The Western Cape local government has launched a R1.2 billion educational initiative called #BackOnTrack to tackle the learning crisis, which COVID-19 has worsened. According to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED)‘s 2022 systemic test results, more than half of the learners in Grades 3, 6, and 9 in the region are unable to achieve basic pass scores in mathematics and reading.
A Monumental Programme to Address the Learning Crisis
The WCED has expressed its determination to address this learning crisis through a monumental program to improve learning outcomes in Western Cape schools. The #BackOnTrack program will run for the next three years and will adopt an aggressive and unprecedented approach to education.
Support for More Schools
The program will support an additional 333 schools based on their systemic test results. This is a significant expansion from the 1,100 schools receiving Foundation Phase support since 2022. The program will support 126,000 more learners, 8,980 teachers, and 28,000 parents, who will join the existing 310,000 learners and 10,000 teachers participating in focus group work within the Foundation Phase.
A Comprehensive Approach
The #BackOnTrack program offers learning support across all school phases, from the Foundation Phase to Grade 12. It adopts a hybrid learning approach that includes diverse teaching and support strategies. Teachers from Grades 4, 7, and 8 will undergo targeted support sessions every ten days, while Grade 12 students will benefit from biweekly online afternoon sessions led by expert presenters in various subjects.
Innovative Teaching Methods
The program introduces tried and tested methods in grades that have yet to be previously employed. For example, Saturday classes that were once reserved for matric students preparing for exams will now be extended to Grades 4, 7, and 8 through the #BackOnTrack program.
Complementing Existing Initiatives
The WCED emphasizes that the program is designed to complement and build upon existing initiatives by entrenching proven interventions, such as the Maths Curriculum Online program in the Foundation Phase, while exploring new teaching and learning methods.
Monitoring Progress and Providing Updates
To ensure the program’s effectiveness, the WCED will closely monitor its progress and provide updates every two weeks. This allows for the integration of feedback and the flexibility to address challenges and adapt to changes throughout the three years, ensuring a dynamic and responsive approach to solving the learning crisis in the Western Cape.
The Potential Impact of the #BackOnTrack Programme
The #BackOnTrack program promises to significantly improve learning outcomes in the Western Cape. Moreover, with its comprehensive approach, targeting various phases of education and incorporating diverse teaching and support strategies, the initiative may serve as a model for other regions struggling with the learning crisis caused by the pandemic.
Observing Progress and Learning from the Initiative
It will be crucial to closely observe the progress of the #BackOnTrack program in the coming years and learn from its successes and challenges. Doing so can help education stakeholders better understand the most effective strategies for supporting learners and teachers, ultimately paving the way for a more resilient and equitable education system in the Western Cape and beyond.