Speech by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, delivered during the Debate of the 2023 State of the Nation Address – Joint Sitting
His Excellency the President of the RSA, Mr Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa;His Excellency, the Deputy President of RSA, Mr David Mabuza;The Honorable Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly;The Honourable Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP;Leaders of the different political parties;The Whips of the National Assembly and the NCOP;My Cabinet colleagues and Deputy Ministers, Honourable Members of the National Assembly and NCOP.
Today, I address you in full support of the State of the Nation Address (SONA), as delivered by His Excellency, President Ramaphosa in this august House last Tuesday evening.
Speaker, allow me to quote from the February 2021 publication by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), which succinctly summarises “the role of education in economic development” as follows –
“Education in every sense, is one of the fundamental factors of development. No country can achieve sustainable economic development, without substantial investment in human capital. Education enriches people’s understanding of themselves and the world. It improves the quality of their lives, and leads to broad social benefits to individuals and society. Education raises people’s productivity and creativity; and promotes entrepreneurship and technological advances. In addition, [education] plays a very crucial role in securing economic and social progress and improving income distribution”.
Therefore, access to, retention in, as well as inputs and outputs of a quality and equitable education system, are the critical determinants of strategic and structured developments of the socio-political economy of any country. This reality is indisputable in developed as well as developing worlds. South Africa is no exception to this cardinal rule.
We are keenly aware of the improvements we have made in schools, the majority of which serve learners from our poorest communities and rural areas. We, however, concede that more needs to be done – to contribute the skills, knowledge, competencies, innovation, creativity, and attitudes that will build our nation. We need to press through with eliminating the injustice of learning poverty, that too many of our children are exposed to in the early Grades.
The Ruling Party was correct in declaring education as a societal matter. Therefore, laying a solid foundation for an equitable, quality and efficient education system and providing permanent solutions to the architecture of the education and training system of our country, had to be placed at the helm of our work. It is important to acknowledge the work done and contributions made by those involved in our work. This includes Government departments at both national and provincial levels, business, researchers and academics, organised labour, the Sector’s statutory bodies, civil society organisations; and at the school level, the principals, teachers, school governing bodies – in particular, parents and learners.
Speaker, we can report that, our basic education system, is indeed a system on the rise, a fact that has recently been recognised by the World Economic Forum in its exposé “Countries with the best education systems in Africa”. From amongst the African countries, South Africa was rated as the 4th top country after Mauritius, Tunisia and Seychelles.
Demystifying the examination results of the Class of 2022
Speaker, the President did congratulate the Class of 2022 for their remarkable pass rate of 80.1% in the face of the devastation brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. When we announced the results achieved by the Class of 2022, we did allude to some challenges this Class; and the interventions we had to introduce with all our Sector stakeholders. We must congratulate the Class of 2022 for the fortitude and determination they displayed.
Speaker, at the outset, we must remind this House that the Matric Class of 2022, entered Grade 1 in 2011. The tracking data of this Class, poignantly illustrate an increased retention rate from the one point one eight (1.18) million learners in Grade 1 in 2011, to seven hundred and seventy five thousand (775 000), who accessed Grade 12 in 2022. This equates to a retention rate of 65.7%. Bearing in mind that learners after Grade 9, are able to branch off, and attend TVET Colleges and other skills development programmes. The DBE is ceased with the assignment of establishing the numbers of learners who branch off to the skill development programmes of their choice, after completing Grade 9.
The Class of 2022 produced the second highest pass rate in numbers, achieved since the introduction of the National Senior Certificate examinations fifteen (15) years ago. Other than the 80.1% pass rate, there are clear features of the 2022 examination results, we wish to invite Honourable Members to explore in the 2022 examination results technical reports posted in the DBE websites. The full technical report contains amongst others, information on progressed learners, gender differentiation, learners with special needs, learners from different areas, subject-by-subject performance and school-by-school results.
Speaker, I thought that I should also briefly speak to the nation about the much-touted a pass rate of 30%, which repeatedly arises over the years, close to the date of the official release of the NSC exam results. Let me make it as unequivocally clear as I can, the 30% is not a pass mark in this country is plainly a fallacy. If any candidate gets an aggregate of 30% in all subjects written, that candidate will surely fail. The real NSC pass requirements are as follows –
Admission to Bachelor Studies – a candidate must obtain at least 40% for the candidate’s Home Language (this is compulsory); must obtain at least 50% for the candidate’s four (4) other subjects, excluding Life Orientation; must obtain at least 30% in the language of learning and teaching of the Higher Education Institution, and for one (1) other subject; and must pass at least six (6) of the seven (7) subjects. The two hundred and seventy eight thousand, eight hundred and fourteen (278 814) candidates, who obtained Bachelor passes, meet these requirements. These Bachelor passes are equivalent to 38.4% of the total number of passes during the 2022 NSC exams. By the way Speaker, the 2022 Bachelor passes in number, are the highest attained in the entire history of the NSC exams.Admission to Diploma Studies – must obtain at least 40% for the candidate’s Home Language (this is compulsory); must obtain at least 40% for three (3) of other subjects, excluding Life Orientation; must obtain at least 30% for the language of learning and teaching of the Higher Education Institution, and in one (1) other subject; and must pass at least six (6) of the seven (7) subjects. The one hundred and ninety three thousand, and three hundred and fifty seven (193 357) candidates, who obtained passes with Diploma met these pass requirements. These passes with Diploma are equivalent to 12.9% of the total passes during the 2022 NSC exams.
Of significance, is the 65.1% combined Bachelor and Diploma passes, against the total passes during the 2022 NSC exams – again the highest combined passes by number and percentage, since the introduction of the NSC examinations fifteen (15) years ago.
Pass with Higher Certificate – a candidate must obtain at least 40% for the candidate’s Home Language (this is compulsory); must obtain; must obtain at least 40% for two (2) other subjects; must obtain at least 30% for three (3) other subjects; and must pass at least six (6) of the seven (7) subjects. The one hundred and eight thousand, one hundred and fifty nine (108 159) candidates met the requirements of passes with Higher Certificate. These passes with Higher Certificate are equivalent to 14.9% of the total passes during the 2022 NSC exams.Pass with National Senior Certificate – a candidate must at least obtain 40% for the candidate’s Home Language (this is compulsory); must obtain at least 40% in two (2) other subjects; must obtain at least 30% for three (3) other subjects; and must pass at least six (6) out of seven (7) subjects. Again Speaker, the one hundred and seventeen (117), candidates who passed with a National Senior Certificate, met these pass requirements. By the way, only one in a hundred (0.01%) of total number of candidates, who wrote the 2021 NSC examinations, passed with a National Senior Certificate.
Speaker, we wish to inform South Africans, that the Council of Education Ministers (CEM), has agreed to do a comparative analysis of provincial performances, using a basket of indicators, comprising the overall provincial pass rate as a percentage, percentage performance in critical subjects, such as Accounting, Mathematics, Physical Science, and Technical Mathematics, percentage participation rates in Mathematics, percentage Bachelor passes achieved, percentage passes with distinctions, as well as the percentage throughput ratios from Grade 1 to Grade 12.
An analysis of provincial performances, using the basket of indicators, showed interest results. None of the provinces was found to be dominating the other provinces, as is the case with the simple statistical analysis of the results. The analysis of performance using the basket of indicators, confirmed that provinces have something to learn from each other; and that provincial performances can transcend the geopolitical location and the socio-economic background of any province. We will continue the analysis of results using the basket of indicators, to confirm, where possible, the equitability of quality education provisioning in the country.
We also wish to inform the public on the latest innovation we are currently piloting. To better understand the learning trajectory from primary to secondary schools, a Systemic Evaluation (SE) study is currently in Grades 3, 6 and 9 – the exit points of the Foundation, Intermediate and Senior Phases, respectively, I been piloted. The Systemic Evaluation study will add to the current Grade 12 NSC examination results; and give a more comprehensive picture on South African schooling. Within this framework, the Department has taken initial steps towards the introduction of a General Education Certificate (GEC) this year – a commitment that was made in 1995 by our democratic Government in the very first White Paper on Education and Training, Government Notice No.196 of 1995.
The GEC is seen as an important and progressive qualification that will improve career pathing, employability and reduce dropout rates of South African youth. It allows for learners after 10 years of schooling – from Grade R to Grade 9, to be recognised for their levels of curriculum attainment, general capabilities, and talents through the issuing of a report card or certificate. To achieve this goal, the proposed assessment model has been designed to integrate 21st century skills and competencies into School-Based Assessment (SBA); standardised curriculum tests, and through an inclination (or talent) assessment. Information and scores from these components, will be used to generate a report card, reflecting a holistic dashboard of learner’s skills, competencies, and capabilities.
The Department has consulted broadly with Basic Education Sector stakeholders, partners, and experts on the most appropriate model for the GEC; and public comments have been considered in amending the draft policy. During 2022, about three hundred (300) schools had participated in the GEC pilot, with a further up-scaled roll-out, planned for this year. In 2024, all schools will be participating in the roll-out of the GEC.
Speaker, I wish to reflect on a few programmes that are critical for this Debate. More details on these programmes will be presented during our 2023/24 Budget Vote. Honourable Members are also encouraged to browse through our policy documents and programmes posted in our DBE websites.
Increasing support and the development of early learning for all children
When we invest in building the brightest future for our children, we invest in building the strongest future for our country. We know now more than ever, that to set free the talents of our children, the right foundations must be in place from the early years. Early Childhood Development (ECD) is indeed such a priority, so that millions more children, can achieve the best possible early learning and development outcomes of the best quality.
In preparation for the relocation of ECD from the Department of Social Development, the DBE embarked on two data collection exercises to enable evidence-based policymaking in the ECD Sector. The first activity was the 2021 ECD Census, found that there are currently forty two thousand, four hundred and twenty (42 420) ECD programmes, providing early learning programmes to about one point seven (1.7) million children point two. StatsSA’s household survey indicates there are about seven point two (7.2) million children of the 0-5 age group in the country. This means that five point five (5.5) million children, who are 0-5 year-olds, are out of the ECD net. We therefore have an arduous task to ramping up access to ECD programmes.
The second exercise was the 2021 Thrive by Five Index, the largest survey of pre-school development in South Africa. Children were assessed in three areas widely accepted as being predictive of a child’s performance in school. These areas are early learning, physical growth, and social emotional functioning. This report found that 65% of children fail to Thrive by Five; which means 55% of our children are not able to do learning tasks expected of children of their age; with 28% falling far behind; 25.1% showing long term signs of malnutrition; 27.5% not meeting the standard emotional functioning; and 33.4% not meeting the emotional readiness of their age.
These two exercises highlighted the dual challenge facing the DBE in expanding access to ECD, while at the same time improving the quality of ECD delivery. South Africa will not realise its development goals of eliminating income poverty, and reducing inequality without addressing these challenges that young children face in their earliest years.
Since receiving the ECD function, the DBE has been focussing on stabilising ECD provisioning, as well as developing the necessary systems and regulatory framework to formalise and regulate the ECD Sector. This means, recognising what currently obtains, and moving toward renewing the delivery model that will allow us to streamline the forty two thousand, four hundred and twenty (42 420) ECD programmes. The objective is to increase access to ECD programmes for all children, and to ensure redress and inclusivity in access to ECD programmes. Streamlining these ECD programmes, will result into develop a delivery model, which will be more manageable delivery model which is viable to support is of critical importance, given the current Government resources and capacity. The viability of this service delivery model will be piloted over the next few years through model ECD programmes in provinces. We have been interacting with the Ministries of Education in Denmark, Finland, and Cuba to learn from international best practices in delivering ECD programmes. A study visit to the Seychelles is being planned.
Speaker, the Department, in collaboration with the World Bank, the National Treasury, the Department of Health, and the Department of Social Development conducted a Public Expenditure and Institutional Review (PEIR). The purpose of the review, is to determine the extent to which spending across various departments and spheres of Government, is aligned with the ECD priority outcomes. This report provides recommendations to address the institutional constraints faced by the ECD Sector, and proposes enabling strategies to strengthen public financial management, policy coordination and service delivery.
The Department is also focussing on strengthening legislation in the ECD Sector. An inter-sectoral task team, comprising the Department of Social Development, the Department of Cooperative Governance, SALGA, and ECD sector experts have redrafted the Children’s Amendment Bill of 2023 to strengthen coordination in the ECD Sector; as well as to streamline the regulatory framework. This Bill will be taken for public consultation over the next year.
Efforts to address Early Grade Reading
A central Government priority is that children should learn to read with an adequate level of comprehension by Grade 4, or the age of ten. We know from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) of 2016 that most children do not yet reach this threshold. But we also know that the situation has improved since the previous PIRLS assessments of 2011 and 2006. This improvement has been at least partly attributed to increases in the availability and use of reading materials in South African classrooms, especially since the rollout of the DBE Workbook Programme.
Working in more than four hundred (400) schools in the North-West and Mpumalanga, the Department has been piloting and evaluating innovative ways to support teachers in the teaching of reading. Based on the evidence from these evaluations, the President has already signaled Government’s plan to expand the provision of an Early Grade Reading Programme, that includes a minimum package of reading support materials, and professional support to teachers.
The DBE has recently led the development of reading benchmarks in all the African languages. This will enable everyone in the Sector, including teachers, to track progress in the acquisition of those early reading skills, which need to be developed in Grades 1, 2 and 3, to be able to read for meaning by Grade 4. Importantly, these benchmarks have been developed in and for each African language. The emphasis in the DBE’s work is on Home Language, since the skills of reading are best learned in a learner’s Home Language, and can then be transferred to any Additional Language. For this reason, the Primary School Reading Improvement Programme (PSRIP), which was initially supporting English as a First Additional Language, is now shifting towards reading in Home Language.
To strengthen the quality of support available to teachers, the Department has been providing training to Subject Advisors and Departmental Heads on the early identification of learning barriers. Teachers have also been provided with the Early Grade Reading Assessment tool (EGRA), which helps teachers to better understand the reading progress of their learners. To mobilise parents and communities in the reading development of their children, the DBE continues to implement the Read to Lead Campaign and also want to assure South Africans that there is a reading improvement framework, which guides the different initiatives the sector is involved in.
Education outcome improvements and areas requiring strengthening.
Basic Education has made significant inroads regarding Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). We have introduced 21st century, workplace relevant new curricula, such as Coding and Robotics, Marine Sciences; and we are intensely engaged with the development of an Aviation and Aerospace Curriculum, in collaboration with the Department of Transport, SA National Space Agency, and a host of academics and Aviation sector agencies.
The DBE has introduced nineteen (19) new subjects to the curriculum, to expose teachers and learners to a range of skills and competencies which will equip them for the 21st century, with an emphasis on innovation and lifelong learning. Teachers and learners will be able to respond to emerging technologies, including the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. We are training teachers on Coding and Robotics as part of the skills for a changing world.
Despite some challenges regarding the implementation of the Technical Vocational Stream, we now have established nine excellent quality Technical sub-specialisations, from Digital Systems to Automotive and Civil Technologies. Not only has the performance in Technical Mathematics and Technical Science improved markedly, participation is on the increase, although not at the levels we want them to be.
The first cohort of Grade 12 candidates, sat for the 2021 NSC examinations in Marine Sciences. Since the beginning of the pilot implementation for Grade 10 learners in 2019, there are now over three hundred (300) Grades 10 and 11 learners, who have enrolled for studies in Marne Sciences as of 2021. The quality of this world-first curriculum offering, has been commended by South African and international academics and experts, as outstanding.
A draft Aviation Curriculum (Academic Stream), and a framework for Vocational and Occupational disciplines, were provided to the Department of Transport, to assist in determining the type of curriculum areas that must be covered by curriculum writers. The Department of Transport is advertising a tender for curriculum developers for conceptualising Practical Assessment Tasks (PATs).
Education for the changing world, and the Three-Stream Curriculum Model pathways
It has been six years, since the DBE started a conceptual framework that would inform the introduction of two additional streams, namely the technical-vocational and technical-occupational streams. By this, the DBE seeks to contribute to the improvement of quality learning outcomes, and the reduction in the learner dropout rates; while responding to the vision and targets set out in the NDP, that of addressing the skills gap, and reducing the growing unemployment rate among young South Africans. We are making steady progress with the introduction of the Three-Streams Curriculum Model. This heralds a fundamental strengthening of the technical-vocational and technical-occupational education.
Other developments, include the establishment of partnerships with business and industry, given the resource-intensive nature of the Programme. Here, mention can be made of the partnership between the DBE and Ford Foundation South Africa, through which, a donation of two hundred and forty (240) engines, was made to the DBE. These engines were distributed to schools that are offering the Automotive specialisation. The DBE has furthermore commenced with the development of the Three-Streams Curriculum Model Funding Framework, as a vehicle to mobilise the much-needed funding, including in-kind funding from industry and other partners.
Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI)
The Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI), implemented in the Basic Education Sector, forms an important part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus (PES); and it remains a flagship programme for the Presidential Employment Stimulus programme. The National Treasury approved funding for the Basic Education Sector to implement the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI). Since its inception in December 2020, the PYEI has created about eight hundred and fifty thousand (850 000) job opportunities. By the end of Phase IV, which began this month, the PYEI would contribute more than one (1.1) million job opportunities for young people.
Closing the infrastructure gap – Progress and Challenges
The upgrading and maintenance of school infrastructure remain a key priority. For this reason, we are looking at different ways of dealing with this serious challenge which amongst others, include changing the framework for the Education Infrastructure Grant, the delivery model for different types of structures, etc. We will be giving a dedicated report back on infrustructure in education, because infrastructure delivery, has become one of our most seriously challenging area.
The DBE, working together with its provincial counterparts, has built three hundred and fifteen (315) new schools; completed water supply projects at one thousand, two hundred and fifty nine (1 259) schools and electricity supply projects at three hundred and seventy three (373) schools.
With regard to sanitation, two thousand, five hundred (2 500) schools, have been supplied with age-appropriate sanitation facilities through the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) programme.
But despite all these activities, just to deal with overcrowding only – and not maintenance, repairs, renovations required in our schools, by last December we had estimated an urgent need for additional classrooms. We would also agree that class size is another important determent for quality teaching and learning; and overcrowding just simply undermines this process.
Addressing social ills in our schools, such as bullying, gender-based violence (GBV), child pregnancy, alcohol, and drug peddling
On 26 January 2023, President Ramaphosa addressed the Basic Education Lekgotla, and called on all of us in the Sector to institutionalise Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) as a tool to improve learner outcomes. This recognises that quality education can only be achieved if learners and teachers are safe and healthy, and if schools are caring and conducive spaces, free from violence, abuse, and harm. Our schools must be safe, weapons-free, substance-free spaces for learners and teachers, where corporal punishment, sexual abuse, gender-based violence, homophobia, racism, substance abuse and bullying are not tolerated.
The National School Safety Framework remains our strategic response to violence, bullying and abuse in schools. The Framework calls on all stakeholders in schools – management, teachers, unions, parents, learners, and communities to work together to make schools safe and drug-free spaces, where all learners can learn and thrive. We will continue to work closely with the South African Police Services and community organisations to improve safety in all our schools.
Adolescent girls and young women remain the most vulnerable cohort in our schools and in society. Girls face complex and serious challenges, including HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, rape, abuse, and early and unintended pregnancy. Whilst we have significantly reduced adolescent fertility rates over the last few decades, the numbers of early and unintended pregnancies amongst adolescent girls and young women, remain unacceptably high. The consequences of early pregnancy to society, and the lives of young women and girls, are often devastating. About a third of girls, who fall pregnant, do not return to school; and are then vulnerable to further pregnancies; they have compromised health outcomes and higher mortality rates during childbirth; and their lack of access to education, leads to the creation of poverty traps for families and communities.
The DBE, working with other Government departments and partners, will continue to work and support young women and girls in schools. We will continue to strengthen the implementation of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in all our schools. There are too many young people, who receive false and confusing information about relationships, sexuality, and adolescence as they transition to adulthood. Comprehensive Sexuality Education is the right of all young people to equip themselves, to make informed decisions about sexuality and relationships; and enable them to safely navigate a world of online bullying, sexual abuse, HIV/ AIDS and early pregnancies.
I am reminded of the words of Nelson Mandela in 2007 when he said, “It is not beyond our power to recreate a world in which all children have access to quality education. Those who do not believe this, have small imaginations…”
Speaker in conclusion, there is no doubt that the Basic Education system has begun to reach the desired stability; which is healthy for a large and important system as ours. The unquestionable resilience our school community has shown, against such a devastating pandemic, the persistent loadshedding, and sporadic service delivery protests, cannot go by unnoticed. Clearly, the system cannot survive without the direct involvement of all communities of trust, not only those who are part of the Sector, but everyone.
The Class of 2022 has clearly demonstrated that with all requisite support and intervention programmes, we can make it. We must prioritise our interventions on teaching and learning losses. Support and intervention programmes must be implemented across the system. Early Childhood Development is with us now. Therefore, the foundations of learning must be strengthened from ECD, right through the system. With our concerted efforts, we can make and reach new performance heights in national, continental, and international assessment studies.
Steadily but surely, we are improving the throughput as well as the retention rates within our system. An analysis of the internal system efficiency also demonstrates that we are not only improving the retention rates, by reducing dropout and repetition rates, but we are improving the quality and equality of teaching and learning outcomes.
The quality performance of the three most rural provinces in the county, cannot go by unnoticed. We wish to congratulate the executive and management leaders, the teachers, the parents, the learners, and other communities of trust, who have made the improvements in our three most rural provinces possible.
With the undivided focus of foundations of learning, with the support and intervention programmes rolled-out in our schools, with the teacher development programmes delivered to all our teachers, with strengthened and structured monitoring and evaluation oversight of the entire system, we will surely turn the learning losses unceremoniously brought to us by the pandemic, the incessant loadshedding, and the service delivery protests, into fortunes that we can all be proud of.
Speaker, as a Sector, we must continue to expend our energies on our Sector priorities. We must continue with the consolidation of ECD programmes; we must ramp-up the performance in all the four Phases of our schooling system; we must continue to improve the reading proficiency and numeracy of our learners; we must work harder but smarter with all our partners to consolidate the gains we have made in the Skills Revolution through the Three-Stream Curriculum Model and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, amongst others; we must continue to strengthen the assessment regime of the system; we must do whatever it takes to ensure and protect the labour peace in our sector treating each other with utmost respect, responsibility and accountability at all times.
I thank you!!