The Penreach Asifundze Literacy and Numeracy programme, of which the Roger Federer Foundation School Readiness Initiative is a component, develops teachers to contribute towards a positive impact on 8.9 million lives. It supports the national objective of 90% of children achieving above 50% in maths & science by 2025.  

This report focuses on the tablet-based Early Learning applications created by the Roger Federer Foundation; and the effect it has had on the 153 Grade R teachers in 80 schools whom received the tablets through Penreach’s educational development program. 7 tablets were not distributed due to some schools only having 1 Grade R teacher. It is in discussion that these seven tablets be given to schools where teachers are sharing the allocated two tablets per school between more than 2 teachers. 

Objectives

The Roger Federer Foundation’s School Readiness Initiative originally created the applications iGo and iSee in order to achieve the following objectives:

  • Establish a monitoring system at pre-primary level
  • Increase the participation of learners in activities before they enter primary school
  • Prepare learners for primary school
  • Decrease the number of failures and drop out in lower school grades

Key Findings

Upon seeking feedback, Penreach had 3 Change Agents visit some of the impacted schools to interview the Grade R teachers. 22 teachers reflected on the use of the KIOSK after a month of using the tablets. Using a pre-set questionnaire, the Change Agents were able to perform the same interview with each of the teachers. The questionnaire focused on usage of the tablets; benefits of the tablets and the challenges of the tablets. It further enquired about the establishment of the program and whether or not Communities of Practice (here after referred to as CoPs) had been set up. From the answers given by the 22 teachers, the following results were recorded:

  • 100% of teachers are currently using the tablet and feel that it is simple to use and that they understand how to use the programmes efficiently. 
  • 100% use their tablet daily, though only 40% have started with the assessment parts. This is due to some teachers having already planned out assessments prior to receiving the tablet or that some teachers still prefer the summative way of assessment as opposed to the continuous assessment.
  • 38% of teachers that have received tablets from Penreach are sharing a tablet with another Grade R teacher that is not specifically enrolled in the programme
  • 40% of teachers said that the program incorporates everything they need to teach. The other 60% felt that they couldn’t comment on the program in its entirety (due to them not having started with the assessments) but are happy with the lessons and modules that they have done.
  • 95% of schools have established CoPs
  • 100% of teachers agree that the program has changed their lives in that it has made the process of teaching simpler and easier to understand in that the lesson plans are predeveloped and the assessment process is continuous. 
  • 100% of the teachers felt that the activities synced in with the CAPs syllabus.

Challenges

There are however some challenges that the Grade R teachers have come across. For example, one challenge that some teachers have come across is that the activities are not dated. As a result of this they find it hard to remember when they did each activity and whether or not they are working through the activities at the expected pace.  This links to curriculum management that is an essential component of the programme.

Another challenge that teachers are struggling with is the rating system. On the applications, the children are rated from 1-3 however the SASAMS rating method, used in schools in South Africa, runs from 1-7. This in turn creates complications in the report process and teachers would like more place to comment on the child’s progress as they complete each assessment.

In some schools there are more than 2 Grade R teachers and as a result they are having to share the allocated tablets. This is causing challenges for them as they combined the class lists on the application, complicating the assessment procedure.  Teachers did not understand that they multiple users could be registered on the tablet and therefor only used the two logins that were created instead of creating new ones for the additional users.  This is an implementation challenge that is being address during classroom based coaching. With the next intake of teachers the training of this specific component will require more attention. 

During training, teachers were encouraged to start CoPs.  However, in some schools this serves as a challenge as the closest Early Childhood Development Centre is quite far away.  This has resulted in some CoP’s not represented by ECD practitioners.

A few teachers also mentioned the need for more reading stories as well as the need for more Life Skills activities due to the Grade R children being at such a critical ‘life moulding’ age.  For most teachers the stories on the tablet are their only resource for reading, and then it becomes repetitive.  The suggestion is that more audio books are loaded even if it is predominantly in English and does not include the functionality of multiple languages.  

Another challenge that keeps reoccurring is the encouragement of teachers to do the self-guided development course, iGo. 90% of teachers feel that they should receive some sort of certificate or qualification once they have completed all the modules. This incentive is imperative as most teachers are currently studying and place priority on their tertiary education studies rather than the iGo modules.  Approximately 65% of Grade R teachers are not adequately trained and they feel that this kind of certificate would enable them to demonstrate their abilities and make them more employable.  

Another challenge is not necessarily related to the RFF SCI application or tablet usage but rather the formal training and/or orientation the teachers receive as Grade R practitioners, as some teachers did not realise that continuous assessments should be done. Instead they have continued using the activities with the old way of teaching where they do a summative assessment at the end of each term.  As much as assessment is a continuous activity of the teacher it also presents a challenge in the teacher’s practical approach and adjustment to implement this expectation.  This pedagogical support is provided during coaching provided by the RFF SRI Change Agent.

Success Stories

There are many success stories relating to the tablet and applications as all the teachers have found the activities useful and are making use of the tablet every day

Those that have been doing the continuous assessments feel that the idea of rating the learners throughout their progress has simplified the process of observing their learners. 

Some of the teachers also felt that through the use of the tablet and activities, they are granted access to resources they otherwise would not have been able to use. This assists them better in the preparation and delivery for their lessons.

As mentioned above, 95% of the teachers have established CoP’s with ECD centres and Grade 1 teachers and are finding that these meetings are successful in allowing them the opportunity to discuss challenges, future goals and current achievements

Furthermore, due to the prepared activities and lesson plans assisting the teachers, they have found that they have more free class time. This free time allows them more opportunity to focus on remedial needs learners and those who are struggling. It also allows each teacher more time to focus on their own personal development. For example, one teacher explained that because of the tablet alleviating some of her work load she now has more time to focus on her studies in education as she is not yet qualify.

Conclusion

100% of the teachers agree that the usage of the tablets and applications has benefited them and they would recommend it to other Grade R teachers.

There are a few challenges that the teachers are facing when it comes to using the tablets and apps, however every teacher agreed that the benefits of this initiative outweigh the challenges.

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