Transforming teaching in the developing world


SSHRC has granted $2.5 million in funding to an ongoing project based at Concordia University.

Combined with additional support from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the award will go toward an initiative designed to improve teaching and learning outcomes through educational technology in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Using Educational Technology to Develop Essential Educational Competencies in sub-Saharan Africa," was also recently awarded a UNESCO global literacy prize.

The multidisciplinary project involves an international collection of scholars, students and educational practitioners and policy-makers. These include government agencies, NGOs and social enterprise groups with a particular focus on the uses of technology linked to the development of educational competencies.

Philip Abrami, professor of education in the Faculty of Arts and Science, stresses that along with food and water, shelter, health and well-being, personal safety and peace, education is an international imperative.

“Around the globe, in the least developed countries, one-quarter of young men and one-third of young women aged 15 to 24 are illiterate. Reading, writing, numeracy and inquiry skills are essential building blocks for personal achievement and the success of a society.”

Abrami is founder of Concordia’s Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance (CSLP), a university-recognized research centre also funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture.

He notes that although technology has substantially enhanced teaching and learning, it’s not a magic elixir that can cure all learning-related ills.

“To date, the scale of educational improvements using technology has been modest, particularly in the developing world,” he explains.

“There have been mixed results when new technologies meet the realities of the diverse and changing classroom contexts of schools, especially when there is an inadequate focus on pedagogical transformation. This desperately needs to change, especially in places like Africa, where help is most needed.”

The project will include two research streams. The first is an examination of the impact of existing educational tools—such as the CSLP’s full suite of programs that cover basics like math and literacy but also develop soft skills such as communication, goal setting and critical thinking.

The second will be an experimental study to better understand the scalability and sustainability of educational technology for use in developing countries.

“Our partnership is fully committed to realizing change and positively affecting education in the developing world,” Abrami says. “Our goal is to transform and improve teaching and dramatically raise the levels of student learning.”

Partner institutions and organizations include: African Storybook, Aga Khan Academies, Aga Khan Foundation Canada, Aga Khan Foundation East Africa, Camara Education, English Montreal School Board, I Choose Life, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, ICT4E Kenya, The University of British Columbia, Université du Québec à Montréal, World Vision Canada, World Vision Kenya, Wilfrid Laurier University, Vanier College, University of Nairobi, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and dozens of individual schools.

This story was written by Renée Dunk, a communications advisor for Concordia University. It was first published on September 6, 2017, on Concordia University’s website. The research is supported by a SSHRC Partnership Grant (Insight).