Language and Literacy

Language and Literacy

This project aims to identify and develop effective practice in teaching science, maths and basic literacy in both first and second languages.

Many children in sub-Saharan Africa are taught in a European or African language which is not their first language and evidence suggests this may impede learning.

Our research looked in detail at this issue in classrooms in Ghana and Tanzania and offered workshops to increase the effectiveness of the ways both teachers and learners use language for learning.


Research and key findings

Our research compared how effective classroom processes were in English (L2) and African languages (L1) in Ghana and Tanzania at the stage in school education where there is an official switch in the language used for teaching - the ‘medium of instruction'.

As well as examining these processes in detail, we also offered teacher-development workshops during the project to focus teachers' attention on how to increase the educational effectiveness of ‘teacher-talk' and the amount and quality of learner talk, reading and writing in both L1 and L2 in science, maths and language lessons.

Findings include:

  • In Tanzania, teachers used a wider range of strategies for both teaching and learner involvement when they taught lessons in Swahili than when they taught in English. In Ghana, especially where teacher-fluency in English was greater, the picture was less clear.
  • In Tanzania, teaching practices and learner involvement in both languages was improved by a short professional development workshop for teachers to increase the effectiveness of how both they and learners use language for learning in both English and Swahili. In Ghana, this was true to a lesser extent.
  • In Ghana, teachers in monolingual schools favoured the use of L1 in the early years; teachers in multilingual schools favoured English in the early years. Teaching and learning was obstructed by the unavailability of textbooks in the local African medium of instruction.
  • In both Ghana and Tanzania textbooks written in English were difficult for learners to read.

Lead contact details

Prof. Casmir Rubagumya, University of Dodoma, Tanzania,

Research team

University of Dodoma, Tanzania

  • Professor Casmir Rubagumya
  • Mr Noah Mtana

University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

  • Dr Patrick Kiliku
  • Dr Gastor Mapunda
  • Ms Radma Muhdhar

Marungu Teachers College, Tanzania

  • Ms Edith Tarimo

University of Cape Coast, Ghana

  • Dr Yaw Ankomah
  • Dr Linda Jama Forde
  • Ms Lydia Osei-Amankwah

University of Bristol, UK

  • Dr Oksana Afitska
  • Mr John Clegg