Education First: Breaking through to a better future | Western Cape Education Department

Education First: Breaking through to a better future

Western Cape Education Budget Speech 2002/03

André Gaum, Western Cape Education Minister

1. Introduction

The education budget for 2002/03 in the Western Cape is R4,533-billion, which is R290-million more than the province allocated last year -- an increase of 6,8%.

Education’s 32,7% of the total provincial budget is more than any other department’s share. The province has put education first. I am keenly aware of the responsibility that this places on my shoulders and those of my colleagues in the Western Cape Education Department as we seek to honour this trust.

I urge everyone in the house to support us in our efforts to put education first, so that we can break through to a better future.

2. Working with people

In this speech I shall talk about objectives, strategies, special projects and special initiatives, and all we plan to do to ensure effective and efficient education for our learners.

While I do so, we must not forget that we are really talking about people – the children in our schools, their parents, our teachers, colleagues, partners in education, friends and supporters, all with a vital interest in good education.

Our schools are not just buildings. Our work does not simply involve projects and programmes. Essentially, our work involves people, to ensure:

  • that the children of this province realise their full potential
  • that teachers are motivated and capable of performing
  • that we help parents to realise their sometimes desperate dreams for their children
  • that we help to build healthy, successful communities, and
  • that we help to build hope for the future of this province and our country.

3. Partnerships for positive change

This is a mammoth task, that we cannot do on our own. We have to work with everyone involved and with an interest in education as partners for change and improvement.

Education is about faith in the future, about hope for the future, about caring for those entrusted to us and for our colleagues, and about working together to ensure that we can build a better future for all.

We must put aside petty differences and achieve a unity of purpose as we build our education system. We can disagree from time to time on strategy and priorities, but let us remain focused on our ultimate goal, namely, ensuring a better tomorrow for our children.

I urge you to join us -- in putting education first, in breaking through by breaking down barriers to effective education, and in building a better future, together.

4. Background

Education in the Western Cape has not had it easy over the past six to seven years since four education departments from the apartheid era were replaced by a single Western Cape Education Department.

While the WCED gets the largest slice of this province’s budget, the amount allocated to us has in fact declined in real terms over the past few years, as part of the change to greater equity in spending on education across the country.

Spending per learner in the Western Cape was once the highest in South Africa. Now we are third, behind the Northern Cape and Gauteng. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the Western Cape still enjoys certain infrastructural advantages.

Cutbacks in expenditure on education have been traumatic in the Western Cape, especially its effects on teacher employment, and the whole saga of "redeployment", which is fortunately behind us.

Despite these cutbacks and difficulties, we have achieved consistently high Senior Certificate pass rates, usually the highest in the country. Our pass rate last year was 82,7%, up from 80,6% in 2000, a fine achievement.

This suggests that we have adapted well, and we must pay tribute to all our schools that continue to do well, and to those that have shown significant improvements in their pass rates.

5. Education research

Unfortunately, learners’ performances in other grades are not always so encouraging.

Several research projects in recent years have shown that primary-school learners, especially in our poorer schools, are simply not achieving the benchmarks appropriate for their age.

They are not achieving the skills they need for high school, and ultimately, for matric. It is not surprising that we have such a high drop-out rate in high school.

Although broader socio-economic factors are involved, the high drop-out rate is an indictment of our schooling system, and the available research has shown that the situation may well get worse.

For this reason, I have asked my department to compile a report on research on learner performance, and to undertake further research, so that we can tackle this issue from a well-informed basis.

Key research projects this year will include a study of learner performance in numeracy and literacy in Grade Three, and pilot studies of learner performance in these areas in Grades Six and Seven.

If we are concerned about pass rates, we should be equally concerned about the quality of our passes.

There are not enough learners passing subjects on the higher grade. We must have more passes on the higher grade to ensure a well-qualified work-force in the future. I will deal later with initiatives targeting this problem.

If we don't act together now to tackle these problems in a co-operative way, we may well fail the promise of a better future for our children.

6. Accountability

Research has shown that there is no single reason for poor learner performance. A combination of factors are responsible, and people on all levels are accountable for ensuring success.

These include the learners themselves, their parents, our teachers, school managements and governing bodies, provincial and national education departments, partners in education in both public and private sectors, and civil society.

We must build networks of partnerships on all levels to ensure a better future for our children, our communities, and the country as a whole.

While we have a duty to empower people for success, we also have a duty to hold all role players accountable for the special parts they must play in ensuring success. While we will reward success, there will also be consequences for failure.

7. Vision and Mission

Our vision is effective and efficient education for all.

Our mission is to develop the capacity of our schools to produce young people capable of realising their full potential, and capable of making valuable contributions to society and the country as a whole.

Our schools must be effective, well-managed, learning institutions, capable of developing the intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual potential of our learners.

This is no easy task, given the social and economic circumstances of so many of our young people and so many of our teachers and support staff.

We also fully committed to transformation and equity, and must do all we can to enable young people from our disadvantaged communities to break through to better futures, and to keep our promise of good quality education for all.

8. Critical success factors

We have developed a wide range of programmes and projects designed to achieve our vision and mission.

To ensure their success, we have to ensure that four key success factors are in place:

  • Firstly, discipline and diligence are essential for effective education.

    We need self-discipline as well as the discipline required to work together in teams to achieve our objectives. Time on task, and the need to be present, punctual and prepared, will continue to be watchwords in our education system.

  • Secondly, our teachers require adequate training to ensure that we have the human resources needed to deliver education.
  • Thirdly, we must have good management in our schools and support structures, to ensure that our schools are effectively and efficiently run. Research confirms what common sense tells us: that the quality of management has a direct bearing on learners’ performance.
  • Fourthly, the school environment must be conducive to effective teaching and learning; so it must be safe, secure, orderly, nurturing and stimulating.

9. Programmes and projects

Our education budget is divided into 10 programmes covering every aspect of the WCED’s service to education in the province.

I will not go into detail on every programme. Instead, I will look at some of the latest initiatives designed to enhance the work already being done in our schools and support structures to improve the quality of education in this province.

I cannot do justice to every initiative in our schools and support structures, other than to express my sincere appreciation for all the good work that is being done.

We have excellent people in the right places. I am constantly amazed by what is being achieved in difficult circumstances. These achievers are already showing us what can be done when we work together to build the future.

Key programmes and projects include the following.

9.1. EMDCs

Our new Education Management and Development Centres, or EMDCs, will make their presence felt increasingly as they seek to fulfil their mission this year.

The EMDCs are in their first full year of operation in 2002, in seven new education districts across the province.

The primary aim of the EMDCs is to bring development support much closer to schools, focusing on those that need it the most, to help them become vibrant, self-reliant centres of teaching and learning.

Multi-disciplinary task teams based at each EMDC will give schools curriculum development support, specialised learner and educator support, institutional development, support for Section 20 and 21 schools, and help with labour relations.

In addition to all these, the EMDC teams will play a vital role in developing the managerial capacity of our schools. For example, about 60 officials based at our EMDCs will help schools to improve their financial management and administration.

I have identified good management as critical to effective education. By simply improving managerial capacity, we will help to improve the quality of education in our schools.

9.2. Mother-tongue education

Many learners, especially among our Xhosa-speaking children, are not taught in their mother tongue in the important, formative primary school years.

Many young learners also do not learn a third language, and very few English- and Afrikaans-speaking children in the province speak Xhosa.

Research has shown that mother-tongue education is important for the conceptual development of children in primary schools.

The ability to communicate in other languages is also essential for communication and nation-building in a country such as ours.

I have therefore appointed a Task Team that will investigate the feasibility of expanding mother-tongue education in the province, and to develop a strategy for doing so, as soon as and in so far as this is practicable. The Task Team will consider:

  • The introduction of mother-tongue education in the first seven years of primary schooling; and
  • The introduction of a third language in primary schools.

I have asked the team to consider the human, financial and other resources required to introduce such education over the next five to ten years.

The Task Team includes experts in the fields of language policy and practice, and people with experience in implementing language policy.

I was very pleased to see the support given to this proposal by teachers’ unions, as reported in the media.

I am aware of a tendency for parents of Afrikaans and Xhosa speaking children to enrol them at English-speaking schools.

Because of this, I will launch a campaign when the team has completed its work, to promote mother-tongue education, so that parents can make more informed choices, based on educational best practice.

I am pleased to announce that the following specialists have accepted our invitation to join this Ministerial Task Team:

Mr Ed Pratt (Chair)Dr Neville AlexanderDr Christa van LouwProfessor Sizwe SatyoMs Anne Schlebusch, andMs Pumla Satyo.

Meanwhile, I have also asked my department to appoint a special Advisory Committee on mother-tongue education that will advise me further on all aspects of this subject.

The Advisory Committee will include teacher union representatives who are practising teachers; academic from faculties and schools of education of higher education institutions in the province; school governing body associations in the Western Cape; and other possible stakeholders with a particular interest in language in education.

9.3. Maths and Science initiatives

School results in Mathematics, Science and language remain a major concern, and we will continue our special initiatives to improve them, particularly in schools with relatively low matric pass rates.

One of these initiatives is the Learning Schools Project, which made an important difference last year to the results of the schools with pass rates below 60% in 2000. Thanks to this project, 43 of the 58 schools in this category improved their matric results in 2001.

We are repeating the project this year for 48 schools below 60% in the 2001 finals. We will also continue to support schools that improved their pass rates to more than 60%.

Meanwhile, the WCED and the Business Trust have formed an exciting partnership to improve learner performance in Mathematics and language in 42 secondary schools in the Kuilsrivier district.

Known as the Quality Learning Project, or QLP, this initiative targets district management offices and their staff; school leadership and management; and teachers, who are receiving extensive training and support.

This is an excellent example of partnership at work and we shall be monitoring its results with keen interest.

At the same time, the WCED's Khanya Technology in Education Project has established a pilot initiative in 11 schools in poor areas that are using the latest in information and communication technologies to improve teaching in mathematics and science, particularly on the higher grade.

One of these, the Centre of Science and Technology, or COSAT, in Khayelitsha, achieved excellent matric results last year. Twenty-one COSAT candidates wrote matric for the first time. All passed the examinations. Of these, ten passed Mathematics on the higher grade, thirteen passed Science on the higher grade, and fifteen passed Biology on the higher grade.

We are also co-operating with the national Department of Education's 106 Focus Schools project to improve Maths and Science results in matric. Eight Western Cape schools are participating in this project, including COSAT.

These are excellent initiatives, but they are not enough. I have therefore asked my department to form an intra-departmental task team to look at ways of improving learner performance in Maths across the board in the province.

Maths requires systematic and steady development of knowledge and skills. For this reason, we are encouraging primary schools to concentrate on achieving the benchmarks set for foundation-phase numeracy.

This will be a long haul. But we have to start at the beginning if we are to make a difference to overall Maths marks in the long term.

9.4. Literacy

Meanwhile, we will expand our highly successful Reading Schools campaign this year by including high schools for the first time.

The WCED launched the Reading Schools campaign in January last year. At this stage, primary schools are required to devote 30 minutes a day to reading, which has resulted in a more focused approach to reading among many thousands of primary-school children in the province.

We are hoping that the same policy applied in high schools will help to encourage a culture of reading among high-school learners.

Once again, we will not be able to encourage a culture of reading unless all concerned are involved, particularly parents. We would like to expand the focus of the Reading Schools campaign to include Reading Families as well.

But we must go further. Therefore, I have asked the WCED to appoint an intra-departmental Task Team on Literacy, to investigate ways of improving literacy among our learners. It is clear that learners are not learning to read well enough, and we must remedy this.

I plan to involve role models in public life, including government ministers and politicians, in campaigns to spread the message in all communities about the importance of reading.

A strong reading culture is essential for effective education. By working together, we can do much to foster one.

9.5. Teacher and management training

I have identified teacher training as a crucial success factor that will receive special attention as we seek to improve the quality of education in the province.

Changes in policy on curriculum and learner assessment mean that teachers and school managers need ongoing training and development.

The WCED will start a new Institute for In-service Teacher Development at the Western Cape College of Education this year to offer appropriate programmes for teachers in the Western Cape. Policy and research in our schools and classrooms will determine the content and priorities of the programmes.

This new Institute will go a long way towards meeting our requirements for well-qualified teachers in the Western Cape.

Meanwhile, research has shown that the quality of school management has a direct bearing on learner performance. This indicates a need for school management training and support. We will provide this training and support in three ways:

  1. At our new Institute for In-service Teacher Development, through special courses;
  2. By establishing local associations of school managements and governing bodies, to provide opportunities for school managers to learn from one another; and
  3. Through the support provided by our new Education Management and Development Centres.

9.6. Multigrade classes

Meanwhile, we are well aware of important differences between urban and rural schools.

While urban schools’ problems often include overcrowded classrooms, in rural schools, there are typically not enough learners to fill a class.

This harms the quality of education in rural areas, where schools do not have the resources to offer a full range of subjects, and are very often forced to teach several grades in the same classroom, known as multigrade classes.

As a result, the department has been rationalising schools in rural areas, to ensure efficiency, while improving the quality of education by concentrating resources in fewer schools.

Nevertheless, about 325 rural schools in the Western Cape, with more than 25 400 learners, currently run multigrade classes.

About 4 600 rural schools, accommodating about 500 000 learners, face the same problem across the country as a whole. Schools in rural areas in many other parts of the world also teach multigrade classes, and there is much we can learn from them.

In 2000, the WCED researched the particular challenges facing education in multigrade classes with the help of various agencies.

The department launched a pilot project in 2000 to investigate ways of improving Maths results in multigrade classes at five sites in the Piketberg area. Methods included using older learners as peer educators and special learner-support materials.

The findings have been incorporated into a plan submitted to top management in December 2001 for a Multigrade Project to develop schools with multigrade classes covering grades 1 to 6.

The plan provides for professional development, the supply of resources, and support, to improve learner performance in literacy and numeracy, while also encouraging positive approaches to life-long learning.

The WCED has allocated R2,5-million to implementing this project this year.

9.7. FETIs

Technical colleges, now known as Further Education and Training Institutions, play a vital role in job creation by providing learners with special technical and vocational skills needed by trade and industry.

In March 1997, the WCED approved a strategic plan for developing technical colleges in the Western Cape. Two key priorities in it were to streamline institutions and to strengthen the programmes they offered.

After four years of consultation with roleplayers, the Provincial Cabinet endorsed the streamlining process last year.

I will now take the legal steps outlined in the FET Act 98 of 1998 to complete the process.

On 20 February this year, I declared the 13 technical colleges in the province Further Education and Training Institutions, and called for nominations for members of the councils of these institutions.

A week later, I published a notice of intention to merge 10 of the FET Institutions into three clusters. At the end of May, I will consider public comment on the proposed mergers and will conclude the legal process.

The new FET Institutions will provide many new and exciting courses aimed at supporting the key economic and social development needs of the province.

Our FET team has developed the capacity to identify market needs and to develop new training programmes in response to these needs. This is an exciting development with great potential.

We will continue to develop other, innovative ways in which FETIs can contribute to job creation, both for those without formal qualifications and for those wanting, to proceed to universities or technikons.

We are already linking Skills Training Centres to FETIs, for those without formal qualifications. I will refer to this again.

9.8. eLearning initiatives

I am also pleased to announce that we have entered an extremely exciting phase in the development of our eLearning initiatives.

  • Firstly, the Telecommunications Project of the Western Cape Education Department and the Schools IT component of the provincial administration will link almost every public school in the province to the internet during the course of this year.

    There are about 1470 ordinary public schools in the province. About two-thirds of them are already connected to the internet.

    We still need to connect about 285 schools. This will be done during the fourth and final phase of the Telecommunications Project this year. Our IT teams will also upgrade systems at 195 schools that were connected during the first two phases of the project.

    Unfortunately, some schools do not yet have electricity, and we are looking at alternative forms of power, if necessary, to ensure that they can also join our online community of schools.

  • Secondly, our Khanya Technology in Education Project is developing and implementing innovative ways of using the latest in information and communication technologies to improve the quality of teaching and learning in our schools.

    Khanya supplies technology, software, training and related services, and studies the impact of ICT on curriculum delivery, so that we are constantly learning from experience.

    The aim eventually is to train 26 000 educators in the province to deliver curriculum using ICT to more than 900 000 learners in about 1 500 schools.

    The Khanya Project started in April 2001 and has already completed a number of pilot projects. The project has reached more than 100 schools so far.

    The emphasis in high schools is on Mathematics, Science and English, particularly in the higher grade, and in primary schools on basic literacy and numeracy.

  • Thirdly, our Further Education and Training Institutions, or technical colleges, are involved in a major international project to investigate ways of improving education and training using information technology in developing countries.

    A consortium of German and South African companies has asked the WCED to participate in a pilot project involving FET Institutions in the province.

    The project is known as "Dassie", which is an acronym for "Distributed Advanced Strategic Systems for Industrial eLearning".

    I visited LearnTec 2002 in Germany earlier this year, where the Dassie Project received considerable international interest. UNESCO would like to apply the lessons learned to other developing countries, particularly in the SADC region.

    The project will include installing software in phases and using this software and related systems to deliver quality, interactive technical and vocational training to learners at FET Institutions in the Western Cape.

    The project is well on its way and has already provided learning content and an eLearning software, known as L3 Lite, at the Athlone Technical College, in one of Cape Town’s disadvantaged areas.

    The project began in 2001 and will last for 24 months. Six technical colleges will receive the system during this period, and will be linked through an Application Service Provider based at the Athlone Technical College.

All these projects will play major roles in introducing eLearning to the Western Cape. I plan to coordinate all these projects under a single umbrella, possibly called "eLearning Cape", to ensure that they learn from each other, and that we use our resources as effectively as possible.

9.9. Provincial priorities

While our focus is on the future of our children and effective and efficient teaching and learning in our public schools, we are also mindful of the fact that we are contributing to broader objectives in society.

For example, several key activities of the WCED are closely aligned to supporting the priorities of the provincial government as a whole. These include:

  • Safety and security;
  • Poverty relief; and
  • Tourism

9.9.1. Safety and security

Firstly, effective teaching and learning can take place only in safe and secure environments.

The WCED works in various ways to ensure safe school environments, chiefly through our Safe Schools Programme, whose budget we have increased by R1 million this year.

The programme installs security systems at participating schools, trains staff and learners on safety procedures, and works with the SAPS and community organisations to promote safe school environments.

The Safe Schools programme has been remarkably successful. While vandalism and theft continue to be a major concern, the programme has helped to reduce the incidence of vandalism and theft significantly in problem areas.

The Safe Schools Call Centre provides a valuable point of contact for reporting crime, as well as support for learners suffering from abuse or experiencing other personal problems.

About 850 schools have joined the programme, co-ordinated in 75 clusters.

We can turn schools into fortresses, but in the end, safe schools depend on people. We rely on local communities to take ownership of their schools to ensure that our schools are conducive to quality education. The most successful Safe Schools initiatives have been those that have involved the full participation of schools and local communities working together to ensure school safety.

By working together, we can build a better future.

9.9.2. Special education needs

At this point I would also like to mention the work of our Specialised Education Support directorate, which provides tremendous support for learners with special education needs, and for youth at risk.

The directorate is responsible for managing our child abuse policy. Our policy document, called "Abuse no More", provides clear guidelines on dealing effectively with child abuse, which includes sexual abuse.

In addition to managing 75 schools for learners with special education needs, the directorate has established a five-tier structure to support young people at risk, culminating in youth centres for those who need to be removed from ordinary public schools.

9.9.3. HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS has become the single most important threat to the whole country, including education. For this reason, the WCED will expand its HIV/AIDS programme considerably this year. We have increased our budget for HIV/AIDS programmes in schools by R1-million.

The role of our HIV/AIDS programme is largely preventive, its primary aim being to delay sexual debut among young people.

Key features of our HIV/AIDS programme this year include:

  • Introducing a new education programme for primary-school children. The WCED has already trained more than 6000 teachers for the programme in about 75% of the province's primary schools. We will complete the balance of the training required this year.
  • The WCED is providing education materials for every primary-school teacher in all three official languages.
  • The WCED will extend the HIV/AIDS programme to high schools this year, focussing on Grades 8 to 9, with Grades 10 to 11 to follow in 2003.
  • During 2002, the department will train about 5 000 high-school pupils as peer educators in about 120 schools. Their role will be to teach fellow learners how to make responsible choices.
  • The HIV/AIDS programme is based on our Life Orientation curriculum and forms an integral part of our teaching and learning programme in schools

This curriculum covers values and vital skills, including problem-solving, decision-making, assertiveness, negotiation, the development of self-esteem and respect for others, which help to promote a young person's own sexual health and future, and respect for the well-being of others.

The programme does not encourage promiscuity, and does not deal with sexual biology and "condomisation" at an inappropriately early age.

Schools will give parents the opportunity of reviewing the programme and learner materials, and of discussing concerns before the programme starts.

9.9.4. Poverty relief and tourism

While our focus tends to fall on providing young people with the skills they need for the future, we are keenly aware of the problems faced by adults who were not able to complete their schooling.

Our Adult Basic Education and Training Centres offer opportunities for adults to complete their schooling, while also learning skills that could help them break out of poverty.

The WCED has also established skills training centres in George, Noordhoek and Caledon, which are attached to technical colleges. The centres accommodate about 100 learners at any one time and typically teach manufacturing skills and entrepreneurship.

The Western Cape government has identified tourism as a key employment sector for the province. The WCED is contributing to meeting the needs of the sector by providing education and training on various levels.

"Travel and Tourism" is taught as a subject in 22 Western Cape schools at the moment. Our Further Education and Training Institutions also offer courses that provide basic skills for those wishing to enter the tourism industry.

Our skills-training centre at Masiphumelele in Noordhoek has started an exciting new tourist centre, which provides an outlet for crafts made by the learners, while also providing them with an income and training in entrepreneurial skills.

10. Conclusion

We must put education first as we work together to build a better future. This applies to everything from coping with the HIV/AIDS pandemic to delivering curriculum and ensuring safe school environments.

Other partnerships are working closely with the social responsibility programmes of the private sector, to co-ordinate our activities in education, so that our scarce resources are used as effectively and efficiently as possible.

We are about to sign the trust deeds of the Western Cape Education Trust, which encourage greater co-operation between the WCED and private sector initiatives in education.

We are also co-operating with other provincial and national government departments where we have common interests in improving education, in the true spirit of Tirisano, "working together", advocated by Professor Kader Asmal.

I am looking at ways of encouraging schools to learn more from one another, by forming associations of school management and governing bodies, and by establishing partnerships between schools.

I have been impressed by the way in which some schools in difficult circumstances can succeed, while others do not. I am sure that there is much they could learn from each other.

In the end, whatever we do, we must remember that children come first, and that whatever we do, we must put their education first. Our children carry with them our hope for a better future. Let us work towards a better future - together.

11. Thanks

I would like to close by thanking my dedicated staff in the WCED for all their hard work in preparing our strategic plan for 2002/2003, and for the care put into preparing this budget. In particular, I would like to thank our Acting Head of Education, Mr Johan Fourie, for leading the department so ably since Mr Brian O’Connell took long leave in May last year.

I did not have the pleasure of working with Mr O’Connell in this capacity, but his legacy lives on, particularly in our departmental structures, notably the EMDCs. We wish Mr O’Connell every success his prestigious position as Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape.

I also thank my colleagues in the Cabinet, the Education Standing Committee, and in the House, and associated departments, for their excellent support. I look forward to working with you to build a better future for all the citizens of this wonderful province.