Sunday, January 22, 2012

Impoverished School's New Method Increases Academic Performance

Sthembiso Sithole

Lindokuhle Cindi, with her father,  received the five distinctions she'd planned for.
Often when Matric results are released the focus would be on schools with a history of producing brilliant results. The pupils of these schools too would often be some of the best performing in the country. But as this happens, South Africans would neglect those which are disadvantaged and as a result have a history of poor performances. Phafogang Secondary School in Rockville, Soweto, is one of those schools. This year they increased their pass rate and the number of distinctions went up to eleven with one student obtaining five.
The principal, Tuska, Matlejoane, says he believes the increase is due to his changed approach to educating the predominantly financially disadvantaged pupils of the school. “I designed a new tool that will help indicate whether the progress is moving on.”

The headmaster says the pupils are given a graph indicating marks from zero to a hundred. The pupils are then asked to indicate which mark they would like to obtain during each term. At the end of the term the headmaster then returns to the pupils with the progress and shows them what their ambitions were at the start and how they fare against those. The teachers would then work with the pupils on increasing the marks whether they reach their target or not – the focus would predominantly be on those who don’t reach their preferred aggregate. Matlejoane says the school’s shortfall in the past was due to a lack of approach for the pupils. “We did not have the strategy to motivate them.”

While the focus was predominantly on the pupils, the principal says there was closer monitoring of the implementation of the curriculum by teachers and parents were requested to get involved in their children’s work as well. The system seems to have worked and led to its top pupil, Lindokuhle Cindi, achieving the five distinctions she had aimed for. “When the year began it was difficult but the graph assisted me and made me aware of my performance,” she says.

The Soweto school struggles with non payment of fees.
Lindokuhle’s parents have less to worry about now as her level seven mark for Physical Science has led to a civil engineering scholarship from the University of the Witwatersrand. “She made us proud and showed dedication from the beginning of the year,” says the girl’s father.

Prince Ngema, Hloniphile Mavuso and Nolutando Ndlovu were other students  who contributed to the pass rate that has increased to 64.2 percent. While that might not seem high compared to top schools in the country – it is improved for Phafogang which has a struggle of late comings and a lack of school fees payments as most families that send pupils to the school are poor. Phafogang is also the only high school in Rockville.

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