With a focus on Maths and Science, the programme seeks to contribute to the building of a sustainable Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) human capital pipeline in South Africa.
The programme, presented by the Stellenbosch University Centre for Pedagogy (SUNCEP), was launched in 2021 – the first year of a three-year agreement with the Energy Mobility Education Trust (EMET). The Trust approached SUNCEP to develop a programme that would be aligned with their work and invested R7.6 million in the first year.
According to the CEO of EMET, Vuyo Mwase, the Trust has a long history with and a deep passion for youth education and skills development.
"We have developed and implemented similar programmes with other institutions in the Gauteng area and have learnt many invaluable lessons through those experiences. Based on these insights, the quality standards and reputation of SUNCEP made it the ideal partner to help the Trust extend its geographic reach," she explains.
A total of 290 learners in three provinces – the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape – were selected for this supplementary academic support programme in 2021. The goal is to annually include a new cohort of 50 Grade 11s selected based on their academic performance.
"The main objective of UPREP is to improve the educational experience of talented learners through quality educational support. The programme is informed by its own pedagogical principles, where learning experiences are intentionally designed to achieve specific outcomes, such as access to STEM-based programmes," explains Lynthon Jacobs, programme manager at SUNCEP.
UPREP outcomes include improved Mathematics and Physical Sciences performance in the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations; an increased pool of historically disadvantaged learners that access university; and an increased number of learners that opt to take Mathematics and Physical Sciences.
SUNCEP responded to the challenges created by COVID-19 by developing the Smart Class concept, an online learning management system (LMS). UPREP uses this LMS to connect with and reach learners; and has removed barriers to access by providing smart tablets and data to each participant.
Apart from attending online classes on Saturdays and during school holidays, learners can practice self-paced learning with pre-recorded lessons and workbooks. Each province also has dedicated tutors responsible for academic consolidation and further support. The LMS includes a foundational support programme that focuses on topics beyond academics, such as study skills and time management. Online university application and bursary portals make it easier for learners to apply to the tertiary institution of their choice.
This speaks to the Trust’s desire to offer gifted learners from underserved areas opportunities to access superior quality learning in Mathematics and Physical Sciences, as well as academic career counselling and foundational support.
"Beyond the supplementary school support, UPREP offers our learners the gift of possibilities. The use of smart technology, a full school kit and the overall teaching and learning experience make the programme an aspirational and inspirational one for learners," concludes Mwase.