Activity: Improving the quality of Maths education through ICT in South Africa
Name of the Organization: Green Shoots
Headquarter: Cape Town, South Africa
Geographical reach: South Africa
Number of beneficiaries: 58,783 learners, 1,220 teachers, 111 schools and 36 youth development posts in 2012
Project Representative: Ms Jo Besford
About the Project
Improving the quality of Maths education through ICT: Use of an online Maths Curriculum to progressively track individual learners to promote data informed decision making by all role players within the education system.
This project combines a structured online Maths Curriculum for grades 1 to 9; which tracks individual learner progress throughout a year. It comprises a comprehensive teacher training and professional development program that develops the role of assessment of learning through ICT. A further development program for school management and Education Department officials encourages real-time data-informed decisions when planning strategies and interventions for Maths teaching and learning. They are partnering with Gooru Learning with the aim of scaling this model for a national and international audience.
Around 56 percent percent of children in South Africa live below the poverty line. Access to quality education is one of the most powerful weapons available to break the poverty cycle for them. Like so many developing nations across the world, South Africa is struggling to deliver quality primary education to all of its children, particularly with respect to Maths. There are some 12.4 million, learners at 25, 826 schools within South Africa. In the 2014 Annual National Assessments for Mathematics, the percentage of learners who failed to gain at least 50 percent for grade 6 (ages 10-11) and grade 9 (ages 14-15) were 65 percent and 97 percent respectively. It is clear that South Africa has a national crisis on its hands with Maths education.
A firm foundation in Maths in the primary years should be non-negotiable. The quality of teaching and learning in primary Maths urgently needs improving. But access to quality Maths education is only the first step. Learners need to be guided, supported and encouraged throughout their learning journeys. This personalized attention can be informed by ongoing summative assessment made possible by ICT. Green Shoots achievement of quality primary Maths education, underpinned by an innovative use of technology is a local solution to a global problem.
Much of educational technological solutions focus on promoting delivery and accessibility of quality teaching and learning resources. Whilst ensuring that the project meet those goals, its innovation deals with the wide scale collecting, collating, analysing and disseminating of the data collected across all classes and schools. Each stakeholder within the education system receives analysis that is tailored to their particular requirements ranging from the Education District Director, Education District officials, the school managements and the teachers.
The innovation is not merely in the collection of the data but in its ability to interpret and identify the specific educational issues for each individual learner as well as those within a school/classroom. Green Shoots has succeeded in marrying the power of extensive data collection through technology with the detailed curriculum and pedagogical understanding needed to identify how the data corresponds to an exact content/learning/organisational issue.
Green Shoots uses a cloud-based Moodle platform to implement an online Maths Curriculum for South African grades 3-9 (ages 8 -15). Each learner at every school receives an individual log-in and password to the Maths Curriculum Online (MCO) program. Green Shoots has created weekly online exercises that are exactly aligned to the content, for the entire school year. Through the Moodle platform, each online activity or Brain Quest is auto-marked and the learners are able to receive immediate feedback on the answers. Teachers receive real time summary feedback, per child, per question.
Since the project formation in 2012, over 58,783 learners, 1,220 teachers, 111 schools and 36 youth development posts have been supported. It has improved the quality of teaching in Maths in multiple aspects. For example, 81 percent of teachers have increased the number of methods used to teach mathematical concepts, and 80 percent report that the program has made teaching mathematics more interesting for them, while 69 percent report that it has improved their subject knowledge.
It has also improved learner’s attitude to and engagement in Maths. Over 50 percent of the students reported an increase in their concentration when using the program to do maths, and 47 percent felt more confident to try new concepts and questions while 43 percent felt more aware of where they need to improve. The program has also improve their academic results, 68.9 percent of the children in grade 6 following the program during the last year passed the Annual National Assessment exam, compared 35 percent of children at the national level.
Over the next two years the team is focussing on the integration of the full Green Shoots Maths Curriculum Online (MCO) content for grades 1-9 with the Gooru open learning platform. The MCO content that currently has a yearly subscription fee would subsequently be free for any school within South Africa and freely available to any user of the Gooru platform. This two year plan would provide a training, support and monitoring program to facilitate the use of the Green Shoots content on Gooru and the use of real time analytics by all stakeholders within the education system.
The goal for the next two to five years is to:
- Scale out -by taking this model to the Department of Basic Education and other Provincial Education Departments outside of the Western Cape. The longer term plan is to use the lessons learnt from the proposed wider South African implementation to devise strategies/plans for introducing the model within other developing nations, especially within Africa.
The team has just hosted a visit by the Aga Khan Foundation East Africa Team, and Kenyan and Ugandan Education Ministry officials. The sharing of their innovations and practices is allowing them to develop the design of their ICT programs to allow for the best chance of success. This is a relationship that they want to further develop.
- Scale up - by using the data produced to impact National and Provincial Education Departments at a broader system level, e.g. looking at how learners are tracked and improving the data available for the formulation of policies.
- Scale deep – Improving the analytics available and providing real-time dashboards customized to the needs of each role player within the Education System in conjunction with their partner Gooru. The collaboration with Gooru will look at unlocking the power of big data in education. The team is exploring the use of big data to personalize every students understanding and appreciation of Maths.
Being selected as a WISE Accelerator project for 2015-16 has had an enormous impact on our organization, staff and the projects that we are now able to implement. We have experienced an exponential increase in the global visibility of work through our participation in the WISE network. This dramatic shift in both our organizational visibility and voice would not have been possible without WISE Accelerator Team’s support, guidance and encouragement. We were connected to the EdTech World Tour through our involvement with WISE. Through attending conferences such as WISE Summit, SXSWedu or EdTechXEurope we have been able to network and establish relationships with diverse organizations from the US, to the UK to other African neighbors. These partnerships mean we are now able to expand the potential/scope of the projects that we can deliver and they are allowing us to innovate into new areas. There is also a longer-term dividend of this WISE Accelerator program. The tailored mentorship has strengthened us as an organization; this will ensure a path of continued growth and sustainability. Our inclusion into the WISE ‘family’ through this Accelerator program has changed the trajectory of what we are able to achieve and how we can now plan to grow and move forward.