Reviewing the role of the provincial and district offices in the implementation of assessment policies in the Gauteng and Western Cape provinces
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A robust, reliable and continuous classroom assessment system is crucial for improving learning and is a critical function of governments and schools. Between January 2010 and May 2010, the HSRC conducted a study to investigate how the Gauteng and Western Cape Provincial Departments of Education (i) prepare and support teachers to cope with the demands of the curricula and assessment practices and (2) how the information collected in schools is used to improve the quality of teaching and learning. The study focused on the two provincial offices as well as one district office per province. The participants ranged from the level of a Deputy Director- General to that of a curriculum advisor. The study used a qualitative case study approach. Data gathering methods included individual and focus group interviews, document collection and document reviews and to some extent observations.
The research revealed that while all the officials interviewed agree that curriculum and assessment are inseparable, there are differences in terms of how provinces approach the implementation of assessment policies. The structuring and organization of the offices largely determines how the systems are equipped especially in terms of resources and how they function. In the Western Cape districts are further divided into districts and implementation is left to circuit teams under the management of a circuit manager. Curriculum advisors sit in the circuit meetings and get budgets for their own programs, whereas in Gauteng implementation is left to districts. Because of the size of the district management, learning areas specialists do not sit in management meetings and they are not happy about this situation.
Available resources in the province must be utilized maximally. The available universities and credible NGOs and other organizations within the province should, where relevant, be used to train and support officials. Sitting in meetings week after week, as the officials do, does not guarantee that the officials gain mastery of assessment or the curriculum. They need thorough training as well as opportunities to practice what they have learned.