Shapes, measures, and patterns: Training teachers for ECD success

October 27, 2017Sarika Bachoo

According to the shocking revelation of an audit done by South Africa's Department of Social Development released October 2015, more than 12,000 Grade R teachers need to attain the required Diploma in Grade R teaching or need to upgrade their qualifications”.

The Auditor General of South Africa made a determination that the majority of Grade R teachers are not qualified. In Limpopo 100% of Grade R teachers are unqualified; KZN 83% Northern Cape 85%; Gauteng 56% and Western Cape 66%.

Research by Stellenbosch University on “The impact of the introduction of Grade R on learning outcomes” has indicated that unqualified Grade R teachers that have a limited understanding of their role in childhood development contribute to the poor quality of Grade R intervention programmes.

A key strategy is paying more attention to the quality of Grade R, which entails: Training and support, including qualifications, knowledge of how children learn and how to facilitate learning to achieve Grade R learning outcomes. Curriculum issues include clear spelling out of practical guidelines and standards for teachers and improving understanding of the curriculum. The research by Stellenbosch University also found that 65% of Grade R learners enter Grade 1 without the necessary skills or concepts to master reading.

Quality is key: a quality curriculum, a quality teacher, and a quality response to developmental needs.

The Maths Centre Approach

international development education innovation teacher trainings for early childhood development ECD successThe key aim of our project is school readiness for the learner, to make a transition from Grade R to Grade 1. Quality teaching from a qualified teacher is critical for a holistic life-long learner, and our focus on the Grade R teacher develops their skills as well as makes them feel valued as professionals in their field of work.

The reality is that not all Grade R teachers are able to afford training programme costs. Maths Centre is thus looking at increasing our access to Grade R teachers to assist with quality teaching and learning via quality training, teacher motivation and ensuring sustainability. Our ECD projects have a strong practical and theoretical framework and is grounded in evidence around what works in the ECD and Grade R education sector.

Over the past 4 years, through our UBS/TWP ECD Project Maths Centre has been working in schools and ECD centres in Johannesburg’s North and South districts with the Departments of Education to support ECD/Grade R practitioners in improving their classroom teaching and learning methodologies, qualifications, and understanding of how children learn.

The practitioners in the programme completed their accredited ECD level 4 certificate (1 year) and ECD level 5 Diploma (18 months) in the project by attending weekly workshops. Key to the project success is the classroom support to ensure that practitioners were implementing what was discussed at workshops, advocacy campaigns (Parents Count, Share and Shine, Maps and Mirrors etc.), ICT training and various other project activities.

Project Impact

From the 20 practitioners in the project:

  • 3 practitioners obtained Grade R positions at schools.
  • 10 practitioners registered with the South African Council of educators (SACE).
  • 2 ECD centres in Alexandra Township registered with the Department of education and Social services for Grade R to be incorporated at the centre.
  • 2 practitioners received ECD management posts.
  • 4 practitioners have increased their salaries from R1500pm to R7000pm.
  • 6 practitioners registered with UNISA and completing a Bed Primary Teaching Degree.
  • 8 Grade R practitioners reregistered with the Department of education for 2016 are receiving the R7000 stipend after completing their accredited level 5 ECD Diploma.
  • Improvement in classroom teaching and Learning, learner progression noted.
  • ECD centres have made changes to their indoor and outdoor learning environments.
  • Teachers and learners received accolades and awards from the DOE.
  • Improvements in teacher and learner progression and teachers’ conceptual knowledge of ECD.

international development education innovation teacher trainings for early childhood development ECD success

What do the Workshops Entail?

Maths Content workshops were conducted to improve the teaching and learning of Mathematics in Grade R. Topics were identified as per the pretest learner Gaps.

Learning Measurement Activities

Grade R teachers were instructed in various methods to help students learn measurement and develop other mathematical concepts as well. Long vs. Short, for example. Teachers in the workshop are taught activities using a piece of wool to measure objects or their bodies as well.

3D Shapes Activities

Teachers used paper to build their 3D shapes and were excited to see how the different pieces fit together to change the shape. They identified various ways of how learners could build the shape and paint the shape and label it, helping children learn math concepts as well as creativity.

Patterns Activities

Approximately 20% of workshop learners experienced problems with drawing of patterns in the Grade R classes. In the MCIS Workshop the teachers are first asked to copy a wave pattern using clay. Teachers were taught to introduce learners to making patterns with clay or make patterns in the sand before asking the learner to repeat the drawing and form a pattern. Later they would progress to making patterns with baubles and beads and shapes.

Building on Teachers’ Success

international development education innovation teacher trainings for early childhood development ECD successLebogang Molefe is a Grade R teacher at Funukhukanya Primary School. She was given the Grade R post this year in March, 2017. She started her teaching career in 2015 and worked without pay for the whole year assisting the Grade R teachers. In 2016 she worked as an assistant teacher at Shadrack Mbambo Primary School and was paid a Stipend of R600pm. She was referred by the Department of Education and joined the UBS ECD Project at Maths Centre. The principal at Funukukhanya then took her on as a permanent Grade R teacher and she now receives the stipend from the DOE of R7000pm.

Success like this can be replicated. MCIS believes that all children should have access to quality, sustainable early childhood development so that they can develop to their full educational and personal potential. Quality teachers like Lebogang are key to lifelong learners, and we are committed to supporting her and others’ like her continued growth. If you’d like to learn more about our ECD Teacher Training, or other aspects of our programs, we hope you’ll visit or reach out.


Photo Credits: Maths Centre

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