Improving success rates of first-year Economics students by means of a summer school programme - an evaluation
The high failure rate of first-year Economics students has become a concern at most South African universities. It affects the throughput of students and has financial implications for the institution as well as the students. At academic departmental level it may impact on the number of students who consider continuing their studies in Economics. At the beginning of 2007, Stellenbosch University (in the Western Cape, South Africa) launched a pilot summer school with the aim of improving students' learning outcomes and pass rates. Techniques used were geared towards actively involving the students in their own learning process. Various authors indicate the importance of active learning for student performance. This may include techniques such as in-class experiments and the writing of assignments. The case study presented in this paper investigates these techniques. The summer school programme combined traditional lectures and interactive learning approaches, primarily co-operative learning (through small tutorial sessions) and writing tasks, thereby ensuring active participation by students. The results achieved in the summer school (a pass rate of 89%) provide a justification to explore the success of this structured approach for future applications.