Leading business software supplier SAS now provides free web programs, called Curriculum Pathway, to improve South Africa’s problematic education in science and mathematics.
“With the available infrastructure, and the assistance of hardware and connectivity vendors, we should be able to make a difference (it’s like the story of the person that threw stranded starfish back into the sea) – every single learner that is helped counts,” Murray de Villiers, SAS General Manager of Corporate Affairs told HumanIPO.
World Economic Forum statistics show South Africa is 62nd for its quality of education. SAS’s free program aims to assist the country in climbing the educational ladder.
Interactive online materials assisting with subjects such as mathematics, science and arts are supplied for teachers and learners from Grade 6 to 12. Materials are readily available to any educational institutions through subscription on the website.
Despite the low percentage of South African schools that have Internet access, de Villiers states that the company is also trying their best to reach schools in remote areas.
“In South Africa, where there are significant problems in the education system, especially with maths and science, SAS Curriculum pathways offers a solution that supports and augments the education system to address those gaps,” said Riad Gydien, the SAS Vice President for Middle East and Africa.
Gydien added: “It also automatically differentiates between users so that faster students can progress while slower ones get the repetition that they need.”
But Kobus van Wyk, an expert on e-learning, told HumanIPO: “It is ‘a solution’ not ‘the solution’. Many similar initiatives exist and when used correctly, they have the potential of improving SA education.
“A big advantage of these resources is that they’re available at no cost (as opposed to expensive educational software that is available commercially).”
Van Wyk added: “Unless material is mapped to the South African curriculum, it will not improve education at all. In general, our teachers do not have the ability or skills to do such mapping themselves, and so the material, even though good in itself, will be lost to the children.”
The North West University (NWU), Stellenbosch University (SU) as well as Rhodes University (RU) are already using the system to improve the skills of students whose results are substandard. According to de Villiers, no problems have been reported up to date.
SAS collaborates with various non-Governmental organisations to supply training to teachers. Possibilities of investment and vendor or hardware agreements are also being explored for expansion purposes. They are in negotiations with the South African Department of Education, as well as licensing processes with the Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are underway.
SAS has been established in South Africa since 1995, with offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg and more than 100 employees..