Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has announced 11 priorities that her department will focus on for the 2019 medium-term strategic framework.
Motshekga delivered her budget speech in Parliament on Tuesday where she listed — among some of the department’s priorities — improving reading and maths for learners in early grades, the implementation of the two years of early childhood development before grade 1, the decolonisation of basic education, the implementation of a grade 9 exit certificate and developing new ways of dealing with the delivery of school infrastructure.
Motshekga said the department will work at making sure that learners in early grades are able to learn to read, write and do mathematics.
“Although there are various factors affecting high school children that may trigger dropping out of school, the evidence shows that the root cause … is inadequate learning foundations.”
Motshekga said this — among other priorities — would be achieved by implementing a primary school reading improvement programme that would help improve the quality of teaching home language literacy as well as English as a first additional language. Motshekga said the department will launch reading clubs and hold reading competitions as a way to encourage learners to read. And that by the end of the 2019-20 financial year the department would have adopted a national reading plan for primary schools.
Motshekga said work had already begun to introduce the General Education Certificate before the grade 12 exit qualification. The department first made mention of the grade 9 exit certificate in 2015, and in her budget speech, Motshekga said that the field trial for the exit certificate will be completed by the end of July next year. She added that the assessment and examination modalities for the certificate were being investigated and that the technical-occupational subjects have been packaged and submitted to Umalusi for approval.
Motshekga also said the decolonisation of basic education would happen through the teaching and promotion of African languages, South African and African history, and national symbols to all learners up to grade 12. Rigorous teacher training would happen as the sector ushers in the introduction of the new history curriculum, and that the introduction of compulsory history would be phased in from grade 10 to 12. A ministerial task team established by Motshekga released a report last year recommending that history should be a compulsory subject.
The minister also said the provision and maintenance of infrastructure remains one of the key priorities for the sector.
Motshekga has had to face-off with lobby group Equal Education in court several times over the poor delivery of school infrastructure, particularly in rural provinces such as the Eastern Cape.
In July last year, the Bhisho high court ordered Motshekga to meet the infrastructure targets that the state had set itself to fix public schools through the norms and standards for school infrastructure.
“To improve the delivery of infrastructure, we will be revisiting the delivery model for school infrastructure projects, to save on the cost of providing education infrastructure, and to improve contract management processes with our implementing agents and service providers,” said Motshekga, adding that the department would also look at alternative ways of funding the provision of school infrastructure and would also ramp up the department’s maintenance programme.