for tomorrow



AS the new academic year gets into full swing, Eastern Cape maths and science teachers are sharpening up their skills – and tapping into modern learners’ natural affinity for all things technological – thanks to a high-tech training boost.

The training of the 600 Grade 11 and 12 teachers in Lusikisiki, Queenstown, Mthatha and Somerset East is the latest in a string of accredited, professional skills-upgrade programmes for teachers to be run by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Unit (GMMDU).

In parallel to the teacher training, in which each teacher receives a laptop loaded with GMMDU’s innovative curriculum-aligned classroom support package for Grades 10 to 12, GMMDU is also running incubator schools for more than 400 selected learners from under-resourced schools, who receive a similar package, but loaded onto an Android tablet, which they are trained to use as a “personal tutor” after school hours.

In mid-February, in a separate two-year GMMDU project funded by Old Multual, teachers and learners at 18 high schools in the Bhisho area will also receive similar high-tech maths and science equipment, material and training.

The province-wide teacher and learner interventions are topical, given the Gauteng launch last month of the government-supported two-year “Classrooms of the Future” pilot, in which learners in seven Gauteng schools have received tablets to replace textbooks.

Where the Gauteng project is online, with learners requiring access to the Internet, GMMDU’s techno-blended model is completely offline, to meet the current socio-economic and technological skills challenges faced by most Eastern Cape schools.

Called the Mathematics Skills Upgrade Programme (Mathsup) and Science Skills Upgrade Programme (SSUP), the NMMU-accredited teacher training programmes are funded by the provincial Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Education, Training and Development Practices (ETDP) Seta – who are pouring more than R7-million into the professional teacher training projects this year alone.

Both programmes make use of user-friendly, video-based content, animated PowerPoint lessons, and interactive multiple-choice self-assessment and feedback, together with a range of additional curriculum-aligned digital support material.

The innovative classroom support package, called TouchTutorTM, is loaded onto the teachers’ laptops. In parallel, GMMDU has a similar tablet model for learners, along with a desktop model, which it makes available at the schools it services, in the form of a resource centre, to ensure more pupils have access to the high-quality digital support material to address personal content gaps.

“TouchTutorTM harnesses popular technology in the teaching of maths and science, to appeal to today’s youth – and also popularise these important subjects, which are critical for the success of 21st century technology-based economies,” said GMMDU head Werner Olivier, who also holds a FirstRand Foundation Chair in Mathematics Education.

 Olivier said regular professional support and development programmes were needed for in-service maths and science educators, to address the widespread lack of content knowledge and related skills.“Innovative approaches are needed to modernise and transform the image of maths and science education in our schools.”

Last year, 210 maths and 50 science teachers from East London, King William’s Town, Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage, Grahamstown and Dutywa received Mathsup and SSUP training.

“The work the GMMDU is doing is excellent,” said Edgar Klaasen, Acting Director: Cradock District, Department of Basic Education. “It is extremely advantageous to our learners in our area … In 2014, the top-performing child in previously-disadvantaged schools in the Cradock District was from Matthew Goniwe High, a school that was not performing well in maths and science.  He had attended the incubator school programme and, as far as I’m concerned, his success was all due to the GMMDU’s efforts.”

“GMMDU is doing great stuff,” said Zukiswa Mrubata, Coordinator: Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign, Queenstown District, Department of Basic Education. “Out of the 30 schools I engaged with for the Mathsup project in Queenstown in 2012, 15 of them improved in terms of their matric results. One school improved by 47%, another by 38% and another by 33% … Right now those teachers are being used as class leaders, coaching other teachers … Their incubator school programme for learners is a leading programme in the province … Principals are very proud to be part of the programme and very grateful for what NMMU is doing.”