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Multi-grade teaching schools in the spotlight

Dr Phumzile Langa, Director for the Rural Education Directorate, chaired an Inter-Provincial Rural Education Forum held at the DBE Conference Centre in Pretoria from 2 to 3 September 2021. All nine PEDs were represented during this Forum.

Dr Langa said that the Forum was organised as part of the Inter-Provincial Rural Education Committee, which is tasked with the responsibility of monitoring the level of progress registered in terms of addressing basic principles of social justice including access, diversity, equity and redress, as mandated by the National Development Plan. Dr Langa said that the Committee is responding to the Basic education sector’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) priority which seeks to improve the Foundational Skills of literacy and numeracy, especially “reading with meaning”.

“Through this Forum, officials at both national and provincial level are able to pinpoint success stories, whilst identifying shortcomings requiring urgent attention. At this Forum, as a platform for best practices sharing, we were able to reflect on 2020 to establish the strategies that worked in sustaining quality learning outcomes. Schools with multi-grade teaching featured strongly during the Forum. We also discussed the piloting of Coding and Robotics in rural and multi-grade teaching schools. The Forum welcomed the initiative, but they felt that the scope of piloting needed to be expanded to accommodate as many learners as possible in schools with multi-grade classes. Multi-grade teaching schools are schools where there is teaching of more than one grade in one class by one teacher, and this is common in primary schools in rural areas. Although the DBE has prioritised the closure and merger of schools, there are areas where the only access to education is through multi-grade teaching schools, and these are sparsely populated rural areas. In a nutshell, we want to use this Forum to build a strong foundation for literacy, numeracy and reading skills, whilst focusing on learners in the Foundation and Intermediate phases," elaborated Dr Langa.

Dr Nelson Madela, Director for Rural Academic Support from the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education, indicated that the Forum has been very helpful, especially in supporting small or multi-grade teaching schools. “The best practice shared during this Forum has assisted our province to review progress registered in terms of improving equity and access. We are always appropriately guided to put emphasis on critical non-negotiable priorities, including the promotion of literacy and numeracy”.

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