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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The GET Language and Maths Strategy: Nine Pillars to Success

Thalia Holmes

As educators and administrators, we recognise the urgent need to improve learners’ performance in languages and mathematics. In order to respond to this, the General Education and Training phase (GET) has pioneered a nine-pillar strategy.

Pillar One: Assessment and diagnosis

We started by gauging where we are at, and what we need to achieve. In order to do that, the department conducted a systemic assessment to determine the oral reading fluency of grade three learners that study English as a First Additional Language (EFAL) in the province. A total of 735 schools participated, with forty Grade Three EFAL learners in each school completing a one-minute passage reading.

In addition to this, the department developed and implemented a baseline assessment for Grade One.

Pillar Two: Resources

We increased both physical and skills resources for learning mathematics. Learners were provided with mathematics kits to enhance the teaching of challenging topics, scripted lesson plans, calculators, charts and Mental Maths activity booklets. Teachers were given training and support as per pillar four.

Pillar Three: Learner support

The department took a number of steps to increase the institutional framework of support for learners engaged in learning maths and languages. To name a few: we introduced a Mental Math Challenge, which 1450 schools participated in at Grades 1-3. Support and intervention activities for both under- performing learners and high- flyers were developed. Learners were encouraged to participate in mass learner programmes such as provincial Olympiads. In addition, the department has begun the implementation of computer coding and Robotics in Grade 1. To assist with this, we have introduced concrete applications to enhance coding development.

Pillar Four: Teacher support

The department rolled out teacher and school management team “just in time” content and workshops.

The just in time teaching process usually involves a two-step series of learning. In the first step, students complete a focused set of activities outside of class and submit their work to the instructor. In the second step, the educator identifies, from the responses, areas of understanding and misunderstanding. They then adjust the next lesson so that students can receive specific “just-in-time” teaching in the areas where they are struggling.

The aim of just in time teaching is to encourage more student responsibility for learning the content outside of class; to use your class-time more efficiently, and to allow more time for interaction and discussion. Research suggests that educators who use just-in-time teaching also find that learners are more actively involved and more interested than they would be in a more traditional lesson.

Pillar Five: Senior Management Team (SMT) support

We are overseeing that SMTs support teachers in implementing coding and Robotics, from Grade 1 onwards. Furthermore, SMTs have been capacitated on mentoring and coaching. This will continue ongoingly.

Pillar Six: District and Head Office. Common assessments in June and December are administered  by the DHO across the province.

Pillar Seven: Stakeholder Involvement. We recognise the involvement of all stakeholders in order to generate quality education. This includes active collaboration from community leaders, parents and caregivers in the learning process of their children, policy implementation as well as the oversight of the practicalities of school life for the child.

Pillar Eight: Participation in International National and Provincial Assessments, Olympiads and Competitions. Participation in these standardised assessments will help garner learner enthusiasm and interest in the maths and language subjects. It will also serve as a measure for the department to determine provincial progress. As mentioned in pillar three (learner support), there will be renewed focus on encouraging learner participation in these programmes.

Pillar Nine: Research, monitoring and evaluation.

We will harness the ICT tools available to develop content knowledge in ICT applications. We will oversee the use and application of available “coding software” in the relevant curricula.

On a macro level, the department will continuously gauge our progress and success through audits and standardised assessments.

As per the instruction of the Premier in the State of the Province Address 2019, “MEC Panyaza Lesufi will implement the national integrated assessment framework, which will ensure rigorous assessment of all primary schools. The results of this assessment will be publicly released as we do with Grade 12 results.” 

As the department and educators work together to implement and administer these pillars, we will collectively ensure a comprehensive, holistic and cohesive approach to the promotion of quality teaching and learning.

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