Utafiti Elimu Tanzania: Research education conference fosters a diverse education system

© Kevin Oloo/AKDN

Two years into the Covid-19 pandemic that has globally disrupted school systems and shined a bright light on the possibilities and pitfalls of education technology, EdTech Hub and partners gathered educators, government stakeholders, development and technology partners, policymakers, researchers, and more in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to discuss two fundamental questions: what have we learned and what will we do with that knowledge?

Utafiti Elimu Tanzania (translated from Swahili to mean ‘Research Education Tanzania’) was held March 16–18, 2022, and took more than 200 attendees on a deep dive into the country’s education landscape, unpacking the research and exploring interventions that can lead to innovations based on the research insights and recommendations.

Organised by the British Council, the Institute of Physics, Aga Khan Foundation, EdTech Hub, Aga Khan University, and FCDO Tanzania, the conference centred on four themes: 

  1. Teacher continuous professional development (TCPD), 
  2. Data for decision-making, 
  3. EdTech strategy, 
  4. Inclusion, school safety, and gender. 

While the event featured education in Tanzania, the lessons learnt were collected and shared from organisations and experts throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the global education development community.   

Utafiti Elimu Tanzania take-aways 

Over three days, attendees gathered and evaluated the impact of Covid-19 and presented what the government of Tanzania has done to weather its effects on learning. Stakeholders have been able to evaluate the importance of broader learning research, technology, and innovation to ensure inclusive and quality education in Tanzania. More emphasis was placed on the need to build systems that will be accessible to students with special needs and factor in teacher professional development. 

“I am looking forward to working with the government of Tanzania to implement the newly launched education and technology strategy; disability and inclusion remain our focus and priority remains more voice, more choice, and more visibility for children and people with disabilities,” said Kemi Williams, the development director at FCDO. Access to education for girls and learners with disabilities is a crucial driver influencing learning outcomes in Tanzania, according to Williams, and it should be a top priority for any decision-maker. 

Development partners, communities, parents, and teachers can collaborate to provide children with high-quality education. Daniel Baheta, the UNICEF Chief of Education believes there is a need to fill the gaps in learning. For future forums, he advised it would be useful to involve ‘the beneficiaries’ of technology to be part of the discussion on innovation and implementation of technology. 

Baheta further emphasised that the best solutions are found by people who have been part of the challenge and sailed through it. These can only be encouraged if our children are empowered enough to be part of creating technology. This could be a solution tailored to local learning gaps. Thinking with the design of EdTech in mind, our learners will be the go-to persons to help in designing technology solutions for learning.

Keep children learning post-pandemic

Usually, after a long disruption of established systems, broader reforms are required to ensure that learning continues. Government learning systems were shaken by Covid and this brought about policy changes. From the Utafiti Elimu event, more lessons and recommendations on what should be done in such situations emerged. It is important to ensure that in such cases and moving forward, new policies reflect local realities and that policymakers, teachers, and learners have platforms to exchange ideas and engagement across the sector where they can share experiences and respond to emerging challenges. 

“Covid has emphasised the importance of the teacher and there is no piece of technology that can replace the art of good teaching,” said Verna Lalbeharie, executive director at EdTech Hub.  

EdTech Hub has signed two Memoranda of Understanding that focus on supporting the Tanzania government’s TCPD programme that is rolling out. This brings together the Tanzania Institute of Education, the University of Dar es Salaam, the Aga Khan Foundation, and Aga Khan University, among other partners who are involved in the research study led by and brought together by Dr. Sara Hennessy and Dr. Taskeen Adam. The research is designed to support the government where the EdTech Hub’s approach will be to embed research as the delivery process to provide lessons learnt. 

Other post-pandemic lessons shared at the event included:

  • Teachers and learners must be prioritised by using current technologies and assisting teachers in gaining access to the technology through supportive materials and at-scale training.
  • While supporting the function and relevance of teachers, educational materials should focus on the content rather than the hardware.
  • Teachers should also be granted the opportunity to improve their skill set and adopt learning materials that are most effective for the learners. 
  • Strengthening parental and caregiver involvement through direct interactions from schools and sharing some lesson plans with them, will promote learning continuity.  

Empowered teachers; happy and engaged learners

Tanzania’s Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST), Eliamani Sedoyeka, said that, as a government amidst disruption, much was learnt and even more actions were taken, particularly around recruitment and onboarding. 

“Previously, we were using four months to recruit teachers, but now are using less than two weeks because of technology,” said Sedoyeka. ”Now, teachers are not only applying for jobs from wherever they are but also directly to schools and not through Tamisemi as before, which allows teachers to be allocated to schools they desire.”

This is a significant innovation for Tanzania. Building teacher professional development programmes that leverage technology  is critical for cost-effectiveness and scalability. The Tanzania Institute of Education will be providing a low-cost platform to enable the teachers to learn, connect, and grow their capacity. With this, they can deliver quality learning once the platform is launched. 

Other lessons shared at the conference to empower teachers and engage learners included:

  • Tanzania has the benefit of good education data. The next step is to make good use of the data by developing measurement tools like a visual dashboard and key performance indicators to track and support teacher capacity. 
  • More structured education training needs to be conducted for education leaders, school leaders, and peer facilitators to enable them to lead learning at their schools.
  • ‘Learning for all’ means including people with one or more forms of special needs. Establishing diverse design teams — including people with special needs — to identify, test, and adopt evidence-based solutions for scale will facilitate an inclusive learning environment.

Learn more about EdTech Hub’s work in Tanzania on our country page where we will track the progress of the work coming out of Utafiti Elimu Tanzania.  

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