An interview with Basic Education Minister, Hon. Angie Motshekga

Education is a fundamental pillar in the process of achieving what has been outlined in the National Development Plan (NDP), says Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

In a written reply to questions, Motshekga says the NDP is the “blueprint for what we want to achieve in our country. In education, we are committed to implementing the NDP and have aligned the NDP’s Vision 2030 with the Education Department’s Action Plan 2019: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030. The NDP has become part and parcel of all our strategic plans aimed at repositioning the sector for accelerated growth and radical transformation.”

Motshekga said education is a societal issue and it is important to get everyone involved to ensurre that education prospers.

“Education is perfectly placed to bring people on board with the establishment of the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) which pulls big corporates together and consolidates efforts by the private sector to assist in attaining the vision of the NDP. We also have provisions in the Schools Act such as the establishment and role of school governing bodies.

“Schools need to be at the centre of communities in order for the NDP to be realised. We have gazetted the standards for school principals because we believe that they are both administrators and also the leaders of our schools.”

She said one of the critical targets of the NDP is the call to increase the number of learners eligible for Bachelor’s programmes in maths and science by 450 000.

“In this regard, the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) has since approved the mathematics, science and technology (MST) sector plan pronouncing national and provincial targets to increase the number of learners doing mathematics.

“We have subsequently issued a directive that schools which were not offering mathematics should, with effect from this year, incrementally offer the subject in Grade 10 as an option between mathematics and mathematical literacy. We are working tirelessly to promote the mathematics and physical science subject choice combination as a way to increase learner participation in pure maths. This will significantly improve learners’ chances of further education and training post-matric.

“With the release of the 2014 ANA results, it became evident that the sector needed to craft a strategic response after the results showed that the Grade 9 mathematics performance had an unacceptably low average of 10.7%.”

Motshekga said that, after a series of engagements within the sector, the Department has developed a framework for improving learner performance in the senior phase.

“We agreed on 27 key activities and introduced the 1+4 Model. This Model is bold and radical; but in practice it is quite simple: all maths teachers receive high level training on Mondays for the content that they will immediately teach that week. We are confident that this radical step will go a long way in improving mathematics performance in the senior phase.

“As part of the review of the implementation of the MST strategy, the Department has completed the review process of the Dinaledi and Technical Secondary Schools conditional grants, which was recommended by a Ministerial Task Team.

“The review has resulted in the introduction of a new maths, science and technology conditional grant. The MST conditional grant for 2015/16 totals R1.1-billion over the 2015 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) – R352.2-million in 2015/16, R367.7-million in 2016/17 and R390.7-million in 2017/18. This allocation is taken from the Technical Secondary Schools Recapitalisation Grant (R771.4-million over the MTEF) and the Dinaledi Schools grant (R367-million over the MTEF), which have been consolidated into a single grant to focus on maths, science and technology.

“The purpose of the new grant is to strengthen the implementation of the NDP and the Action Plan 2019 by increasing the number of learners taking mathematics, sciences and technology subjects, improving the success rates in the subjects and improving teachers’ capabilities. The grant will achieve its purpose through the provision of support and resources to schools, teachers and learners for the improvement of mathematics, sciences and technology teaching and learning at selected public schools.

“The grant will also provide ICT resources to schools, ensure teacher training (especially at senior phase) is accelerated, and targeted learner support is prioritised to improve success and participation in MST subjects.”

Motshekga said the Department has also commissioned a special Big Fast Results Lab on MST to develop a long-term strategy in improving the teacher content knowledge on these subjects.

“The MST Lab is expected to develop mechanisms to encourage greater learner participation. It will also finalise a sector plan needed for systematic and increased success rates.

“Our second radical intervention is around ICT. At its first lekgotla in 2014, the Council for Education Ministers (CEM) resolved that information and communications technology would be one of the key priorities for the sector to act as an anchor for the radical transformation of basic education. ICT is crucial to improve the quality and efficiency of the system from a number of aspects including administration, e-learning and teacher training.

“For the ICT rollout to succeed an interdepartmental approach is required – looking at various issues of connectivity, broadband, devices, electricity and budget, amongst others.”

Motshekga’s Department is steaming ahead with the implementation of access to, and utilisation of, ICT for teaching and learning.

“Together with our local and international partners, we have already convened a preparatory ICT laboratory as part of the Presidential Fast Track Programme known as the Big Fast Result project or Operation Phakisa.

“Phakisa is a Sesotho word which means ‘hurry up’. This highlights the urgency with which government wants to deliver on some of the priorities encompassed in the NDP. The President said the methodology was designed to answer fundamental implementation questions and find solutions, as the country tries to address poverty, inequality and unemployment, and other challenges, as outlined in the NDP.

“The Operation Phakisa ICT Lab in Education was completed at the end of June. In collaboration with the World Bank and the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC) at the Treasury, the Lab brought approximately 250 ICT in education stakeholders together for six intensive weeks with the aim of producing a systematic and detailed rollout plan for the delivery of curriculum through ICT infrastructure to all schools across the nine provinces of South Africa.

“The ICT Lab in Education focused on four main strategic objectives, such as electronic content resource development and distribution; ICT professional development for management, teaching and learning; access to ICT infrastructure; and connectivity.”

Motshekga said that, as part of a strategy to build functional teacher centres, the DBE has partnered with the private sector to provide ICT resources to all teacher centres.

“Vodacom had provided information and communications technology to 60 teacher centres by February 2015. It was envisaged that a further 20 centres would be fully ICT enabled and compliant by August 2017 and the rest by 2019. In addition, Vodacom established a digital classroom portal to service all teachers and teacher centre managers.

“CISCO installed their CEEDBox solution at all teacher centres March 2017. This technology allows for bi-directional distance learning. It also includes access to CISCO IT academy training and the international computer driver’s licence course.

“Mindset Network committed to installing their satellite solution in 82 teacher centres, while UNISA has committed to installing 30 laptops, desks, furniture, video conference facilities, unlimited wi-fi, microwave connectivity and call centres in 35 teacher centres.

“In conjunction with our partners such as Microsoft, Vodacom, Huawei, Ikando CC, Mindset Trading and the Nelson Mandela Foundation we have launched e-Libraries. The purpose of this project is to use the established Vodacom ICT resource centres to set up 61 mobile libraries across the country. E-Book readers/kindles will be installed in these libraries and books will be loaded and read at the facilities.

This initiative will enable those who don’t have access to reading material to read. Access to reading material is a major challenge in South Africa, with 85% of South Africans not having access to a nearby library.

“This is further proof that education has indeed become a societal issue. The Department of Basic Education cannot work in vacuum. We work with, and depend on, the goodwill of thousands of our people as envisioned in the NDP when it talks to strategic partnerships in education.

“On 18 July 2015, to coincide with International Nelson Mandela Day, we launched an ambitious project to have 1 000 functional libraries in our schools per annum until 2019. As a start, our target is to provide at least two libraries in each of the nine provinces as a launching pad of this campaign. We convened a breakfast meeting with our key stakeholders from both the public sector and private sector to share our plans with them and mobilise monetary and non-monetary resources.

“We have also partnered with the Department of Arts and Culture who have agreed to release about R78-million for the construction of libraries in the financial year alone.”

Motshekga said her department was constantly measuring the success of their work, in line with the NDP.

“Through the Annual National Assessments and the National Senior Certificate we constantly aim to improve quality and this can be measured not only by the overall numbers but also by the quality of the passes. We have seen an increase in Bachelor passes. We also benchmark our systems and assessments internationally and participate in a number of international assessments, where we constantly see major improvements.”

Motshekga said there was no conflict between the need for children to complete their education and the need for more skilled workers in the economy.

“As mentioned previously, one of the initiatives we have introduced is an additional vocational educational pathway aside from the traditional academic stream. Our colleagues in higher education and training have also gazetted a policy on the formation of community colleges to address the skills needs of the country.”

Asked how she would make sure that teachers embraced the values and goals of the NDP, she said government had been working with all stakeholders in education to convince them to come on board with Vision 2030.

“Teachers are no exception and have embraced all the initiatives I have already mentioned through continuous consultation and engagement with the various teacher unions in the sector.”

Motshekga said that there were no major obstacles to the implementation of the NDP.

“Through consultation and hard work we have managed to overcome any obstacles encountered thus far. The Big Fast process we have embarked upon is making ICT a reality in education.”

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