Higher maths produces pros
ProMaths is the flagship education programme of Investec, run in partnership with the Kutlwanong Maths, Science and Technology Centre.
It is aimed at supporting the secondary schooling system to generate students competent in maths and science.
When the programme started in 2005, it initially offered extra maths and science tuition for grade 10, 11 and 12 learners in Soweto.
However, such has been the success of the programme that it is now being rolled out to the rest of the country.
The expansion has seen Investec partnering with other corporate sponsors to expand ProMaths to KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, North West, Limpopo, Free State and Northern Cape.
There are now more than 15 clusters around the country working on the ProMaths programme.
ProMaths does not seek to replace the role of educators at schools, says Setlogane Manchidi, head of Investec Social Investment, but rather to supplement their efforts to improve the performance of learners at schools.
“It aims to support the secondary schooling system by improving maths to a minimum of 50% to ensure learners gain entrance into tertiary education institutions, particularly commerce and business-related studies,” Manchidi says.
The programme also helps build capacity among maths educators through hosting teacher development workshops that introduce new methodologies in teaching the subject.
“This ongoing training helps to capacitate teachers, build their confidence and ensure the sustainability of improved results for learners,” says Manchidi.
Although the government has intensified its efforts to improve the performance of maths at school level, most schools have not been able to generate enough learners who are competent in the subject.
According to Investec, the consequence of this is that learners are limited in their options of what to study at tertiary institutions.
More long-term, there is a lack of skills and expertise in professional careers in the sciences, finance, IT and accounting.
ProMaths developed out of a long-term relationship between Investec and the Makhoarane Primary School in Soweto, where its initial contribution was largely infrastructure support.
With the company’s social investment strategy evolving to focus on maths and science, the company worked closer with the then principal of the school, Tumelo Mabitsela — who is now head of the Kutlwanong Maths, Science and Technology Centre — to explore the ProMaths programme.
Following the completion of a pilot programme in Soweto in 2005, Invested partnered with the Free State department of education to open a ProMaths Centre in QwaQwa.
ProMaths alumni have gone on to pursue tertiary studies in accounting, actuarial science, biochemistry, engineering and medicine.
An important aspect of the programme is to ensure that it is sustainable beyond the involvement of Investec as a corporate sponsor.
With more donors becoming involved in the programme, they have funded the expansion to more learners throughout the country.
The government has also expressed an interest in ProMaths and has provided some support for the model to ensure that the load is shared and becomes more manageable by all involved.
“South African schools are falling short in producing the number of grade 12 passes in maths higher grade that are needed to sustain the country’s economic growth,” Manchidi says. “This has significant implications for the future of the country and its ability to deliver on its promise of a better life for all South Africans.”
Schools in historically disadvantaged communities fare the poorest when it comes to maths performance.
As a result, young people from these communities are precluded from being able to participate in the related sectors, perpetuating cycles of poverty and hampering the achievement of broad-based black economic empowerment goals.
“From an economic perspective, poor performance in school maths, and the subsequent drop in graduates qualified for careers that rely on the subject, has led to a skills shortage,” says Manchidi.
“Such a skills shortage cannot help but impact negatively on the country’s economic growth and its ability to maintain its position as a meaningful participant in an increasingly digital global economy.”
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