Quality pre-school education and stimulation are significant predictors of later school progress. Despite near-universal Grade R access in South Africa, 65% of children have not mastered the literacy and numeracy skills required for Grade 1. Inequality among schools remains a major challenge, with approximately a year-and-a-half gap between learner progress at under-resourced compared to adequately resourced schools. This gap widens over time for individual learners.
Research highlights Grade R teacher capacity as an enabling factor in education quality. Few Grade R teachers have the qualifications and skills needed to teach literacy and numeracy effectively at the appropriate level.
The Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) is thus rolling out an intervention to support Grade R teachers to address these problems. The Grade R Teacher Development Project is also strategically aligned to Zenex’s Strategy 2025, which targets Foundation Phase literacy and mathematics. As such, Zenex is one of the co-funders, alongside the Gauteng Education Development Trust (GEDT), MAITRI Trust and USAID. Implementing organisations include the Schools Development Unit at the University of Cape Town, Wordworks, JET Education Services, and the GDE. Oversight and governance are the responsibility of Zenex, the Project Steering Committee, and GEDT.
The Project builds on and is informed by lessons learnt from the Grade R Early Mathematics Project in Western Cape piloted in the Western Cape from 2016-2019. An evaluation of the Western Cape project indicated that:
- Grade R teacher training works best with more hands-on opportunities.
- Grade R teacher qualifications and experience vary considerably. Interventions must cater for this diversity.
- Subject Advisors must gain skills and practical experience to support Grade R teachers adequately. The low SA-to-teacher ratio indicates that scaled-up interventions are needed.
- Onsite experts support at the school and classroom level is needed as teachers often cannot turn to peers or Departmental Heads for assistance.
The Grade R Teacher Development Project runs from 2020 to 2024. It is conducted across 4,857 Gauteng public schools and community centres and involves 1,380 Departmental Heads and 125 Subject Advisors.
The four main Project components are:
- Mathematics materials development
- Language materials development
- Training and Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E)
- Project design, management, and governance
The Project will be rolled out in three phases as follows:
- Phase I: Project Setup (September 2019 to March 2020). Establishing Project Management Office, Steering Committee, and Technical Working Groups.
- Phase II: Materials Development for Gauteng’s multilingual environments, Project Design, and Subject Advisor Training (April to December 2020). The Subject Advisors will be trained for full roll-out to commence in 2021. A parallel M&E process will be conducted by an external evaluator.
- Phase III: Project Implementation (January 2021 to December 2024). Based on an evaluation of previous phases, a Phase III plan will be developed, and donors and other partners will be further engaged.
The objectives of the Grade R Teacher Development Project are to:
- Significantly improve the pedagogy of Gauteng Grade R teachers.
- Significantly improve the ability of Subject Advisors to train Grade R teachers.
- Significantly improve the ability of School Management Teams (SMTs) to support Grade R teachers.
- Develop quality, workable materials for Grade R language and mathematics education.
The Project is working towards the following outcomes:
- A structured set of multilingual Grade R materials, including:
- Concepts and activity guides,
- Teacher guide for parent workshops,
- Classroom toolkit,
- Training materials in 10 languages.
- Training of 125 Subject Advisors to ensure improved support for Grade R teachers, including:
- Five-day block courses on mathematics and on languages,
- Facilitation course,
- Ongoing support and participation in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).
Previous findings from past projects with proven scalability are being integrated into the Grade R Teacher Development Project. The Project has the potential to enhance teacher and Subject Advisor capacity for early grade success. This will lead to improved results for learners in Gauteng in the long term and provide a solid basis from which to expand to the rest of the country.
Zenex will continue to drive the Gauteng Grade R Teacher Development Project over the next four years, while envisioning future similar endeavours that will lead to improved Foundation Phase education for children across South Africa.