Minister Motshekga has denied withholding the 2013 report by the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) from public scrutiny. She has stated that “the said report is in actual fact a document that was made public from the time when the first report was released”. This statement is misleading. The first report was indeed released. It is the second report, produced a year after the first, which has not been released publicly, and could not possibly have been released at the time of the first report.
The second NEEDU report is entitled “Teaching and learning in rural primary schools”. The report has never appeared, and still does not appear, on the Department of Basic Education’s website. The Minister needs to explain exactly how she has made this report public.
We are aware that the event that was scheduled for June last year to launch the report was cancelled. I raised a parliamentary question on the report in October 2014. I asked when the Minister would make the report public. The reply stated: “The report will be issued on a date to be decided by the Minister”.
The second NEEDU report was followed by a third, which has also not been made public. The third report is entitled “Grade 5 Reading Study”, and was completed in 2013. In October 2014, in response to a parliamentary question, the Minister stated that: “The Minister will make the report public as soon as it has been processed through all the relevant structures in the Basic Education sector”. It is now 6 months later the report has not been made public.
All of the NEEDU reports are honest in their condemnation of the state of affairs in the education sector. The Minister has not interacted with the unit, as she proclaims, and she has chosen not to renew the contract of the CEO of NEEDU. Dr Nick Taylor is just too honest for her liking.
The third report, the “Grade 5 Reading Study”, contains the following highly disturbing findings and commentary: “… more than 10% of Grade 5 learners could not read a single word… Similarly, the reading comprehension of most learners was found to be very poor, with 6% scoring 0, and a further 69% scoring 5% or less on the comprehension test. If the figures produced in the previous two paragraphs are reflected widely across the country – and there is every reason to believe that they are – then they announce a national catastrophe.”
Every NEEDU report has found that most of our children, in the foundation and intermediate phases, have simply not been taught how to read. They have been fundamentally let down by the system.
Despite her assertions to the contrary, the Minister has not taken g action as a result of being told of this national catastrophe. She has not, for example, introduced reading norms against which all children must be assessed. She has not insisted that every child should be reading independently by the end of Grade 1. She has not insisted on professional development of every foundation and intermediate phase teacher to ensure that every one is able to teach children to read, independently and with understanding. She has not ensured the supply of reading books for every school.
I will write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, Ms Nomalungelo Gina, to request that she summon the Minister to provide a detailed breakdown of her department’s relationship with NEEDU, and, specifically, what action has been taken as a result of NEEDU’s findings.
Shadow Minister of Basic Education
Source : Democratic Alliance