The recent World Economic Forum report places South Africa’s maths quality last out of 148 countries.
Just last week a report by the South African Centre for Development and Enterprise noted that maths and science are areas where schools are failing their students and that deficiencies in early education leaves many children with “insurmountable difficulties” as they fall further and further behind and ultimately drop out of school.
A South African innovation has begun to support learners, parents and educators who are seeing significant maths improvements through individual learning using affordable interactive mobile technology and tutors. This start up business has recorded improvements of up to 14% in maths performance of learners participating in this programme since May 2014.
Brighter Futures Tuition offers affordable extra maths tutoring starting at just R50 an hour using advanced interactive technology on mobile phones. It currently has six maths centres in Kempton Park, Brakpan, Thokoza, Braamfontein, Germiston and Orlando.
Due to demand there are opportunities for existing independent tutors and retiring high school maths teachers throughout Gauteng to join Brighter Futures as micro business-owners to help learners study at their own pace, while still getting the advantage of individual attention.
Joanne Brink, CEO of Brighter Futures Tuition, says, “Our technology makes the practicing fun, so learners don’t feel like they’re doing hard work. This makes the tutor’s job easier. The value of a qualified support cannot be discounted as technology can never replace human interaction and encouragement. We are currently recruiting retiring and retired high school teachers as well as those with university level maths skills to help us roll out the programme further.”
Vodacom subscribers have free access to the mobile technology. It was developed by Siyavula, a Mark Shuttleworth Foundation beneficiary, and models the way in which pupils learn. “Parents are cash strapped so the combination of affordable rates and mobile technology is compelling, especially when they are seeing such significant improvements in just a few months,” she explains.
Since 2009, there has been a decline of 17% of learners choosing pure maths. 58% of South African learners are now choosing maths literacy. According to educationist Gail Campbell, CEO of the Zenex Foundation and Dr Martin Prew, an independent education specialist, the problem often starts in primary school, where many learners fail to build the foundation maths skills.
They move on to high school with large chunks of missing maths knowledge and then start failing, resulting in many of their teachers encouraging them to shift to maths literacy.
Brink continues, “Tutoring is immensely rewarding as you see learners gaining confidence in maths so that they have the ability to pursue careers with good future prospects. It can also be financially rewarding for tutor-entrepreneurs as our model is aimed at an affordable level for parents who have traditionally not considered tutoring due to the expense.
“The system uses mobile phones, which are more readily available in families and this opens up a market that is not currently being serviced by existing tutoring offerings.”