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Engage: An Extended Degree Program At The University Of Pretoria In South Africa

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

International Study Abroad Programs & Student Engagements

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.465.1 - 15.465.11



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Paper Authors


Diane Grayson University of Pretoria

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Diane Grayson obtained her PhD in 1990 at the University of Washingon in Physics, specialising in physics education. After working at several South African universities, in 2009 she moved to Engineering at the University of Pretoria, where she designed and manages a new, educationally sound, extended degree program.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

ENGAGE: An extended degree program at the University of XX in South Africa


Although it has been 16 years since South Africa’s first democratic elections were held, the legacy of unequal educational opportunities and provision remains with us. A consequence is that few black students are able to obtain an engineering degree in the regulation time of four years. The problem was exacerbated in 2009 when the first group of school leavers who went through a new high school curriculum entered universities. This curriculum was designed to be modern and skills-based, but many mathematics and science teachers, who had insufficient professional development and inadequate content knowledge, focused instead on drilling students in a restricted set of problem types. Students at universities were thus less able to cope with traditional science and engineering programs than in the past, particularly students from historically black high schools.

To address the mismatch between the demands of an engineering degree and the readiness of many school-leavers to cope with them, a new extended degree has been developed at the University of XX. The Engineering Augmented Degree Program (ENGAGE) adds an additional year of study to the regulation time of four years. Design principles include a gradual increase in volume of work and decrease in amount of support over the first three years of the program, while the workload (time students must put in) remains high throughout the program. Other design features help ease the transition from high school to university, mainly through the inclusion of additional modules that run in parallel with all level 100 mainstream modules. These modules help students acquire the background knowledge and develop the cognitive and metacognitive skills and behaviors needed to succeed in an engineering degree. The program is being run for the first time in 2010. In this paper a brief history of extended degree programs in South Africa will be presented, followed by a description of the design of the ENGAGE program.

Brief history of education in South Africa prior to 1994

Prior to 1994, when South Africa became a constitutional democracy, schooling was controlled by nineteen, racially segregated authorities. Funding per capita varied roughly in inverse proportion to the melanin content of students’ skin. The “architect of apartheid”, Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, explicitly stated that blacks (Africans) were meant to be “hewers of wood and drawers of water”, with the result that quality mathematics and science education were largely unavailable to the black majoirty population of South Africa. Universities were also segregated, with similar disparities in funding and quality of education between Historically White Institutions (HWIs) and Historically Black Institutions (HBIs).

As apartheid began to unravel in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many HWIs found ways to circumvent the law and allow entry to increasing numbers of black students. However, the relatively inferior schooling received by many black students made success at university

Grayson, D. (2010, June), Engage: An Extended Degree Program At The University Of Pretoria In South Africa Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16371

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