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Basic Education curriculum effectiveness analysis in East Africa: Using the ‘Surveys of Enacted Curriculum’ framework to describe primary mathematics and English content in Uganda

Atuhurra, Julius and Alinda, Violet (2017): Basic Education curriculum effectiveness analysis in East Africa: Using the ‘Surveys of Enacted Curriculum’ framework to describe primary mathematics and English content in Uganda.

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Abstract

The most important basic education policy question in the developing countries of Sub-Saharan Africa today relates to how to transform schooling into actual learning for the majority of children who are now enrolled in primary schools across the continent. Recent evidence from annual learning assessments conducted in the three East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda reveal extremely low learning gains as children progress through primary school grades. Whereas a number of factors have been studied, there is shockingly very little evidence on basic education curricula effectiveness in East Africa. Twaweza East Africa, has adapted the Surveys of Enacted Curriculum framework to analyze the content embedded in the primary school curricula in East Africa. In this study, we develop subject taxonomies for Mathematics and English – the two main learning areas at lower primary school level in Uganda – and analyze the distribution of relative emphasis on content that is embedded in the thematic curriculum. We find that the lack of nationally-agreed well thought subject-specific comprehensive taxonomies is manifested in form of content coverage inconsistencies which hinder achievement of planned progressive learning across grades. We also find evidence of curricula over-ambitiousness manifested through the lack of emphasis, by the thematic curriculum standards, on development of the low-order thinking skills and on covering critical foundational language competence topics. This suggests that a policy that slows down the pace of learning in lower grades and emphasizes foundational skills development might improve learning profiles for the majority of Ugandan children who enroll in primary school without attending pre-primary education.

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