Earlier this month, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT), one of the most prestigious universities in South Africa, and the entire African continent, announced that UCT would be extending its education system into the secondary phase education as UCT Online School. This is the first university in the continent to do so. Learners who are enrolled at this new digital high school will be taught the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) syllabus and will graduate with a National Senior Certificate (NSC).
Why did UCT launch an online school?
Times are inevitably changing, and so secondary school education should do as well. Plans that have been implemented in the past and have worked on past students may not necessarily work on current student. UCT acknowledges that each student is different and therefore has different needs. Having a child in classroom of twenty other students may not always encourage them to reach their true potential. At UCT online high school, students can work at a pace that is chosen by them and do subjects that are aligning with their future career goals. The global pandemic has also caused a disruption in the education system in South Africa and learners who could not afford private school education system being left behind. Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng stated that the main aim of UCT online school is to bridge the gap between South Africa’s rich and poor, giving all students equal access to the same information since South Africa has one of the biggest inequality gaps in the world.
How will it work?
The UCT online school is expected to start operating in January 2021 taking in grades 8 to 12, however their first matric class will only graduate in 2023. Students wishing to apply can do so from anywhere in the world but are reminded to contact their course supervisor is their country is in a different time zone so that the necessary arrangements are made. Students will enjoy one-on-one time with their teachers and coaches and receive the individual attention that most South African high schools are unable to offer them due to the large class numbers. Students will have pre-recorded lessons but will also take part in live sessions with their teachers, video chats and video calls so they can ask any questions if anything is unclear or if they do not understand something. Each student will receive their own personal timetable that is especially designed for them to ensure that they get the most from their online education experience. There will also be micro schools around the country at physical locations to help students who are struggling or require more academic support.
What is the application process?
Interested students and parents can apply online on the UCT website and will be required to pay a non-refundable application fee of R200. Along with the application form, they will also be required to upload the student’s ID document and the child’s latest report card from their current school. There is currently no closing date for applications so you can take all the time you need to think about it and apply at your own time when you are ready. Successful learners will be notified via email and will thereafter have to either accept or reject the offer. Once you are registered, you will have to pay school fees of just over R2000 per month. These cover tuition, online textbooks and virtual clubs. Most texts and exams will be conducted online, however, the final exams at the end of every year will have to be written in person.
What about socialising?
Most parents worry that their children are not interacting enough with their peers and are worried that the online high school will isolate their children, however that is not the case. UCT Online high school has virtual clubs which are available for students and are covered in the cost of the tuition. These include, but are not limited to, music, drama, robotics, model UN, debate and book club. Students can communicate and interact with other students who share similar interests to them from the comfort of their own homes. Students can also go out and meet their fellow classmates and colleagues but are reminded to always go with a parent or guardian and to meet in neutral public places if they choose to do so.
What subjects are offered?
At the moment, grade 8s and 9s can do English as a home language and either Afrikaans or isiXhosa as a first additional language. Other subjects offered include Economic and Management Sciences, Natural Sciences, Mathematics, Creative Arts, Life Orientation and others. This subject list is expected to grow every year. From grade 10 to 12, students are required to do two languages, Mathematics, Life Orientation and have to choose between Accounting, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Business Studies, etc. Just to name a few. The grade 10 to 12 subject list is also expected to grow every year.
Who are the teachers?
UCT has employed some of the best educators in the country to teach the students. Students can be sure to receive the best educated from the comfort of their own homes but will meet the teachers at a later stage. The teachers are especially trained on how to teach online, interact virtually with the students and provide academic and emotional support where necessary. They have also been trained on time management and multitasking so that they can give each student their individual and undivided attention at all times. At the moment, there are currently no vacancies for teachers but interested parties should keep their eye out on the UCT website should anything come up.
No student should be left behind due to circumstances that are out of their control such as lockdown and the closure of schools. UCT online high schools aims at putting all students at the same playing field so that they can mould intelligent, kind-hearted leaders who will one day have the capacity to rule the world.