South Africa’s education system has many challenges. Statistics show that over 50% of learners starting state school in South Africa will drop out before they reach matric. Only a few will qualify for university or employment. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has released its Global Information Technology Report 2015, which ranked South Africa last in the quality of mathematics and science education. In the 2009 Senior Certificate results, the national pass rate for Physical Sciences dropped from 55% to 37%.
Children are falling behind at an early age. Primary children are 1 – 2 years behind in the national curriculum, particularly in Mathematics and Science. The gaps in knowledge they form during the primary school phase can become insurmountable as they progress through the school system, unless interventions are made early on. An additional challenge for mathematics education in South Africa is that many primary teachers have below-basic content knowledge of the subjects they teach, often due to poor schooling and inadequate preparation in teacher education training (Van der Westhuizen, Mosoge, Niewoudt & Steyn 2002:115) . Very few university students graduating with mathematics and science choose teaching as a career. As a result of this there is a shortage of mathematics and science educators and out of desperation educators of basic sciences such as natural sciences, life sciences could be forced to teach Physical Sciences, lacking fundamental understanding of the subject. As a result, some schools do not even offer mathematics and Physical Sciences as school subjects (Makgato & Mji 2006:254) .
This means that many teachers are generally ill-equipped to properly teach learners. Without a solid foundation at primary level in key subjects such as mathematics and science, opportunities are narrow for children from disadvantaged communities, and the cycle of poverty perpetuates. The PSP believes that quality primary Mathematics and Science education forms the basic building blocks for learners to succeed and pursue further education and employment opportunities.
It tackles education challenges head-on by providing expert and tailored solutions:
- Training courses for teachers to improve and deepen content knowledge and practical teaching strategies (Innovation Project)
- Hands-on classroom guidance and teacher support to build skills and confidence (Cluster Project)
- Mentorship of first-time teachers to fast-track their adjustment to the school environment and set good practice early in their careers (Joint Mentorship Project)
- Quality classroom resources and materials to enhance teaching and learning.
These interventions are delivered by PSP’s highly qualified and experienced education specialists. In all its work with teachers PSP works alongside the Education Department to deliver critical school support.
A crucial component of PSP’s work is the Annual Mass Planning Forum held with teachers every October. This allows PSP to hear from teachers directly, and together identify content knowledge gaps and areas for improvement to be addressed by the following year’s programmes. A consultative approach allows us to plan and develop our work around teachers’ needs, and deliver customised and effective support.