NMMU's Saturday school lifts maths, science marks in Eastern Cape

FEBRUARY 26, 2015

Saturday school has started for 450 Grade 11 and 12 learners who have been selected from 60 mostly under-resourced Eastern Cape schools to participate in a technology-linked incubator school programme, geared towards boosting their maths and science marks.

The 14-week programme, run this year in Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage, Queenstown and Somerset East by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Unit (GMMDU), boasts an impressive track record, with past participants achieving top results.

Last year, Muir College matriculant Lyle Ressouw (correct) came third in the country for maths and was ranked third overall in the Eastern Cape, while Mava Qolo, who attained 96% for maths and 92% for science last year, was the top-achieving learner in previously-disadvantaged schools in the Cradock district, where he attended Matthew Goniwe Comprehensive School.   

Ressouw, 19, who is studying actuarial sciences at Stellenbosch University, said the incubator classes – which include a tablet-based classroom support package called TouchTutorTM – had helped him achieve his academic goals.

“The classes provided me with all the resources to facilitate my learning. The exercise booklets [workbooks], the tablets with [their] extensive programmes, as well as other aids, made it possible to understand maths and science fully and as a result, raised my marks to the desired level ... TouchTutorTM contains all learning resource material from Grades 10 to 12, as well as videos, tutorials and tests, which help a learner expand on their knowledge and understanding ... I definitely recommend this course to all Grade 11s and 12s.”

Qolo, 18, who is studying towards a BEng (Mechatronics) degree at NMMU, said the incubator school had helped him to “learn quickly” and effectively study the complete maths and science syllabi over the course of his matric year.

“In Grade 10, my results were not that good. I was achieving level 5. After starting the incubator school, I started getting to higher levels, with my greatest ever results [achieved] in Grade 12.”

It is the 10th year the programme is being run in Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage, the sixth in Somerset East, and the second in Queenstown.

Last year, the average percentage for maths from the matrics in the Port Elizabeth Incubator School was 61% and for physical science, 58% – significantly higher than the provincial averages of 42% for maths and 51% for science.  

“Of these learners, 76% achieved above 50% in maths and 86% of them obtained a bachelor matric pass overall [enabling them entrance to university] ,” said GMMDU head Prof Werner Olivier, who also holds a FirstRand Foundation (FRF) Chair in Mathematics Education at NMMU.

While technology is transforming South African education, few programmes are as sophisticated as GMMDU’s model, which provides offline, curriculum-aligned, video-based content and animated PowerPoint lessons, with interactive self-assessment and feedback, together with a range of additional digital support material, including a Mxit-based maths and science curriculum support system.

Along with the touch screen tablets for learners, which are used as “personal tutors” outside of the classroom, TouchTutorTM is also available on laptops for teachers, for use as a classroom resource, and as a desktop model for learners, with desktop resource centres placed in more than 100 schools over the past year. These are geared towards learners who do not have access to the tablet model.

Olivier said NMMU’s FRF Chair programme had contributed significantly to the development of the innovative assistive-technology models being used in the incubator schools and GMMDU’s other maths and science development projects.