Research and Evaluation Reports

Research Report: Expanding the pool of quality Mathematics and Science passes in public schools

This research into the factors that contribute to quality Mathematics and Science teaching in public schools, was funded by the Zenex Foundation and conducted by the Centre for Development and Enterprise.

The study, which was concluded at the end of 2013, focused on second tier schools that perform just below the top producers of Mathematics and Science learners but above the national average. The research examined the relationship between school performance in Mathematics and factors such as teacher to learner ratios, teacher qualifications and experience, and teacher competence.

Evaluation of the School Development Programme: Summary of Key Findings

Duration of project: 2007 - 2011

Location of project: National (Limpopo, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape)

Evaluator: Evaluation Research Agency


In 2007, the Zenex Foundation launched an initiative to impact school improvement. The main goal of the initiative was defined as increasing learner success, particularly in English, Mathematics and Science, supporting school management and improving the quality of classroom teaching.

In the first years of implementation, the project included a total of 24 secondary and 50 primary schools spread across four provinces: Western Cape (WC), Gauteng (GT), KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and Limpopo (LP). The intervention had a staggered rollout, commencing in 2007 in the Western Cape, 2008 in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, and 2009 in Limpopo. It was designed to run for three years in each province.

After a re-assessment at the end of 2009, and also because of financial consideration, the second phase of the School Development Programme was developed. For the remaining two years of 2010 and 2011 the programme would be implemented in 48 schools in four provinces by 24 service providers in 8 ‘domains’ namely; Grade R, Foundation Phase Numeracy and Literacy; Intermediate Phase Mathematics and English, FET English, FET Mathematics, FET Science, FET Learner Programme and Curriculum Leadership and Management.

Key Findings

Change in classroom practices – reading and writing

The evaluation showed changed teacher behaviour, in the form of more reading and written exercises by learners. There were improvements in teachers managing the numeracy curriculum as the data indicated that they were teaching the relevant lesson content at the appropriate grade level, and that they were generally doing so at the pace required. Generally, the resources supplied by the project were being used by the teachers and learners.

Learner performance

The evaluation demonstrated some significant and strong correlations between improved writing practices in the classroom and learner performance, as measured in the number of work book exercises as well as doing longer exercises.

Setting intervention targets

The evaluation showed positive shifts in the behaviour of teachers and school management teams. Although these shifts did not translate into significant changes in learner performance, they may inform how medium-term targets could be set for future interventions, given the continuum of school improvement process.

School selection

Despite a fair amount of data on the issue of school selection, no clear set of selection criteria had emerged from the Schools Development Programme at the time of the evaluation.

Capacity of service providers

The evaluation showed great variation in the ability of service providers to implement the programme. This was found at the level of the quality of training, on-site support and managing the common data management platform. In future projects, it was recommended that the Zenex Foundation was more selective in the choice of service providers and – in some cases – would need to invest time and budget in building their capacity prior to implementation.

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