The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) today, Thursday 2 August, has unequivocally affirmed great achievements made in basic education in the last three years and beyond since the current administration came into office in 2009.
At its ordinary meeting in Pretoria, CEM noted with deep disappointment unwarranted media attacks on the basic education sector, in particular on the character of Minister Angie Motshekga.
The sector strongly reaffirms its support, confidence and leadership of the minister. It is under the leadership of the current Minister that in the last three years the sector has made inroads in improving quality of basic education as required by the Delivery Agreement for Basic Education that had been signed in 2010.
The majority of outcomes in the Delivery Agreement have been achieved two years before their targeted date, 2014. Six months ago, the sector was hailed as a beacon of hope based on the fact that for two consecutive years matric results have been improving.
The target of 70% pass rate in matric set for 2014 has been achieved ahead of time. The overall pass rate combining the November 2011 and March 2012 supplementary exams is 72.7%. This target was set after the alarming 60.6% pass rate for 2009.
During Minister Motshekga’s tenure, that is in the last three years, the department has been receiving unqualified audit reports. This year in particular the department again received an unqualified audit from the Auditor-General.
In her quest to ensure implementation of the 3Ts – Text, Teachers and Time – the Minister had introduced the use of colour printed workbooks in the education sector. This year, the department has extended the workbooks to cover Grades 1 to 9 learners and are providing 54 million books at no cost to parents. Preliminary findings of the School Monitoring Survey conducted in 2011 by an independent service provider indicates 78% of Grade 6 learners had access to a language textbook and 83% of Grade 6 learners had access to a mathematics textbook.
All learners from Grade 10-12 have also been supplied (also at no cost to the learner or the province) with a set of Maths and Science books developed in partnership with the Shuttleworth Foundation.
The Minister had led negotiations with the Shuttleworth Foundation to ensure textbooks are accessible for every learner by 2014. In this regard, a textbook that used to cost R253 could be printed and delivered at a cost of R33.
These are important developments in that according to the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality data for 2007, only 45.02% of Grade 6 children had their own reading textbook and 36.39% of Grade 6 children had their own mathematics textbooks.
The development and introduction of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements has been applauded by teachers and experts alike.
School participation is close to 100% for the basic compulsory band, in the 7 to 15 year age-range. Clearly this places South Africa at good stead to deliver on the education-specific Millennium Development Goals.
On pro-poor policies, the number of learners in no-fee schools exceeds the 60% target. This year, 69.3% of learners are in more than 20 000 no-fee schools. Total expenditure for school allocation on no-fee schools at the national target level is projected to be in excess of R7.7 billion.
The National School Nutrition Programme Conditional Grant has increased to R4.907 billion. The sector provides a warm meal to eight million children per day.
Under Minister Motshekga, with the up-scaling of Annual National Assessments (ANA) and their use as a diagnostic tool, the system has refocused with more emphasis on primary schooling. This is a fundamental development and welcome step away from the past focus on the last three grades – Grades 10, 11 and 12. This year alone, seven million learners will sit for the ANA tests in September, a first for the country.
It is through the leadership of Minister Motshekga that the department has mobilised a collaborative teacher development initiative with trade unions in an effort to enhance quality of teaching and learning, and thus improve learner performance. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with all teacher unions in this regard, another first in the country.
CEM further welcomes the signing of the multi-term collective agreement on conditions of service in the public service. This will ensure stability in the system in view of education being the major employer in the sector.
The Section 100 (1) (b) intervention in Limpopo is an acknowledgement that already there were problems in that province. To drag the entire sector to the limitations and gaps of Limpopo is unfair particularly in view of the fact that the Presidential Task-team is still probing the causes of the problem. Most reports have led the public to believe that competency of procuring textbooks is the responsibility of the national department while such rests with the provinces.
As the Council of Education Ministers, we hereby pledge our solidarity to the Minister, condemn the unfair media attacks, declare our confidence on her leadership and reaffirm our belief that the education system has not collapsed. We therefore call upon the Minister to continue leading the sector.