Touchstones in South Africa
“First of all, the Touchstones is perfect for building vocabulary and English skills. English is not the first language for our students. Further, the discussions—in which students won’t be corrected by a teacher insisting on perfect syntax—are an excellent platform for them to develop confidence in their spoken English skills. This confidence is absolutely vital to their eventual success at university.
The most important benefit of Touchstones is more subtle. A social psychologist could say more about this than I can, but students often enter our programme with a complex relationship with authority. The Touchstones system provides a fantastic, safe forum for students to realize that respectful disagreement with authority can be a good thing and that their own voices have meaning.”
Since 2003, Touchstones programming has been used in the South African Education and Environment Project’s (SAEP) Bridging Year Programme, which remediates essential social and cognitive skills. This bridge program helps students from disadvantaged Cape Town townships that show academic promise but were unable to enter tertiary education strengthen and develop life skills, personal responsibility, and resilience.
For students who are not native speakers of English, Touchstones provides the added benefit of regular practice using English to explore and express their opinions, as they prepare themselves for the academic rigors and expectations associated with post-secondary studies. Consequently, Touchstones is also used by SAEP with high school students. Over the past decade, an estimated 200 students total have benefited from Touchstones programming at SAEP.
Read more about SAEP here.