British Council: Country Director Mr. Colm McGiver
British Council: Project manager Mrs. Anisa Khan
Teach SA: Ms. Lerato Mtenjwa, Manager (Maths)
Director Mr. Jerry Bhagaloo,
Partnerships Manager Mrs. Audrey Hutton,
Maths Subject Specialist Mrs. Sonto Buthelezi,
Maths Subject Specialist Mrs. Marinda Greyling,
Manager Reintroduction of Mathematics Project Mr. David Silman,
Principals, Maths HoDs, Teach SA Ambassadors
It gives me pleasure to speak at this auspicious occasion meant to strengthen the Department of Basic Education, Teach SA and British Council Maths improvement collaboration.
In her 2015/16 Budget Speech, the Honourable Minister of Basic Education Mrs Angie Motshekga made a strategic announcement that Mathematics must be taught at all schools. She went further and announced the reconfiguration of the Dinaledi Maths programme.
The Minister in her wisdom with the concurrence of the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) launched the new conditional grant namely, the Maths, Science and Technology (MST) conditional grant.
The Minister’s pronouncement is in part informed by the directives of the National Development Plan. The NDP exhorts us to increase the number of learners eligible for Bachelors programme with Mathematics and Physical Science to 450 000 by 2030.
To achieve these ambitious targets, something radical had to change hence the launch of the MST Directorate at the national level and the MST conditional grant. To demonstrate our unyielding commitment in achieving the desired targets, in her recent Budget Speech, the Minister allocated to the MST conditional grant a total allocation of R1.2 billion over the 2016 MTEF (R362.4 million in 2016/17, R385.1 million in 2017/18 and R407.5 million in 2017/18). The purpose of the grant is to strengthen the implementation of the National Development Plan and the Action Plan 2019 by increasing the number of learners taking Mathematics, Science and Technology subjects. We are also hell-bent in improving the success rate in the MST subjects and while simultaneously improving the teachers’ content knowledge. The grant will also focus on the game-changer – the provision of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) resources to schools and training of teachers especially at Senior Phase and Technical Schools during the MTEF periods.
Programme Director; the allocation is not enough. The challenge the country faces in the area of Mathematics is huge. It is therefore fitting that we have since established this tripartite partnership to leverage the resources of the State in the fulfilment of our pledge to improve Maths uptake, learner performance and teaching.
We are alive to the reality that learner performance in Mathematics and the levels of competency of Mathematics teachers in South Africa, particularly in the Senior Phase, is diabolical to say the least.
Since the Annual National Assessment (ANA) was introduced in Grade 9 in 2012, unacceptably low levels of learner performance have been recorded. Sadly, despite improvements at all levels of the system, we remain with an elephant in the room i.e. poor performance in the Senior Phase. For instance the 2014 ANA results showed that Grade 9 Mathematics remains our Achilles heel as we recorded a paltry 10.7%.
Since then we have upped the ante in this area with a battery of reforms. We launched the strategy namely, Framework for Improving Performance in the Senior Phase, featuring the 1+4 Intervention Model. In this interventionist model, we partnered with Sasol-Inzalo to help with teacher training programme.
Programme Director, the 1+4 Intervention Model involves the development and utilisation of the pre/post-tests to track teacher competency in Mathematics before and after the training sessions respectively. Given the anecdotal evidence provided by the 1+4 Intervention Model on improving teacher competency in Mathematics, we are going to utilise the findings of the ANA Diagnostic Report (2014) together with the 1+4 Intervention Model Diagnostic Report (2015), to improve and strengthen the implementation of the teacher collaboration programme. The 1+4 Intervention Model which will continue to form part of the priorities in teacher training for Mathematics teachers in the Senior Phase.
Programme Director, since the policy implementation of offering Mathematics at all schools became a reality; we soon discovered that there was a dire shortage of appropriately academically qualified personnel to fill teaching posts. It was at this point that we actively looked to the private sector and non-governmental organisations for assistance.
In March this year, we found a perfect partner, Teach SA. We signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Teach SA to actively recruit and train Maths teachers. The MoU also covers provision of Accounting and English graduates by the Teach SA. Since the MoU was signed, I am happy to report that Teach SA has already provided a significant number of high performing Mathematics graduates known as “Teaching Ambassadors” to most affected schools. The first cohort of Ambassadors has been allocated to posts at schools in the three underperforming provinces, namely Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.
Programme Director, in a last bid effort to upscale the Teach SA ambassador programme, we have approached the National Treasury to request to use Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) Conditional Grant funds to support the Teach SA – DBE initiative. This would allow the DBE to provide support to the provinces without creating an additional cost burden for the Provincial Education Departments.
Similarly, we also have a Memorandum of Understating with the British Council. The focus of the MoU is again on the perennial problem of Mathematics learning and teaching. The project is being offered on a matched funded/matched effort basis. The British Council’s total contribution is 80 000 British Pounds.
The thrust of our collaboration with the British Council is based on obvious need to to develop a high tech teacher support programme. The plan involves the use of ICT equipment that allows teacher trainers in the UK to observe lessons and provide feedback to improve the teacher’s performance at the schools of the DBE.
The system involves the use of cameras in the classroom with instant feedback being made possible. Most useful is that the teacher can access the pedagogic support they need immediately or later in the day, since all lessons are recorded by default. Teachers selected to participate in this programme will form an online community of learning, where their lessons can be deconstructed and subsequently refined for greater impact on the learners.
Since the MoU, our MST Directorate together with the British Council have already implemented a hi-tech, ICT based platform, called IRIS Connect. The platform records lessons which are uploaded to the IRIS Connect cloud where they can be accessed by the teacher and shared with colleagues and teacher support specialists. Professional feedback, be it content, teaching methodologies, or behaviour management is provided by these third parties. The uploaded material is also viewed by the teacher, providing a mechanism for reflection on their own teaching practice.
In the South African context, where subject specialists in Maths and Science are in short supply, the IRIS system also allows for teacher support offered by district subject specialists. Given the shortage of subject specialists and the vast distances between the schools they support, the IRIS platform can increase the scope, reach and impact of myriad forms of district support. I am happy to report that the IRIS Connect is being piloted in six Ekhuruleni Municipality schools.
Equally important is that the Teach SA and the British Council are jointly involved in the upscaling of our interventions in the area of Mathematics learning and teaching. Training in the use of the ICT for Maths Ambassadors, Maths HoDs and other teachers is continuing.
In conclusion, Programme Director, the reality of the situation is that we are unable to achieve all our desired targets alone as Government, hence the need for partnerships and private sector investment in Maths, Science and Technology.
Our view is that the most effective partnerships are where partners not only enrich each other but also find ways where they can mutually benefit. Our singular goal for any partnerships in education is to create space for social partners and the business community to assist in realising the achievement of Delivery Outcome 1 i.e. “Improved Quality of Basic Education”.
Our partnership with the Teach SA and British Council fit faultlessly within this framework of a mutually beneficial symbiosis. We therefore owe a debt of gratitude to the bright sparks at the British Council and Teach SA who daily work effortlessly to change the lives of our children throughout the country.
Programme director, through deeds not words, we are laying a solid foundation in the lives of our children. If we do this right, posterity will be kinder to us.
I thank you.