Beaming extra lessons to schools helps with matric pass rate

2016-01-18 17:39

Cape Town - A project where lessons are beamed from Stellenbosch University into selected classrooms is helping to change the fortunes of underperforming schools.

Using telematics - the posh word for the technology involved - the lecturers and teachers are helping pupils in three provinces improve their marks in crucial subjects like maths and science.

This gives them a better chance of going into scarce skills programmes, like engineering, at university and college, and increases the pass rates and the morale at the schools.

Dr Antoinette van der Merwe, senior director of learning and teaching enhancement at the university, says satellite dishes, sound systems and MPEG4 decoders are installed at the schools to enable reception.

The signals are distributed by the university's systems, and pupils and teachers are encouraged to interact with questions via WhatsApp and SMS. There is also a Facebook page with regular updates of broadcasts for the pupils and the teachers.

Initiated by the Western Cape Education Department which wanted to help underperforming schools, and supported by Eskom, the project has spread to the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape.

Van der Merwe said that, so far, 146 schools in the Western Cape, 65 in the Eastern Cape, and 107 in the Northern Cape had received up to 100 broadcast hours per year, covering nine key subjects.  

When the National Senior Certificate results were announced two weeks ago, Eskom congratulated the pupils of St Johns in Mthatha for their 90% pass rate and 60% bachelor pass rate as the result of the telematics programme.

Eskom explained that it had a vested interest in pupils doing well in maths and science because it hoped to hire them as engineers one day.

Na-aim Kassiem, principal of Oval North High School in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, is hoping his school will be next on the list to receive a satellite dish for the live-beamed classes.

In the meantime, they use the collection of recordings of lessons that are made available to schools that want them.

The school has been chosen as a special focus school for engineering, and finds these extra lessons invaluable.

"For example, if the children are battling with Newton's first law, we get the questions out of [old matric] question papers on Newtons first law, then we look at the telematics lesson from Newton's first law," Kassiem explains.

The lectures are not meant to replace classes, so they are held after school - at Oval North this is between 18:00 and 19:00.

Kassiem said they try to make attending the class enjoyable, so they give the children a snack, like soup made from donated greens, or some popcorn.

Beside getting to grips with tough concepts, especially in physics, the pupils also learn how to write their exams.
They are taught how to understand and reply to the type of questions they will get in their matric exams.

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