Research Projects

​Research Projects

Partnership Development To Research Possibilities For Primary Mathematics Teacher Development In Rural And Remote Communities (SSHRC Canada Award 890-210-0027)

This research and development project has used the Tanzanian case to study how cross-sector and inter-disciplinary partners can work with local communities, regional and national institutions, and international organizations to enhance mathematics teacher education in rural and remote settings. The Tanzanian context is uniquely useful for learning about how universities can work with institutions and communities because of Tanzania’s reliance on foreign aid (funds, expertise, volunteers and NGOs, etc.) and the presence of diverse agencies within the national, regional, district, and local education governance systems. This project explores the roles of universities in collaborative research and development in rural communities with two universities in Tanzania, one a young university that is working to build its programs and research profile and the other a private university with a social responsibility focus. Further, the lessons learned from this context can contribute to the international conversation on how partnerships with communities are key to addressing complex social issues.

The project is in three phases over Aug 1 2011-July 31 2014 and the first phase involves four field studies that research, initiatives and concerns considered valuable to the partnership since these were identified through intensive engagement with two rural communities in Iringa and Morogorro during preliminary meetings in 2010. The field studies are: 1) A case study of Alpha University’s programming approach to enhancing teacher development in East Africa. This study involved document analysis, survey of former students and interviews with faculty and staff of the Alpha University. 2) A case study of a District Education Officer (DEO) who was identified as an exemplar by the Regional Education Officer (REO) of how to work with teachers to enhance the performance of their learners. This study involved interviewing the DEO, the REO, head teachers and teachers at schools in the district, survey of activities the DEO conducts, and a study of the governance that enabled the DEO’s work. 3) A case study of a rural school community that had been having success for their learners through self-initiated teacher development. This study involved interviewing the DEO of that school district, the head teacher and the teachers in the school, as well as members of the local school ward. There was also a focus group of parents and community members to seek their understanding of how teachers work in the school and the impact of that work on their children’s learning experiences. 4) A study of the challenges of multilingual learners for teachers as understood in primary teacher education. In this work, the teacher colleges become the focus. Syllabi were reviewed, classes observed and instructors and students interviewed to understand how teachers prepare for the multilingual mathematics classroom.

The partnership collective will use the research from phase one to develop prototypes for professional development for in-service rural primary mathematics teachers in the second phase of the project. The prototypes will involve both a strategy for and the development of in-service education to be delivered in the two school districts participating in the project.  The third phase will reflect on and critique the professional development strategies and in-service prototypes, and share findings from the project.

This project is in collaboration with the Faculty of Education, University of Alberta Canada.  On the basis of her substantial experience in mathematics teacher development Professor Anjum Halai is providing the leadership on behalf of IED EA.

What Has Language To Do With School Underachievement? Student Performance In National Examinations – The Dynamics Of Language (ESRC/DFID Major Research Grant, RES-167-25-0263)

The laments and outcries are frequent. Educational standards are falling! Schools are failing students and also failing to improve levels of achievement required to develop cadres of professionals and individuals able to participate in productive economic activity as the basis for economic development in low income countries. When examination results are released from examination boards, questions are raised as to why there are so many failures. In a similar vein, international or regional surveys, such as the UWEZO or SAQMEQ studies, also lead to a rush of newspaper editorials, letters and articles with contributors positing the reasons behind such failure and poor school and student performance. Teachers and the lack of resources are frequently cited as key reasons. Very few commentators would point to ‘language’ being a significant factor in school underachievement. Why, then, do so many children underachieve and what effect, if any, does English have on children’s achievement in school?

The research of Professor Pauline Rea-Dickins – Director IED - and colleagues from the State University of Zanzibar and the University of Bristol highlights how English language proficiency may be a major barrier to examination success. With Kiswahili as the children’s home language and English the language of school, this research shows three main factors contributing to examination underachievement. First, the quality of the national examination results are determined by the school children attend; and secondly, by the level of the children’s English language proficiency, with the majority of children having exceedingly limited knowledge of basic English words essential for learning and being tested through English. Thirdly, there is the quality of examination development processes and the examination papers themselves. Overall, this study found that it is the school children attend and their command of English that makes a huge difference to their examination results. In other words, children’s underachievement is strongly related to school factors (e.g. teacher qualifications, availability of teachers) and how well they know English. For  more information, see

East Africa Quality Learning: an Evaluation

This project is an evaluation of Reading to Learn a methodology earlier developed and used in Australia with tremendous results, and rolled out in disadvantaged communities in Kenya and Uganda.  The evaluation was led by Dr Ngwaru, our expert in the field of literacy development and on issues of home school transition in the early years.  It provides valuable lessons with regards to head teacher effectiveness, children’s reading ability, teacher pedagogy and the utilization of learning materials and community libraries.

The results show that head teachers were central to the success of the Reading to Learn innovation. Where heads were committed proactive managers and leaders, distinct success stories and evidence of improving learning outcomes were observed. Also children’s reading ability was improving as a result of this approach which was giving children more exposure to reading materials and reading practice during lessons but this needed to be taken further by teacher proactivity. Teachers managed to control large classes by following the literacy and numeracy teaching strategies effectively to enable most of the learners to follow with understanding.

This evaluation highlighted that effective use of available materials was more important than just the availability of materials as in many cases classroom libraries were not put to maximum use.  The reading gap was noticeable and the somewhat slow reading improvement was noticed overall. Community libraries were an important innovation which was bringing in new reading attitudes towards reading and books among both parents and children but as in all educational innovations, it requires more time to yield sustainable results.

ASKAIDS (African Sexual Knowledges and HIV/AIDS)

The ASKAIDS project took place in two phases over 2008-2012 and was carried out in three countries namely Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania.   The project aimed to examine the sources, contents and processes of young people’s community based sexual knowledges, and how these knowledges interact with AIDS education programmes in schools. According to the findings as reported by the project “the study also sheds fresh light on teachers´ fears and struggles with a lack of training and limited opportunities for reflection on practice. It engages in dialogue with conflicting voices of community stakeholders who are both aware of the dangers faced by children living in a world with AIDS and who are also afraid of the many cultural, religious and moral restraints to sex education in Africa”.  This study was mainly sponsored by the Common Wealth Centre for Education, Faculty of Education University of Cambridge UK.

Against All Odds – Girls Retention In Schools And Against All Odds – Women Role Models in Kenya

Gender is a significant issue in taking account of equity and inclusion in access to education of quality. Dr. Jane Rarieya our specialist in Gender and Education brings considerable experience in and understanding of gender issues rooted in rural East African education contexts, and works on two interrelated research projects. Sponsored by the Commonwealth Centre for Education Cambridge UK and set in rural Kenya, this research looks at factors that have facilitated girls retention in school against all odds, and have enabled women to reach leadership positions in education in spite of the contextual challenges.

Capacity Development of Tanzanian University Teachers and Researchers in Educational Development

Development Partnership in Higher Education  (DeLPHE) Award 2007-10

The partnership between the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development East Africa and the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education UK, aimed to work with  governments in East Africa in achieving Millenium Development and Education for All Goals through development of a high quality teaching, research and policy studies institute for educator professional development. Objectives of the proposed partnership were to assist the Institute for Educational Development, East Africa in:

  1. developing the capacity of indigenous university faculty in East Africa so as to offer sustainability and high quality;
  2. developing teaching programmes of the highest quality and;
  3. developing its research principles, policies and plans including joint research. The proposed partnership will also enrich the expertise of the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education in relation to the Millenium Development and Education for All Goals in the context of that Faculty’s recently established Centre for Commonwealth Education.​