TRISH PIKE AND ADVANTAGE LEARN ARE HELPING LEARNERS ON A LARGER SCALE THROUGH DIGITAL EDUCATION, WRITES KATRINE ANKER-NILSSEN
Trish was born and raised on a KZN South Coast sugar cane farm. “When I was two-bricks and a tickey high, I taught my sister in a make-believe classroom,” she laughs. “Thoroughly enjoying maths in high school, I decided to pursue a career in mathematics education.”
Trish studied at Edgewood, graduating in 1977. “Shortly after I had my two sons, James and Crispian, I needed to supplement my income,” she says. “This threw me headfirst into maths tutoring, and since then I have always helped students in need – both in and out of the classroom.”
After teaching posts at high schools in Durban and Johannesburg, Trish spent a decade at Thomas More College. As a single mom, choosing to work at top schools to get reduced fees for her sons allowed her to provide them with a great education. She also passed on her affinity for and years of experience in maths to them. “They both went on to use their above- average maths abilities to study Actuarial Science (James) and Chemical Engineering (Crispian), something I am immensely proud of,” says Trish.
When Trish was headhunted by Kearsney College, James and Crispian continued her Advanced Programme mathematics teaching at Thomas More. “All three of us had a passion for education, particularly mathematics, and we really wanted to be a part of the solution to the education crisis in South Africa. We would spend hours debating solutions and dreaming about it,” smiles Trish.
When the landscape in AP Maths education changed slightly, it offered them an opportunity to get started. “We created AP Maths centres at Maris Stella and Westville Boys High School,” explains Trish. “With the emergence of digital education and edtech, we could really help learners at a larger scale.
“Making progress with our AP Maths centres, we knew that in order to pursue the greater dream we had to earn money, reinvest it back into the business and build towards our greater purpose,” says Trish. “The anxiety around the National Benchmark Tests, initiated in 2008, was huge. So we developed the first-ever training course to prepare learners for the daunting NBTs.”
Using funds earned from these two sought- after learning solutions, they began chasing other areas where they could make a difference. Trish left Kearsney after six years to focus on Advantage Learn full time. Today, with James and Crispian, they employ 18 people and have over 3 000 active learners a year.
Advantage Learn’s main focus is to provide high school learners and parents with access to the highest quality educators, education materials, help and support by leveraging technology. “We believe we can create Africa’s premium online and in-person, multi-channel and multi-location school that is able to reach and educate learners across the continent in a world- class, high-touch and effective way through well- placed, innovative learning solutions,” says James.
Their current offerings are NBT preparation and Advanced Programme Mathematics courses – both online and in-person – and Maths Online, where you get access to the full maths syllabus from Grades 8 to 12, put together in a way to help you thrive. “Our content is built to be applicable to many different curricula, so no matter where you are in the world you can get access to the best maths teaching and unlimited question-answer support,” says Crispian.
Aware that they can either perpetuate the widening education inequality gap or work smart to try to narrow the gap, Advantage Learn’s goal is that for every one subscriber, they distribute access to their valuable online resources through a vetted and trusted NGO partner.
Our world is changing fast, and so is the educational landscape. “The essence of teaching remains much the same. It’s the substance, method and resources that might change,” says James. “The future teacher will be much more focused on emotional support, accountability to mastery and curation of resources than on imparting knowledge, hence helping the learning journey rather than providing the inputs to skills.”
“A good teacher is well-prepared, able to adjust to the learners’ knowledge base and deficits, passionate and entertaining,” says Trish. “Approach each lesson with energy, be flexible and rise to the occasion. Accept that you will learn from your students.”
“We work very hard to be human in a digital world, and so we are always just a phone call, live chat or email away. If you are a parent or learner in high school and are feeling worried about something that relates to your school academic career or tertiary career, we would love to hear about it and see if we can assist,” says James.
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