I recently attended the Rural Education Project (REP) Conference. The theme: Towards quality learning and teaching. Between 2006 and 2009, REP aims to develop the literacy and numeracy skills of primary school learners in under-resourced rural schools.
The project, part-funded by the Claude Leon Foundation, is interesting in that it did not set out to look for the one magic bullet in education, but rather aimed to critically explore and measure differentiated approaches to improving education in 38 rural case schools.
Essentially, the project is based on an experimental programme approach: which approaches work in which schools under which conditions? Levels of engagement occurred at district, community, school and classroom levels.
Cally Kuhne, REP project manager, pointed out the benefits of this approach:
- Contribute to knowledge on rural development, in particular numeracy and literacy improvement, to inform practice and/or policy.
- Identify contextual challenges related improving quality of teaching and learning in rural schools.
- Study issues related to improving results.
- Examine unique features of each school/cluster.
- Enrich understanding of current practice, programmes, institutions and systems.
The two main organisations involved in the project are UCT’s School Development Unit and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).
The final findings of REP will only be written up next year. For now the two-day conference was a taster — and an opportunity to network and share opportunities and challenges facing rural education. My conference notes provide details on the various presentations.