The Centre of Science and Technology [COSAT] is the very successful Science, Maths and IT focus
school in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. SERI is the registered NPO that was created specifically to support COSAT.
SERI fundraises for and manages most of the enrichment activities at the school [like the Saturday School and the Maths Challenge].
It also ensures pastoral support, as many of the learners are the poorest of the poor,
with very unstable home lives. In addition, SERI is responsible for the extensive Fun’ulwazi programme, the role
of which has been to identify potential COSAT learners and prepare them for later acceptance into the school
by means of a two-year Saturday School programme.
COSAT first opened its doors in 1999 to a very small group of talented Grade 10s with an interest in Maths and Science, who had been invited from local schools to complete their secondary education at COSAT. There was no subject choice [and this has never changed] “ all learners did the requisite languages, plus Maths, Science, Biology and Computer Studies. Our first Matric class was in 2001 and, typically, we had a 100% pass rate, a high exemption rate and a healthy spread of subject distinctions. At the very beginning, the precedence for excellence was set.
The shared mission of COSAT and SERI is simple: to prepare talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds for later success in Maths, Science and IT related courses at academic universities, this to address, albeit in a small way, South Africa’s skills shortages in these disciplines.
Since 2001 COSAT has maintained a record of excellence. We have achieved an average Matric pass rate in excess of 99%, a consistently high exemption rate [In 2010 83% of our learners achieved Bachelor passes.] and an impressive number of A-aggregates and subject distinctions. Our 2011 Maths results warrant special mention: the average was 65% – a particularly commendable achievement when one considers the very poor quality of our learners’ education prior to coming to COSAT and the fact that Maths Literacy is not offered at our school.
COSAT is proud of its status as the biggest township feeder school to local universities. It is interesting to reflect on the courses of study chosen by the 46 matriculants of 2010. Their choices are fairly typical when compared to previous years. Only one of the 46 matriculants is not pursuing tertiary studies in 2011. The rest, bar one, are at academic universities. That student is doing a one-year learnership with Haw and Inglis, prior to studying Civil Engineering, with their financial backing.
- 11 are in fields relating to Engineering and the Built Environment.
- 26 are in other Science-related fields.
- 3 are studying pure Computer Science.
- 5 are in fields completely unrelated to Maths, Science and IT, specifically, Law, Languages and Journalism.
Such has been the reputation of COSAT, that, in 2010, the government of the Western Cape identified COSAT as one of its three pilot STEM schools [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Focus Schools]. The school’s new identity has led to three very exciting developments:
- COSAT has moved from the Good Hope campus of False Bay College, where it was operating as a department, to wonderful new buildings in Ilitha Park.
- The school has in 2011 expanded to include Grade 8s for the first time. In 2012 it will be a secondary school, with Grade 8s to 12. Within four years it will have 500 registered learners.
- It has been allocated ˜Special Needs' status and thus enjoys a smaller teacher-to-learner ratio than is the norm and a slightly greater financial allocation.
6th BEST SCHOOL IN THE WESTERN CAPE
At this point, it would be appropriate to boast a bit! COSAT was identified as the sixth-best school in the Western Cape according to the Van Niekerk list. Mr. Danie van Niekerk is a deputy principal at De Kuilen High School. In his opinion, the two performance criteria used by the Western Cape Education Department to ascertain the best-performing schools in the province are inadequate against the backdrop of skills shortages in the fields of Science, IT and Engineering. In response, he added five further performance criteria, all pertaining to the quality and quantity of Maths and Science Matric passes achieved in the province in 2010.
COSAT Academic Support
In the COSAT Academic Support Programme, all COSAT learners attend two two-hour
lessons on thirty Saturdays of the academic year. All learners participate in a two-hour
Maths class and the other session is allocated to Science or, occasionally, IT.
The academic support programme is part of the Optima and Epoch Trusts Maths Challenge. COSAT matriculants generally achieve excellent Maths results (65% average in 2010). Thanks to the generosity of these two trusts, each learner receives between two and three extra hours of Maths tuition each week. The strugglers receive remedial attention and those more talented at Mathematics do the IEB Advanced Mathematics curriculum. For the first time, in November, 2012, a group of Grade 12s has written the IEB examination. From 2012, further tuition in Maths will be given during the weekday afternoon sessions.
The trusts also sponsor extra Science tuition. This takes place for grades at the COSAT Saturday School, along with the Mathematics. Thus, it can be said that the Epoch and Optima Trusts are sponsoring almost the entire COSAT Saturday School programme and for this COSAT and SERI are extremely grateful.
Because it is acknowledged that competency in English is critical to the development of Maths competency when Maths is taught in English, SERI, again through the generosity of the Epoch and Optima Trusts, funds a weekly 2-hour English Language lesson for each of the three Grade 10 classes. Super English, as this intervention is called, forms part of their Super Friday programme. During these lessons, word grammar and the structures of the language are taught and practised, through writing exercises and oral drills. Learners use materials developed for SERI by Helen George.