Newspaper clipping – The Mercury – 14 November 2008

OBE may be dropped in schools


A document that suggests that the controversial Outcomes Based Education could be scrapped is to be considered by the highest echelons of the ANC.

The document, called The Education Roadmap and leaked to The Mercury, calls for a review of the system and, if necessary, to “issue its death certificate”.

For the first time this year’s matriculants are writing exams under a system which former University of Cape Town vice-chancellor and World Bank director Mamphela Ramphele bluntly says “has failed our children.”

The roadmap was compiled at an education meeting in Gauteng last weekend. It was called for after Polokwane resolutions put education at the top of the ANC’s agenda. Delegates at the meeting included the Department of Education, the minister of education, all teacher unions, the ANC’s national executive committee, school governing bodies, academics and NGOs.

It was the first time that all these key players had come together and agreed on changes. Their main concerns include:
· Teachers badly trained for the curriculum;
· Schools without the resources to ensure the success of teaching the complexities demanded by the curriculum;
· The levels of numeracy and literacy of children; and
· The fact that South African children scored last in every maths and literacy international test.

The next step, said sources, would be for ANC president Jacob Zuma’s national executive to sign off on the document so that its interventions can begin next year.

While most sources did not want to comment about the document because they felt it was too premature, National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa president Ezra Ramashela said it would mean major changes.
“It is doubtful the ANC will ignore this document because so many stakeholders came together to develop it”, said Ramashela.
“Already the noises we are hearing show that big changes are coming. The government seems to be becoming serious about education.”

Ramashela said the review of the system was the most serious point that could not be ignored.
“It is time to review OBE. Studies have shown that teachers are not properly prepared for it and schools are not properly resourced for it.”

Other education experts lauded the document for its forward thinking approach.
“I think this is heading for big things. It means the department is acknowledging the things that aren’t working and the unions are taking some of the responsibility on to themselves,” said a source.
“This isn’t a document that has been signed off yet, it is more of an agreement, but there are people in education who are feeling very excited about it.”

The report looks at the advances in education since 1994, the challenges, current interventions and a 10-point programme of action. In a chapter titled “Key interventions needed” a point is made to “review OBE, and, if need be, issue its ‘death certificate’”.

It also advises that regulations should be reviewed to enable national procurement of textbooks, feeding schemes and pupil transport and the regular external testing of pupils in primary and secondary school. It also advises that funding should be allocated as an incentive for schools to improve on their results.

Much of the roadmap meeting was spent discussing OBE, with department officials indicating that OBE had been silently phased out with the new curriculum statement released in 2005.

The department has recently been talking about “returning to the basics”, particularly with the launch of the Foundations for Learning campaign in March which focuses on primary schools teaching literacy and numeracy.
“Mamphela Ramphele in particular is calling for the death warrant to be signed on OBE, but the department said they did not want to make this public yet as it would cause too much confusion,” he said.