Western Cape to continue improving on improvements in education

Cathy Labuschagne MPP

DA Western Cape Spokesperson for Education

The Standing Committee on Education today was briefed by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) on school readiness, the results of the 2013 National Senior Certificate and plans to improving in literacy and numeracy.

As Chair of the committee and DA spokesperson for Education in the Western Cape I’m overall pleased with what the Department presented yesterday.

School readiness

Despite efforts by the department to encourage parents to enrol their children early, not all children were accommodated when the schools opened in January. The department reported to the standing committee that their staff  have been working tirelessly to ensure that all eligible learners are enrolled in school. Those that have not or were not placed by beginning of this year either applied to schools within too short a period of time, or are new residents of the Province.

As such, the department stated that it would launch its 2015 enrolment campaign even earlier than it did last year to ensure that enrolments are timeous. Last year’s enrolment campaign ran from April till October.

The department also stated that they are tracking learner enrolment on a daily basis and, through their corps of officials, addressing requests for assistance by parents.

The Province’s education system has experienced enormous growth over the past five years. The number of enrolments in the Province is close to a million, with enrolments in schools having increased by 28 per cent since 2009. Ensuring that the increase of learners in the Province will be adequate catered for given subject preferences and medium of instruction requirements is by no means a science.

Migration into the Province by learners from other provinces affects budgets, resource provisioning and management of the whole system and while this is not unique to the Western Cape, it results in the WCED having to perform under shifting terrain.

However, the WCED has ensured that it has the means to ensure the system can absorb arrivals of learners to the Province.

I trust that whatever provisions are made by the WCED, now and in the future, will not exclude any family or learner wanting to enrol in the Western Cape.

2013 National Senior Certificate

The National Senior Certificate (matric) saw the Western Cape achieve the highest number of Bachelor’s Degree passes in the country. 3158 more matriculants from 2013 will leave school with the possibility of furthering their education at university.

The WCED in the committee also reiterated the strict measures it has placed on those tasked with marking matric papers. The Western Cape is currently the only province to have instituted competency testing for examination markers in 10 subjects, from Geography to History to Mathematics and Physical Sciences.

This is done to ensure that all matric candidates’ papers are marked not just correctly, but accurately.

The Province prioritises increasing the number of candidates passing, and passing with quality results, or bachelors entrance, and this will not change in 2014.

Improvements in literacy and numeracy

Last night I attended the 2013 Language and mathematics award ceremony which honoured the top achieving schools in the province for their performance in the WCED’s annual language and mathematics tests. The categories of the awards are broken down as follows:

  • Overall Excellence in Outcomes
  • Excellence of outcomes in Language
  • Excellence of outcomes in Mathematics
  • Overall Excellence in Outcomes: Independent Schools
  • Overall improvement in outcomes

The feedback I received last night at the awards from those that attended was largely positive. Teachers and schools feel motivated by the incentives that the WCED have made available to schools that perform well in these annual tests.

In 2009, the DA-led Government made a commitment to address the inadequacies in literacy and numeracy levels in the province.

The literacy and numeracy (LITNUM) strategy by the WCED aims to produce fully literate and numerate learners as required, not only by the demands of achieving a school qualification, but also that of everyday life.

This commitment extends to the WCED’s literacy and numeracy improvement plan of which systemic testing is key to gauging the success of intervention in these underperforming areas of general schooling. Tackling poor performance by learners in literacy and numeracy will not happen overnight and much hard work lies ahead, but the Province has a plan.

Draft Provisional Plan

The WCED draft provincial improvement plan will focus on firstly, analysing literacy and numeracy levels through both the Annual National Assessment (ANA) and the province’s own systemic assessments in Grades 3, 6 & 9 and act on these results accordingly.

Secondly, ensure schools set and submit targets online. Thirdly, monitor, system wide, the implementation of the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS). Fourthly, train educators in maths and science by external specialists. Fifthly, develop formal assessment tasks (FATs) to grades 1 – 9 and issue them to schools as well as create a baseline assessment for grade 8 learners. Sixthly train subject advisors in Maths and Languages to ensure quality support.

Seventhly, ensure that resources are well provisioned. This includes giving each learner the required materials from textbooks, to kits as well as workbooks.

Lastly, encourage the formation of subject communities.

From 2014 beyond

Education is key to the development of any young person. This poses serious challenges especially for a country as a complex and set apart as ours. What I can say is that over the past five years I’ve seen what can be achieved when provincial departments are pushed to achieve results, when the combination of political will and the drive for excellence combine. We’re not looking for short term victories, but long term successes. We want to improve the Province as a whole and to do this, the DA pledges to continue ensuring that education is the cornerstone of creating an open opportunity society for all.