Name of Project/Intervention: Mathematics, Science & English High Schools Project
Duration of Project: 2016 to 2021
Geographical area of the project: KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape
The Mathematics, Science and English High School Project aims to develop schools with potential into high functioning schools that offer quality Mathematics, Science and English teaching and learning to disadvantaged learners. The Project also seeks to increase the quality of performance in Mathematics, Science and English in these schools by:
• increasing participation rates in Mathematics and Science;
• increasing the number of learners that achieve bachelor passes with Mathematics and Science subjects; and
• increasing the number of learners that achieve above 60% in Mathematics and Science.
The project has a school focus (to improve curriculum management, school leadership and teaching) as well as a direct learner focus. The project seeks to improve performance in Mathematics, Science and English in the participating schools through the provision of:
• targeted teacher training focusing on pedagogical practice in the classroom and theories of learning;
• support for learners focusing on, inter alia, extra academic tuition, mentoring, and blended learning support through the use of technology and tertiary access support for learners;
• leadership support for curriculum management through training and coaching;
• the provision of resources to the school; and
• building communities of practice among teachers and school leaders.
The Zenex Foundation negotiated with three provinces – Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal – for the roll out of the Project.
Research by Spaull (2013) found that poor school functionality is a systemic barrier to successful educational outcomes and only 25% of schools are mostly functional, producing higher results than the 75% of poor schools that represent the larger education system.
In all three provinces the Foundation selected schools through commissioning a feasibility study of the schools based on the following criteria:
1. Race equity: Schools consist of at least 50% African learners and teachers;
2. Academic performance: At least 40% of the learners who write Mathematics and Science in the National Senior Certificate (NSC) achieved a pass mark of 40% or above.
3. Functionality: There were four elements that were assessed:
i. Infrastructure: Indicators were facilities e.g.: laboratories, libraries, toilet facilities, electricity access, security (fencing, gates).
ii. Management: Indicators included staff management, teacher allocation and absenteeism records, School Improvement Plans, curriculum planning and monitoring.
iii. Teachers and teaching: Indicators included: teacher qualifications and experience, vacancies, observation of teachers in class teaching.
iv. Managing Learning and Teaching Support Materials (LTSM): Indicators were records of distribution and control, learner access to textbooks, storage and care of LTSM and the availability of other teaching and learning resources e.g.: computers, videos etc.
In the Eastern Cape, six schools have been selected to be in the programme, based on closely meeting the functionality criteria and being able to absorb the intervention; in the Western Cape, 10 schools and in KwaZulu-Natal, six schools are part of the programme.
While each province has a customised programme depending on their unique educational dynamics and challenges, the programme interventions in all three provinces will focus on the school as the system for change and will work with school management teams, teachers and learners, through the provision of:
• Organisational development programmes for School Management Teams;
• Professional development programmes for teachers; and
• Academic support and enrichment activities for learners.
The Project will focus on improving desperately needed skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to prepare learners for the 21st century. It will be run over five years – from when learners are in Grade 8 until school completion in Grade 12. The Project has the potential to make a significant positive contribution to one of South Africa’s most dire challenges – increasing both participation rates and the number quality passes of disadvantaged Black learners in the important subjects and careers requiring Mathematics and Science at university.