“The evaluation was of a bridging programme offered to learners from previously disadvantaged backgrounds who wanted to improve the quality of their Grade 12 Mathematics and Science results. The bridging programme was presented through a College funded by a JSE-listed technology and engineering company.”
Findings from the evaluation report included:
- In assessing whether the College learners demonstrated significant improvement in their academic performance at graduation compared to their academic performance before admission, the evaluators recognised that that learners who entered the College with the lowest matric scores showed the greatest improvement. Most of these learners, however, were not able to reach the benchmarks set by the Zenex Foundation of achieving a pass in Mathematics and Science at Levels 5, 6 or 7.
- The evaluation showed that the learners who achieved the highest scores in matric at selection, showed the lowest levels of improvement. It appeared that the College catered for two streams of academic achievement i.e. learners who want to improve their pass rates and proceed to universities, and learners who improved their pass marks to enter the job market.
- The evaluators noted that teachers at the College moved at a very fast pace and tended to focus on preparing learners for examinations at the expense of meaningful learning that was underpinned by good understanding of concepts.
- There was no evidence of a differentiated approach to teaching and learners were all given the same amount of dosage and content even though the programme purported to be selecting for two streams of learners.
- The selection process was not able to adequately discriminate potential at the higher end.
- The College offered extended time on tasks: 375 hours per year were allocated for Mathematics and 250 hours for Physical Science, whereas in ordinary schools, 160 hours per year was allocated for each of these subjects.
- The evaluators found that practical work and demonstrations seemed to be limited in Physical Science.
- The teaching content tended to be driven by exams i.e. preparation for exams was the focus of most lessons.
- Even though the preferred teaching style was teacher directed, the evaluators found evidence that learners actively participated during the lessons.
- The College had high expectations in terms of the level of effort required for learners to succeed. However, there seemed to be good balance between what was expected from the learners and the high levels of support offered by the College.
- In addition to the academic package, the College offered a comprehensive programme of support comprising mentoring, career guidance, life skills, English communication and computer skills. Data collected from the evaluation seemed to suggest that while academic benefits were appreciated by learners, the social benefits were found to be equally important to learners. It seemed that learners continued to uphold the value systems fostered by the College even after they had left the institution.
- Competition for bursaries and potential job placements proved to be critical in motivating learners to stay on the programme and to work hard. From focus groups held with learners, it appeared that the financial needs of learners pushed them into career paths offered by the sponsoring company’s bursaries, even if that was not their career choice.