Research and Evaluation Reports

Evaluation Report: The Learner Placement Project

The learner placement projects selects learners with potential from disadvantaged and low performing schools and places them into high performing functional schools. The Zenex Foundation has funded two learner placement projects: Independent Schools Association of South Africa – Maths and English (ISASA M&E) since 2006, and Inkanyezi (a collective name for the group of public schools selected in KNZ) since 2009.

Name of Project: Learner Placement Project (ISASA & Inkanyezi)
Evaluation Service Provider: Creative Consulting & Development Works (CCDW)
Duration of Project: 2014-2016
Location of project: Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape

 

Background

The learner placement projects selects learners with potential from disadvantaged and low performing schools and places them into high performing functional schools. The Zenex Foundation has funded two learner placement projects: Independent Schools Association of South Africa – Maths and English (ISASA M&E) since 2006, and Inkanyezi (a collective name for the group of public schools selected in KNZ) since 2009.

Learners were eligible to apply for participation in this project based on four criteria: race, socio-economic disadvantage, educational disadvantage and academic achievement.

Common Components to both learner placement projects include:

• Selection of educationally disadvantaged learners (preference given to Black Africans) from low performing schools in Grade 9 to enter good performing schools in Grade 10

• Bursary provision for learners to attend these schools

• Tertiary Access support.

 

Components that varied between the two projects include:

• The nature of academic support in the form of extra tuition

• The form and substance of the counseling and mentorship components

• Needs based support e.g. transport for excursions.

In total, 152 learners were selected to participate in the project: 52 were placed at ISASA schools and 100 in Inkanyezi schools. The overall completion rate was 89% for Inkanyezi and 98% for ISASA.
The project was implemented in both independent and public schools. In independent schools, there were a range of high fee and low fee schools in which learners were placed. At Inkanyezi, there was a mix of former Model C schools and township schools.

 

Methodology

This evaluation study aimed to evaluate the impact of the learner placement project. The study focused on the 2014 to 2016 cohort.

The evaluators applied a mixed methods strategy to achieve both breadth and depth of understanding of the Zenex Learner Programme operation, performance and desired outcomes. A comparison of the test results compared learners from project schools with learners from non-project schools. The evaluators also traced the 2012 and 2014 cohort of learners post-school.

 

Key findings

• Selection of Learners: The evaluation found that the racial selection criteria were met

The evaluation found that while the race criteria were met, there was inconsistency in adhering to the academic criteria. This was as a result of the fact that there were insufficient numbers of learners that met the minimum academic criteria, but sufficient numbers did meet socio economic and race criteria. The findings indicate that the academic targets proved unrealistic, particularly for Maths and Science.

• Academic Performance: The academic performance was partially met

It is encouraging to note that while the learner selection criteria were inconsistently applied, the targets were met for English (with more than 91 % of Inkanyezi learners and 94% of ISASA learners achieving above the target of 60%), and for National Senior Certificate (NSC) Bachelor passes (86% of Inkanyezi and 88% of ISASA learners achieving Bachelor passes against the target of 80%).

The evaluation found that there was no statistical significant difference in the results between Project learners and Matched control schools when comparing the Annual National Assessment (ANA) results to the NSC in both English and Maths. It is, however, positive to note that if one disaggregates the results for the Inkanyezi group there was a statistical significant improvement in Inkanyezi learners’ performance in Maths from ANA’s to NSC. ISASA did not show significant improvement due to the fact that they selected better performing learners at the start, and this could have influenced the outcome.

• Post school Outcomes: Most of the traced alumni (80%) entered tertiary study
There was also a gradual increase in learners enrolling in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related degrees from 23% of the traced alumni in 2016.

 

Conclusion

Overall, the project did not fully meet the desired outcomes and impact, albeit some positive successes on the academic performance and post school outcomes. We learnt key lessons on implementing an evaluation design for complex interventions of this nature. More specifically this evaluation gave key insights in the findings pertaining to the application of the learner selection criteria and unrealistic treatment dosages and targets. The Foundation also learnt some lessons on the limitations of the evaluation design to be considered in the future.

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