Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Ian Landsberg

Johannesburg - When Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan presents the national Budget speech in parliament on Wednesday, education will receive the lion’s share of the money being dished out.

Last year, education, which has been declared the government’s “apex” priority, received 21 percent of the Budget.

However, the money spent on the education system is not doing much to improve the state of schools and the results they produce.

An analysis by Equal Education of last year’s matric results - a 73.9 percent pass rate, up from 2011’s 70.2 percent - showed that among the poorer schools, those that fall in quintiles one and two, 95 schools achieved pass rates of under 20 percent.

In quintiles four and five, the better-resourced schools, just five schools achieved a pass rate of less than 20 percent.

“This shows that results continue to be linked to resources,” Equal Education said.

What this also shows is that among schools that receive more government funding, results continue to be poor.

Formerly, public schools were divided into five quintiles or categories.

Schools in the lowest quintiles received more government funding, and schools higher up, less.

Under the old quintile ranking system, schools were funded per pupil as follows:

Q1 - R960 per child, twice a year.

Q2 - R880 per child, twice a year.

Q3 - R880 per child, twice a year.

Q4 - R480 per child, twice a year.

Q5 - R165 per child, twice a year.

With a new system that was introduced in 2011, all schools that fell under quintiles one to three became no-fee schools and received R905 for each child. Schools in quintiles four and five, fee-paying schools, received R453 per child.

Education analyst Graeme Bloch said no-fee schools were a necessity, but they give pupils “access and not quality”.

Bloch said that even if parents with children in these schools were required to pay for school fees to boost resources, the results wouldn’t improve because the poor quality of education in these schools “is not a money issue”.

On the disjuncture between the resources pumped into the education sector and the poor outcomes, Bloch said there were several reasons for this.

“The big issue is management and accountability all round from the teachers, principals and parents,” he said.

Another problem, Bloch said, was the fact that district offices were not providing support to schools as they should, and this, he said, was a structural problem and not a monetary one.

Despite the shortcomings, though, Bloch said the education system was still in need of prioritised funding.

“There’s a threat to tighten things up because of the economic environment, but that shouldn’t happen,” he warned.

Another aspect that appeared to be swallowing funds was teacher training, which received an allocation of R3 billion last year.

Analysts argue that instead of training teachers on how to deliver the subject content effectively, particularly with newer subjects, teacher training workshops simply orient the teachers on the subjects without equipping them with the skills to teach them effectively.

Presenting his research findings at Unisa’s College of Education in July, Nicholas Spaull, a researcher in the Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University, said that even though statistical evidence showed that the education system was in a crisis, it was not all doom and gloom.

Since 2010, two significant interventions had been made by the Department of Basic Education, he said.

The first was the introduction the Annual National Assessment tests.

First written in February 2011, these tests are used to gauge the pupils’ ability to write, read and count.

The assessments are not used to grade the pupils, but to give the department and the education sector insight into whether or not pupils had the skills they were supposed to have acquired in previous grades.

Spaull said the tests allowed the department and parents to hold teachers and schools accountable, and they provided benchmarks for grade-appropriate achievements, making it possible to provide targeted support to specific schools, teachers and pupils.

The second intervention, Spaull said, was turning the tide in the Workbook initiative, which provides every child in primary school with high-quality workbooks in languages and maths. He said these books, which could bring about significant improvements, provided well-sequenced daily worksheets intended to help with curriculum coverage.

Matric pass rates and the money allocated to basic education in the past:

- 2009: Amount allocated to education (at the time the departments of basic education and higher education and training were combined): R21.287 billion

The matric pass rate: 60.6 percent

- 2010: Amount allocated to the Department of Basic Education: R6.166bn

The matric pass rate: 67.8 percent

- 2011 Amount allocated to basic education: R13.868bn

The matric pass rate: 70.2 percent

- 2012: Amount allocated to basic education: R16.344bn

The matric pass rate: 73.9 percent

Source: Department of Basic Education

* The Department of Higher Education and Training’s budget went from R28.2 billion in the 2011/12 financial year to R31.5bn for the 2012/13 financial year - an 11 percent increase.

- National Student Financial Aid Scheme funding for loans and bursaries to students in universities and colleges gradually increased from R2.375bn in 2008 to over R6bn this year.

- Bursary funds for further education and training college students from poor families have increased from R1.75bn in 2012 to R2bn in 2013.

- R50 million was allocated for postgraduate students who needed financial assistance to complete their Honours, Master’s and doctoral degrees.

- The department has set aside R1.7bn for building new university student accommodation over the next three years.

- R2.1bn has been set aside for the construction of two new universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. According to the department, the first cohort of students will be enrolled next year.

Source: Department of Higher Education and Training

The Star