-Mampho Langa, Head: Future Nation Schools
Mampho Langa has won numerous awards and received much recognition for her work in education including an award for the most improved results in the district in Mathematics, an award for the most outstanding Mathematics Higher Grade results in the Gauteng District 12. She holds a Masters in Mathematics Education from Wits University. She is an honorary member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. She also holds two Honours degrees in Mathematics education and Geography and a BA in Education.
A classroom is defined as a room, typically in a school, in which a class of students is taught (Oxford Dictionary). Educationists like Black and William have observed that some educationists treat the classroom as the ‘’black box’’ where the input from outside is fed in and some output follows. I believe a classroom should be an engine where ideas, enquiry, burning suggestions and problem solving skills are ignited. Student learning is driven by what teachers and students do in the classroom.
Numerous concerns about what is happening in the classroom have been raised by different educationists from all spheres of the teaching fraternity. Teaching and learning models have mushroomed with the intention of redressing this challenge before it becomes a ball and a chain. South Africa is plagued by a high dropout rate in schools and at tertiary level; high university fees; high unemployment rate; poor Mathematics and Science results; demotivated teachers and students and low quality matric results.
The state of our education system can leave one disheartened. There is, however, some light at the end of tunnel. One of these beacons is the Project Based Learning and Teaching model. High Tech High schools in San Diego have adopted this model and have been implementing it for more fourteen years. The results are overwhelmingly positive. Classrooms run by the Project Based Learning model become points of interaction where students are given an opportunity to think critically, solve problems independently, work collaboratively and design projects that reflect their learning. A classroom becomes a place of fun, exploring, self-discovery and reflection. Students are given opportunity to challenge, question and to investigate information from any source. The model encourages connections and consultations with professionals outside the school to enhance student’s fields of interest. This approach gives every student an opportunity to learn in an open but developmental and liberating space. The classroom is a centre of innovation and design.
Sceptics of this model have argued that the model is not possible in South Africa because our curriculum is packed and leaves no room for designing projects and that our students are not ready for this change. We disagree!
South Africa, it is time to look beyond what we have and what we can do. Our South African students do not have a different genetic makeup from the San Diego students. There is an enormous storage of talent embedded in our students’ DNA but it still needs to tapped into and unfolded. We will not be able to access our students’ hidden skills if we do not give them an opportunity to demonstrate and develop them. We, the education team at Future Nation Schools, have put our hands together and joined Sizwe Nxasana in his quest to change the South African education system!
Ke Nako, we have waited too long for to overhaul our approaches to education. Our students are yearning for classrooms where learning is not only empowering but it is fun. Future Nation Schools have adopted the Project Based Learning model to enhance the CAPS curriculum. We have tested the model locally, through our Winter Accelerated Programme and the results are overwhelmingly positive and exciting! Students learn better where they are allowed to explore, self-discover and apply new knowledge to real life. Project Based Learning is now here in South Africa, turning classrooms into the engines of learning they should be!