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Improving pre-primary education quality in Tanzania

Thu, April 18, 11:45am to 1:15pm, Hyatt Regency, Atrium (Level 2), Waterfront E

Group Submission Type: Formal Panel Session


Tanzania is at the epicenter of a global movement to increase access and improve quality in early childhood education (ECE). ECE has become central to the global development agenda as a result of evidence that participation leads to improved academic achievement and increased workforce productivity (Duncan et al., 2007; Schweinhart et al., 2005) and economic benefits to individuals and society (Heckman, 2011). With considerable international investment and a sustained national commitment, Tanzania is on a path to improving the quality of its ECE system, an achievement that would have a widespread positive effect.

This panel brings together papers that explore efforts to improve ECE in Tanzania, with a specific focus on pre-primary education. A national focus on pre-primary education was set into motion when Tanzania’s 2014 Education and Training Policy included a mandate for fee-free and compulsory pre-primary education. In this panel, we explore subsequent efforts to improve child learning outcomes in Tanzania. The session will begin with a brief introduction from the chair, followed by three 20-minute presentations. A researcher or practitioner with expertise in ECD will provide a 10 minute discussion following the presentations. The final 20 minutes will be reserved for questions from the audience.

Paper 1 provides a systems-level overview of the current situation of pre-primary education in Tanzania. Drawing on interviews with a range of stakeholders--from national policymakers to parents of pre-primary aged children--the authors examine the extent to which the ECE in mainland Tanzania is set up to provide sustainable and high-quality pre-primary education. Their findings point to the challenges associated with moving from a focus on access to a focus on learning in a resource-poor context. From this systems-level overview, we move to two studies of pre-primary teachers in Tanzania. Improving the quality of pre-primary education requires a well-trained teaching force. Paper 2 examines the relationship between teacher characteristics, classroom quality, and child outcomes. Using results from a nationally-representative survey of pre-primary teachers, the authors pinpoint the teacher characteristics that seem to matter most for classroom quality and learning outcomes. They use these findings to make the case for specialized training in ECE, investment in ongoing teacher professional development, and formalizing the status of unqualified teaching. Finally, Paper 3 is a qualitative study of the lived experiences of prospective pre-primary teachers. It explores future pre-primary teachers’ reactions to a recent policy change that reversed a previous requirement that pre-primary teachers hold a diploma, rather than a certificate. Drawing on interviews with prospective pre-primary teachers and a range of other stakeholders, the study examines how future pre-primary teachers’ imagined identities shift over time in response to policy change and their ongoing experiences at teacher training college.

Together, these papers address key issues in the effort to improve the quality of ECE in Tanzania and beyond. While the focus of the panel is pre-primary education in Tanzania, each paper points to implications for policy and practice beyond a single national context and contributes a unique perspective to the global conversation about ECE quality. The session will be of interest to researchers and practitioners focused on ECE and will provide a forum for rich discussion related to ECE quality and the ECE workforce.

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