Research and Evaluation Reports

Evaluation of project to address Literacy and Numeracy in Uitenhage primary schools

This is the evaluation of the project implemented in 20 primary schools in the Uitenhage area in the Eastern Cape. The majority of schools were former Department of Education and Training schools and were located in townships or peri-urban areas.

Duration of Project: 2003 - 2005

Geographical base for project: Uitenhage, Eastern Cape

Evaluation conducted by: J Roberts Consulting Services

Introduction

The project was conceptualised in 2002 to address numeracy and literacy in schools in Uitenhage. The aims of the project were to:

  • develop and promote improved confidence, knowledge and skills of teachers and learners in Mathematics;
  • gain the support and participation from the ECD/ Mathematics advisers in the Uitenhage district; to share skills, knowledge, and understanding and to build together a replicable model of numeracy/mathematics training and support; and
  • integrate HIV/Aids awareness into the classroom and engage active HIV-AIDS awareness trainers to participate in workshops and school-based activities.

The project has been implemented in 20 primary schools in the Uitenhage area in the Eastern Cape. The majority of schools were former Department of Education and Training schools and were located in townships or peri-urban areas.

Key Findings

Implementation models

The change in the implementation method from grade-by-grade to whole phase implementation had a profound effect on the delivery of the project. The whole phase implementation had the following effects:

  • the numbers of Grade 1, 2 and 3 teachers participating in workshops increased dramatically;
  • the participating teachers were limited to the Foundation Phase as the Intermediate Phase component of the project was suspended, other than the training of key teachers;
  • materials distribution continued to follow a grade-by-grade distribution system, even though training was available to all teachers in the Foundation Phase; and
  • teachers developed a perception that 2005 was the second full year of implementation because of the change in pace and commitment shown by the service provider, although in reality it was the third and final year of the project.

Organisational assessment of the implementing organisation

The evaluator found that the appointment of staff in 2004 had increased the human resource capacity in the organisation. She did, however, raise a concern about the workload of the staff members since the changes in the implementation of the programme.

In terms of skills development, it was recommended that the service provider should make optimal use of the available ICT equipment and send staff on short courses to develop the necessary technical skills.

Monitoring of project implementation

The evaluator was of the opinion that the internal tracking of progress during school-based support visits should be supported by more coherent evidence that would inform service delivery – both in workshops and further school support visits.

Review of materials supplied to educators

A few shortcomings in the written materials were identified:

  • the materials did not cover the full spectrum of the curriculum;
  • there was too much written material provided for teachers;
  • some of the materials had editorial errors; and
  • the evaluator found the overall material to lack structure and indicated that she found it difficult to see coherence between modules.

Measurement of learner performance

The evaluation report showed that there was evidence that Grade 3 learners in project schools out-performed those in control schools. Learners performed better in terms of the mean correct score, contextual questions and knowledge domains. The evaluator’s analysis of the collected data showed that the project was having a positive effect on learner performance although on a modest scale.

  • The evaluation report showed that up to half of the learners had not mastered items set one grade level below their current grade.
  • Only 22% of Grade 4 learners had mastered Grade 3 items.
  • In Grade 3 the best school obtained a mean percentage of 24%.
  • In Grade 4 the best school obtained a mean percentage of 46%.

Issues of concern: Teaching practices

  • The report indicated that learners were promoted without having adequately covered the syllabus because the pace of teaching was slower than dictated in the Revised National Curriculum Statement (RNCS).
  • Most of the lessons observed were pitched below the conceptual level demanded by the RNCS.
  • The amount of learners’ written work was very low and showed that teachers did not give learners sufficient time to practice skills and mathematical procedures.

Recommendations

The evaluator recommended that the service provider should give teachers guidance on how to complete the curriculum, as one of the biggest problems in the majority of South African schools was that the curriculum was not completed each year and learners fell behind the knowledge and skills specified by the curriculum.

In the evaluator’s final comments, she indicated that the project was having a positive effect on learner performance. The teachers had responded positively to workshops and school-based support visits, and spoke highly of the service provider’s intervention.

Notwithstanding the positive feedback from the evaluator, she recommended that more effort should be put in raising the quality of teaching to match the standard required by the RNCS and the Department of Education.

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