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Technology-driven Saturday schools lead to success

STARTING in February, 480 Grade 10 to 12 learners from 45 schools across the Eastern Cape gave up their Saturdays to improve their maths and physical sciences skills – and it’s paying off.

Among the Nelson Mandela Bay learners attending the technology-driven Incubator School Programme (ISP), run annually by Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre (GMMDC), 65% of the Grade 12s showed an improvement in maths and 70% improved in science, when comparing their June results with last year’s November marks. More than 60% of the Grade 11s improved in both subjects, while more than 40% of the Grade 10s improved in maths.

“Over the past five years, the ISP has helped thousands of promising Eastern Cape learners improve their marks, and gain access to tertiary education,” said GMMDC head, Prof Werner Olivier.

The top-achieving Grade 12 ISP learner in the province was Tausiqul Islam from Umtata High School, who achieved 93% for maths and 91% for science, while the most improved learner was Zimbini Ntsula from Ndlovukazi Senior Secondary School in Komani, whose maths and science marks in June improved by 22%, compared to November.

In addition to the Saturday school lectures, each learner received an Android tablet to use as a “personal tutor” at home.

The tablets were loaded with a GMMDC-developed app called TouchTutor, made up of interactive digital resources, all offline and aligned with the curriculum.

These included video lessons, PowerPoint presentations, calculator assistance, self-tests with scoring and feedback, old national and provincial exam papers and language support in eight indigenous languages.

Adding to the success of this year’s ISP was the introduction of learner-teacher tutors at the Port Elizabeth and Mthatha ISPs. They were trained to use a small new digitalised teaching device called the GammaTutor, which included the TouchTutor app, and could be directly plugged into a projector, TV or any digital screen.

“The GammaTutor added to this year’s ISP success,” said Olivier. “We are looking forward to rolling out this new mobile teaching device to other provinces, to empower teachers to engage in teaching practices geared towards 21st century learners.”

The tutors, all final-year education students at Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu universities, used the GammaTutor during 90-minute midweek tutorials with small groups of Grade 10 learners at the participating schools, helping them work through challenges and deepen their understanding of maths.

NMU student teacher, Monique Paulse, who tutored at Sanctor Secondary School, said the tutorials provided an opportunity for learners to ask questions and work through topics they didn’t understand in class.

“The GammaTutor helped me a lot, as we were able to find different examples on different topics quickly and easily.”

Neptal Khoza, head of the Capitec Foundation, which sponsored the Saturday school programme, said, “Capitec Foundation has adopted a teacher development approach as part of our strategy. It was therefore fitting that we infuse this into the ISP programme, in partnership with the GMMDC. The aim is to support future teachers with much-needed teaching experience and access to 21st century teaching, whilst assisting high school learners with extra tutorials to help them perform better in maths.”

He said the ISP programme helped learners to “learn for understanding and not just to memorise”.

“The TouchTutor platform enables learners to access content remotely any time, anywhere and without data costs. It enables learners to learn at their own pace.”

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