Deliver the future of education now… with Schooltree

The facts in education in South Africa are shocking;

  • 80% of Grade 4 pupils cannot read comprehension.
  •  After five years of school about half of the learners in South Africa cannot work out that 24 divided by three is eight.
  • The 2019 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TAUS) found that South African teachers spend only 66% of their time teaching while the international average is 78%.

Educating the next generation is a collective responsibility and FASA member RAiN, a professional services company known for its broad-spectrum, organic solutions which address specific business and operational challenges, is behind an initiative called SchoolTree that is set to revolutionize educational operations in South Africa.

The 4th Revolution, with its far-reaching developments in the AI arena, has opened up new ways of planning an integrated digital solution that brings together teachers, students and parents with a single goal in mind – connecting teachers and resources so they work together more efficiently, freeing up teachers to spend more time in the classroom focusing on learners.

Ian Pierce, Director at RAiN, troubled by the challenges in the schooling system in South Africa where no planning was taking place and the domino effect of poor schooling and inadequate resources was causing the pool of talent coming into the profession to dry up, started researching what was taking place in education around the world.

He found that, as far back as twenty years, a university lecturer at Massey University in New Zealand had written a very basic school information system (sms) in response to a need he saw in the schools. “When the student teachers left college to take up their teaching positions, they were spending too much time with administrative work. This was a simple program written in DOS. It worked off a floppy disk and assisted teachers with some of the data gathering on their students, such as name, address, age, parents’ details, grade, prior learning report cards, etc. What made it attractive was that as the class moved up a grade the teacher just copied the floppy disk and gave it to the next grade teacher. Very basic, but effective and it formed the foundation to a highly successful software system called Musac now widely used in the Education field and the inspiration for South Africa’s own SchoolTree operational system.”

The Local Scene

The development of the cloud and smartphones brought a whole new game into play in this field as it meant that the parents, teachers, and students could be in constant communication. “Finding the right software solutions to match the needs of the education systems in South Africa was the first challenge in setting up SchoolTree” says Pierce.

In March 2018, RAiN approached the Western Cape Education Department to see if there was any interest in considering giving us access to some of their schools to run a pilot. “It took about ten meetings and demonstrations to various decision-makers in the Department to get approval to approach schools that were willing to be part of the pilot project.”

To assist in deciding how to select the 10 schools that were going to be part of this pilot, the Woolworths MySchools Program and The Ackerman School Foundation were approached to nominate schools to be part of this groundbreaking project. Ten schools were proposed by each of the two Foundations in the Mitchell’s Plain School District who have now agreed to be part of the program and have started the training with EDSBY.

Whilst using international partners such as Edsby as the LMS provider, Twine as the SMS and Xero for financial reporting, the integrated solution needed a distinctly local flavor and therefore came up with the brand SchoolTree. “The partners are all world-class solution providers in the education sector and have been working together for almost twenty years. Their solutions are currently running in several different schools, both public and private sectors around the world. EDSBY was awarded the 2019 Microsoft Education Partner of the year recently, so we are working with the best of the best” says Pierce.

So where is the pilot program today…

Following an initial introduction session with the ten participating schools, EDSBY is busy uploading the curriculum and lesson plans for the Primary Schools into their platform. Twine is doing a similar exercise on the student, parent, and teacher information. The intention is to have this phase completed by the end of August 2019.

In September, the Twine team will be in Mitchell Plain to give individual instruction to teachers on the use of the solution. The plan is that they will then be in a position to run their classes on SchoolTree in the fourth term of 2019. The intention then is to have SchoolTree go live in the 2020 school year. The goal is to get the teachers to focus and spend time with the learners as opposed to doing administrative work. It is also the intention to see what impact SchoolTree will have in facilitating better communication between the Department of Education and the schools. The final phase will be getting the parent and student community also involved in the communication loop.

According to Ian Pierce SchoolTree is in the early planning phase of discussing with two other provinces to commence similar pilot projects in their schools. “But that will only begin once we have the current ten schools up and running. We want to build in all our learning from these schools into our formula for project implementations. A word of appreciation must go out to the two Foundations who have been a tremendous support and real visionaries by putting Education of the learners first in their support of SchoolTree. Without their assistance, we could not have achieved what we have to date. There is still a very long way to go to meet what we have set out to do, but with support like this, it makes it much easier to get through the challenges.”

Anyone who needs further details please contact Ian Pierce or 011-2435030


The views and opinions in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the Association.

Ian Pierce

Ian Pierce was an accountant from birth. After qualifying as a chartered accountant in 1986, he gleaned extensive local and global experience at Coopers & Lybrand and Deloitte & Touche. He set up a practice in South Africa in 1991 and today specialises in company restructuring and privatisation, audits, due diligence reviews, transactions and widespread corporate consulting.

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