Any team or organisation wants to know, “Are we winning?” That's easy to do if you’re Bafana Bafana or the Springboks - look at the scoreboard, dust off the trophy cabinet! For an organisation working in the messy world of education and people development, finding relevant metrics is both critical and complex. Over time Axium has developed a set of seven indicators (based largely on KIPP’s 6 Questions) that aim to nudge us towards data-driven answers to what we believe are our most important questions:
Are we growing the number of students we serve?
Are our students on track for success in earlier grades?
Are our students completing school?
Are our students leaving school with purpose, agency and options?
Are our alumni accessing further study or meaningful work?
Are we building an effective talent pipeline?
Are we building a sustainable operating model?
With 2023 Grade 12 results fresh off the press and a bank of end-of-year assessments to reflect on, January is the perfect time to review questions 2-4: the academic slice of success. What follows below are some select data snapshots, with brief commentary aimed at the non-data nerds!
2. Are our students reading by the end of Grade 3?
Those of you who follow South African education will know that literacy is a key challenge, with recent international research indicating that 81% of Grade 4s could not read for meaning in any language(1). That puts the above figure in context: while the percentage of children reading by the end of Grade 3 is very low (below 30%), we’re seeing good progress across all of the sites (blue and grey bars) where our Nobalisa programme operates, and reading levels are on average nearly double the national rate (orange bar). Much work to do, but the COVID rebound is encouraging!
2. Are our students able to do basic maths by the end of Grade 6?
As you can see, the situation in maths is even more challenging than in languages - in 2020 and 2022 there were NO Grade 6 children “on track” in maths at our Public School Partnership (PSP) schools. We’re pouring effort into turning this situation around and the 2023 results give some indication that this is moving in the right direction at both the AmaJingqi (dark blue) and Zithulele (light blue) PSP sites.
4. Are our students leaving school with purpose, agency and options?
To answer the “options” part of this question, the best (though flawed) metric South Africa has is whether you pass the Grade 12 exit exam, the National Senior Certificate (NSC). There are strong connections between an NSC pass and post-school Employment, or enrollment in further Education or Training(2). That’s why we’re so pleased to see the steady improvements at our PSP high school since we partnered with the school in 2018. Even better, the “Bachelors’ rate” - a proxy for university acceptance (dark blue bars) - is also climbing, meaning that our PSP students have many more quality post-school options than they did in 2017.
Any review of academic results for schools in our part of the world provides a sobering reminder of the legacies that so unfairly shape children’s opportunities in rural South Africa. There is a long way to go before we realise our vision of “every rural child leaving school with purpose, agency and options”! Yet there are pockets of hope and progress in all our data - right the way from more children learning to read by the end of Grade 3, to learners finishing school with more options available to them. And for that we are grateful to the many learners, teachers, leaders and Axium staff whose immense efforts are making this journey of hope possible.
Asking the right questions, being honest about what the data tells us and using this information to improve our work is at the heart of the 7 Questions. For those of you who would like a deeper dive, we’ll be publishing a full analysis on our website in February.
**Note that these results may be influenced by language and/or technology bias, as this was the first year they have been undertaken