when you don’t have much space24th Mar 2020
Estates offer families the opportunity to ‘live, work, and play’ in a single space, which has led to a demand for practical schooling solutions in or close to estates.
But schools take up a lot of space, so it’s worth considering smaller collaborative learning spaces, fuelled by online educational centres and curriculums.
Online learning in the South African context
The quality and consistency of public school education in South Africa is not optimal due, largely, to a shortage of high-calibre educators. Recently, a UNESCO report highlighted that sub-Saharan Africa would require an additional 6.3 million teachers if it were to attain universal primary education by 2030.
But, thanks to the proliferation of online schools, including Cambrilearn, Impaq and – most recently – Valenture Institute, parents can have more choice.
‘We currently have a sizeable systematic issue in South Africa,’ says Bradley Elliot, Valenture Institute’s Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer. ‘Education can only be propelled through great leadership and access to high-calibre teachers. Online schools give access to both of these integral resources.’
Valenture Institute opened its virtual doors in September of 2019, and currently offers four levels of qualifications: Junior High (equivalent of grades eight and nine); the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE, equivalent of grades 10 and 11); International Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Levels (equivalent of grade 12); and International A Levels (post-grade 12).
Up until now, online education offerings have fallen short by providing access to pre-recorded learning material, and expecting students to muster the discipline necessary to self-pace through the learning journey. What makes Valenture Institute stand out is the fact that it offers real-time classes and easy access to tutors, and assigns each registered student a mentor with whom he or she can communicate as and when needed.
‘Our belief is that technology is an enabler, not the solution. As such, we have combined an extremely high touch level of human interaction in our offering,’ says Bradley.
‘Students attend live virtual classes daily (usually with between 15 and 20 peers). These are conducted by expert teachers, and each student is also assigned a mentor with whom they have weekly one-on-one calls, as well as a monthly three-way call, which includes the parents.’
During the live sessions, students are put into breakout sessions where they work in smaller groups to solve problems.
‘In terms of social interaction, learners have the opportunity to communicate using live chat during classes, and can also make use of the discussion forums that we provide,’ Bradley adds.
Collaborative learning spaces
If sufficient children in an estate are signed up for these online schools, it may be worth creating small collaborative learning spaces in which the registered students can physically come together, support one another and socialise.
Bradley is incredibly supportive of this collaborative education model, and advises developers and estate managers to focus on setting up a space that actively expedites learning. He also recommends always having a facilitator present to effectively streamline interactions between the students.
‘Currently, we are seeing incredible success in an NGO pilot that we’re running in Mitchell’s Plain, which is a similar blended model. Effectively, students are in a class together with a dedicated facilitator, but still engage one-on-one with our offering. They enjoy the added benefit of real-time interaction, joint science practicals, and additional extracurricular activities,’ he explains.
It would seem that the opportunity to maximise education within a local context just got that much simpler. Is online schooling within small collaborative spaces the future of estate living and learning? Time will tell.