The mathematics achievement of SYSTEM student teachers in the Northern Cape with special reference to study orientation in Mathematics and mentorship / by Nazir Ahmed Hassan
Hassan, Nazir Ahmed
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Given the historically poor performances in mathematics and science by learners, as well as the large number of under- and unqualified mathematics and science teachers, the newly elected post-1994 government, in consultation with numerous stakeholders, initiated a project of educational redress. The project: Students and Youth into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, was given the acronym SYSTEM. The vision of SYSTEM was to address the historical imbalances within the education and training system in South Africa. The project provided a vehicle whereby historically disadvantaged mathematics and science learners could access programmes (like the Recovery programme of SYSTEM Phase I) so as to gain entry into programmes at institutions of higher education (like the teacher-training programme of SYSTEM Phase 11). The success of SYSTEM ultimately resided in the performances and achievements of the students in the SYSTEM programmes. Within this contextual framework the study made special reference to Study orientation in mathematics, including Mathematics anxiety and Attitude towards mathematics, as possible causative factors that could inhibit/enhance performance and achievement in mathematics. An internship period linked to a mentorship programme was structured within the teacher-training programme, and interviews were conducted with the mentor teachers and a selected group of SYSTEM students so as to elicit their perceptions towards aspects of the mentoring process. The SYSTEM students' study population (from the Northern Cape) was differentiated into dichotomous groups, each group having different entry levels into Phase 11. Examinations of group perceptions towards the study variables were done within the constructs of learning (institute-based) and teaching (field-based). Both qualitative and quantitative analyses and reporting of the results were done. The results showed that the differences between the perceptions of the two sampled groups were not of practical significance. Phase I had no influential role in preparing its group of students for teacher-training. The relevance of mentorship to SYSTEM was measured by the perceptions of the respondents (SYSTEM students and mentor teachers). The interviews attested to an acknowledgement of the relative success of SYSTEM in the Northern. Cape, notwithstanding the functional and structural problems associated with the project both at national and provincial levels. To sustain the momentum of transformation of our education and training system, lessons learnt from SYSTEM should serve as a benchmark for the envisaged reform and transformation of the FET and Higher Education sectors. In particular, educational transformation should not only be cognitively contextual, since this study has indirectly shown that the affective domain should receive more attention in curriculum development, teacher education and research on teaching and learning. By embarking on these initiatives, the current state of learners and students' performances and achievements in mathematics and science may be ameliorated. A further spin-off could possibly be an increase in the number of suitably qualified mathematics and science teachers.
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