INVESTMENT

Maths and science boost

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Omidyar Network, announces its investment in Siyavula Education, an education technology company that enables learners to improve their performance in high school mathematics and science through technology-empowered learning.

Around the world, countries have recognised that a critical element to fuel innovation and economic growth is a focus on education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. This is particularly true of developing countries and is becoming increasingly relevant in South Africa, given the current state of our maths and science education, highlighted in recent results and rankings.

“Siyavula is creating opportunity and improving the prospects of young South Africans by using technology to increase access to education,” said Omidyar Network Partner Amy Klement. “Omidyar Network’s funding will help the company expand across the country as it seeks to scale its highly effective, innovative and affordable education technology solutions.”

Siyavula has developed innovative software that enables learners to practise Maths and Science, intelligently. The software adapts to every learner’s individual needs, providing targeted feedback so that they can master the necessary concepts and skills. The practice service currently covers Gr 8-12 Mathematics and Gr 10-12 Physical Sciences. Accessed over the web and mobile, subscriptions to the service are either individually to parents and learners or to schools as a classroom tool for teachers.

The technology provides teachers with the ability to monitor their classes by summarising learners’ efforts and identifying problem areas, making it a powerful diagnostic teaching tool. Siyavula also works with publishers and educational institutions to license the content and algorithms for intelligent, personalised adaptivity when practising.

“Our programme gives the learner immediate, detailed feedback and allows long-term progress tracking,” said Mark Horner, CEO Siyavula Education. “This way, learners who are struggling can be identified easily and assisted.”

Currently, over 50 000 learners and teachers in public and private schools across the country have access to Siyavula’s online programmes, which have delivered and automatically marked more than four million exercises developed from a complex set of adaptive algorithms.

Siyavula has also developed openly-licensed, curriculum-aligned textbooks for Maths and Science. This content is freely-accessible to read and download online, over mobile, as ePUBs and on Mxit. The Department of Basic Education has printed and distributed about 10 million copies of these textbooks to public schools in South Africa across Gr 4-12. For many schools, where access to the Internet or other necessary technology is limited or non-existent, the printed textbook fulfills a crucial role in access to educational resources.

“Omidyar Network’s mission to empower individuals to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them is closely aligned with ours,” added Horner.  “Through this partnership, we will be able to increase access to quality education material among more youth across the country.”

Through its education initiative, Omidyar Network supports entrepreneurial models that bring high-quality, affordable schooling, pre-primary education and vocational training to areas where opportunities are scarce. Omidyar Network also invests in the latest teaching and learning technology that have the potential to scale across the world. With the investment in Siyavula Education, Omidyar Network’s education initiative now supports 23 organizations focused on early childhood development, education technology, K-12 and work readiness across Africa, Latin America, India, North America and the Philippines.

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