Education Budget Debate Vote NCOP, 24 May 2012 | Western Cape Education Department

Education Budget Debate Vote NCOP, 24 May 2012

Speech by Donald Grant, Western Cape Education Minister

Honourable Acting Chair
Honourable Ministers, Deputy Ministers & Members
Other public representatives

Thank you for the opportunity to present some comment on aspects of the 2012/2013 basic budget for education in the Western Cape.

The tabling and discussion of the annual budget of any state entity is interpreted in many ways by many people and agencies. It can be seen as the ultimate planning instrument or an opportunity to set out new plans and policies. These understandings of a budget are both valid and important. However, at another level, budgets announce to the world how we see ourselves as a nation and are a practical expression of our hopes and dreams. During a period of financial challenges of the kind the world has experienced for some time now the allocation of each rand takes on a special significance. More than ever before this allocation balances the principles by which we hope to live our lives as citizens with the reality of what we can responsibly afford and deliver. The hopes and dreams have to live alongside critical choices. This is particularly evident in education.

In tabling the basic education budget for the Western Cape I am pleased to say that I was able to report that in education we have made good progress in laying the necessary foundation to achieve our strategic objectives of improving learner outcomes and the quality of education in the Western Cape. The overarching objective is to improve the life chances of and to create opportunity for all children in the Western Cape through the provision of quality education.

One of the Western Cape Government's primary focus areas is to reduce poverty. The only sustainable way to beat poverty is by creating opportunities for economic growth. Through being educated, people are better placed to secure a job, earn an income and ultimately lead lives they value.

To achieve our objectives for the year the WCED has been allocated R14.229 billion for the 2012/13 financial year - 35.7% of the provincial budget for that financial year. This is once again an increase from the previous financial year. Expenditure on education has grown on average by 13.3% per annum in nominal terms since 2008/09.

The budget for education will be used to fulfil the objectives set out in our strategic plan with public ordinary school education continuing to be the main focus of the Department's funding with an allocation of 80.1% of the education budget.

What is particularly gratifying is that the performance of our public ordinary schools is continuing to show a positive trend, particularly in the results achieved over the last two years in the National Senior Certificate examinations.

Acting Chair, the Western Cape Government has prioritised the improvement of learner outcomes in the province by implementing a number of initiatives and programmes.

These initiatives include:

The expansion of systemic testing of learners. In addition to testing the literacy and numeracy competencies of our Grades 3 and 6 learners, the Department introduced testing for Grade 9 learners for the first time in 2011. Learners in Grades 3, 6 and 9 are tested every year. Based on our testing we have made the provision of quality texts and materials one of our priorities - both in planning and in financial allocations. At the start of the 2012 school year, learners in Grades 1, 2, 3 and 10 benefitted from a record-breaking rollout of over 2 million textbooks and readers.

To expand this initiative in the 2012/2013 financial year, we have allocated an additional R144.301 million to the provision of textbooks in addition to the R240 million norms and standards funding provided for textbook provisioning.

All 1452 principals of our schools have signed off on their School Improvement Plans or SIPS. The SIPS is an online management tool that requires schools to set targets for improvements for each grade. These improvement targets are determined by principals in consultation with the relevant district office.

The Western Cape Government strongly believes that where schools are working better and producing improved results we want to reward them and incentivise them to continue this improvement.

I was therefore delighted to announce the launch of an incentive programme that rewards primary schools that have improved the number and quality of passes in the Grade 3 numeracy systemic testing and high schools that have increased the number and quality of mathematics passes and National Senior Certificate passes with access to Bachelor degree study. R25 million has been allocated to this incentive programme.

Acting Chair, we cannot expect all of our schools to improve their results if we do not provide our educators with the opportunity to grow professionally. We have therefore increased the budget allocation for the professional development and training of our educators with an allocation of R95.2 million in the 2012/2013 financial year.

We continue to work in partnership with a School Governing Bodies as well as organisations representing the Principals of our schools and have formally established the Western Cape Education Council.

We are deeply committed to directing the majority of the resources I have mentioned today at improving the education outcomes of the schools that serve our province's poorest communities. Our figures show that consistently the poorer 60% of our school population receive the greater allocations in terms of important indicators such as norms and standards funding, school feeding, new infrastructure and learner transport.

We are also committed to the provision of appropriate infrastructure. Last year we completed the building of 11 new schools in this province serving learners living in poorer areas where we have seen increased growth. We have invested heavily in our Infrastructure Programme to the tune of R2.347 billion over the MTEF.

Of this figure, R518.356 million has been allocated to the construction of new facilities and the replacement of inappropriate structures in the 2012/13 financial year.

I was able to report that since 2009 we have seen significant improvements in reducing the number of underperforming schools. The number of underperforming public high schools dropped by more than 60% from 78 in 2010 to 30 in 2011.

There is no doubt that poverty has a severe impact on learning. To allow our children to get the most out of each school day, the Department's nutrition programme has been expanded. This is reflected in the budget increases that have been effected since 2009. I was delighted to announce that we will increase this investment in the 2012/2013 financial year to R244.8 million.

Furthermore, this year we have allocated R43 million to compensating our schools for the fees that they forego to ensure that more learners from the province's poorer communities have the opportunity to attend school and receive an education.

Our on-going commitment to special needs education is reflected in the allocation of R851.7 million that will be made to this programme in the 2012/13 financial year. This represents an increase from last year.

It is our view that high speed broadband connectivity is the foundation on which information technology can be integrated into our schools, making equitable access to the information highway possible for all users, regardless of location.

In the light of this I was delighted to announce the launch of an exciting new initiative that will see each school principal in this province receive a PC tablet. These tablets - which will be delivered later in the year - will improve the way in which we communicate with and provide support to our principals.

Acting Chair, I thank you for the opportunity of addressing the NCOP today and setting out a few of the budgetary steps we are taking to improve the education available to young people in the Western Cape.