Our Schools Can Do With More Help

By Dr Angelo Joseph founder of www.maths-online.co.za

In South Africa, there are two levels of schooling. There is the private schools & the state-owned-schools. The way mathematics is approached is surprisingly different in each of the different schools.

The private schools adopt a “problem anticipating” approach to addressing their math & science issues. Usually, private schools employ specialists[1] that monitor the dynamics of the exam results in order to refer students and their parents to either find a tutor or apply for extra exam time (as an interim measure). The specialist recommendation is usually made as early as grade 10, years before the national exams are taken. There is therefore ample time before the final school year exams to make another plan (if required).

The state-owned-schools adopts a “wait & see” approach to addressing their math & science issues. The government schools usually have many clusters of students that do weakly[2]. Assigning a specialist will, therefore, be expensive & consequently not optimal. The state usually imposes a less-expensive (short-term[3]) solution which usually involves making lighter the content of the learning material. This is done to enable fewer scholars to struggle to uphold their grades (at-least up until grade 12). The state usually waits to see how many scholars passed the national exams to measure the suitability of their solution.

There are math and science issues in both the private & state-owned schools. The extent of the problems differs because of the different remedial approaches. The private schools have a better and more steady pass rate overall, because of the quality of their plans. The state-owned schools have a very volatile improvement in pass rates. See the variability of the grey line in the chart below[4].

Perhaps the state-owned schools could do better after a mind-shift towards better and more efficient teacher training (via online-learning) instead of altering the study content.

Bottom line is there is a dire need to aid all schools in South Africa in the mathematical sciences. The solution may require that those in academia & suitably qualified individuals all get their hands-on-deck. Schools & universities must shake hands on the matter.

In fact, the working together of schools & universities is crucial if we would like to see more scholars passing the national exams, go through tertiary education training and contribute meaningfully to the GDP of our country.

[1] Specialists like Psychologists.

[2] Interview with a Deputy Chief Education Specialist at the National Department of Education.

[3] In the long run scholars see the effect of this solution. Especially, because no university distinguishes between private & state-owned school learners.

[4] Data Source: www.eNCA.com