by Michael Morgan

Technology boosts education

Students benefit via satellite broadcast

Education steps into the techno era
Students learn via satellite

With challenges in education and the final matric exams just around the corner, learners in the Western and Northern Cape are benefiting from additional lessons in key subjects being broadcast via satellite.

In the Western Cape, where the programme has been running for the past three years, the average improvement in the matric pass rate of participating schools last year was 10,9%; and at 20 of the 147 schools the improvement was 50% or more.

The programme, an initiative of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), consists of broadcasts from studios at SU’s Division of Telematic Services, plus interaction with learners via cell phone and the internet.

Approximately 20 000 Grade-11 and -12 learners at 147 schools in the province are participating in the programme. The WCED uses top teachers to present the extra lessons in Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Accounting, Life Sciences, English, Afrikaans and Geography via the system.

The participating schools have all been equipped with a satellite dish and special decoder to receive the transmissions. Broadcasts take place on designated week-day afternoons, and on Sundays. Learners gather in a classroom at their school specifically equipped for this purpose.

The programme has this year been extended to 69 schools in the Northern Cape – at the request of the province’s education department. They also receive the WCED’s broadcasts, but it is not a problem because the syllabuses are largely similar.

Lessons are even broadcast to Rietfontein High School in Mier, a remote town near the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, where the borders of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana meet. 

Feedback indicates that teachers and learners would like to receive more broadcasts. What is also being considered is to extend the programme to lower grades. And teachers might also benefit more from additional professional development via the telematic platform, which is already being provided to a limited degree.

“We are committed to innovation wherever possible to improve the quality of education in the province, and in this regard we deeply appreciate our partnership with Stellenbosch University,” says Mr Paddy Attwell, Director of Communications at the WCED.

SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Russel Botman says, “It is a privilege to collaborate with the WCED and to make SU’s technology platform available for the support of schools, teachers and learners. In this way we are helping to open the doors of opportunity to many more young people than we would otherwise have been able to reach.”

 

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