Our Reasons for Home Education:

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Although he was achieving good results, he wasn't reaching his full potential because his love for learning had been destroyed & hence his grades were steadily declining.

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Completely failed by the system, he hated school, was always tired & homework time was a major frustration for both of us. He was severely frustrated & quickly heading to become yet another ADHD statistic.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cambridge Talk ~ Summary

Jesse & I attended a talk at Dayspring Cambridge International College on doing Cambridge on Tuesday (14th June). I thought I’d post a summary, but time has just not been on my side lately, so I decided to add the summary received from Abby Wilson via the HChat homeschoolers group as a whole.
“Thanks to Ruth for organising this presentation today.  Below is my summary of the presentation today at Daysprings Study Centre.  Please don't get upset if I write something negative about a curriculum you are using as what I write is based on her opinion.  I don't have enough information to tell you whether she is correct or not, but want to give people the information so they can check for themselves.  If someone else wants to add their comments, please feel free to add anything I missed.
Daysprings is a 4 year old study centre in Roodepoort where one can prepare for Cambridge.  The owner, Sue, gave us an overview of the Cambridge system to help homeschoolers understand how they can do Cambridge without paying a fortune.  Obviously she would be willing to have you enrol your child with her.  And it is an option if you have about R30,000 to spare per child per year.
Otherwise, keep reading!

Currently in South Africa there are 4 boards that oversee schooling.
1.  Afrikaans
2.  GDE (government schools fall here)
3.  IEB (private schools are here)
4.  Homeschool
Cambridge, ACE, Delta, Brainline etc all fall under the heading of Homeschool.

The information that Sue gave us is that the GDE standards are falling.  At present you need 2 x 40%, 2x 35% and 3x30% to pass and receive a matric certificate.  But what is required to get those marks is very little work at all.  Recently, even children who get high levels in the matric certificate are often failing at first year university level because the standard of English and math have fallen so far that they cannot cope without extra help.  If your child is in a good school where the standards are high, this may not be a problem - just depends on the school and what they teach as far as skills.  Her concern was that in the GDE exams, a child could give very simple answers and still pass.  For example, 'Describe rain' could be answered with 'The earth gets wet' and be correct.

Sue told us that IEB is still a good system but as a homeschooler you have to compile a portfolio of work in addition to doing exams, something that is hard to do.  But if you are in the IEB system and are happy with the standard of what is being taught and can compile the portfolio, then your child will be fine.  The answer to 'Describe rain' here would require at least a discussion of cumulus clouds and the rain falling because of temperature changes...  While not as comprehensive as might be really good, at least they have to write essays.

Within the homeschool arena, there are many options, some of which Sue felt were good and others bad.  She made it clear that her school is there to get the children the skills and a qualification that they can use to go to the next level - usually college or university.  Obviously most of the children sent to her will at least be going on to college, so her comments about certain homeschool programmes must be taken in light of that fact.  If your child is not headed for a 3 year college or university, than you may not need to concern yourself. 

From me personally, I'd push your child to achieve the highest level that they can and get some sort of paper behind their name.  It is difficult later on in life if they decide they want to study and find that they cannot because they never got a school leaving certificate.  In addition, there is a psychological advantage to having some sort of school leaving certificate even if from the GDE system.  People feel embarrassed to admit they didn't finish school because they feel it marks them as somehow less than those who did.  The Cambridge option is best for children who want to study further, so if yours doesn't, then you don't need to pursue this option. 

Sue didn't list all the homeschool options that will give you a certificate and get you into university/college, but a few that she didn't like were ACE (final exams didn't require any essay writing), Delta and Leaien (spelling?).  I'm not saying you must change, but beware as they may not prepare to succeed at university level do to the standard of English and math/science.  She also didn't think that the English in Love 2 Learn was good enough for university.  Her opinion is that writing Cambridge exams is the best option for homeschoolers who intend to study further.  Cambridge is a very skills based system so that when your child is finished with the exams, they will be ready for university and in most cases the first 6 months of university will be easy because they've already done the work.

Sue felt the best time to change to Cambridge is in Grade 8 or 9 which is the foundations phase.  She felt that by changing then, your child will have some experience of what is expected before taking the important exams later on.  However, she has found that children coming out of decent schools are fine changing at Grade 10 level provided they have the necessary skills.

Details of the Cambridge Qualifications System

In Grades 10-11 a student will study to take the ICGSE exams which used to be called O levels.  These exams can be taken over a period of 2 years with students taking 6-7 subjects one of which must be English as a 1st language.  They must also do a language.  Math usually takes two years of prep so that should be started in grade 10 to allow enough time.  The student will prepare for 3-4 exams the first year and 3-4 the second.  They can control the exam time as there are 2 exam times each year, one in June and one in October.   From what I understood you can only sit exams in 2 of the four potential times and once you pick June or Oct you must take the second set of exams at that time too.  The ICGSE exams are the equivalent of Grade 10-12 in the GDE system so the level is quite high.

AS Exams
In Grade 12 a student will study to do AS exams.  You must do between 2 and 5 subjects over 2 years depending on what you intend to do in the future.  One of the subjects MUST be English as 1st language.

Different Pathways through Cambridge
Sue said that once your child gets to Grade 10-11 you need to have an idea of where they are headed because there's no point doing extra exams if they don't intend to go to university.  Any child not headed for college or university can probably stop at the end of the ICGSE exams.   Some of the ICGSE levels can be done as either core or extended.  If your child intends to do AS levels for a topic, they need to do it at the extended level.  Otherwise they can do core as the certificate does not indicate which one they have done.  You want to get the best results possible and the highest marks so pick core where possible.

To go to college you need the following:
7 ICGSE exams
2 AS exams (1 must be English 1st Language)

Once you are done with the above, you approach SAQA with your certificates and they will give you a school leaving certificate you can use to get into college.
For science classes at ICGSE level, most practicals can be done at home, if not seek a tutor to help you.  You can take alternative exams that don't require you to have done the practicals BUT this is not a good idea if your child intends to do the subject at AS level later on.    At the AS level, you should send your child to a tutor who understands the Cambridge system and has the right equipment.  During the exams your child will have to use proper lab equipment and without the experience of using, they will probably not do well.

To get an exemption you need the following:
6 ICGSE exams
4 AS exams (1 must be English 1st Language)

Once you are done with the above, you approach HESA and get a matric exemption certificate.  However, your results and the points allocated based on them will determine whether your child is accepted into a particular department, so ensure you know ahead of time what would be required.  You must contact the department at the university your child wants to attend to find out the exact requirements.  As for the person in charge of evaluating Cambridge entrance.

To get an exemption you cannot take longer than 2 years to do ICGSE and 2 years to do AS exams.  In addition, your child should probably do 5 AS exams so if they do very poorly in one exam, they can drop it from the HESA application.  The universities allocate points based on results, so the higher the results, the better their chance of gaining entry.  Also you get more points for more topics, so if   They don't allow for the fact that AS levels are higher than a GDE matric so your child needs to get the best results possible to get in to their chosen department.

To get an exemption without ICGSE or if you took more than 2 years to do ICGSE or your ICGSE results were bad:
5 AS certificates (1 must be English 1st Language)

To go to university if you do poorly in ICGSE and AS exams:
2 A level exams will get you a university exemption BUT it may or may not get you into a particular department at university.

How to actually get your child through Cambridge
There are several paths one can take.  Obviously your child can attend a study centre like Daysprings.  But as I said previously, that will cost you R30,000 per year.  There are also several schools that will charge in the region of R3000-3500 per subject for the books, a syllabus, give your child assignments that they will assess and register your child for exams with an exam centre.  The exam fees will be extra  Some schools have their own exam centres and others will send you to an independent centre.  Or you can source the books, set up the syllabus and register your child for the exams and save quite a bit of money.  Attached is a list of resources - study centres that provide support, some exam centres and so on.  Also some websites with past papers for Cambridge exams.  Sue said that many of her teachers are willing to take extra pupils in the afternoons or she can give us the details of a tutoring service that will find a tutor.  Also her teachers can do practicals for extra students where they need to do science at that level. 

Sue told us that you need to get advice on how to get through Cambridge to the correct levels without causing your child to study too hard.  For example, doing chemistry or physics is not advisable because the level of these topics is very high and not required.  Instead you can do 'Physical science' which is a combination of the two topics at a level that is reasonable.   Sue also gave Ruth a list of books they use for the various topics and I'll get it from Ruth soon and scan it.  Because of the number of people who will want it, I'll probably post it to the group.  Please don't e-mail and ask for it.  If you were there and I missed something, please let us know!
I am still investigating Jesse’s options for Matric & will be posting a comprehensive summary of all my findings, once I’ve completed my research.

In the meantime, I hope this helps those who are looking at Cambridge as an option for their children.