Newsletter 258 - School Development & Improvement Planning 2006-2009 - PART 34
METRO CENTRAL EDUCATION DISTRICT
EDUCATION MINISTER’S SPEECH – FOUNDATION PHASE
Address by the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor
In line with the theme of the conference, we need to build a solid foundation for learning. Quality foundation-phase education is critical. It is within the foundation-phase grades, Grades R-3, that basic literacy, numeracy and life skills are developed and advanced. In the foundation-phase learners must learn how to read, write, count and calculate confidently and with understanding. Literacy, numeracy and life skills are the essential building blocks upon which future learning takes place.
? The average overall percentage score obtained by the learners in literacy was 36%, and
Although the average score in the 2007 survey was a little higher than the baseline 2001 result that was 30%, clearly the scores are still unacceptably low. Achievement of learners in numeracy and literacy varied in relation to the language in which they took the test, which coincided with the language of instruction. English and Afrikaans learners fared better, with average numeracy scores of 48% and 49% respectively, and average literacy scores of 43% and 48% respectively. African language mother tongue speakers had lower average scores. For example, for Siswati and Xitsonga learners, the average numeracy scores were 24% and 20% respectively. The average literacy score for both Siswati and Tshivenda learners was 26%.
Clearly, language issues impact on learner performance in literacy and numeracy. The total number of learners who performed excellently in either literacy or numeracy or both (achieving a score of 70% or above) was 5 439, and they constituted about 10 percent of the total sample. In a total of 148 schools (about 6 percent of the sample), performance was outstanding (learners achieved an average score of 70% or above) in either literacy or numeracy or both. Clearly, there are pockets of excellence' within the system and not only in quintile four and five schools. Grade 3 is the exit grade from the foundation-phase into the intermediate-phase. Low attainment levels in literacy and numeracy are unacceptable because they reduce chances of success in further education. The ability to calculate, the ability to write and the ability to read with comprehension enhance opportunities of success when pursuing learning beyond the foundation-phase.
This situation must change. While we acknowledge that the challenges we face are multiple and complex, it would be remiss of me to highlight the challenges we face in foundation-phase education without also highlighting how we, as a department, are creating opportunities to address these challenges in partnership with other key stakeholders in education.
Universal access to Grade R is a key objective for the Department. Already we have over 600,000 young children attending Grade R classes. We have committed ourselves to the provision of universal Grade R education by 2011. Our commitment is not only to provide physical access for all learners to Grade R classrooms, but also to ensure that these learners experience quality education in these classrooms. We have implemented a curriculum that is explicit about the skills and competencies that learners must develop at different grade levels. It clearly spells out the knowledge that needs to be acquired. At the foundation-phase it determines that reading; writing and calculating are core skills for learning and performing effectively. We recognise however, that teachers still struggle to translate the curriculum into good classroom practice.Teachers need support to implement the curriculum. Over the past four years, we have provided resources to schools, particularly the most disadvantaged schools, in the form of packs of reading books and reading toolkits, as a way of supporting teachers in the foundation-phase.
The Drop All and Read Campaign is more and more being recognised as the strategy for encouraging learner and teachers alike to take time to read.
The Ithuba Writing Project has produced nearly 2,4 million story books in languages that have previously been marginalised - stories that are authentic and authored by our own teachers.
These are some of the tools we want our teachers to use to more effectively implement the curriculum and so teach in ways that that will improve how learners perform. The Quality Improvement Development Support and Upliftment Programme (QUIDS UP) aims to improve the quality of literacy and numeracy teaching and learning through the adequate resourcing of all schools in poor areas commonly referred to as Quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools; through the development of effective management and leadership competence in schools, and through monitoring, evaluation and support at all levels of the system.
In addition, on 18 March 2008, the Department launched a flagship programme, the Foundations for Learning campaign. This is a four-year campaign to create a national focus to improve reading, writing and numeracy abilities of all South African children. Through the campaign, we hope to ensure that by 2011, all learners are able to demonstrate age-appropriate competence levels in literacy and numeracy. For instance, a specific target would be to ensure that by 2011, no learner performs at a level of less than 50% in the standardized grade 3 literacy and numeracy survey I referred to earlier.To achieve this, the Foundations for Learning campaign has established the following non-negotiables as issues that it will address:
? First, every classroom must have the appropriate resources for effective teaching . A list of basic resources is contained in the government gazette on this campaign published on 14 March 2008. Each school must ensure that every teacher has at least the basic minimum resources in the classroom.
Good education relies on the availability of good teachers. These are teachers who are themselves fully versed in the knowledge areas that learners must learn, and just as importantly, have a thorough knowledge of ways in which this knowledge can be learnt. We are struggling to attract African language students into foundation-phase initial teacher education programmes. Commentators have suggested that the low status associated with teaching in the foundation-phase is factor militating against the recruitment of sufficient teachers in this sector. If this is indeed the case, we need to come up with ways to challenge this perception.
However, we recognise that we still have a long way to go, and also that we must have the support of other role-players in the sector if we are to make more significant inroads into the challenges we face.
I trust that this conference will crystallise the issues that we must address in foundation-phase education, and start to provide the momentum towards working together for solutions that will benefit us all.
Here are some of the key questions that we should be asking.
? What are the practices that best suit our diverse learning contexts?
To my mind, these are some of the key questions that we must be asking. The invitation is clear and open. All of us need to work together to build and strengthen foundation-phase education in our country. I know that, together, we can ensure that every learner will have the opportunity for a better future.
The sites of learning under stewardship of principals, teachers and parents must teach every child - from the grasslands of Limpopo to the foothills of the Eastern Cape - to learn to read, write, count and calculate at levels that will provide solid foundations for further learning and allow them to operate effectively and competitively in a 21st century environment.
In 2008, about 750 full cost bursaries have been awarded to students who are specialising in the foundation-phase. These 750 constitute about 15% of the total number of bursaries granted in 2008. About 290 (39%) of these bursaries were granted to students who will be able to teach in an African language. In 2009, we want to increase the number allocated to these students significantly to 20% of the total allocation. This will translate into 1,500 new and returning foundation-phase students receiving Funza Luskhaka bursaries. Our ability to reach this target will rely on the success of the teacher recruitment campaign.