Numbers that small: Roger Mackay, a maths education specialist with the SDU, runs a revision session with learners.
The recently-released results from the 2011 Annual National Assessment (ANA) had many cringing.
This study by the national Department of Basic Education on numeracy and literacy levels among six million foundation phase (grades 1-3) and intermediate phase (grades 4-6) school learners around the country showed, among other things, that a mere 12% of grade 6 learners could score 50% or more in mathematics. Grade 3 learners did marginally better, but even there only 17% managed a score of more than 50% in their numeracy assessment, while 31% scored more than 50% in the literacy test.
In light of those numbers, interventions such as the Mathematics & Science Education Project (MSEP) and the 100-UP programme, both run by the Schools Development Unit (SDU) in UCT's School of Education, come as a counterweight.
MSEP, a collaboration between UCT and the Western Cape Education Department, sets out to improve the quality of classroom teaching and learning in key subjects such as mathematics and the sciences in the five secondary schools participating in the project. Assistance is also given in the areas of school management and ICT integration. And alongside the work with teachers, there's a support programme for grade 12 learners too.
In turn, 100-UP, launched in 2011, focuses on learners. In this programme, over the next three years a total of 100 academically-strong grade 10 learners from all 20 secondary schools in the township of Khayelitsha will participate in activities that will equip them with academic and life skills that will better prepare them for university studies.
And over two weeks in the July holidays, learners from both projects had a taste of university life while they took part in two residential holiday school programmes hosted by the SDU. The MSEP programme ran from 4 to 6 July, while 100-UP was staged from 11 to 13 July.
During their stay the learners enjoyed orientation sessions, lived and dined in student accommodation, went through admission-application exercises, and received tips on academic writing, among many other activities.
But it's not just learners who get to spend time at UCT. The SDU has just jcompleted the winter holiday block teaching on a number of the Advanced Certificates in Education (ACE) programmes. More than 250 teachers, many of whom are primary school teachers, are registered at UCT for these two-year part-time programmes.
"It is these teacher professional development programmes that lie at the heart of the unit's work," says SDU director Dr Jonathan Clark. "And it is here where we are confident that we will be able to make a positive impact on numeracy and literacy performance in schools throughout the province."
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