Dinaledi Schools Performance


Name of Organisation: South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF)
Name of Project/ Intervention: Performance of Dinaledi schools in the 2015 South African Mathematics Olympiad (SAMO)
Programme: Learner Development
Where is the Project based: Province, Area: National
Evaluation conducted by: Ellie Olivier (SAMF)
Evaluation period: 2015



In 2001 the Department of Education established the Dinaledi School Project to increase the number of matriculants with university-entrance mathematics and science passes. The strategy involves selecting certain secondary schools for Dinaledi status that have demonstrated their potential for increasing learner participation and performance in mathematics and science, and providing them with the resources and support to improve the teaching and learning of these subjects. The programme started with 102 schools in 2002-2004 and by 2008 this number had increased to a total of 500. Over the years, a number of under-performing schools were removed from the project.

Initially the programme focused on improving the performance of African learners and former African schools rather than former white, coloured and asian schools. The criterion for inclusion was that schools had to have achieved at least 35 Senior Certificate mathematics passes by African candidates, either at higher grade or standard grade level. In Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, some former white schools that meet this criterion are included in the Dinaledi programme. The Dinaledi project thus consists of 500 schools that serve black learners. They are not necessarily the best-performing schools, but have the potential to expand the provision of high-quality mathematics and science teaching and learning. (1)


In order to expose learners to opportunities that stimulate high order thinking, some provincial departments of education enrol and pay the registration fee of Dinaledi schools to participate in the SAMO. The SAMF allows schools whose entry fee is not paid on behalf of their provincial departments to participate in the SAMO free of charge.

 The table below reflects the number of Dinaledi learners and schools from 2013 to 2015:

 No of learnersNo of schools
Table 1: Provincial breakdown of sample


34 372



33 939



28 877


 Evaluation methodology

The study looks at the performance of Dinaledi learners in the 2015 second round of the SAMO. The results of the 1st and 2nd round of the 2015 SAMO have been analysed. A quantitative survey was done to determine what factors influence the performance of learners in the SAMO. The performance of schools that have done the SAMF Teacher Problem Solving Course was analysed over a period of 3 years (2013-2015).  


Performance in the 1st round of the SAMO

Learners who score at least 50% in the 1st round advance to the 2nd round. In 2015 18,1% of the 2015 first round participants (a total of 14 585 learners) qualified for the 2nd round. Dinaledi learners have performed substantially weaker and only 11,5% of 1st round participants qualified for the 2nd round.


# 1st round participants81 665
Table 1: Provincial breakdown of sample
# 1st round participants 81 665
% 2nd round participants (overall) 18,1%
% 2nd round participants (Dinaledi) 11,5%

The performance per province varies from Western Cape with 26% of 1st round participants advancing to the 2nd round to Eastern Cape with only 4% of 1st round participants advancing to the 2nd round. Western Cape is the only province whose Dinaledi schools are performing better than the national average.


Performance in the 2nd round of the SAMO compared to private and other public schools

Contestants' performance are rated from excellent (i.e. those who qualify for the final round of the SAMO; the best 100 per division) to good, average and weak. There is a substantial difference in the performance of Dinaledi learners compared to learners from private and other public schools. Between 50% to 54% of Dinaledi 2nd round participants have been rated as 'weak'. Only 10 learners from 6 schools qualified for the final round of the SAMO.


Comparisons between school categories in the 2015 senior 2nd round of the SAMO:


Comparisons between school categories in the 2015 junior 2nd round of the SAMO:


Impact of teacher training

14.4% learners from 15 Dinaledi schools that have done the SAMF Teacher Problem Solving Course qualified for the 2nd round. This indicates that schools that have done training are performing better than the national Dinaledi 2nd round average of 11,5%.

A pleasing trend is that Dinaledi schools whose teachers have done training performance are improving over time from 8.3% in 2013 to 14.4% in 2015.


% proceeding to Round 2





Round 1




Round 2




% Round 2




The performance of the 15 schools varies from Eunice High School with 47% of their learners qualifying for the 2nd round to Ferndale High School with only 0.2% of their learners advancing to the 2nd round.

Other factors influencing performance of Dinaledi schools in the SAMO

A survey was sent to 215 participating Dinaledi schools of which 31 responded. Teachers were requested to indicate whether the school is situated in a town/city, rural area or township, the quintile, teacher: learner ratio, pass rate in matric mathematics, incorporation of problem solving in their classrooms, their qualification and to rate the management of their school.

In general the pass rate in mathematics of the above mentioned schools was very good and only 5 of the 31 schools had a pass rate below 70%. Teachers are well qualified - 48, 39% responded that they have an Honours or Master's degree.

It is difficult to determine whether there is a correlation between a good pass rate in mathematics and performance in the SAMO. Some schools with a pass rate of above 90% in mathematics have performed well in the 2015 SAMO, while other schools who have not performed well in the 2015 SAMO also have a pass rate above 90% in mathematics.

Although 54, 84% of teachers who have completed the survey responded that they incorporate problem solving in their classrooms almost on a daily basis, there is a concern with the type of questions that is considered as problem solving. In many cases these questions do not have the characteristicts of typical problem solving questions as one would find in the Maths Challenge of Maths Olympiad papers. These questions are simply content of the curricula and would therefore be routine questions, because learners would have been taught procedures for solving them. (2)  


Since the evaluation has proven that learners of schools who have done the Problem Solving Course are performing better, provinces should consider registering Dinaledi teachers for this course. More learners will then qualify for the 2nd round of the SAMO and provinces will get a better return on their investment.



(1)    National Business Initiative. 2009. The Dinaledi Schools Project. Report from a strategic engagement between national Department of Education and business on increasing support for mathematics and science education in schools. Johannesburg: National Business Initiative.

(2)    Pournara, C, Mpofu, S & Sanders, Y. 2015. The Grade 9 Maths ANA – What can we see after   three years? Learning & Teaching Mathematics. A Journal of AMESA, 18: 34-41.