For Zukiswa Juta, Science Education Master's Graduate at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and subject advisor for Physical Sciences in the Butterworth Education District, science is something learners really need to experience for themselves.
Juta is responsible for supporting and monitoring schools, as well as ensuring CAPS implementation in FET schools. It’s a difficult task - but one made easier by the two new science learning centres (SLCs) opened in Butterworth FET College and Butterworth GET on 8 June 2018, thanks to the University of the Western Cape’s Science Learning Centres for Africa.
“One of the requirements of CAPS is to ensure that the learners obtain 25% of their exam mark from practical work,” Juta says. “Unfortunately, most schools in the district do not have well-resourced laboratories, and this leads to underperformance in the subject - and that’s where the SLCs can make a big difference.”
And it’s not just the learners that can use a little help.
“Another science education challenge,” Juta explains, “is that most teachers have no practical background in science, so even if they have a few resources at their schools, they cannot use them effectively.”
Fortunately, the SLCs provide a solution: intense training of educators on practical work so that they can impart the knowledge gained to learners. These labs, the first of their kind in the Eastern Cape, will provide state-of-the-art science education (and fun) for high school learners and teachers. The SLCs function as hitech science laboratories, equipped with smart boards, data projectors, microscopes, science equipment and much more.
The benefits the science learning centres offer are many:
- They can help experienced and inexperienced teachers develop their confidence, knowledge and practical skills in teaching science.
- Learners’ understanding of scientific concepts will develop, and the application of science will be enhanced at a lower level.
- Learner enthusiasm in choosing Science careers will grow and numbers of learners taking Physical Science will go up.
- This will also assist in the teacher development workshops for Physical Sciences practicals in the district.
- SLCs will also promote the taking of mathematics and other science subjects by learners, as this will motivate them to see science as an interesting subject to consider in their careers.
“The collaborative activities which will be conducted in the laboratory will bridge the gap between the FET and GET bands. Teachers will receive proper training on practical work, which implies that there will be 25% improvement for each learner, which will in turn improve district results,” Juta says.
”SBA rejections will be history and good performance will prevail.”
Three more science learning centres were opened in June as well, at Trinset Secondary in Mthatha and Ngwenze Secondary School in Dutywa (7 June), and at Richard Varha Secondary School in King Williams Town (8 June).
Expanding Educational Opportunities: Science Learning Centres East and West
The five new laboratories - the first to be constructed outside the Western Cape - bring the total number of science learning centres constructed since 2011 to 62. A further nine will be constructed in the Western Cape in 2018.
The achievement of learners and teachers in national and international benchmarks tests paints a very bleak picture, and one that highlights a national crisis.
UWC-SLCA’s mission is to help address these issues by developing a culture of science teaching and learning.
“We have to start with the basics: supporting teachers and helping them develop the skills and confidence to teach science with an advanced level of understanding and experience,” Professor Shaheed Hartley, Director of UWC-SLCA, explains.
“Similarly, we have to be creative in providing learners with opportunities that will draw their interest and willingness to learn. Certainly, having a confident and knowledgeable science teacher in a conducive environment provided by the UWC Science Learning Centres is a step in the right direction.”
UWC-SLCA has provided support to the Eastern Cape Education Department since 2010, when it provided an Advanced Certificate of Education in FET Science to 50 teachers. Since then many more teachers have benefited from SLCA training and support, including ADE, BEd Hons, Masters and short courses in Science Education. The programme is ongoing: At UWC’s April 2018 Graduation, 14 teachers received their MEd degree in Science Education.
Want to know more? Visit the Science Learning Centre For Africa website or Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/slca.ac.za/) or email firstname.lastname@example.org and find out how science, maths and education can make the world a better and more interesting place.