Helping prepare learners for the fourth industrial revolution
With the fourth industrial revolution upon us, the need for skills in Maths, science and computing is greater than ever.
Two-a-Day, one of the largest employers in the Grabouw area, is well aware of this trend and is already seeking out learners with matriculation certification and especially those with Maths skills. Additionally, the company, one of the shareholders of South Africa’s largest apple and pear exporter, Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, is making it possible for existing staff and unemployed people who don’t yet have matric, to achieve this. Two-a-Day currently invests about R360 000 annually on the matriculation programme that has about 50 participants.
Any sign of growth, recovery or renewal is how Green Shoots, the Maths-focussed education company defines the term. In Agriculture it means the same things so the synergy that exists between Two-a-Day’s support of the Green Shoots programme at schools in Grabouw makes sense.
According to Mark Swartz and Jo Besford, both founders and directors of Green Shoots speaking from their Strand offices in the Western Cape, the on-line Maths education programme that is available to schools free of charge, has already had massive success in increasing numeracy in one of the foundation subjects.
“Our role is to add value to the school and their teaching staff”, Swartz says while Besford, who came to South Africa 12 years ago after teaching Maths in the tough neighbourhoods of inner-London schools, comments about the real-time information their Green Shoot programme provides. “Learners and educators have their results almost instantly but, essentially, the platform also immediately highlights areas that learners struggle with and the teaching staff can then support.”
“Because we align with what the schools are teaching”, Swartz explains, “we support the school and the teachers and the learners benefit.”
Swartz hails from Botrivier in the Overberg where he was at school with Two-a-Day’s Doctor Anthony Hess. “This was how I got to meet Two-a-Day’s Director of Human Resources, Dimitri Jacobs, who also drives the company’s many corporate social responsibility programmes. I had the opportunity of introducing Green Shoots and our Maths-support programme to Two-a-Day.” Swartz says.
“We already assist about 133, 924 learners and 3, 274 teachers in 328 schools as well as provide input during the developmental stage in 15 after-school centres. Now, with Two-a-Day’s help, an initial support of R60, 000 we can help three Grabouw primary schools: De Rust Futura, Glen Elgin and Kathleen Murray,” Swartz says, adding: “While we provide the software in the form of on-line training and testing, it is the warmware, the hand-holding and human-component that we provide that seems to add as much value to schools.”
Jo Besford says they have a programme with a high-school too which is currently being evaluated. “Maths is a gateway subject. Both Mark and I were Maths/Science teachers and in 2010 we started Green Shoots with the then support of the Human Dignity Foundation as original donor. People have described our business model as odd as school learners or schools never bear the cost of the online programme or support. We understand how tight already limited resources are for school governing bodies and the parents that support them so we only want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
According to Besford, they support schools around the peninsula and even in the Ceres area where they work, among others with Nduli and Morrisdale Primary Schools. Ceres Fruit Growers, the apple and pear processing and packing business in that region is the other shareholder of Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing and works with Nduli Primary School with a Swop Shop programme where items that can be recycled are exchanged for fruit, vegetables and other necessities.
“The strategic decision taken by the Western Cape Government to insist on internet access and computers in schools has been the platform on which our success is built,” says Swartz.
Dr Isabel Tarling reporting on the Integrated Maths Project Monitoring and Evaluation Report 2016-2018 wrote: “District officials indicated that learners’ attainment in Maths increased by up to 15% during 20176-2018 and attributed this to Maths Curriculum Online use. Learners attitude towards the subject and confidence in their Maths abilities also increased during this period. Using state-of-the-art knowledge from the field of learning science, a direct correlation was established between learners’ ability to judge their learning and their actual performance, a measure expressed as the degree of calibration. The analysis of data provides irrefutable evidence that each one of the four outcomes set for the project were met beyond expectation.”
Swartz comments that schools always had good data but now that is available in real-time. “Within 12 minutes of learners completing modules we can assess where the issues are and these are immediately available to the schools and teaching body via a dashboard that shows a range of useful analyses including a per question breakdown for every learner.
Besford says that learners who use Maths@Home, the after-school programme, improve in their on-line ranking scores and through competitions are able to pitch themselves against pupils at other schools. “This can be a very empowering. I believes this spills over into increasing confidence and potential.” she ends.
“Two-a-Day is very proud to be involved with Green Shoots and the schools in our community. We believe that the investment we made at a very early stage of the learners’ development will enhance their chances of pursuing careers that are needed for the future”, says Two-a-Day’s HR Director Dimitri Jacobs.
Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing’s managing director Roelf Pienaar says that education, in particular in the maths, science and computer-logic subjects, is one of the main keys to unlock future success and sustainable employment. “Green Shoots and other programmes that support learners, need to be encouraged and companies should be inspired by Two-a-Day’s approach to also sponsor and support such programmes where possible.”