Doubling for growth: CDE workshop notes

The Centre for Development and Enterpris (CDE) held a workshop entitled Doubling for Growth, to discuss ways to address the maths and science challenge in SA’s schools. A report with the same title was published last year that presented a plan to double the number of maths and science matriculants.

The workshop was meant to reflect on progress and challenges since the report, and open the discussion to a wider audience that also wants those kinds of results for maths and science.

It was attended by a number of private companies that invest in the “maths and science problem” as part of their CSR spend. They also need those graduates as future staff.


  • Corporates and government are investing large sums of money but are seeing very little impact.
  • Interventions produce small numbers of graduates, e.g. one company supported 8 matriculants per year.
  • Not enough sharing of resources and efforts between players in this space.
  • How to measure the impact of the various singular efforts to address the problem?

Ann Bernstein, head of CDE, gave a presentation that covered the following:

Challenges in contemporary SA schooling:

  • Lack of accountability
  • Poor management
  • Low time on task (46% of teacher time is spent actually teaching — this should be 85%)
  • Slow pace and incomplete coverage of curriculum
  • Poor teacher competencies: precise facts about teacher qualifications in SA are not known
  • Maths teaching poor all the way through
  • Language of instruction (LOI) is not the mother-tongue language of many learners
  • 220 Dinaledi schools (out of 400) where no impact is seen on HG maths passes

New curriculum has huge implications for teaching capacity:

  • 2007: 275,000 SC learners doing maths HG or standard grade (SG)
  • 2008: > 500,000 doing maths or maths literacy

Many more teachers are needed!

Far too few high performing schools:

  • 2004-2007: SA is stuck on around 25,000 HG maths passes per year
  • 0.5%: number of African matriculants who wrote higher grade (HG) maths and got a “C” or above (2004)
  • 50% of public schools do not produce one single Senior Certificate (SC) HG maths pass
  • More than half of HG maths passes come from ex-model C schools. There is no guarantee that these schools will keep producing. They also face pressure to perform! Focus should not only be on the poorest of the poor and the low-end schools; these well-performing schools should be supported.

CDE recommendations:

  • To strengthen the Dinaledi programme: introduce a contract between schools and the DoE.
  • Identification of talented learners
  • New capacity in the DoE. Need strong communication from the DoE on the issue.
  • Teachers: test them. Need an audit and supply plan. Not enough data on this, not enough being done about it. Need more qualified teachers NOW for January 2009 — must IMPORT!
  • About 80% of public schools are dysfunctional. National voluntary apptitude test. Commit to get those kids to a decent school. Will need bursaries/support.
  • Private sector: current approach is not working, not fundamentally improving the education system. Ad hoc interventions are helpful, but not enough. The private sector must not perform the state’s role. They should use their private resources as “risk capital” to test innovative ideas that can go to scale.
  • Make “Doubling” a national project:
    • Need to strengthen and expand the Dinaledi programme
    • Need HG candidates from outside the Dinaledi schools
    • Take a “SARS approach” and create a unit to run the Doubling project: Executive leadership; Comprehensive strategy; Bigger budget and staff; and Report to parliament every year on progress

CDE proposed an ongoing private sector/foundation forum to:

  1. Discuss and agree on advocacy points of leverage for new the government.
  2. Discuss how to invest in the M&S problem with a “risk capital” approach, and partner with organisations that can take interventions to scale.

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