Fri. Oct 18th, 2019

Maths, science dropouts: How SA corporates can help curb this trend

More South Africans than ever before have access to education after the dawn of democracy in 1994.

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However, while this access has grown
significantly, the reality is that our country persists with high dropout
rates, particularly at the critical Further Education and Training (FET) phase
of Grade 10 -12.

For those learners who reach matric, it’s
further becoming an all-too-regular occurrence that many of them drop the
critical subjects of Mathematics and Physical Science between grades 10 and 12.

The reality is that these two subjects are
vital when it comes to equipping our children for skills in the Fourth
Industrial Revolution. Mathematics and Physical Science also open up learners
to a greater number of career opportunities and jobs.

One solution to this dropout problem could lie
with the effective use of CSI (Corporate Social Investment) initiatives such as
Utolo Education’s Mathematics and Physical Science tutoring programme, which is
currently underway at the Ponelopele Oracle Secondary School in Kaalfontein,

Ponelopele Oracle Secondary first opened its
doors in March 2006 under a public-private partnership and it is a no-fee
school that admits more than 1 200 Grade 8 – 12 learners annually.

Despite the challenging circumstances its learners
face in the township of Kaalfontein, Ponelopele Oracle Secondary’s matric
results have consistently been higher than the national average.

Strong management together with committed
teachers and parents have made the school stand out. However, the school wants
to take its success further by ensuring that its Mathematics and Physical
Science learners at FET level can better understand these subjects and pass
them with improved results at Grade 12 level.

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Image credit: FutureLearn

As a result, non-profit organisation Utolo
Education together with FutureLearn’s teaching resources business, Teach360,
reached out to Ponelopele Oracle Secondary in February this year to help it
with this endeavour by launching a 10-week programme to give 150 learners in
Grades 10-12 access to an additional eight tutors (four of these being
Mathematics tutors and the other four being Physical Science tutors).

The tutors are teachers from other schools in
Gauteng and form part of Teach360’s tutor network. These tutors supplement the
learners’ Mathematics and Physical Science lessons with extra classes during
weekends and school holidays.

The learners further receive additional
learning materials from the likes of Teach360’s Quanta Physical Science books
as well as Mathematics study guides.

Interestingly, over 60% of the group consists
of girls. In addition, the programme’s class sizes (which consist of no more
than 30 learners) are smaller than that of the learners’ Mathematics and
Physical Science classes during school hours which typically exceed 40 learners
per class.

The programme, overall, is targeting improving
these learners’ Mathematics and Physical Science marks by an average of up to
20%. By setting this target, the project further aims to ensure that learners
in Grade 10 stick with these subjects right through to Grade 12, thereby
mitigating what is traditionally a high dropout rate for these subjects.

Thus far, the learners’ attendance for this
programme has regularly been around the 100% mark, showing their commitment to
succeed. Learners also receive a meal when they attend these classes.

One learner in Grade 10 said of the programme:
“The extra classes help us a lot. And when we’re in normal class and if we
don’t understand a topic, we know that on a Saturday we’ll do some revision and
get more knowledge. The extra books are helping us too.”

To date, this project is being funded by Utolo
Education and Teach360. The FutureLearn Group – which specialises in education
for learners at any age in South Africa – has a stake in Utolo Education.
FutureLearn also owns Teach360 which is a business that provides education
products such as school policies as well as CAMI practice software.

The total cost of this specific project at
Ponelopele Secondary stands at less than R300 000, illustrating how this
valuable programme is incredibly cost-effective.

For corporates, it’s clear that this model
would be an ideal CSI project opportunity and Utolo Education is hoping that
more companies will see the benefits of it and jump on board. Utolo Education
strongly believes that it can duplicate this model nationwide with more
CSI-backed donations.

In addition, this model doesn’t only need to
be implemented at schools: it can also be carried out at community learning
centres where Grade 10 – 12 Mathematics and Physical learners from various
schools can attend and derive benefits.

Because of the Utolo Education’s links to
FutureLearn and Teach360, it has access to a wide tutor network making a
national rollout of such a project possible.

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