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Tyume Valley Schools

Improving life chances through education

Learning English through IT – TechLearn


Since 2011 TVS has run English language training programmes for primary school teachers and children. Children in Tyume Valley speak Xhosa as their first language. They begin learning English in primary school. Their school leaving (Matric) examinations are written in English, so fluent English is essential to educational achievement, as well as later opportunities in an increasingly globalised labour market. However, English teaching is often formal and traditional; this is reflected in the area’s poor Matric results.

Poor language skills also hamper progress in basic IT; children cannot understand verbal and written instructions or master basic keyboard skills. We have therefore developed an integrated, project-based programme that addresses both English and IT deficits.

What is TechLearn?

TVS’ TechLearn programme uses Microsoft Word and Powerpoint to develop skills in reading and writing and confidence in spoken English. We reviewed commercially available learning materials and concluded these were not appropriate for rural South Africa. We have developed our own teachers’ guides and learners’ workbooks instead. In particular, we have given more emphasis to language rather than computer skills, and provided very detailed instructions for teachers. We have also incorporated off-the-shelf writing skills software developed by Heinemann/Pearson. We are grateful to Battle and Langton School, Battle for donating this software.

The one-year programme is divided into three modules. Each module lasts 5-8 sessions; is preceded by a 2-day training workshop for teachers; and is supported by detailed lesson plans and learner workbooks.

For details of TechLearn, click here .

Who is involved?

During 2018, ten teachers from Tyume schools and/or communities and TVS’ two IT trainers are piloting TechLearn. TVS pays stipends to all the participating teachers for this extra-curricular work.

190 Grade 6 children from ten primary schools are involved. Children are divided into groups of 15 – 20, each taught by a team of two teachers. We have 23 functioning laptops – just enough for one per child during the computer sessions.

Where does it happen?

All our IT teaching takes place at Dyamala Primary School, where TVS’ computer lab and Resource Centre are located. TVS funds the transport for the children to be brought to Dyamala once their own primary school day has ended; the children are given a nourishing snack to keep them going during the afternoon!

What monitoring are we doing?

As this is a new programme, some changes are inevitably being made in response to emerging experiences. For example, the original intention to include Excel in the programme has been dropped, because learners’ progress with the Word modules was seriously hampered by their poor English language skills. The structure of the sessions has been changed so that rather than two learners sharing a computer each child now has 50 minutes hands-on time per lesson. We have produced templates to help the teachers to reflect on and improve their practice. Learners are assessed at the end of each module. We will also try to obtain evidence of any impacts on the teachers’ wider practice and the learners’ broader academic progress.

Click here for photos.
Children in Class
Children in Class
English class
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