SUCH was the success of a technology-linked maths and science programme at 18 schools in the Bhisho area, that funders Old Mutual have not only extended that project – but are also introducing it at a further eight schools in East London’s Duncan Village area.
The Old Mutual Flagship Education Programme’s (OMEFP’s) maths and science development project, which was launched in Bhisho three years ago, saw a significant improvement in the marks of participating Grade 11 and 12 learners, leading to a two-year R4m extension – and now the Duncan Village project, with an additional R5,5m investment over three years.
The eight Duncan Village schools will follow the Bhisho model, where the project took the form of an Incubator School Programme (ISP), run at a central venue on Saturdays for selected learners from all participating schools, as well as Tablet-assisted After-school Peer Support (TAPS) maths sessions for learners, held at some of the participating schools. The first ISP session is on February 17.
Grade 12 learners who participated in the Bhisho ISP achieved a 98% pass rate for both maths and science in last year’s finals, with 92% of participants achieving Bachelor passes. The most improved maths learner – Xhantilesizwe Mancunga from Forbes Grant High School – went up from 42% in December 2016 to 69% in December 2017, while the most improved science learner – Sithimiso Mhlakaza from Archie Velile High – jumped from 18% to 60%. The top learner for maths – Andile Nyingwa from Hector Peterson High – achieved 93%, while Richard Varha High’s Uzigcine Pono achieved the top mark for science, of 92%.
Nyingwa said the programme was “really fun and encouraging” with the tablet-based content providing “all the necessary information and equipment we needed”, while Pono said: “What helped me to improve my mark was the Grade 10 and 11 video lessons that were also included on the tablet, since I was struggling with the basics of the lower grades. What was also critical was the past papers, as they helped me familiarize myself with the type of questions that come up in an exam.”
“The video lessons meant I always had someone to explain concepts to me,” said Mancunga.
Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre (GMMDC) developed the innovative, technology-linked teaching and learning model, that lies at the heart of the programme.
GMMDC director Prof Werner Olivier said today’s “21st-century screen generation of learners provided the inspiration for the offline and curriculum-aligned programme”, which is marketed as TouchTutor®. It includes a laptop-based model for teachers – for use as a classroom resource – and seven- and 10-inch tablet-based models for learners (the latter placed in resource centres at the schools), for use after school hours as an offline support platform. Selected learners have access to their own tablets on a 24/7 basis for the full duration of the academic school year.
TouchTutor® includes video content lessons, animated PowerPoint lessons, open-source GeoGebra software, self-tests, language support and various other digital support material, to enhance understanding in maths and science.
“Running the project in the Bhisho area gave us the opportunity to test, refine and demonstrate the impact of an offline technology-blended model in a rural context … It worked exceptionally well, and we are really excited to bring the model to Duncan Village,” said Olivier, who also runs the programme elsewhere in the Eastern Cape, including Nelson Mandela Bay, Mthatha and several Karoo towns, where learners have had similar or even better results.
“The professional development of maths and science teachers and the establishment of resource centres are also part of our integrated development programme in secondary schools.
“What is beneficial in Duncan Village is that our programme follows a successful IT project which was being run in the schools [by LEAP Schools and Edunova (LEED), with funding by Old Mutual], so many of the teachers and learners have already been trained to use IT,” said Olivier.
Over the next two years, GMMDC aims to boost the impact of the programme even more by adding Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) activities. The Centre has also developed a mobile app for inter-school maths competition purposes and free maths curriculum support via mobile phones.
“We have seen excellent maths and science learner performance from the ISP and TAPS programmes in the Bhisho/King William’s Town schools we have funded,” said Old Mutual Senior Project Manager Kanyisa Diamond. “Our intent is to replicate this success and surpass it where possible in the Duncan Village schools, where we are also supporting a number of schools with leadership development.”
She said the OMEFP project ran in close collaboration with the provincial Department of Basic Education and focused on improving leadership in schools (with the Seed Educational Trust) and boosting Grade 8 to 12 teachers’ content knowledge and skills and Grade 10 to 12 learners’ achievements (with Nelson Mandela University).