Monthly Archives: April 2021

We’re looking for Funda Wande’s new CEO :)

Hello everyone!

After founding Funda Wande more than four years ago we’re now looking for a new CEO! If you know someone who is dynamic, passionate about early grade reading and mathematics and the right person to steer the funda Wande ship into the future please send them the Funda Wande CEO Recruitment Pack (deadline for applications is 31 May 2021). You would be leading one of the most capable, dynamic and passionate bunch of people in South African education. For more about us check out our 2020 Annual Report.

Some background…

Four year’s ago I founded Funda Wande at the request of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment with the aim of boldly experimenting with the best ways of ensuring that all children learn to read for meaning and calculate with confidence by age 10 by 2030. We have grown from strength to strength and went from having 3 employees in 2017 to over 50 employees in 2021, with offices spread out across four cities (Cape Town, Polokwane, Joburg and Gqeberha (formerly P.E), and trialing promising interventions in three provinces.

I know my time at the helm of this ship is coming to an end, and that a new captain will be needed for the next stage of the journey. Partly this is because of the history of our country and the need for the next generation of young leaders to have the opportunities that people like me have had; to step up to the plate and make their mark on our country. But also because I feel called to move on and into a different space from next year. I know I want to spend more time thinking and writing about some of the seemingly intractable problems in South African education and that needs sustained and undivided attention.

I will still be within the broader Allan Gray Philanthropy ecosystem going forward, but no longer at Funda Wande.

If anyone springs to mind, please forward them this job notice and encourage them to apply (apply here). The deadline for applications is the 31st of May 2021.

Onward and upward…

Links I liked #30

Hello everyone.

It has been a while. It’s been more than a year since I posted a blog about the links that I’ve liked and so there are quite a few. I miss making lists and finding images and sharing things with other people. So this is that, and something I want to do more of. The image above is like design catnip for me, and if I ever started a newspaper I would want it to look like this!

So without further ado here are the links I’ve liked…

  • In this month’s LRB, Stefan Collini has a great article titled “Snakes and Laddersabout the myths around meritocracy, especially in the UK and the US. A few excerpts: “Everything suggests that meritocracy is the camouflage adopted by self-sustaining dynastic advantage in an age of democratic sentiment. The dynasties in question are not the old quasi-aristocratic families (though, as it turns out, they do rather well in the new world of ruthlessly competitive careers), but, even so, a relatively tiny segment of the population is managing to transmit advantage from generation to generation.“…“Helicopter parenting is just superordinate labour applied to the project of reproducing status in a meritocratic regime.’ Thus, ‘investments in human capital, made while parents are still alive, have replaced bequests of physical and financial capital as the dominant means for conveying elite status down through the generations’ – a form of wealth transmission that has the further advantage of escaping taxation.”… “High-status roles that once came with a relatively high salary are now, by corporate standards, ludicrously underpaid. In the US the chief justice of the Supreme Court earns roughly $270,000 per year, while the ‘most profitable law firms pay their average partners over $5 million annually, or roughly twenty times as much (and the signing bonus paid to former law clerks at the Supreme Court, who are perhaps two or three years out of law school, is now $400,000).’ Those who make careers as teachers, public health workers, officials in federal agencies or in local government have fallen far, far behind most of their contemporaries who have gone into the lucrative parts of the private sector.”
  • A revised PIRLS 2011 to 2016 trend for South Africa and the importance of analysing the underlying microdata – The perennially insightful Martin Gustafsson wrote this important paper in 2020 about previous errors in the PIRLS reading score trends. The TL;DR version is that the 2011 scores were incorrectly calibrated and lower than we previously thought they were, meaning that the trend (from 2006–>2011–>2016) is actually a continually upward trend rather than a stagnating one. Important stuff.
  • Teachers’ unions and industrial action in South African primary schools: Exploring their impacts on learning” – an important 2019 paper by Gabrielle Wills exploring the 2007 teacher strikes using SACMEQ III data. Teachers in the wealthiest quartile of schools in SA striked for 5 days on average compared to 13 days for the poorest 75% of teachers (medians are even starker: 1 day compared to 15 days).
  • Quite a few people have been asking about the upper end of the matric performance distribution in SA. This is not something that is typically reported by the DBE in their annual matric publications (for whatever reason). I have been referring people to the appendix of my 2019 paper (Spaull & Makaluza, 2019) where we show the numbers of students achieving at each of the deciles of performance for the ‘main’ matric subjects. For example, there are only 5,815 students who got 80% or more for Mathematics in 2018.

  • Professional development that improves STEM outcomes – Hill et al 2020. Although based on US evidence, a nice meta-analysis. The conclusion: “Overall, we found, the evidence suggests that the most effective programs focus on topics — including curriculum materials, academic content, and how students learn — that build knowledge teachers can directly use during instruction. We argue that such learning opportunities support teachers in making more informed in-the-moment instructional decisions.” (see also Lynch et al 2019)
  • Lots of helpful and interesting articles on early grade reading referenced in this 2020 RISE post by Yue Yi and her colleagues at RISE…including:
  • “Intervening at home and then at school: A Randomized Evaluation of Two Approaches to Improve Early Educational Outcomes in Tonga” (Macdonald et al, 2018).
  • Improving Reading Instruction and Students’ Reading Skills in the Early Grades: Evidence From a Randomized Evaluation in Haiti” (Guzman et al., 2020).
  • A 2006 evaluation of Breakthrough to Literacy in Botswana (Peacock & Morakaladi, 2018).
  • “The impact of language policy and practice on children’s learning: Evidence from Eastern and Southern Africa” (UNICEF, 2016)
  • “Pacific Early Age Readiness & Learning Program (PEARL): Every Child Ready, Every Child Learning”
  • Implementing and Evaluating Interventions to Improve School Readiness and Early Literacy Experience from the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning Program” (Vu et al. 2019)
  • The Smithsonian announced makes nearly 3-million images available online and free to use. Viva Creative Commons viva.
  • “Audacious Education Purposes: How governments transform the goals of their education system” (Reimers, 2020)
  • Sad Public Service Announcement: Less than 2% of South Africans have a post-grad qualification (Branson, 2020) 😦 Their research project (Siyaphambili) also has a great interactive website.
  • “Benchmarking early grade reading skills in Nguni languages” (Ardington et al, 2020) – important ‘plumbing’ work that needs to be done in the background as we move towards all children reading for meaning by age 10.
  • “Where Have All the Textbooks Gone? Toward Sustainable Provision of Teaching and Learning Materials in Sub-Saharan Africa” (Read, 2015). useful World Bank report on an understudied area.
  • SACMEQ has released SACMEQ IV reports for Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius and South Africa.
  • “NGOs and the effectiveness of interventions” (Usman et al 2021) – interesting new paper… “a local development NGO’s prior engagement with target communities increases the effectiveness of a technology-promotion intervention implemented by it by at least 30 percent. This “NGO effect” has implications for the generalizability and scalability of evidence from experimental research conducted with local implementation partners.” (via Justin Sandefur)

That’s all for now but hopefully I will be blogging more in the neat future…