbooks to learners, it appears from its own annual report that developing a plan to provide all learners (particularly in high school) with a textbook for every subject has not been given sufficient focus. The Minister has acknowledged that “the textbook is the most effective tool to ensure consistency, coverage, appropriate pacing and better quality instruction. Good textbooks must become more available to learners and teachers and should be used to a greater extent.”
EE recommends that the Department must once again place improving access to textbooks as a key strategic objective. This must include specific and measurable targets and objectives. Without this, there is no chance that the Department will achieve its goal of every learner having a textbook for every subject by 2014. The Department must report on the findings of research into the pricing and procurement of textbooks, and this must be followed up by a clear plan of action based on these findings.
- PROVISION OF SCHOOL LIBRARIES
93% of public schools in South Africa do not have functioning libraries. The Department acknowledges in its Strategic Plan that “insufficient policy direction at the national level in the past is part of the reason why the situation with respect to school libraries has barely improved over the last decade (only around 1 800 schools can be considered to have sufficiently stocked libraries).” It then set out to establish norms for school libraries.The Department reported in its annual report that it has developed a document entitled National Guidelines for School Library and Information Services. However, no such document is publically available, despite the report ‘noting that it has been developed.
The Department must provide clarity on the status of the National Guidelines for School Library and Information Services, and make the document publicly available if it has been adopted. Also, The Department must include a clear strategic objective and goals for improving access to school libraries and library materials. The strategic objectives of the Department must also include provision for the training of, and post-provisioning for, librarians/teacher librarians.
- ANNUAL NATIONAL ASSESSMENTS OF LITERACY AND NUMERACY
The introduction of ANA is a decisive response to the weaknesses of the Matric results as the only national indicator of the education system’s quality and outcomes. The actual results of the 2011 ANA showed that in Grade 3, 69% of learners could not read at grade level, and 83% were not competent in numeracy skills at grade level. The introduction of ANA is a very positive development from the Department, however, it has so far failed to combine these assessments with a clear intervention strategy, which may undermine the full value of being able to collect such data.
The ANA results must be used to inform and influence national and provincial policy, and it will ultimately be the detailed targeted interventions that will improve literacy and numeracy achievement. These different strategies must be spelt out clearly from the outset, particularly now that the first results have already been collected.
- SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE
There are still thousands of schools which lack basic resources, including water (over 2400 schools ), electricity (over 3500 schools), sanitation, fencing, classrooms, laboratories, libraries and computer centres. The Department has developed the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI), to address the ‘basic functionality’ backlog by 2014. The Department was allocated R 8.2 billion for this over three years (until 2014). This is a massive achievement. However it is overshadowed by the fact that the Department has also failed to adopt National Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure despite having acknowledged that these are critical. Without the norms and standards, the public, schools, teachers, learners and parents do not have a legally set standard against which to measure their school infrastructure against. Policies setting out vague or general standards are more easily flouted than if these standards were set in law.
The Department must publicly pronounce on the status of the norms and standards and provide reasons as to the delay in adopting them. This should include a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education.
For more information call Dmitri Holtzman: 082 733 5000 / firstname.lastname@example.org
 Statement from the Minister of Basic Education, Department of Basic Education Annual Report 2010/11, pg 12.