Address at the National Launch of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) Accord on Basic Education and Partnership with Schools by Mrs Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, Butterworth: 02 October 2011
2 Oct 2011Programme Director, Mr Miller Matola
Leaders of various formations
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 2001, Professor Njabulo Ndebele called for a “common set of values” for South Africa. He said and I quote:
“South Africa lacks a central idea around which to mobilise its entire people. Our talk about the values of South African people is often in abstraction rather than a reflection upon a concrete reality. Since the end of the political struggle in 1994 we lack the central idea that defines us as South Africans.
“There is a need, therefore, to build common values and invent social practices that would serve to bring the country together as a people or nation” (In Conference Report for Saamtrek, 2001, p. 19).
I believe, education is central to inventing those “social practices” that would serve to bring the country much more together. It will foster social responsibility and nation-building. The right question to ask is: ‘How can we, as a collective, make education work?’. It would not help anybody to worry only about the question of ‘how bad it is?’.
Your presence here, as organised labour, business, traditional leaders, community and faith-based organisations, is fundamental. We can’t educate the nation without the nation. Your presence here is indeed a loud “YES!” to better education.
For me, the national launch of the NEDLAC Accord on Basic Education and Partnership with Schools is momentous. While showing education is our apex priority, it confirms the possibility and necessity of rallying all patriots behind education. It says ‘working together we can do more for our nation’s children!’
This moment, that’s reinforced by the unimpeachable commitment of all NEDLAC constituencies, will and must build on the task of creating a better life for all of us, by opening the doors of quality learning and quality teaching for all.
All efforts behind the conception and signing of this Accord, together with the National Skills Accord, in July 2011, demonstrate our capacity as a nation to make education the “central idea around which to mobilise our entire people”.
Education is at the very heart of creating a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.
The values enshrined in the Constitution (2006) will become a “concrete reality”, lived and shared by all, and not an “abstraction”, when we consciously cultivate them collectively through education.
That I believe to be the essence of the social partnership we’ve tried to forge since we adopted the Freedom Charter and strove persistently for ‘people’s education for people’s power’.
It is this tradition that informed the adoption of the Code for Quality Education and the launch of the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC), both in 2008.
The South African Schools Act (1996) has underscored the transformative role of education. It has tasked us to build an education system that will truly “redress past injustices in educational provision” and “provide an education of progressively high quality for all learners” (Preamble).
It calls upon us to use education to “advance the democratic transformation of society, combat racism and sexism and all other forms of unfair discrimination and intolerance, contribute to the eradication of poverty and the economic wellbeing of society” (Ibid).
As is generally known, the basic charge against us is that our educational system has not yielded the desired outcomes. In order to develop a better understanding of what the real challenges are and benchmark our current performance, we administered Annual National Assessments (ANA), in February.
Grade 3, the national average performance in literacy was 35%. In numeracy, 28%. Grade 6, for languages it was 28%. For mathematics, 30%.
We conducted a qualitative analysis of ANA results. We uncovered a worrying lack of generic skills among learners. Many couldn’t handle basic numeracy operations. They couldn’t subtract, multiply or divide.
In Grade 3, and up to Grade 6, many learners couldn’t write properly and legibly. They performed poorly because they couldn’t follow instructions like “fill in the missing word”.
On the whole, learners displayed a serious lack of fundamental literacy skills across all grades but more so from Grade 4 to 6.
There were instances where written outputs from learners who were already in Grade 6 could hardly be expected from learners in Grade 1. The Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality (SACMEQ) III Report, has confirmed realities we found in the 2011 ANA.
The SACMEQ III Report, on trends on the general conditions of schooling as well as reading and mathematics achievement levels of Grade 6 learners and their teachers, also shows that learners in our country are achieving below average.
Our challenges are huge. To that I concede. Yet our gains are many. I believe, our gains exceed our setbacks. Such are the strengths that must motivate us to work even much harder progressively to improve quality.
You’d know that in the first half of our term in government, from 2009, we’ve developed a long-term strategy for improving education quality – Action Plan to 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025.
According to the findings of the 2009 General Household Survey, 30% of 0-to-4-year olds attended an education institution. In 2009, more than 78% of 5-year-olds attended an educational institution.
There has been an approximate 40% increase in the proportion of 5 year olds receiving some form of childhood education in South Africa, from 39% in 2002 to approximately 78% in 2009.
There has been an increase in Grade R enrolment from 15% in 1999 to 60% in 2009. This points to a massive 45% increase between 1999 and 2009.
Levels of participation among children of compulsory school-going age (7 to 15 years) are high, with almost 99% of children in this age group enrolled in an education institution in 2009.
In 2009, South Africa had 12 313 899 learners in 27 461 public and independent schools taught by 365 447 educators.
In comparison with 1999, there were 85 937 more learners in school, taught by 47 620 more teachers.
Our school nutrition programme has offered meals to over 7 million learners in more than 20 000 schools.
We’ve made progress in increasing overall expenditure on schooling while at the same time redressing inequalities in education spending.
This has translated into a massive improvement in access for the poor. We now have very high participation rates by international comparison.
In response to ANA results and other studies, we’re developing a coherent national strategy for improving literacy and numeracy. It must help us improve school performance and the learners’ ability to read, write and calculate.
We can use it together to address deficiencies, including resources management, school and district management and leadership, accountability and monitoring.
As I promised in our 2011 Budget Vote speech, we have put in place a Planning and Delivery Oversight Unit that will ensure these things are done.
Our main priorities include teacher development. In April (2011), we launched a Framework for Teacher Education and Development. Its focus is on targeted, subject-specific teacher education and development, to improve content knowledge. Our teachers are fairly qualified. Our task is to support them.
Our challenge is to find potent ways of mobilising our entire people around the delivery of an improved quality of education. Beyond this launch, we need practical ways of implementing the Accord better to strengthen basic education as a platform for creating the 5 million new jobs we’re targeting.
Representatives at NEDLAC agreed on partnerships for achieving the New Growth Path’s target of 5 million jobs by 2020. They also agreed that improving the quality of basic education is a fundamental challenge.
They tasked us to report to you, as we’re here to do, that:
“Performance in the schooling system is at the heart of building the skills base for economic growth and development and ensuring that the society is able to achieve our equity and development goals” (Accord 2, 2011: 4).
We agreed as parties “to work together to change the mindset among teachers, learners and parents in order to rebuild dysfunctional parts of the basic education system and ensure quality education delivery for learners, particularly in poorly-performing schools” (Ibid, p. 5).
We endorsed a campaign to adopt poorly performing schools, which we are now appealing to you, to all South Africans, to embrace. This is a clarion call to everyone to play a role in making education work, ‘from each according to his/her ability’.
We encourage business, trade unions and the whole of society to adopt and help poor-performing schools. Let’s help them develop proper governance, high standards of teaching, basic school-level discipline and an adequate supply of essentials, including school textbooks and workbooks.
Adopt-a-school campaign must be understood in the context of making education a societal issue. The QLTC and the Accord will provide the mandate. Details on steps and procedures for implementation are outlined in the Accord. We need creative ideas to rescue our schools.
Play your part, as Brand SA aptly puts it. Together we can get learners to arrive in time, prepared to learn. As the President of the Republic has said, let’s get teachers to teach at least seven hours a day, and principals to manage schools soundly.
Let’s motivate parents to take an active interest in education. Let’s all support the ‘Class of 2011’. It’s our test of strength. We did it last year. We reached 67.8%. We can do even better. The countdown has begun, with only 21 days to go!
As a nation, we can and should make education the “central idea around which to mobilise [our entire] people”. With this will come a better society, values-based and prosperous.
Lastly, the wisdom of former President Mandela should guide us. In 2001, he told the Conference on Values, Education and Democracy in the 21st Century that:
“One of the most powerful ways of children and young adults acquiring values is to see individuals they admire and respect exemplify those values in their own being and conduct. Parents and educators or politicians or priests who say one thing and do another send mixed messages to those in their charge who then learn not to trust them”.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Basic Education
2 Oct 2011
[ Top ]