Posted on August 2, 2013 · Posted in FHSST, Personal, South Africa

Today marks 11 years, to the day, since we started the hair-brained scheme to collaboratively author, openly-licensed textbooks for South Africa under the banner of the Free High School Science Texts. This ultimately led to Siyavula Education‘s existence with a lot of help from the Shuttleworth Foundation and PSG Financial Services.

While those specific books aren’t actively being pursued, they were the seeds for some our current books and a catalyst for the engagement with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) around Open Educational Resources (OERs). I’m not going to review everything that has happened, if you would like some of the highlights then read Siyavula’s Progress to Sustainability, What happened to the last 5 months and Siyavula’s MVP out.

A new curriculum is being rolled out in South Africa, commonly referred to as CAPS. Next year our Grade 7-9 and 12 learners will start using it, completing the roll out. We are on track to deliver the CAPS-aligned reworks of the FHSST Grade 12 Mathematics and Physical Sciences titles (under the Everything brand) at the end of this month for print and distribution for next year.

In addition, our team is working on extending our success, in partnership with the SASOL Inzalo Foundation, on the Natural Sciences and Technology Grades 4-6 workbooks from last year and is nearing completion of the first volume of the Natural Sciences Grades 7-9 workbooks. Those will also be printed and distributed for the start of the 2014 school year.

At the start of the 2014 school year, 11 years after I started with FHSST trying to make openly-licensed content available, the following titles will be available, in English and Afrikaans, to all government schools under a Creative Commons licence (specific licence may vary) and will have been printed and distributed to all government schools:

If we throw in our initial old-curriculum Grade 11 and 12 books distributed last year then we’re over the 10 million printed OERs in circulation (total school learner population 12M).

We have also completed some titles which have yet to be printed but are available in digital format and for printing:

  • Life Sciences Grade 10
  • Mathematical Literacy Grade 10

Further openly-licensed titles are being developed by the SASOL Inzalo Foundation covering:

  • Mathematics Grades 7-9
  • Technology Grades 7-9

In the original vision for FHSST we wanted to make sure every learner could access the content they needed to learn. Our journey with Siyavula has allowed us to put books on desks but also demonstrate significant web-, mobile- and Mxit-based uptake which, in my opinion, makes our content legally, technically and practically accessible. Have a look at the traffic to our Mathematics and Physical Science content so far this year:


Everything Maths


Eeverything Science

You can read about what sorts of things we’re starting to learn from this data in a proof-of-concept report we produced last year.

We’re continuing to make great strides at an ever increasing pace on the openly-licensed content front, no sign of slowing down after 11 years.

So what’s next, we just launched an overhaul to the premium offering around Everything Maths and Science so we’re progressing well on that front. When we’re done with our current titles we’d like to continue pushing OERs into the mainstream. Personally, I’d like to overhaul Mathematics and Physical Sciences 10-12 again, we used these titles to beat down the door to DBE, develop and test all our pipelines and design our processes. They deserve the benefit of everything we’ve learnt in the last few years and we could make them much more interactive and get feedback on how they’ve been used. We’ll also continue to pursue more content production, we’ve identified 45 titles that we’d like to make sure are openly available in the next few years (20 of them will be done by the end of 2013).

About the Author

Mark Horner is the CEO of Siyavula Education, a social enterprise working in the school sector in South Africa. While working as the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow for Open and Collaborative Resources, Mark was able to transform the Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project, which he co-founded, into Siyavula Education. In this process, openly-licensed, collaboratively authored textbooks have been printed and distributed nationally in South Africa. Working at the intersection of community, openness and technology; Mark intends to leverage this success to make Siyavula an innovative, technology provider in education that works effectively as part of the education community to ensure better learning opportunities for all. A recent notable event being the delivery of Siyavula's textbooks over Mxit, the most popular mobile chat solution in South Africa. Mark has a PhD in physics from the University of Cape Town and conducted his research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California on the results from the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. His work is carried out in the belief that the liberation of information and support of education in South Africa will lead to a peaceful and prosperous future for all South Africans.