As from April 2011, Vuk’uzenzele has taken on new look and will be published every month instead of every second month. Instead of its former A4 format, the printed version of Vuk’uzenzele is now published as a tabloid newspaper. It will still be full of news and advice on socio-economic opportunities created by government, and how to access these opportunities.
Government has committed itself to making a difference in the lives of people by addressing five key priority areas. They are education, safety and security, health, job creation and rural development.
Each issue of Vuk’uzenzele will carry information and news about government’s programmes relating to these priorities. It will include a special four-page supplement, called Employment News, which will address matters relating to job creation, careers and skills development. Among other things, it will also feature news on youth matters, international relations, events, advice and sport and recreation.
It has a print run of 1,7 million copies, which are distributed in all nine provinces, in large part door-to-door in deep rural, rural and peri-urban areas. It is published in all official languages, but the majority of the print-run is in English. It is also published in Braille for the visually impaired.
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As the country received yet another installment of matric results this week, government will no doubt be looking at the long road education has walked since the country became a democracy.
It has been a road fraught with many hurdles, headaches and trials to see what will work and what will not.
However, as government takes stock of the education system, it will also take account of the groundwork that has been laid over the years by pupils, teachers, parents, unions and education stakeholders to improve the country’s education system. All that is awaited now is for the interventions that have been put in place to yield noticeable results.
The fact that the biggest portion of government’s budget goes to basic education is testimony to the urgency of improving the education system, school infrastructure and the ability of teachers.
Some noteworthy areas of focus to improve education have been the following:
- Annual National Assessment (ANA) tests
- developing and distributing national workbooks for schools
- distributing textbooks on time
- ensuring teacher and learner development.
ANA assessment includes numeracy and literacy tests conducted among the so-called foundation phase (Grades 1 to 3) and intermediate phase (Grades 4 to 6) pupils attending government schools.
The first tests took place in February last year after pupils had completed the previous year’s grade work.
The ANA results showed that nationally, Grade 3 learners performed at an average of 35 per cent in literacy and 28 per cent in numeracy, while the provincial performance stands between 19 per cent and 43 per cent, with the highest being the Western Cape.
In Grade 6, the national average performance in languages is 28 per cent, while mathematics performance is 30 per cent. The provincial percentage in the two areas ranges between 20 per cent and 41 per cent, with the highest being the Western Cape and lowest Mpumalanga.
While the matric results are often used as a benchmark of the effectiveness of the education system, the ANA assessments will enable the department to measure the impact of specific programmes and interventions to improve literacy and numeracy.
Another major recent development in education is the strategic focus on the development and distribution of national workbooks. A target had been set to distribute workbooks to nearly six million children in 2011.
The workbooks are able to illustrate the national assessment standards that teachers should use to stretch the minds of learners. They were developed and distributed to all Grade 1 to 6 public school learners in 2011 in all official languages– around 12 million copies of Workbook 1. Copies of Workbook 2 were distributed after June, covering the second half of the academic year.
The workbooks cover Grades 1 to 3 in 11 languages covering Numeracy and Literacy, and Grades 4 to 6 in English and Afrikaans for Mathematics and Literacy. The national workbooks for Grades 1 to 4 in English and Afrikaans have also been translated into Braille.
Government has also undertaken to streamline curriculum documents for teachers into the Curriculum and Assessments Statements, as well as improve the language skills of learners by introducing the language of learning and teaching in Grade 1 and reducing the number of subjects in the intermediate phase.
As from this year, learners in Grades 1 to 3 will be required to take four subjects to help them cope better with the work load expected of them in the higher grades.
All learners will be required to take English as a subject from Grade 1 and all learners in Grades 1 to 3 will be required to take four subjects, namely Home Language, First Additional Language, Numeracy and Life Skills.
The number of subjects in the Intermediate Phase would also be reduced from 2012 as a means of ensuring that the “emphasis on the foundational skills will continue to be strengthened.”
The Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development for South Africa has also been finalised. The focus is firmly on more targeted, subject-specific teacher education and development that will improve teacher content knowledge.
The drive to ensure textbooks arrive at schools on time was intensified last year since they are vital supplements to what is taught in the classroom.
To ensure schools use textbooks that comply with the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS), the department has reviewed the books for Grades R to 3 and Grade 10. To establish the extent of access to textbooks, the department is also proceeding with the School Monitoring Survey to cover Grades R to 12.
All these initiatives should happen within an environment appropriate for learning and teaching.
It is of comfort then to know that the department’s budget on infrastructure rose from around R10 million in 2009/10 to some R6 billion in 2010/11.
The Department of Basic Education is also looking at how to attract passionate and skilled people to the teaching profession.
With all of these significant interventions in place, it is hoped that they will bear fruit in the form of a matric learner that enters the work force skilled and confident that he or she has a bright future ahead of them.