What Makes a Curriculum Effective in Promoting Children’s Learning? | Concept Note

The results of numerous studies assessing learning in children attending basic education in developing countries show that, while millions of children are able to attend school in these countries, schooling does not always lead to learning. These studies show that very few children are able to achieve the basic learning benchmarks in reading, writing and numeracy.

In East Africa, specifically, a series of Uwezo assessment tests over the past five years show that only a small proportion of children attending schools are able to meaningfully master the basic learning milestones in literacy and numeracy. For instance, the 2013 literacy and numeracy assessment report in East Africa showed that two thirds of children enrolled in Standard 3 in East Africa did not demonstrate the basic literacy and numeracy skills (Uwezo, 2014).

Several factors determine learning outcomes or academic achievement in general. These include, for example, students’ age, gender, physical health and social and emotional well-being, parents’ education, parents’ involvement in their children’s learning, family factors, classroom; and school factors such as availability of teaching and learning resources and teachers.

This study, carried out by Twaweza with results expected soon, examines curriculum effectiveness in three countries in East Africa (Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya). The study seeks to establish curriculum key features, scope and sequence, as well as alignment between curriculum standards and assessments. The overall aim of this review is to establish the extent to which the curriculum facilitates or constrains learning achievement. While the review will map out the coverage of the curriculum content, it will not assess the quality of the curriculum implementation processes, such as curriculum instruction and availability or non-availability of teaching and learning resources.

This curriculum effectiveness analysis intends to address the following issues:

  1. How relevant is the curriculum to the country development context?
  2. To what degree are the content topics and expectations stated on the national curriculum standards being taught in the curriculum?
  3. Is the content being taught with sufficient rigour or depth?
  4. Are the expectations for students, as reported by their teachers, consistent with the defined expectations on the national assessment?
  5. To what degree might the misalignment of instruction be related to lower student achievement?

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