17 October 2007
The Zenex Foundation has entered into a R10-million partnership with the Department of Education’s Dinaledi programme, which aims to increase teaching quality and learner performance in maths, science and now English language skills in selected schools.
“One of the lessons learnt is that a close partnership with the Department of Education is critical to the impact of private sector spending in education,” said Zenex Foundation chairman Sizwe Nxasana at a function in Johannesburg this week.
“As a donor, the role of the Zenex Foundation is not to compensate for gaps in state policy, but to develop and grow partnerships that increase the capacity of South African institutions to impact on mathematics, science and English teaching,” he said.
In an issued statement, the foundation states that South African education faces the challenge of improving the numbers of students passing subjects like maths and science on higher grade, which are required for entry into further education opportunities in medicine, scientific research, engineering, information technology, accounting and a host of other technically based occupations.
Statistics show that of students who wrote the senior certificate exams in 2005, only 5.2% achieved higher grade passes in maths – a figure that has further declined for those who wrote in 2006.
“Most disturbing is the small number of African school-leavers with higher grade mathematics passes,” the foundation states. “In 2004 there were only 7 236, of whom only 2 406 achieved the minimum C symbol necessary for university entrance.”
Zenex has also identified poor language skills among both teachers and students as one of the key factors that impacts negatively on maths and science results, and is therefore supporting the development of an English programme for Grades 10 and 11 that is similar in nature to the Dinaledi maths and science programmes.
The education department has since implemented the Dinaledi programme to develop 500 selected secondary schools as centres of excellence in the teaching of maths and science, as well as identifying learners who have exceptional talent in those subjects.
In addition, the programme aims to improve the quality and proficiency of maths and science teachers, by providing training as well as other incentives.
“The Dinaledi programmes are already making a difference,” Deputy Education Minister Mohamed Enver Surty said. “Through this project, we have been able to address the professional development needs of our maths and science educators, provide resources and establish support structures for the selected schools.”
Improving language skills
Rhodes University’s Institute for the Study of English in Africa has since developed a programme, which includes a 36-week work schedule acts as a guide for English teachers.
The service providers who are introducing the Zenex-funded programme in four provinces are the English Language Educational Trust (ELET), the University of the Witwatersrand’s Professional Development Unit, and the University of Cape Town’s School Development Unit.
The foundation, in partnership with the education department and Dinaledi programme administrators, is to pilot the training and distribution of materials to 280 teachers in 65 schools located in the Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces.
As part of the pilot, all selected schools receive a start-up library kit to support the introduction of an extended reading programme, while sufficient numbers of textbooks are supplied to reach every Grade 10 and 11 learner.
Every participating English teacher is to receive theoretical training along with core reference resources, while they will also receive classroom support visits and mentorship support visits from English language experts.
In order that the materials used can be accessible to the benefit for any school in the country, the materials have also been uploaded to the education department’s Thutong education portal.
According to the foundation, what sets it apart from other grant-making bodies is that it makes its entire grant commitment solely toward the field of maths, science and language and has disbursed some R237-million in the South African education sector since 1995.