Guiding Literacy Practice: Context Matters

Reports commissioned by CODE for presentation at the Research Symposium of the Pan African Literacy for All Conference Abuja 2017

Introduction: Developing and Implementing a Research Plan at CODE

Research on literacy in general and reading, in particular, has been largely carried out in high-income countries and contexts, and generalized to low-income countries and contexts. The “Context Matters” research initiative by the Canadian organization CODE aims to help address this problematic knowledge flow from North to South by supporting meaningful literacy research in countries in which CODE works internationally and in Africa more specifically. Our intent is to stimulate conversation, develop a research agenda, and support research which is clearly situated in local contexts and recognizes the multifarious and complex relationships between the local and global in education. This means placing a high priority not only on the location of research but also on the need to engage local researchers. This initiative is designed to work collaboratively and in consort with African scholars and researchers, as well as CODE’s long-standing partners.

To begin the conversation, CODE commisioned two landscape literature reviews and one policy analysis from Canadian Faculties of Education (University of British Columbia and McGill University). These papers, including Executive Summaries, can be found below. To stimulate wider discussion, the reviews are being presented at the CODE Research Symposium taking place as part of the Pan-African Literacy for All Conference, Abuja, Nigeria (August 28-30, 2017). While providing direction for CODE programs, the prioritizing and funding of local African research should ultimately help strengthen research capacity, knowledge analysis, and mentorship, while supporting international partnerships and alliances that improve Africa’s ability to develop meaningful solutions to contemporary problems.

Context Matters Research Awards

Establishing an African Research Agenda in Language and Literacy

The 2018 Call for Proposals is now closed. Please check back in January 2019 for details about future calls.

To review the 2018 Call for Proposals, click here:”

Call for Proposals

Africa Language and Literacy

A Landscape Review of Language and Literacy Research in African Contexts

This report addresses key issues based on recent research on language and literacy in the African context, including teacher education, and outlines key findings and recommendations for research and practice based on the review of the literature. The dramatic increase in enrollment of students in the last few decades has led to greater demand for teachers and attention to the quality of education, as expressed in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 and later in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, #4) in 2015. Quality education is also a priority in the Global Affairs Canada’s new policy on international assistance. Twenty-first-century skills, such as active learning, problem-solving, critical thinking, independent thinking, and information and communication technology (ICT) skills, are key to quality education. Although these skills are often mentioned in the policy documents, there is the need for more research on how these can be implemented in practice.

Author: Espen Stranger-Johannessen, University of British Columbia
Editors: Dr. Bonny Norton and Dr. Marlene Asselin, U of British Columbia

Research Review - 127 pages | Executive Summary
© CODE July 2017

Girls’ Empowerment through Language and Literacy (GELL)

A Landscape Review of Gender and Literacy Research in African Contexts

Framed within the context of the global Girls’ Education movement, this review marks the shift from the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) focus on access to education to the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) questions about educational quality. To date, gender and literacy research about African contexts tends to focus on statistical surveys that map out reading achievement scores. Findings highlight intersections between wealth, gender, and location, with the largest literacy disparities between girls from marginalized and low-income households in rural areas and boys from privileged and high-income households in urban areas. However, when it comes to more specific pedagogical questions regarding gender and what works to support and strengthen the literacy practices of girls and boys in different contexts, there is a paucity of research. This gap offers important opportunities for establishing a meaningful gender and literacy research agenda.

Author: Jennifer. A. Thompson, McGill University
Editor: Dr. Claudia Mitchell, McGill University

Research Review - 150 pages | Executive Summary
© CODE July 2017

Local-global tensions in African literacy policies: Towards an asset perspective of literacy

A policy review paper

In the context of educational globalisation and increasing control and dominance of supranational organisations in educational governance, African countries have faced a new level of tension about whether their educational policies should follow the global educational models or seek solutions of their multifarious problems by promoting local indigenous literacy practices. Using an asset perspective as an analytical lens and critical policy sociology as a methodological approach this paper analysed key educational policy documents produced after the 1990s for improving literacy practices in African countries. The analysis found that the deficit perspective in education that was started in the colonial period and institutionalised during the structural adjustment period continued to shape literacy policies and practices even after the global educational movements such as Education for All. The paper concludes with an appeal for developing contextually relevant literacy policies and programs through an asset perspective; and finally, provides some directions for further research especially for those interested in exploring African educational and literacy policies.

Author: Dr. Kapil Dev Regmi, University of British Columbia
Editor: Dr. Marlene Asselin, University of British Columbia

Policy Review Paper - 20 pages | Download PDF
© CODE August 2017


READING KENYA: Improving literacy and advancing gender equality through professional development of teachers in Kajiado County

Reading Kenya is a comprehensive literacy program centered on principles of gender equality, active learning, active teaching and encouraging the use of mother tongue language in the classroom. The program combines access to relevant, locally created reading materials, in both local and national languages, with skilled teachers who use materials effectively. Recent assessments provide evidence that Reading Kenya is successfully improving learning outcomes for girls and boys in Kajiado County. Students in Reading Kenya schools demonstrated a significant improvement in literacy on an annual basis.

Researchers: Dr. Adelheid Bwire, Kenyatta University and Dr. George Andima, Kisii University

Research Brief - 16 pages | Download PDF
© CODE March 2018

READING CODE: Assessing a Comprehensive Readership Initiative in Tanzania

The effectiveness of a literacy intervention using teacher training, book provision, and library support for primary schools in central Tanzania was measured. After a four-year project that showed 350 teachers to promote contextualized word study, fluency, comprehension, and writing — supported by locally written and engaging trade books — children in project schools showed substantially superior performance on every measure compared to a demographically-matched comparison group of children.

Researchers: Charles Temple, Ph. D. Hobart & William Smith Colleges and Firas Elfarr, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator CODE

Research Brief - 14 pages | Download PDF
© CODE November 2015