Monday, July 17, 2006

Maths and Science Education Initiatives

  • Maths and Science education initiatives are very necessary in the South African context. But it is also important to ensure that they deliver the goods at the end of the day. Different approaches have been tried to assist with the state of South African learners’ maths and science skills. The type of initiatives that we came across in our previous evaluations included:
    *Maths and Science Saturday schools that aimed to compensate for poor classroom based teaching and learning and giving the learners another shot at achieving the maths and science outcomes at preprimary and secondary phase.
    *Maths and Science Saturday or Holiday schools that aimed to prepare learners adequately for the Senior Certificate Examination
    *Upgrading of teacher qualifications through giving maths and science teachers the opportunity to gain full tertiary qualifications in maths or science
    *Afternoon workshops where skilled maths or science teachers did demonstration lessons with other maths and science educators to convey some lesson presentation ideas.
    *Building and equipping science labs to give learners the opportunity to engage fully with the Maths and science curriculum.
    *Commercially run science and maths exhibit centres that host interactive displays to demonstrate mathematical / scientific principles.
    *Science and maths fares, expos and exhibits.
    *Intensive Post matric course / bridging courses that focus heavily on science and maths tuition in order to help learners gain access to tertiary courses such as engineering.
    *Computer based science and maths learning using age appropriate software in computer laboratories.

    The lessons learnt were multiple and ad hoc, some of which I have taken the time to summarise below:
    · Once off workshops cannot do much to solve pervasive problems. Workshops should happen regularly and make space for the beneficiary teachers or learners to input into the content of the workshops.
    · Workshops where participants are not required to do anything more than attend, are unlikely to motivate beneficiaries to really participate and learn.
    · If the learning material is made available for further use in the classroom or with other colleagues at the school, it is likely to have an impact beyond the one learning encounter
    · Providing a solution (e.g. computer lab or teacher training programme) without the necessary support and maintenance will quickly negate the initial investment and reduce the impact
    · A multidimensional approach combining different strategies are imperative for success
    · Good programme management capacity is imperative, and should also include a mechanism to control for quality of content.
    · Programmes that collect basic monitoring data (number of beneficiaries, number of activities offered, cost per beneficiary per day) were more likely to be well run, and were also more likely to be very cost efficient.
    · There is limited cooperation between different agencies approaching the same problem and over reliance on a specific methodology- Once an agency has a hammer that makes some hits, they tend to want to fix all problems with this tool.

    Some documents that I found useful include:

    * David H. Greenberg, Charles Michalopoulos, Philip K. Robins : A Meta-Analysis of Government Sponsored Training Programs.
    * HSRC. Trends in International Maths and Science Study results for South Africa *Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy : How to Solicit Rigorous Evaluations of Mathematics and Science Partnerships (MSP) Projects - A User-Friendly Guide for MSP State Coordinators. Available online at:

* Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy : How to Conduct Rigorous Evaluations of Mathematics and Science Partnerships (MSP) Projects - A User-Friendly Guide for MSP Project Officials and Evaluators. Available online at:

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