The LSTT project developed out of a awareness of the centrality of Language issues as a barrier to learning for Form I students. An initial baseline research looked at the situation amongst Form 1 students and teachers. Research carried out in 21 schools took views from 63 teachers and 420 pupils. The findings from this baseline research was used to inform the development of the textbooks and pedagogy. The baseline report briefing paper can be found here. The full research report can be found here.
Main findings of the baseline research
- The large majority of Form 1 students are not ready to learn through the medium of English.
- Most schools do not have class sets of textbooks
- One textbook cannot meet all the needs of students and teacher
- Textbooks are difficult to read
- Textbooks do not support transition to English medium
- Textbooks do not support interactive learning
- Use Kiswahili and English in the classroom
Students learn best through a language in which they are already fluent. For most Form 1 students in Tanzania that language is Kiswahili. If the language of instruction is English, however, using Kiswahili as well as English in the classroom helps students learn subjects and learn English quicker and better.
- Using Kiswahli and English together strategically
students need to process new information through talking about it in Kiswahili. As a next step, they can then try to translate their ideas into English. This is true for Form 1 to 4 but is especially important for students in Form 1 and 2. Using Kiswahili in the classroom allows students in Form 1 and 2 to recall and build on what they learned in Kiswahili-medium primary school. Language supportive textbooks provide structured activities that use Kiswahili as a step to learning in English.
- Create language accessible textbooks, which are easy to read. These
- are written in simple English using short sentences.
- contain glossaries that translate subject specialist words and difficult words into Kiswahili. This helps students to connect to what they learned in primary school and build on this knowledge in secondary school.
- have text which is broken down into short chunks through use of short paragraphs, short sections with clear sub- headings and bulleted or numbered lists.
- have plenty of illustrations convey the meaning of text and break up long chunks of text.
- Create language supportive textbooks which include activities that help students to talk, write and read English. Because language – supportive teaching is activity-based it is consistent with the teaching methods stipulated in the Tanzanian syllabus. Activities that support learning in English include the following.
- Talking activities: Students learn concepts best in a language in which they are fluent. First students discuss in Kiswahili. Second, they write their conclusion as a simple sentence in English. Third, they read the sentence out loud. In this way they process the subject content three times and practice writing and talking about the concept in English.
- Structured writing activities: Students in Form 1 struggle to write complete sentences in English. They need support to structure sentences. They have very little vocabulary in English, particularly subject specialist vocabulary. Textbooks can provide students with a short list of key words to use in a writing activity.
- Reading activities: Students need to practice reading, including reading out loud so that teachers can correct their pronunciation. Limited vocabulary is a major barrier to understanding text so reading exercises need to be accompanied by a glossary and/or illustration to help them access meaning.