Enterprising School Leavers

Enterprising School Leavers
Learning Brief


Go for Gold

Using programme monitoring results to improve delivery of after-school tutoring

Category: Enterprising School Leavers | Facilitate access to educational opportunities | 12 May, 2014 - 08:00

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WHY GO FOR GOLD? 

In South Africa today approximately half of our young people are unemployed. Additionally, there is a serious skills shortage, particularly in the Built Environment and related industry sectors. The problem is exacerbated by South Africa’s underperforming public education system. For example, in a recent survey of 62 countries the World Economic Forum ranked South Africa last for its low teaching standard of mathematics and science at government schools. As a result of this poor teaching, half of all university entrance level passes in mathematics and science is produced by only about 6% of schools.

Consequently, many high school students today, who attend under-resourced schools in disadvantaged areas, will struggle to achieve a Bachelor-level pass rate (the minimum requirement for admission to tertiary studies). In 2013 the national bachelor-pass-rate was just 30.6%. The Go for Gold initiative attempts to address this poor science and maths foundation in high school students in order to improve their chances of academic success in tertiary education institutions.

THE GO FOR GOLD INTERVENTION

Go for Gold is an award-winning ‘education-to-employment’ public-private initiative, founded in 1999 as a collaboration between companies in the construction sector, the Western Cape Department of Education, and civil society organisations. It was created to improve the number of candidates from disadvantaged communities who are eligible to study towards a technical profession and start a career in the Built Environment.  We do this through a four-phrase programme, which cultivates the student’s interest and suitability for a career in the Built Environment.

This learning brief focuses specifically on the first phase of our programme and on the changes we have made to improve this component. Fundamentally our programme aims to:

  • Provide after-school tutoring in mathematics, science, and computer skills to selected students during their Grade 11 and 12 school years;
  • Assign students to one of the participating companies to gain a year of paid work experience before they enrol in university or college. This exposes them to a variety of professions related to the Built Environment and it tests their interest and suitability for a career in this sector;
  • Secure bursaries for students pursuing higher education degrees/diplomas in engineering, quantity surveying, project management, etc.;
  • Create employment opportunities through the sponsoring companies for students, once they graduate;
  • Encourage alumni students to give back by becoming Go for Gold mentors to new students;
  • To guide, mentor, and encourage students throughout the programme, to develop a strong sense of self-belief and self-confidence, rooted in a good work ethic and desire to succeed.

PROGRAMME OBJECTIVES

This model is designed to achieve two objectives for phase one of the Go for Gold Programme.

Objective 1 – To provide a quality intervention programme that incorporates dedicated mathematics, science, and computer tuition so as to prepare participants for careers in the highly technical built environment.

Objective 2 – To add value to the intervention by providing participants with essential life skills; and the training and support to equip them to master the challenges of life and the working environment. The underlying purpose of the life skills module is to inspire the level of emotional maturity and independence essential in the pursuit of a successful career, with particular reference to the built environment.

THE CHALLENGE THAT GO FOR GOLD SOUGHT TO ADDRESS

The first phase of the Education to Employment programme is the “incubator”. During this phase, we aim to intellectually stimulate high-school learners in their Mathematics and Science classes, and to help instil in them a strong sense of self worth by offering Life Skills workshops. However, we found that the extra focus on teaching mathematics and science added a number of pressures on Grade 12 learners that caused some of them to drop out of the programme, resulted in high absenteeism, and slowed their academic performance. This presented a challenge for our programme managers.

After careful analysis, it was decided to amend our delivery of the Phase One model. The rationale behind the amendments is outlined here below. Each amendment was either the solution to a problem or an idea to improve the offering.

THE OLD PHASE ONE MODEL

We offered Grade 11 students extra tutoring in Mathematics and Physical Science. This tutoring took place for 2 hours each after school. Tutors followed the school curriculum and the prescribed pacesetters and they had flexibility in class to teach using their chosen style. The needs of the learners in the tutorial class determined the content during each session. We also offered Life Skills and Computer Skills classes for 2 hours each after school during the week. We introduced Saturday extra lessons for learners in Grade 12, which consisted mostly of final examination preparation. There were no weekday classes held in June, September, or November. 

Advantages of this old strategy:

  • It allowed for the maximum contact time with Grade 12 learners (example: in 2013 Grade 12 leaners got a total of 104 extra hours for maths and Science).
  • Well-trained tutors from the Cape Academy offered the Saturday classes and provided an enriching approach to teaching the subjects.
  • Grade 12 learners were given enough additional time to revise Grade 11 work.

Disadvantages of this old strategy:

  • The learners were occupied with extra lessons for 4 afternoons each week, and the Grade 12 learners also had to attended classes on Saturdays, which put a lot of time pressure on these teens.
  • Although there was more contact time, the academic results were not improving satisfactorily.
  • Because there were 3 separate tutorial venues it was difficult to control and monitor activities effectively and the tutors were not able to cooperate effectively with each other.
  • During June, September, and November there was no contact with Grade 11 learners.

REVISED PHASE ONE MODEL

We started our amended model at the beginning of 2014. The new Phase One model was designed to decrease the time that Go for Gold demanded from learners, and so to lighten their workload. We also introduced audio visual and structured teaching and learning materials into the curricula, and we are attempting to improve the general academic performance of learners, and the general administrative on-site support for the learners.

This new model introduced the following changes:

  • All Mathematics and Physical Science classes occur on Saturdays at one central venue (The Saturday School Campus).
  • Life Skills and Computer classes occur during the week at the campus venues.
  • All our tutors use the same “Mindset” materials. Each tutor has a set of the DVDs and each learner has a Mindset workbook. This structures and standardises the tutoring and allows the students to focus on key concepts.
  • A Go for Gold staff member is on duty at the Saturday School from 08h30 to 14h30. This creates the opportunity for stricter control and more effective administrative support.
  • Students write more regular tests. If they don’t get a grade of 50% they need to attend a  “Catch-up” during the next week.

PROGRAMME MONITORING STRATEGY

To effectively monitor our programme we use questionnaires, surveys, group discussions, attendance registers, observations, and academic grades as data collection tools. Reports reflecting the results of all these monitoring tools are submitted at each Board Meeting for the members to review and to inform their decision-making.

Results from our monitoring process of the new Phase One model revealed that the learners’ test results were still extremely poor. Learners appeared demotivated at this early stage (phase-one) of the programme, and the felt that they didn’t have enough time to complete their tests, or to prepare for the test on each topic. They also struggled with the multiple-choice format of the test and did not like it. We used this testing format to facilitate ease of marking in time for the Thursday catch-up class.

The tests are taken at the end of the day when students are not at their best, and contain too many high order questions. Tutors are concerned that the weekly, 2 hour long catch-up class does not allow enough time for re-testing. Our programme demands time from students and learners are often absent due to school activities, which disrupts the learning process for individual learners. Finally, we also find that some of the tutors over-rely on using the Mindset DVDs in class – to a larger extent than advisable – but the learners prefer more spoken interaction with the tutor.

We will make the following changes to combat these identified problems and to improve the programme outcomes:

  • Tests will only be written every second week – once a month in each subject. The catch-up class in a particular subject will take place in the next two weeks, followed by a re-test week.
  • Tests will be written at the beginning of the day, which will be extended by 1 hour.
  • We will employ the help of university students to help mark the tests, and they will have one week, instead of one day, to mark all the papers.
  • Multiple choice format questions will not be used.  More comprehensive questions will be used and memoranda will be clear and detailed.
  • Only 10% of the paper will contain higher order questions.
  • At the end of each term, we will hold a “Reinforcement Day” during the holiday to review all the Mathematics and Science material covered during the first term.

CONCLUSION

This brief has shown how we have effectively used the programme monitoring results to improve our after-school tutoring programme. We focused here specifically on the first phase of the after-school programme and on the changes we made to improve this component. In addition, we outlined our monitoring strategy and provided a list of six programme changes that we will be making in the future.

Go for Gold


PO Box 18526Cape TownWynbergSouth Africa


 021 703 0395


In Short

Go for Gold’s education-to-employment initiative recently underwent some programmatic changes to improve the delivery of after-school tutoring. In this learning brief we discuss how effective monitoring revealed the need for changes in our programme, and how we are going about implementing these improvements. It provides a good case study on the functionality of programme monitoring and evaluation.


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