Half of all pupils drop out of school before taking their matric exams, and of those who do pass, only 15% earn qualification for university. Even then, the statistics belie the true gravity of the situation, since many of those students who enrol at university are found to be ill-equipped for higher education. Nowhere is the crisis more apparent than in the fields of Mathematics and Physical Science, subjects which are crucial to a developing nation trying to forge a future in a technological age.
In response, ESST has developed the Passport to Learning series, contributing to our community work in schools. ESST’s Matriculation Maths and Science Programme is a vital remedial intervention tailor-made for provinces containing a high proportion of under-performing schools, specifically in remote rural areas, and which are in dire need of the kind of educational support offered by the programme.
The success of the Matriculation Maths and Science Programme can be attributed to the fact that it transforms the classroom from a place of teaching into a place of learning. The methodology is based on three key premises:
The classroom is traditionally known as a place of teaching, with the teacher as (sole) disseminator of subject-specific information. ESST’s methodology of learning-centredness, however, implies that the classroom is ideally a place of learning and that learners should be given the opportunity to learn, to be active, and to participate, instead of being reduced to passive listeners. This presupposes, of course, that there should be interactive material available from which to learn and ESST possesses such material in abundance.
The learners organise themselves into small groups of 3 to 5, centred on the learning materials. The teacher oversees the arrangement, monitors the process (of learning) and participates freely when and where appropriate. The learning teams set their own pace and are encouraged to meet after hours, over weekends and even during holidays. What happens in practice is that the learning teams form closely-knit hubs, imbued with a sense of collective enthusiasm and a unity of purpose. Since learners are grouped randomly, so-called weaker students become part of mainstream activity and develop the much-needed self-confidence to excel.
With learners learning, the teacher’s role becomes more one of managing and coordinating learning, and participating as a co-learner. She/he can play a pivotal role in establishing a conducive learning environment, thus ensuring optimum progression. Learners are therefore no longer “handicapped” by having to proceed in tandem with what is being taught, but have the freedom and opportunity to progress and explore the subject field in their own way and at their own pace.
From experience, we have found that there is a strong spill-over effect into other subjects and classrooms. The learners are the ones who spread the word. The result is that learning groups also incorporate other subjects during their meetings (after school) and other subject teachers also adapt their classroom methodology. (Passport to Learning by design covers various subject fields.) In this way, a fresh breeze of renewal, of doing things differently, sweeps through a school, which leaves even the principal not unaffected.
The outcomes of the Maths and Science Support Programme are:
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