IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF BASIC EDUCATION
Government has prioritised the improvement of the quality of basic education as Outcome 1 of a total of 12 outcomes representing the top priorities of government. It has been acknowledged that the schooling system has been performing below its potential and improving basic education outcomes is a prerequisite for the country’s long-range development goals.
A Delivery Agreement has been concluded between key partners that are responsible for the achievement of Outcome 1: Improving the Quality of Basic Education. It stipulates the activities to be undertaken to produce the mutually agreed-upon outputs, which in turn will contribute to achieving the desired outcome.The signatories to this agreement are the national Minister of Basic Education, the national Deputy Minister of Basic Education, the nine provincial Members of the Executive Council for Education (education MECs) and an additional 17 Ministers whose departments have a direct or indirect role to play in the improvement of basic education. Their work is, however, dependent on good relations and ongoing collaboration with many organisations, a selection of which includes;
- The teacher unions;
- Organisations representing school governing bodies;
- Non-government organisations and faith-based organisations working with schools;
- Organisations representing the business sector; and
- Labour unions in general.
The following statutory bodies and parastatals are also essential for achieving this outcome;
- Umalusi, also known as the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training
- South African Council for Educators (SACE)
- Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC)
- The universities
- ETDP SETA (Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority)
- Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC); and
- Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
The Delivery Agreement is based on the following four outputs;
Output 1: Improve the quality of teaching and learning
This output is informed by the pressing need to improve the quality of teaching and learning. If this happens, not only will learners know more at the end of each school year, they are also more likely to remain in school for longer.
Output 2: Undertake regular assessment to track progress
There has been insufficient measurement of the quality of teaching and learning below Grade 12. It is envisaged that Annual National Assessments will improve and become a cornerstone of quality improvements in South Africa’s schools, providing important information on learning and its context to teachers, parents, district officials and the country as a whole.
Output 3: Improve early childhood development (ECD)
Output 3 is based on evidence pointing to the importance of pre-Grade 1 schooling in improving learning outcomes throughout primary and secondary schooling. Essentially, if children are given a good educational foundation early in life, they find it easier to learn beyond Grade 1. The task of improving the quality of Grade R and ECD generally will extend beyond 2014.
Output 4: Ensure a credible, outcomes-focused planning and accountability system
This output emphasises the need to make schooling more accountable. It is necessary to know where under-performance occurs and the underlying reasons for this so that timely and well-targeted interventions can occur. The logic is that neither poor performance nor outstanding performance should go unnoticed.These four outputs also have eight sub-outputs, namely;
- Improve teacher capacity and practices
- Increase access to high quality learning materials
- Establish a world class system of standardised national assessments
- Extract key lessons from ongoing participation in international assessments
- Universalise access to Grade R
- Improve the quality of early childhood development
- Strengthen school management and promote functional schools; and
- Strengthen the capacity of district offices.
The sub-outputs relate to the 27 goals of the Action Plan to 2014: Towards the realisation of Schooling 2025, which is a long-term plan for transforming basic education in South Africa. This way, through the relation between sub-outputs and the 27 goals, the Delivery Agreement is linked to the Action Plan.
The Provincial Context
The focus on Quality Basic Education demonstrates the Free State Government’s intention to deal with the failure of many schools to produce learners with good quality education through teaching and learning within the classroom. The Free State pass rate of 70.7 % in the 2010 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations represents The 2010 pass rate represents an improvement of 1.3% in contrast to the decline of 2.4% when the results went down from 71.8% in 2008 to 69.4% in 2009. Analysis of learner performance at Grades 1 to 9, confirms that further critical interventions on basic education is required.
Improving Quality Basic Education is a critical outcome priority seeking to drive improvements in literacy and numeracy of Grade 3, 6 and 9 within the schooling system. The improvement in literacy and numeracy will be supported by concentrated efforts to ensure that teachers and learners are in class for at least 7 hours each school day. Both these outputs are strongly supported by improving teacher quality and a system to enhance management of schools by principals and their management teams.
It is predicted that by ensuring a good education environment for teaching and learning, principals will be able to keep their teaching staff responsible and accountable for the provision of quality basic education.Moreover, a focus on Quality Basic Education contributes to ensuring higher curriculum completion levels and increased teacher attendance, which results in better learning at the school level. This will also ensure increased availability of Learner-Teacher Support Materials and standardised lesson plans that reduce teacher inconsistency and mitigate low teacher quality; a strong focus on literacy and numeracy is an important building block in establishing an educational foundation for learning.
Improved literacy and numeracy at schools are particularly important to improve overall levels of literacy in society, which will not only results in social benefits, but improved numeracy and literacy levels that will reduce dropouts and grade repetition and thus increase efficiency of the educational system.The outcome priority of quality basic education also confirms the importance of the need for teachers to be professionally supported and managed through providing leadership in pedagogy, classroom management, good curricula, teacher training, and assessment systems.