Remote and rural schools are set to benefit from the Learn English Audio Project (LEAP), which aims to help learners improve their English listening and speaking skills.
As part of the project, identified schools will each receive a solar powered MP3 player that can either be used in the classroom or language club. The MP3 player is pre-loaded with over 40 hours of teaching material, teacher guides, lesson plans for Grades R to 4, a book with songs and stories. It also comes with a set of colourful cartoon story posters.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga explained that LEAP, a British Council Initiative, would help with the development of learners’ literacy in any language. Learners would also get used to hearing English spoken with various accents.
“These [listening and speaking] skills become even more important in the acquisition of a second language such as English in the South African context, where English effectively becomes the medium of instruction from Grade 4 onwards,” said the Minister.
Minister Motshekga said she personally struggled to understand English spoken by white people after completing her matric.
“I relied on reading to pass my modules. I had to tune my hearing to understand the accent. Sometimes that is what accounts for the failure of many first year students at universities,” she explained.
About 320 teachers in 150 schools in Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have already received teaching and learning materials during the pilot phase of LEAP.
The Minister said improving literacy skills was one of the priorities of the current administration.
“We believe that this project will also cover the tasks outlined for education in the National Development Plan (NDP), which talks to forming partnerships to improve education quality and outcomes.”
She added that the ministry signed a declaration with the British Council in January this year, which helped improve the implementation of the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa.
The teaching and learning audio material will not be too different from the current national curriculum, as it is linked to it.
“To complement the training package, teachers receive a training video, lesson plans and posters, and an extra SD card containing all the materials, so that they can access the materials on their cell phones, thus facilitating lesson planning at any time and location,” Minister Motshekga said.
The British Council Country Director for South Africa, Colm McGivern, said the council partnered with the department to promote quality education.
“This is a long-term strategic partnership with the department. We signed a five-year partnership agreement, through which we aim to improve learning of all languages in South Africa.”
He said the council had already received positive feedback from various beneficiaries of the project, including teachers who were not trained on how to use the MP3 players.
McGivern said monitoring and evaluation processes would be put in place to enable the council to measure the benefits for teachers and learners in a few years.
“By the end of our five-year partnership, we will ensure that we help the Department of Basic Education train all 400 000 teachers in South Africa in the better use of the material to improve the learning of all languages in the country."