This is an evaluation of the implementation, outcomes and a cost analysis of three bridging school models funded by the Zenex Foundation, namely: Reunert College, Midlands Community College and Star Schools. The evaluation offered an opportunity to learn what it takes to implement a bridging programme and what model results in the best outcome, and an outcome larger than academic performance.
Duration of Project: 2016-2018
Where is the Project based: Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal
Evaluation Service Provider: Hobden Research and Benita Williams Evaluation Consultants
In 2018, the Zenex Foundation commissioned an evaluation of three bridging school projects, namely, Reunert College, Star Schools and Midlands Community College, funded by the Foundation. The purpose of the evaluation is to provide feedback on the implementation of the projects, the outcomes over two years, and a comparative cost analysis of the three Colleges. While all three projects offer one year full-time bridging support which include extended tuition in Mathematics and Science, tertiary access and life skills support; they vary with respect to learner selection criteria/eligibility, class sizes and tuition.
The bridging projects provide opportunities for learners to improve their Grade 12 results in Mathematics and Science to allow them access into tertiary studies in Science and technical careers. The ultimate goal for the Zenex Foundation is to increase the pool of Black (African, Indian and Coloured) learners who qualify for tertiary studies in these fields, through a second chance support programme.
The table below shows the main implementation components at each College:
|Quality teaching and tutors||Formal teaching in small groups by qualified teachers with no extra tutors||Formal teaching and subject mentors for all the learners||Formal teaching and hired qualified tutors for the Zenex learners|
|Curriculum Coverage||Focus on curriculum revision and how to answer exam questions
375 hours for Maths and 300 hours for Science
|Focus on curriculum revision and how to answer exam questions
240 hours on each subject and evening mentorship meetings
|Focus on curriculum revision and how to answer exam questions
87 hours on each subject and a special Saturday class for Zenex learners
|Class Sizes||Between 15 to 20 learners per classroom||40 learners||All learners in one classroom (about 100) with a special class for Zenex learners|
|Socio- economic needs||Provides learners with food and transport money. Lunch served at the school||Boarding facility||Transport and food money|
|Computer skills||Learners have access to laptops and are taught basic computer skills||Learners have access to a computer laboratory and register for the ICDL.||Minimal computer facilities at both campuses.|
|Personal development||Sessions on life skills, personal development and communication skills||Session on life skills
Formal critical thinking programme developed for all learners
|Session on life skills|
The evaluation was a mixed case study at the three colleges. The case studies were conducted through workshops, interviews, surveys and analysis of cost effectiveness. They specifically looked at: project implementation, learner performance (comparing entry NSC results and exit results), and conducting a cost analysis.
Reflections on implementation
The evaluation highlighted that each College adopted a different implementation model, as such they were not comparable. One model was full-time (Reunert); a second was full-time, but residential (Midlands), and the third was part-time (Star Schools). This resulted in different dosages and interventions, such as time spent, mentor support, support in English, and provision of life skills, critical thinking and computers skills.
Midlands has an emphasis on creating a learning community. Reunert is more traditional with a competitive work environment, with an emphasis on strict discipline, hard work and testing. Star Schools has minimal class attendance and large groups of learners, with an emphasis on bringing in very highly experienced tutors for the contact sessions.
Improvement in learner performance
The learner data that was collected comprised the entry and exit marks for all learners participating in the three College projects during 2016 and 2017. Each College used a different examination as the exit point. Learners from the Midlands Community College write the NSC examinations through their original schools; Reunert College subscribes to the Independent Examination Board, and Star Schools uses the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI) for the KwaZulu-Natal cohort and NSC for the Gauteng cohort. All three examinations are certified by Umalusi and are theoretically equivalent.
The findings showed some improvement in the marks achieved by learners, specifically for Mathematics. It was noted that while there was an improvement, the marks were too low to offer access to certain degrees. Zenex learners in all programmes, on average, increased their marks by a statistically significant margin in Mathematics and Science between Grade 12 and rewrites. However, this was not the case for English (Home Language & First Additional Language) where the improvement was minimal. It should be noted though that o
Mathematics marks showed the most improvement. About 63% of the learners across the three programmes, improved their Mathematics marks with at least one symbol, 28% showed an improvement of at least two symbols, and 5% showed an improvement of three symbols.
About 72% of the learners across the three programmes improved their Science marks with at least one symbol. Only 19% of the learners showed an improvement of at least two symbols in Science.
About three quarters of the Zenex cohorts in both 2016 and 2017 improved their NSC English FAL mark. The average improvements were very small – in 2016 (mean exit 67%) and 2017 (mean exit 62%). The situation in English HL was bleaker with the average improvement of 2% in 2017, and no improvement in 2016.
This initial cost modelling exercise investigates the relationship between the inputs (i.e. financial costs) and the interim outcomes (i.e. symbol improvements obtained after the rewrite) of the three bridging schools projects. As such, these results provide only a preliminary view of cost effectiveness and cost efficiency. The cost comparison focused only on items that were shared across the models, such as tuition fees and types of examinations written. It is anticipated that the final cost analysis report will also explore the relationship between the inputs and the long-term outcomes (i.e. the post-school results) of the three bridging programmes.
The evaluation offered an opportunity to learn what it takes to implement a bridging programme and what model results in the best outcome, and an outcome larger than academic performance. The additional cost-benefit analysis will track the qualities of the learner and the kind of employment they secured. Even with the different, incomparable modalities, there has been improvement in the learner results.