Zenex Foundation funds UCT literacy project

23 April 2003

Demystifying the textbook: (From left) Professor Robin Cohen, Dean of Humanities, Dr Olivier Flechais, Senior Lecturer in the French Department, Professor Crain Soudien, Head of the Department of Education, Tuki Maseatile, acting CEO of Zenex, Professor Doug Young, Director of CALLSSA and Gillian Mitchel, Fund Raising Officer for the Faculty of Humanities, discuss CALLSSA's project over lunch.

The UCT Department of Education's Centre for Applied Language and Literacy Studies and Services in Africa (CALLSSA) received a financial fillip in the form of a R372 000 donation from the Zenex Foundation. The money will fund CALLSSA's project on concept literacy in secondary school maths and science education.

Tuki Maseatile, acting CEO of the Zenex Foundation, recently visited UCT to meet with the project team to explore ways that Zenex might partner CALLSSA in this endeavour.

The project focuses on the role of languages, especially English as a language of instruction, and how it often prevents learners and teachers of maths and science understanding textbooks on these subjects.

"For many learners the textbook, in the hands of the teacher, is the only experience they have of maths and science. Many of the concepts and language forms in these textbooks are very difficult to understand and use in the classroom, especially when the teachers' and learners' home language is not English," explained director Professor Doug Young.

"This lack of understanding often demotivates learners studying maths and science, or to succeed in this area," he continued.

CALLSSA is currently developing a CD Rom database of scientific and mathematical terms, concepts and difficult language forms in English with their Xhosa equivalents, to annotate existing teachers' guides and textbooks. This database will also be put on the Internet for teachers to interact with and develop.

A team of masters students as well as maths and science teachers and experts led by Young, believe this work will help demystify maths and science for second language learners by simplifying and explaining the complexities of language use and concept formation which prevent access to the content and process aspects of these subjects.

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