Matric class of 2017 shows marked improvement
The National Development Plan places education as a significant lever of change in the fight against poverty, past inequities and inequalities, and a critical driver of development in the new South Africa, hence education is an apex priority. Given the potential multiplicity of its impact on the lives of the poor, it stands to reason that education and training in the Eastern Cape must make significant changes in the lives of the youth of the province.
This is the context in which the department is presenting the 2017 matric results. I am happy to announce that the matric class of 2017 improved the Eastern Cape National Senior Certificate (NSC) results by a whopping 5.7%, from 59.3% in 2016 to 65% in 2017. This is the third consecutive year of matric results improving in the Eastern Cape.
These improvements must be seen in the context of a system-wide Education System Transformation Plan (ESTP) that was adopted by the executive council and implemented in January 2016. The strategic thrust of the plan is to maximise opportunities of learners achieving a good pass in the NSC while improving performance in the whole system.
Two strategic levers of the ESTP had significant impact on the final outcome of the 2017 matric results, and these are:
In 2017 the department took extraordinary steps to ensure that basic requirements for effective teaching are in place by ensuring that:
Secondly, special interventions are deliberately designed to enrich teaching and learning at school level, and these include:
2017 matric results
Overall pass rate
In 2017, the department fielded 67 648 learners who wrote all subjects, and 43 981 passed the NSC examinations at required levels. This brought the pass rate up to 65%.
The number of bachelor passes increased from 19% in 2016 to 23% in 2017, representing a 4% increase. This is a phenomenal improvement on previous years, as the proportion of learners obtaining a bachelor pass has not surpassed 20% since 2014.
Of the 39 subjects written in the Eastern Cape, only 12 were declined. These were small enrolment subjects (except for accounting and business studies). Commendable improvements were registered in the big enrolment subjects with:
Natural sciences took a new turn in performance improvement with:
Mathematics has somehow rewritten the mathematical sciences narrative; the Eastern Cape was the first province to field more mathematics learners than maths literacy learners and yet there was an improvement of 7.7%. Mathematics fielded 35 994 learners compared to 34 609 learners who wrote mathematical literacy.
Themba Kojana, superintendent general of the EC department of education
Languages, with the exception of Afrikaans and English, showed improvement with:
The number of candidates obtaining distinctions improved in 2017:
Two districts obtained an above 70% pass; eight districts obtained between a 60-69% pass mark, resulting in 10 of the 12 districts performing above 60%, with only two districts performing below 60%.
Four districts registered quality bachelor passes that surpassed the provincial average, these being:
The following districts had notably improved performances:
Schools performance percentiles have shown encouraging trends. The number of schools between the 10th and 50th percentile has dropped, while numbers between the 60th and 90th percentile have picked up. Here are the current trends on percentiles that dropped:
Percentiles that picked up are as follows;
The plan that worked
The implementation of the ESTP has taught us one important lesson; where there was a concerted effort at implementation of the plan, results tended to speak for themselves. What this means is that where we gave extra effort to the implementation we bore results.
Looking back at efforts undertaken through the ESTP, the inroads made were commendable. First is the stabilisation of head office and the appointment of a permanent head of department, supported by deputy directors general and chief directors. Second is the rollout of the new service delivery model and the subsequent establishment of 12 new education districts, each headed by a district director. If the current district performance trend is anything to go by, it will improve by even larger margins in 2018. More efforts will therefore go into consolidation of the 12 new districts.
Thirdly is the appointment of circuit managers and subject advisors to strengthen school management and curriculum leadership. Each circuit manager is responsible for 25 to 30 schools, thereby resulting in shorter cycles of decision-making and resolution of challenges at local level. Training and development programs are continuous to induct and capacitate appointed circuit managers and subject advisors.
Labour stability has improved enormously, with all structures operating within the legislated frameworks. The department has continued putting effort into building relationships with social partners, resulting in reference groups and joint task teams in a number of operational areas. We will continue building bridges for the sake of the African child.
School functionality improvement
In 2017 the department invested in management and leadership development of school principals, their deputies and heads of department as part of school functionality development. A number of programmes were designed and rolled out across the system, ranging from training and development to information management systems and improvement interventions. Theses included:
- Capacity development and training of 831 principals in data management, as part of the data-driven district management tool;
- 396 principals and 920 heads of department were trained in curriculum management and supervision as part of curriculum delivery improvement efforts;
- A new initiative focusing on the establishment of support networks for women principals across the 12 districts;
- Deployment of coaches and mentors to 163 underperforming schools as part of leadership development and support;
- Accountability sessions with underperforming FET school principals as part of school functionality development; and
The introduction of data management had a huge impact on the system as it allowed the department to disaggregate learner performance into trends and patterns that were useful for programming and targeting of performance improvement interventions. Data management at school level has subsequently improved, with 94% of our schools submitting results electronically by the end of term two in 2017.
Filling of vacancies
The stabilisation of the PPN (post provisioning norms) over the last three years has enabled the department to tackle a number of HR inefficiencies with ease, and this includes the filling of funded vacant posts. To prevent long cycles of schools with vacancies, the department delegated the appointment of PL1 teachers to district directors, and principal posts to cluster chief directors. This made it easy to fill funded vacant posts in schools. In 2017 the department issued a number of bulletins which were duly attended to by districts, these being:
Curriculum support systems
Streamlining curriculum offerings in secondary schools to improve output at certificate level was an urgent priority. Curriculum management guidelines were issued to schools to guide schools in the selection of winning subject combinations for grades 10 to 12. To support this effort, 90 posts of therapists were earmarked for all 12 districts, to give every learner a second chance in life by assessing learner capabilities in the early grades. To this end an “early learning disability detection” programme, in line with White Paper 6, was inaugurated.
Appointing subject advisors on merit will be a priority this year.
Protecting the teaching time
The department released a circular instructing schools to observe and adhere to teaching times as prescribed in national policy, pertaining to the programme and promotion requirements of the national curriculum statements.
The department also released a series of supplementary guidelines to all public schools to assist teachers with optimal utilisation of the prescribed teaching time per academic year. The guideline is the annual teaching plan for grades R-9 and grades 10-12 per subject per grade. The department supplemented this with posters, providing schools with an overview of the amount of work to be covered at various timelines of the academic year in line with Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (Caps) prescriptions, and the school terms.
An early warning system based on a provincial common examinations was launched in 2016 focusing on the 11 high enrolment subjects in grade 12, as well as common examinations for grades three, six and nine in the GET (general education and training) band. All performance improvement efforts in 2017 were informed by lessons learnt from March, June and September common examinations.
The last push
The department embarked upon a support program that encouraged schools to use every single bit of the last 100 days before the final examinations. The campaign was based on the following four assumptions:
2018 will be our last year of implementing the ESTP, and therefore we need to review and consolidate beyond it. Plans are already in place for the mainstreaming of best practices. Going forward the department has identified areas of special interest that deserve attention in 2018, and these are:
The key message from the class of 2017 is that the Eastern Cape is on the rise. Improvements made in 2017 must be seen in the light of interventions put in place to mitigate the impact of Caps curriculum complexities.
My gratitude goes out to the multitude of our teachers who continue to serve our nation heroically and selflessly. Despite countless difficulties our teachers have decided to stick to the profession, fulfilling their sacred duty of imparting knowledge and educating children.
Let me also extend a hand of acknowledgement to our parents, schools communities and our officials for their exceptional deeds of valour and sacrifice. They have always ensured that children are at school against all odds. A word of wisdom as we part ways.
Mandla Makupula is MEC for Education in the Eastern Cape