Mattieu Theron is an avid Heavy Chef community member and co-founder of Plant The Seed, a South African education startup that aims to revolutionise the way we teach and learn. We spoke to Mattieu this week about education, training and his crowdfunding campaign that he’s just launched.
Heavy Chef: Matt, thanks for talking to Heavy Chef about your project. Is education broken in SA?
In many ways yes, we are simply not equipping youth at an early age with the basic, core competencies that they require to succeed in school, pass matric and contribute to society and the economy.
For example, the 2016 Progress in International Reading and Literacy (PIRLS) results were announced and they showed that 78% of South African Grade 4 children could not read for meaning in any language - and note that all 11 languages were tested. Among Setswana and Sepedi home language learners the figure is over 90%. And, according to education specialist Nic Spaull, if children don’t grasp the number concept, place-value or the four operations by the time they hit Grade 4 they are on a one-way ticket to failure.
Then consider that the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) showed that 61% of Grade 5 students could not do basic mathematics. As of 2017 over 40% of youth do not finish matric – they enter the labour market with no skill or qualification at all.
Jeepers, that sounds dire. So, then, what does education look like in the next decade, for South Africa?
There are a couple scenarios that could take place.
Firstly, if reading and literacy continue to remain so poor we are going to experience a growing illiterate youth population and exponential unemployment.
Secondly, we are seeing an increase in the number of private and specifically low-income private schools opening across the country. I think we are going to see more and more low-income private schools opening. These will certainly help address a need in the education sector for quality low-income schooling. However, this will not address the poorest population, and it may attract quality teachers away from public schooling where they are drastically needed. This being said it could also be a breeding ground for quality teachers which could spill over into the public sector. I believe low-income private schooling has a strong place in the education sector.
Third, the increase in low-income private schooling will help reduce the inequalities in learner competencies between racial groups and will certainly decrease learner drop-out in high school.
Fourth, our former model-c and private schools which have been dominated by white populations and culture will become more racially diverse and integration will slowly start taking place as these schools will be forced to become culturally aware and inclusive.
Fifth, the public sector will start looking to private companies to help fill needs in curriculum learning methodologies, especially in subjects such as Life Orientation. This will include greater access to online platforms where content will be hosted and broken down by curriculum requirements
Then, the Sustainable Development Goals will be the guiding framework under which all curriculum will need to be tied.
Lastly, the national curriculum will need to become less assessment and outcomes based as this currently puts far too much time constraints and pressure on teachers. Further learners are not being exposed to learning methodologies which build key skillsets such as critical thinking, problem solving, creative thinking and more.
Matt, who is doing remarkable innovation in education internationally?
There is awesome innovation happening in all aspects of education.
School management: Partners for Possibility is doing good work locally to upskill school principals and management by teaming them up with business managers and CEOs.
Low-cost accessible mobile friendly education: Eneza is based in Africa - Kenya predominantly.
ICT for improving literacy and numeracy in foundational phase education: Enuma and OneBillion
Equipping teachers to engage learners in the worlds challenges and sustainability: Institute for Humane Education and EcoRise
Accessing curriculum offline in low-connectivity areas: Learning Equality
Then, Finland is pushing the boundaries in how learners engage with learning through interconnected thematic and project based learning - basically doing away with subjects.
Thanks Matt - lastly, tell us a little about your new campaign?
I am driven by education in Africa and our company is trying to unlock education in schools in South Africa. Plant The Seed has launched a crowdfunding campaign as we are looking for funding to bring sustainability and innovation curriculum, project based learning, biomimicry and social entrepreneurship to SA educators and classrooms. Our video says it best.