Initiatives to improve the quality of teaching and learning: a review of recent literature

Author(s): Barrett, Angeline

Organisation(s): UNESCO

Date: 2007

Pages: 32 p.


This paper reviews recent literature relating to quality of teaching and learning processes within schools in low income countries illustrated with analyses of specific initiatives to improve quality. The paper focuses on three key areas of meeting diverse learners’ needs, trends in curriculum change and enabling teachers including the provision of teaching and learning resources. As progress is made to universalising access to primary education, attention is turning to the hardest to reach groups who have historically been excluded from formal education. Literature published since 2005 focuses on meeting the needs of girls, children affected by HIV/AIDS and learners with special education needs. The Gansu Basic Education Project is an example of an imitative aimed at inclusion of children from ethnic minority groups in rural Western China. As school populations are becoming more diverse, new goals for education are being expressed through the introduction of Life Skills subjects. This paper takes a closer look at uptake and implementation of the Life Skills approach to HIV/AIDS prevention and an example of a Peace Education Project being implemented in refugee camps. Meeting learners’ needs implies the use of learner-centred pedagogies. A second curricular trend is towards learner-centred and outcomes-based pedagogies. The example of South Africa is briefly analysed as exemplifying the challenges involved in implementing pedagogic change. The rapid expansion of enrolments in many countries is resulting in large class-sizes and, as teacher supply fails to keep pace, multi-grade classes, up with demand. This review found very little literature on effective practice for teaching large classes and that new initiatives targeting multi-grade settings are mostly smallscale. Quality education requires well-educated and trained teachers. Those countries that have to expand the most rapidly to meet EFA targets also tend to have the greatest shortage in teachers. As a region, sub-Saharan Africa faces the greatest challenge. In response, large-scale distance education programmes for unqualified and underqualified teachers are being initiated across Africa. However, evidence of their effectiveness is yet to emerge. An initiative to tackle teacher deployment discrepancies in the Philippines is outlined and a teacher professional development initiative in Pakistan that has potential to go to scale is analysed. Teachers and learners need resources such as textbooks. The evidence from large-scale school effectiveness studies on the importance of textbooks and other resources is reviewed. The potential of ICTs to improve teaching and learning is explored through an analysis of the Enlaces project in Chile. It is argued that the three-way relationship between learner, teacher and materials lies at the heart of the education quality and that all examples of successful initiatives described in the paper injected materials carefully designed to meet learners’ needs in their particular environments and related training for teachers. The paper concludes by highlighting areas in which this review found a lack of research evidence, despite their importance for the achievement of Education for All, this review found a lack of research evidence.

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