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UCT ventures into secondary schooling market with e-school

Read time 3min 30sec

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has unveiled an online high school, billing it as the first university in Africa to extend its expertise to the secondary schooling market through an online modality.

The announcement was made this morning, during a webinar hosted by the local tertiary institution in collaboration with its partner, edtech start-up Valenture Institute.

The launch comes as several top universities across the globe − such as Stanford University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the US − have launched an online high school arm, showing the academic excellence of universities can be extended to high school students, and create new opportunities for a diverse group of learners.

The online high school, which has opened for applications, offers a National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement-aligned curriculum, and enables learners in grades eight to 12 in any corner of the globe with the opportunity to study remotely at a monthly fee of R2 095 per month.

During the announcement this morning, UCT vice-chancellor professor Mamokgethi Phakeng explained that the UCT Online High School ecosystem has been designed to service South African learners from a broad range of socio-economic means.

She noted the school will be run as a separate entity of the university, with the curriculum offered through Valenture Institute, a globally recognised private institution, offering an online-based curriculum which is recognised by universities worldwide.

"The University of Cape Town is committed to playing our part in addressing the systemic challenges facing our education system. As a result, we have taken the bold step to launch an innovative online high school in January 2022, where the academic excellence of UCT can be extended to high school learners across the country.

“The UCT Online High School will create a new opportunity for learners across SA to choose an aspirational school and unleash their potential," said Phakeng.

The teaching model, she added, allows learners to pace their own learning and get one-on-one tutoring from a network of expert teachers and support coaches whenever they need it.

The curriculum will be made available in an interactive online platform, called the Open UCT Online High School, underpinned by Valenture's proprietary learning technology, analytics and learner support model.

Learners have full access to a self-paced curriculum where they can progress at their own pace through interactive notes, videos, animations, simulations, practise assignments, quizzes and more. Pupils will be issued a learner number to save their unique learning path and data, with unlimited logins permitted.

"We're delighted and humbled to partner with UCT on this ground-breaking initiative," said Valenture CEO Robert Paddock.

While the COVID-19 crisis resulted in schools and tertiary institutions turning to online learning and adopting innovative ways of learning, it has also amplified a number of challenges already facing SA’s education sector, including the vast digital gap.

Answering a question about high data costs and the lack of good quality connectivity, particularly in SA’s remote areas, Paddock explained that in certain instances, resources will be provided to pupils through a physical learning centre.

“Our view is that we need to capitalise on the efficiencies that online learning creates, while being very sensitive to the context that the majority of learners in SA are faced with. This is why we have been offering a blended learning micro-school concept for the last few years. The micro-school concept is based on taking existing infrastructure and converting it into a co-working space, where learners can come in and learn, and have access to an online network of teachers and a physical mentor who is on site with them and provides guidance.”

For more information on the UCT Online High School, visit the university’s website.

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