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National Skills Conference and Awards

Promoting efficiency and effectiveness through monitoring & evaluation.

14 March 2018

Thank you DG for your introduction

Programme Director;

Excellency Minister for Higher Education and Training, Dr Naledi Pandor;

Chairperson of the National Skills Authority and Chairperson of the Commission on Gender Equality, Ms Lulama Nare;

The Statistician General, Mr Risenga Maluleke;

Director General for the Department of Higher Education and Training, Mr “Gwebs" Qonde and the management team from the Department;

Chief Executive Officers from the various SETAs and institutions reporting to the Department;

Learned colleagues and friends from the academia and civil society;

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen.


Let me start by extending my gratitude for the invitation because the subject is an important part in investing on our most important resource our people so they can drive the social, economic and cultural development.  You have asked us to explore how we can best promote efficiency and effectiveness through monitoring and evaluation.


Before we tackle the topic at hand, we wish to define monitoring and evaluation, since there may be a varied understanding of these two distinct but mutually reinforcing processes.  According to the OECD monitoring is “the ongoing, systematic collection of information to assess progress towards the achievement of objectives, outcomes and impacts".


The OECD further defines evaluation as “the systematic and objective assessment of an ongoing or completed project, programme or policy, its design, implementation and results, with the aim to determine the relevance and fulfillment of objectives, development efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability."


Why do we undertake monitoring and evaluation?


Simply put, we do so in order to ensure that we can improve and enhance the programmes and projects we deliver whilst also ensuring greater accountability. 


For an M&E system to be successful it must enhance evidence based policy making so that we can attain the desired results.  Thus a key feature of an effective and comprehensive M&E system is its ability to collect focused and disaggregated quality data at all levels. 


It must also be able to deliver on the promise of results, thus it must assume the form of Results Based Management.  Wherein, we must ask beyond the compliance question of “was it done?" but rather we must ask the more difficult questions of “have the goals been achieved and what was the impact?" and “how can we continuously improve the project or programme?"  Those questions assist us to attain higher levels of performance so as to achieve greater results which have a meaningful impact at a societal level.  At the level of the education sector it implies that we consider both the multidimensional quantitative and qualitative aspects with regards to inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes. 


This implies that an effective M&E system in the education sector ought to carry with it three cardinal features:

  • First, it must have a compliance dimension, meaning that it must measure the inputs so as to ensure that the educational institutions comply with all the predetermined norms and standards.  Key questions would be things like “are the teachers teaching and arriving on time?" “Do the children receive textbooks and equipment on time?" “Are the facilities adequate, clean and healthy?" And so on;

  • Secondly, the M&E system must consider process related questions that implies that it must pay attention to what happens in the learning environment.  Key questions would be “are the students actually learning what they are supposed to learn?"  These questions offer insight on key quality of education related matters;

  • Lastly, the M&E system must have a performance monitoring dimension wherein the outputs and outcomes ought to be considered.  The key question relate to whether the investment yielded the desired results and what the societal impact was in relation to the results.


Of course there are several other dimensions to consider, such as policy or programmatic relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability.  These answer questions related to addressing the real needs, doing the right thing, doing things right, and changing people's lives forever.


Esteemed participants, it also goes without saying that a successful M&E system requires detailed plans, by which we can measure success.  Vague plans or no plans are a recipe for mediocre performance, in other words, “failing to plan means planning to fail".


It is therefore important that the education sector moves beyond the five year plan outlook to an inclusive longer term plan of say 25 or 50 years.  This longer term plan, will require shorter detailed five or ten year plans, which have specific targets and timelines.  These plans will require that they are periodically refined, but the long term view is maintained as we stay the course in the implementation.  The long term plans also need to align to the interrelated national, continental plans as well as global targets such as the National Development Plan 2030, Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, and the Sustainable Development Goals.


It is also important that as we pursue efficiency and effectiveness which we must also plan, in detail, the M&E system itself.  A planned and well-resourced system is critical in promoting sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness. A well planned M&E system will enable all those who are concerned with education, its quality, and its coverage to actively participate and own the system as well as education or skills plans.


Another important feature of an effective M&E system is that it must be able to gather and disseminate robust data as evidence, so that it can improve accountability, governance, and citizen participation and action.


If we adopt such approaches in our education system we will improve the quality of our education.


Programme Director UNESCO recently evaluated the M&E systems in education sectors in various developing countries (including South Africa).


The evaluation characterizes almost all the M&E systems in the developing world as highly fragmented, thus it encourages a holistic approach to education M&E systems.  For instance in South Africa the report notes that “there are too many requirements to be monitored and implemented, and too many multiple levels and organs for the Monitoring and Evaluation of the education sector in the country".


The report illuminates no less than 12 requirements or processes in the education and training system in South Africa, which include delivery agreements between the President and Ministers, Annual National Assessments and the Annual Performance Plans.  All of which are split between the Departments of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Basic Education, Higher Education and Training, as well as associated agencies and institutions.


Perhaps we should consider lessons from Latin American where countries such as Chile have created autonomous agencies to monitor and evaluate quality of education and utilization of public resources.  In other countries such as Colombia and Uruguay, these agencies are semi-autonomous.  Even if we do not create an entirely new agency we could consider extending the mandate of the NSA such that it considers monitoring and evaluation beyond the SETAs.


Critical to such an outlook would be ensuring that adequate, professional, and technical M&E capacity is built both in all our departments as well as at the centralized level of the M&E system.  For instance in Zimbabwe that capacity goes down to the district level and is complemented by ICT systems which make data gathering, analysis, and dissemination in real-time on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. This must be complemented by effective coordination systems which integrate all levels of government and includes the citizens.


A second and key recommendation of the UNESCO report is that we ought to adopt indigenous African approaches to monitoring and evaluation.  The emphasis of this recommendation is on how context, culture, history and beliefs shape the nature of evaluations, especially in our diverse and often complex context.  The report also concludes that by so doing, we would be a step closer to integrating our plans into the wider Africa plan as detailed in Agenda 2063. 


By adopting common reporting measures and indicators we will also be able to ensure common learning outcomes and skills portability across our continent towards “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena".


Finally, lessons emerging from elsewhere point to the need to establish a legal framework for the maintenance of sustainable M&E systems.  These pieces of legislation also ought to have transparency dimensions, so as to increase accountability. For instance in Ethiopia and Rwanda the M&E system has an in-built community participation element and the plans in the education system have specified monitoring processes for specific activities.


In ensuring that the M&E system receives support and maintains integrity, we must secure the independence of the monitoring and evaluation machinery.  The results should not be interfered with


Adverse political influence must be avoided at all costs, so that the results of the exercise are not utilized to favour particular political outlooks. The example we have of Stats SA is important.


Programme Director, I wish to conclude by focusing on the 5 key recommendation specific to South Africa as detailed by the UNESCO report we have referred to.


Firstly, the report directs us to consider revising the education sector M&E Framework so that it may encompass a capacity building strategy at all levels of our education and training system, especially at the provincial and district levels.


Secondly, the report calls on us to consider empowering educators and managers, particularly at a school level to do better self-evaluation and link these to education system improvement plans using available data, such as attendance registers.  This must be complemented by the training of all educators throughout the system on the importance of the collection of accurate and quality information.


Thirdly, the report calls on us to recruit evaluators with the necessary experience and relevant skills, who should form a core team of professionals who must undergo continuous training and development.


Fourthly, the report proposes that we establish a sector learning network to foster a community of good M&E practitioners through interaction with existing M&E structures.  In this regard, this conference and awards are an important starting point but we will have to sustain our engagements beyond the confines of this hall.


Finally, the report requests that we consider establishing links with M&E service providers including institutions such as PALAMA, to ensure that their training provides integrated skills development on integrated district and programme planning, project management and M&E. 


We are certain that if this conference were to consider some of these proposals our M&E system would be enhanced and so doing we would promote a more effective, efficient and seamless education system.


We wish you the best in the rest of your deliberations.  We look forward to receiving the outcomes of this gathering as we believe them to be central in us implementing the skills revolution, which our people hunger for.


I thank you​

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