A New Way To Learn - Business Media MAGS

Sunday Times Franchising

A New Way To Learn

With parents viewing education – maths and science education, in particular – as an investment, the sector is a potentially lucrative one for franchisees, finds Lisa Witepski.

Opportunities are rife in areas that focus on preparing youth for the changes introduced by robotics, AI, big data, technology and programming. Adrie Schoeman, managing director of Master Maths, says the sector has room for any innovative franchisor able to bring a quality, tested and vetted product to clients in a professional manner.

Maths is an especially attractive niche for such players, says Schoeman, because access to tertiary education requires a solid NSC result and a tertiary qualification (especially in fields where maths and science are required) remains a key to career doors.

That said, any new entrant to the field faces well-established competitors such as Master Maths, which has a 40-year track record and more than 150 franchises throughout the country. Schoeman attributes the company’s success to its ongoing investment in interactive products and services, input from curriculum specialists and a supportive franchise system that emphasis training.

Higher-grade thinking

International brands considering the South African market may have to tweak their models. This has been the case for Seriously Addictive Mathematics (SAM), reveals strategic director Karma Palmer. She explains that all trainers are certified in Singapore pedagogy, and follow a coaching approach to enhance conceptual understanding. “Our model follows a classroom and worksheet experience where learners are placed on an individualised programme based on the outcomes of a meticulously designed placement assessment,” says Palmer. “This maps their programme, and the weekly progress evaluation creates scope for advancement or remedial help as and when necessary.”

This has answered one of the chief weaknesses inherent in the South African education system: when educators tend to focus on teaching the content contained in textbooks rather than the desired outcomes stipulated by the CAPS curriculum. This is key because the world is moving to an emphasis on applying maths to real-life situations, which requires solving maths problems in different ways.

Unique challenges

Adding to South Africa’s challenges, says Palmer, is that not all schools have access to additional material enabling teachers to teach children different ways of solving the same problem. “Most classes have many kids in one classroom, making it difficult to implement a concrete, visual and kinaesthetic approach to teaching maths,” says Palmer.

Palmer says that SAM has addressed this by reducing the number of children in lower-level classes and balancing the amount of work sent home weekly to accommodate the load of homework provided by South African schools.

Kerry de Jager, head franchisor of Step Up Education Centres, maintains that changing circumstances require all brands to consider adaptations. For example, while Step Up has traditionally focused on providing after-school remedial education, the organisation has broadened its offering to include morning sessions for children (and parents) struggling with home-schooling. Step Up has also ventured into the online space – a boon for the many children in areas outside major urban zones who cannot access centres.

Number sense

Mathnasium

In 2019, international behemoth Mathnasium – boasting more than 1 000 learning centres globally – announced its intention to enter the South African market, noting that there would be room for around 35–50 branches in the country.

Cape Town-born owner/manager Mike Mulvey says that the system grew out of the methods pioneered by teacher Larry Martinek who “had a gift for making complex things understandable for everyone”.

Mathnasium has achieved its impressive global growth over 17 years by cultivating “number sense” and a “feeling” for numbers, making allowance for different learning styles and avoiding the “learned dependency” that may come about if a student bases their confidence on a single teacher.

Is this model relevant in South Africa? “Maths is an international language that transcends language and culture,” says Mulvey. “Different people may have different ways to solve a mathematical problem, but in basic maths, numbers decompose, recompose and come together to give the same answer no matter the route taken to get there.

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