DA reveals ‘insulting’ figures on basic education dept

Only 41% of teachers currently meet required content knowledge levels, and only 61% of pupils have access to the required textbooks in all grades and in all subjects – these are just two of the figures revealed by the Democratic Alliance in a press release about the basic education department’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF). 

The figures, including the department’s targets for education delivery for 2019, were “insulting”, the DA’s shadow minister of basic education, Annette Lovemore said in the press release on Wednesday. 

It stated that: 

  • The average hours per year spent by teachers on professional development activities – currently around 39 – are to double to 70 by 2019. 
  • Percentage of teachers meeting required content knowledge levels after support: from 41% to around 55%. 
  • Percentage of learners having access to the required textbooks in all grades and in all subjects in class from 61% to 95% in 2019. This is despite the minister publicly committing to a textbook for every child in every subject in every grade by 2014. 
  • The department projects that 50% of grade R teachers will have the necessary qualifications by 2019. The department presented the plan to the basic education portfolio committee on Tuesday. 

Lovemore said the “department cannot argue that any higher reach would not be realistic. In effect, although the minister and the department’s sentiments in committing to quality education are commendable, there is little that is ‘big and fast’ about the approach.” 

But departmental spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, said that it was made clear by the department, at the meeting, that “the document was not to be quoted or taken as final because there were various processes that had to take place before the details and costs indicated could be confirmed … these plans were part of an internal process of aligning the projected targets with the Action Plan 2019, the MTSF, national development plan and ANC manifesto.” 

‘Raise spurious interpretations’
He said Lovemore was trying to “raise spurious interpretations of the integrity of our information systems and planning processes”. But nongovernmental organisation Equal Education said it supported the setting of reachable targets. 

“Of course 100% compliance should be the ultimate goal, but we support the DBE [basic education department] setting down targets that it thinks it might actually reach, and holding itself to those,” spokesperson Nombulelo Nyathela said. 

The mentality of expecting an overnight transformation can have perverse results, she said.  “For example, students are being held back from writing matric exams, or pushed out of maths and into maths literacy, in fear that they will deflate a school’s results.  

“We actually believe that slow progress is being made. Of course, this is not enough and we will not stop campaigning until 100% of students receive a quality education.”

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