New Digital Curriculum Improves Reading Skills in Country’s Schools

As part of Tanzania’s overall efforts to improve student achievement, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) has developed interactive digital learning tools that are now being handed over to the local governments of Zanzibar and Mtwara. The eContent was specifically designed to be incorporated into the existing curriculum and integrated with the teaching and learning practices of the 110 primary schools in those areas. The goal of the eContent curriculum, developed locally in the Kiswahili language and customized to meet local needs, is to improve student learning, with a special focus on basic reading skills.

IYF’s development of these original, innovative educational videos and other interactive teaching tools is part of a larger education initiative supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), called the Tanzania 21st Century Basic Education Program (TZ21). The initiative, managed by Creative Associates International, has been working in partnership with the Tanzanian Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT) since 2011 to enhance teaching and learning practices, build local institutional capacity, and integrate ICT into local schools. Official “hand off” ceremonies took place December 11 in Zanzibar and December 17 in Mtwara, with the anticipation that the government will expand the program for use in all 866 schools.

A significant objective of TZ21 was to work with the Tanzania school system to increase their capacity to design, deliver, and maintain a quality educational experience and set of learning tools as part of the overall effort to raise student achievement. One such beneficiary of the program was Adrehem Kayombo, an eCurriculum Specialist with the Tanzania Institute of Education, which leads curriculum development under MoEVT. “My growth on this project has been tremendous. I learned the step-by-step process for developing eContent.  I learned how to do participatory needs assessment research. This has helped us identify the challenges and the hard spots in the curriculum, and prioritize the learning objectives. I learned to design a variety of teaching and learning tools, and to pre-test and evaluate them with teachers and students in schools to make sure they’re effective. Best of all, I learned how to work through this process as part of a team. I will bring my new skills back to the Ministry to help the government to continue this work.” 

As part of its focus on long-term capacity-building of youth-serving organizations, IYF has developed digital training tools in reading instruction that will be used to scale up high quality teacher training to further strengthen the efforts of the local Tanzanian government to improve academic outcomes. Through its partners, TZ21 is also equipping lower primary schools and teacher resource centers with computers, projectors, and other ICT equipment. Participating schools are provided internet connectivity, and some are using solar power. 

USAID Team Leader, Tom LeBlanc, describes his recent experience observing a digital tools classroom demonstration in Zanzibar. “The classroom was particularly exciting to see. It was extremely dynamic. It provided students with plenty of opportunities to participate and learn together. It also modeled good teaching practices on video, so that classroom teachers could emulate and continue to learn and grow.”

Hilda Lukanga, Grade 2 teacher at Naliendele Primary School in Mtwara, agrees these new tools offer significant educational benefits. “The students are so engaged with IYF’s eContent,” she said. “They all participate, and this really helps in our overcrowded classrooms. The students interact with me, and they interact with each other. Everyone is focused on the learning tasks. Everyone gets a chance to demonstrate their new phonemic awareness and phonics skills. I feel like I can be a more effective teacher in an eContent classroom.&rdquo

William S. Reese, IYF President and CEO, underscores the long-term impact of improving academic achievement. “Africa’s young people will be the drivers of economic growth and social progress in the years ahead,” he said. “So, I’m pleased that IYF is working with the Tanzanian government and USAID to ensure this country’s children are getting a strong educational foundation to help them realize their enormous potential.”