PILO tested and refined the theory of change on scale in KwaZulu Natal, Northern Cape, Free State and Gauteng.

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(2017 – 2021)

In 2011, the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) introduced the “Gauteng Primary Literacy and Numeracy Strategy” (GPLMS). This successful intervention informed the design of the PILO’s Jika iMfundo campaign. In 2015, the GDE indicated that it wished to ‘mainstream’ the approach of the GPLMS into the work of the district officials supporting schools (subject advisers in particular).

PILO designed and implemented a change leadership programme within the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE), aimed at improving curriculum management in Primary Schools from 2016 to 2021. The overall objectives of the programme were:

  • To improve instructional leadership amongst schools’ School Management Teams in grades 1-7.
  • To train all School Management Teams / Department Heads on the curriculum management practices in the 987 primary schools (Grades 1-7) in Gauteng Province to improve teaching and learning.
  • To train Districts to assist and reinforce the introduction of the new change practices by School Management Teams in schools.

During the intervention, the participants and the officials indicated a desire for the unique identity of the programme to be captured in a name. After consultation, it was felt that Kha ri Ambe best captured the essence of the programme – ‘professional and supportive conversation about learning, based on evidence’.

The support given to the GDE by PILO has been extremely cost-efficient because the strong administrative and professional capability of the GDE meant that after initial extensive discussions about ‘curriculum coverage’ and learning, and the supportive and collaborative role of both subject advisers and circuit managers in curriculum management in schools, PILO’s contribution has primarily been in facilitating workshop design. The training of the school management teams was provided by GDE officials, with PILO monitoring and facilitating reflection.


  • By the end of the programme, PILO had filled 965 district training seats and 8,251 School Management Teams training seats through modules 1, 2, 3 and 4.
  • An internal School Management Teams training team of district officials (District Training Team) was established and functioned for three years. This capacity now exists within districts to regularly build and support School Management Teams on practices that will improve curriculum coverage. Significantly, the GDE facilitators are trained by PILO to present the modules to School Management Teams. The facilitators are mainly Subject Advisors selected by each district.
  • Escalating the capacity of the Subject Advisors means that they can support the School Management Teams in the implementation of the programmes. The partnership between PILO and the GDE has strengthened, and will ensure that the practices and routines to improve curriculum coverage are institutionalised. In 2021, the province is supporting the roll-out of additional modules.
  • Districts showed a positive response to breaking down silos and building supporting relationships with schools based on real curriculum coverage practices.
Gauteng Coordinator

“The process of solving challenges through planning, reflection, identifying problems, sharing, exploring, identifying support needed and agreeing on the action to take, gave insight on making curriculum recovery more manageable.”

HANLIE VAN ROOYEN, Kha Ri Ambe Coordinator
Gauteng West


Gauteng Stats

Gauteng Stats


Between 2013 and 2014, the programme focused on improving learner performance in Mathematics, in English as First Additional Language (FAL), which is the language of teaching and learning after the Foundation phase, and in Setswana and Afrikaans as Home Languages in the Foundation phase.

After the initial success of the programme and between 2015 and 2016, the PILO intervention in JTG was focused on Teacher Development and School Management Team (School Management Teams) Development.


  • The N Cape Intervention was a one-year intervention. The programme was disrupted due to unforeseen funding restriction. Many of the outcome indicators will be more evident in years 2 and 3.
  • During 2015 PILO, on balance, experienced satisfactory participation levels. Participation in the programme has been consistently good and there was a lot of excitement for the tools and training.
  • At the end of the programme PILO conducted a limited school review and asked HODs about the usage of the tools. From this self-reported assessment, PILO received feedback that trackers were being used, widely and consistently.


The Free State Programme was initially project funded by Kagiso Shanduka Trust (KST) with the aim of building institutional routines of teacher support in schools, and between schools and districts. This built on the KST ‘District Whole School Development Model’ (DWSDM).

The DWSD model aimed at transforming public school education based on a district-by-district approach across South Africa. The implementation of the programme commenced in 2014, in two Free State districts: Motheo and Fezile Dabi ( As KST prepared to phase out this successful intervention, the Free State Department of Education requested that KST to assist with improving curriculum management across all schools in the two districts. PILO was requested to work with KST in this system change, and building on the DWSDM specifically the leadership and curriculum work in schools and the development of master teachers

The programme to improve learning outcomes was implemented in Motheo and Fezile Dabi between 2017 and 2021. During the programme PILO developed, together with the districts, a system wide change programme to provide district officials and school management teams with the required tools and training to enable professional, supportive, and productive collaboration on curriculum coverage based on evidence.

PILO and KST worked collaboratively to ensure that the instructional leadership work built on the foundations that had been laid by KST in classrooms and schools.

Between 2019 and 2020, Old Mutual provided additional funding to support the Curriculum Leadership Improvement Programme (CLIP) in Free State Primary schools by improving curriculum leadership and management in schools. Support was provided to School Management Teams, and Department Heads to become strong instructional leaders in their schools. The programme aimed to improve Department Heads’ support to teachers in their tasks of planning teaching to better cover the curriculum.


  • Consistent attendance of SMT workshops, quarterly leadership, subject advisors, and circuit manager’s workshop sessions.
  • Inter-provincial support, cooperation, and collaboration.
  • Implementation of good practices by schools that attended workshops consistently.
  • Cooperation, support, guidance, and collaboration during COVID-19 at school, District and Provincial levels.
  • Improvement and progress in embedding good practices.
  • Ability and agility to adapt to sudden changes brought about by the COVID-19 level announcement.
  • Blending of virtual and face to face during the height of COVID-19 infections which were affecting families and communities.

“PILO became an external support structure to educators on curriculum, leadership and management skills. It has provided interventions strategies and skills to improve teaching and learning. SMT is empowered with skills on how to manage and improve working relations among teachers which contributed to improved teacher performance.”

MS MOFOKENG, Principal
Bekezela Primary School, Sasolburg



PILO worked with the KwaZulu Natal Department and key stakeholders (Unions) in 2013 and 2014 to design an intervention which would respond the challenges experienced by teachers, school management teams, and department officials and provide a system wide change programme that would provide district officials, teachers and school management teams with the tools and training needed to have professional and supportive collaboration on evidence-based curriculum coverage so that problems are identified and solved, and learning outcomes improve across the system. SADTU worked with PILO so that design was informed by focus-group research and trialling of the approach in regional workshops.

Because this initiative is collaboratively owned and driven, with an understanding of how change often fails (Kotter), the initiative was driven as a campaign, Jika iMfundo, with its own logo and all activities and materials with unique and distinct branding.

Jika iMfundo is the campaign that allowed PILO to ‘test at scale’ its theory of change. The programme in KwaZulu Natal has moved through the following phases:

  • Phase 1 (2013 to 2014): Working inclusively within the sector to design a model for change. Implementation in 2014 started at the district level in Pinetown and King Cetshwayo in preparation for commencing the school programme;
  • Phase 2 (2015 to 2017): The ‘pilot at scale’ commenced in all schools within the two districts;
  • Phase 3 (2018 to 2019): This is a phase of expansion into four new districts (iLembe, uMzinyathi, uMgungundlovu, uMkhanyakude), while deepening institutionalisation to embed the change in the first 2 districts;
  • Phase 4 (2020 to 2023): Embedding phase to ensure that that KwaZulu Natal province (supporting all 12 districts) can sustain the change practices that have been introduced.

Jika iMfundo operates from Grade 1 to Grade 12, building routines and patterns of support within schools (between the teachers and the School Management Teams) among the schools and between schools and the district that will have a long-term and cumulative impact on learning outcomes. Key elements of the programme included:

  1. Provision of Curriculum Planner and Trackers from Grades 1 – 12 in key subjects to enable teachers to establish a routine of daily and weekly planning teaching, monitoring learning, and identifying challenges; and reporting these professional, supportive evidence-based and collaborative conversations in which solutions are found
  2. Just-in-Time (JiT) content and phase specific content workshops covering the specifics of pedagogical challenges anticipated to arise in that term. These were designed to operate within the resource capacity of the KZNDoE, so were designed by PILO, and delivered to Department Heads and lead teachers by Subject Advisers. The co-design process ensured that Advisers were confident of the content.
  3. A School Management Team (SMT) Training and Coaching programme comprising training 9 modules with supportive coaching of schools in clusters in between modules.
  4. A District Leadership and support programme aimed at strengthening district leadership, circuit managers and subject advisors.

Jika iMfundo works ‘within the system’ locating responsibility where it should reside. One of the distinguishing features of Jika iMfundo is its work across the different levels of the system (school, district, and province), to enable and support improvements in the instructional (teaching and learning) core of schooling. The work of change at the different levels of the system are coordinated and forms part of a coherent approach to systemic change aimed at improving curriculum coverage in schools.

Jika iMfundo is intended to be implemented at scale within the institutional and financial resources of the public education system. For this reason, all our targets in KwaZulu Natal are informed by the KZN DBE approach and view of the support necessary to bring about improved leadership and management of curriculum.

The independent evaluation results set out the following highlights in terms of outcomes:

  • Districts have been strengthened because of the programme (the leadership and departments speak with one set of objectives that are focused).
  • There is evidence of positive changes in curriculum planning and management practices within schools.
  • Schools and Districts report increased curriculum coverage due to the intervention.
  • Learners in treatment districts write more and tackle more complex work than comparison groups.
  • The evaluation impact findings suggest that the Learning Programme contributed to better learner performance in KwaZulu Natal.
KZN Coordinator

“Teaching and learning are not just about learners, but it is also about teachers. We need to empower educators so that they are able to teach and impart knowledge with ease.”

SADTU conference November 2019


In 2020 PILO was contracted by UNICEF to co-develop, with the Department of Basic Education (DBE), a framework for improving the implementation of the National Curriculum. The overall goal of the assignment is to produce a complete framework with monitoring tools to guide the monitoring of curriculum implementation for the basic education sector (all grades, all phases, all subjects).

Curriculum leadership and management sits at the heart of PILO’s education change model. The UNICEF/DBE programme is critical because the Framework for Curriculum Implementation (FCI) has the key strategic advantage that the DBE will be a key driver in the embedding of these practices. In this project, there is a national requirement to implement the change.

For the FCI to be successful, provinces need support. PILO’s model for improved curriculum coverage, tested in four provinces, is a model for systemic change at scale.


PILO has set its success principles based on a deep understanding of what it will take to make sure that learners do better in South African schools. We will know that the FCI implementation framework is succeeding when:

  • Learners learn what they are being taught.
  • Teachers plan their curriculum, track that they are covering it, assess those learners understand what has been taught, and reflect on what needs to improve.
  • Actual teaching time in the classroom increases.
  • School management leads and manages teaching-and-learning, by supervising and supporting teachers.
  • Districts support schools substantively and critically, with professional guidance rather than superficial compliance-checking and authoritarian fault-finding.


This is a three-year partnership with the DBE (R60 million funded by the EU) to bring about systemic improvement of Literacy and Numeracy in the Foundation Phase.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) believes that the PILO model for curriculum improvement is solid and proven to build the capacity of the system to improve literacy and numeracy in the Foundation Phase. The DBE requested PILO to be its strategic partner in this programme based on PILO’s work in the District Improvement Programme of the NECT in KwaZulu Natal from 2014 where it has implemented a similar strategy in all primary schools.

The programme is being piloted in the districts of Ehlanzeni and Nkangala in the Mpumalanga province. The PILO model will be implemented through the provincial DBE in two districts and 588 schools. Several third-party service providers will be contracted by the DBE to implement the model. As the strategic implementation partner, PILO is working with the Mpumalanga province, districts, and the service providers to ensure that the model is implemented as intended so that impact will be adequately measurable.

The Zenex Foundation is the strategic monitoring and evaluation partner. PILO’s role as strategic implementation partner is to support the DBE to implement PILO’s proven change management methodology and to make available training materials, approaches, procedures, and programme management.


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