In the 2015/2016 Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum, South Africa again ranked at the bottom of the pit among 140 countries in terms of its maths and science education.
That is why the Mountain Cambridge School (MCS) in Hartbeespoort, that just celebrated six years as a Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) school, focuses strongly on these subjects. Carolina van Heerden stands at the helm of MCS and under her leadership, the school has achieved above world averages in maths, science/biology and English for CIE for grades 6 and 8 for several years and boasts 213 CIE subject distinctions in all levels, no mean feat for a small, upcoming school in such a short time.
Carolina, who has been an educator for 20 years, is passionate about education. Having lived in the United Kingdom and China with her family for several years, where she home-schooled her children, she has a firm grasp of what it means to be globally competitive.
“South Africa needs leaders and our economy and the country can no longer afford to scrape the barrel in maths, science and English. I realised the need for international exposure and benchmarking against the best in the world when my daughter, with nine distinctions in the national system, could not gain university entry anywhere overseas,” she says.
Thus, when her sister, Ansa Human, asked her to help start the high school at Mountain Cottage with Daleen and Grant Taylor, she had only one condition – that they follow an international curriculum. After doing thorough research, they decided to become one of 12 000 worldwide that follow Cambridge International Examinations.
“To quote American philosopher and psychologist William James, it is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome. CIE is not for the fainthearted teacher, child or parent. The standards and volumes of work are high, but the rewards speak for themselves. Our alumni are excelling at tertiary institutions nationally and internationally. Research has shown that on average, our students improve their tertiary marks by up to 20%, while those from the national school system drop by up to 30%. CIE students also show a much lower drop-out rate. Although it took time, it is heartening to see more and more universities acknowledge the CIE levels in their yearbooks and realising the quality of our students,” says Carolina.
MCS is proud that it is the only school in North West that is accredited as a Thinking School South Africa (TSSA), an NPO committed to upskilling South African pupils with the thinking competencies to succeed at school and in life.
“We focus on learn, discover and achieve. Students are made real world ready and know how to apply knowledge. We follow a student-centred learning approach, moving away from the talk-and-chalk approach.”
MCS has big plans for 2016
“At MCS we don’t only focus on academics. Culture, sports and art are important to produce well-rounded students. As a lover of the arts and former gallery owner, I am very proud of our partnership with Strictly Come Dancing coach and international dancer Tebogo Kgobokoe who will open an Arts Academy at MCS in 2016, where she will offer excellence in competitive and performance-based dancing, with a focus on individualism, intensive dance technique, professionalism, and the psychology of winning. Boarding facilities from grade 7 to Matric will be offered, at first at the Good Shepherd Retreat in Meerhof until the new boarding houses are completed at the property adjacent to the school.
A school hall is also being built.
“My children joke that I live, eat and sleep MCS, but I love spending time with my husband, our daughter and her husband and our twin sons, who are both in their final year of study at UP, my parents and siblings, and my fur kids. We enjoy spending time outdoors in nature and are fortunate to live on the waterfront in Kosmos which lends itself to a relaxed, family-style of living.”