Thoughts on the NEEDU 2013 report

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For those who are in-the-know on issues surrounding South African education, you would’ve seen that Nick Taylor (ex-JET and now head of NEEDU) has recently published the first of the NEEDU reports (summarized report here). The GIF above made me think what it must’ve been like researching and writing this report – kudos to Nick & Co! I have now finished the report and these are some of the things that stand out for me:
  • I completely agree with Nick where he says “the quality of teaching and learning is best measured through direct outcomes of learning” – obvious but important to say.
  • I’m glad Nick has chosen to focus on the Foundation Phase and getting the basics of numeracy and literacy right (see this M&G article).
  • I’m also happy that one of the main findings is that teachers often don’t have the competence / subject knowledge to teach and also that the various levels of the bureaucracy are incompetent.
  • It was still based on school visits in 15 districts – there are 86 in South Africa. So it is possible that there are some issues we are missing which are more prominent in some other districts. Also they specifically chose to select districts “from areas of high population inflow” – basically only urban areas, so the validity of the findings for rural areas is sketchy – something which he says on page 5 of the summary report. As I undertand it the next NEEDU report will be for rural areas – great stuff!
  • I’m a little irritated with Angie and her speech to parliament – so much talk about monitoring and evaluation (she even ends her speech talking about it) but then allocates R14mil to NEEDU?!

All in all I think NEEDU is a much needed (and underfunded) evaluation arm of the DBE and this first report is a great start to understanding the binding constraints to education in South Africa.

2 responses to “Thoughts on the NEEDU 2013 report

  1. This is a really interesting report. I am yet to finish reading it but was impressed with the Language recommendations, particularly with the fact that students’ quality of writing needs to be monitored. Just like access to education does not mean access to quality education, being able to read & write does not equate to quality literacy skills. Something that really needs attention at school level. This is what Reading to Learn South Africa is working towards. Through the retraining of foundation phase teachers (small scale and on a voluntary basis at the moment) in being able to teach and monitor the development of literacy and numeracy skills, it is hoped that undertrained teachers will become more proficient in reading and writing themselves enabling them to effectively monitor their own students’ quality of reading and writing. RtLSA is well worth an investigation if you are interested in foundation/primary phase education :).

  2. Marianne Truter

    Thank your very much for your thoughts on the NEEDU report. I have also read your articles: Poverty & Privilege: Primary school inequality in South Africa; South African’s Education Crisis: The quality of education in South Africa and also Accountability in South African Education. I am busy with my PhD through University of Pretoria. The title of my research: Education in the best interests of the child: a case study of rural schools in KZN. I have cited your work in my Phd. I am at the post-defense stage. I am looking forward to listen to you at the SAOU Hoofdesimposium on 2 September 2014: Teachers can’t teach what they don’t know: Can school management address this? This is the main focus of my thesis. I am living in Richards Bay but cant wait for your speech. If possible, I would also like to communicate with you on your thoughts. Kind regards Marianne Truter

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