Inclusive and quality language learning and teaching through digital innovation


Caroline Grant, Senior Education and English Curriculum Advisor, Sub-Saharan Africa, British Council

The integration of e-learning digital education technologies into primary education systems in Africa offers the opportunity for technology to play a role in broader systemic efforts to transform education on continent, making it more inclusive, equitable, effective, relevant and sustainable.

Technology offers a great opportunity to expand access to education while improving its efficiency. Supporting teachers and learners from low-resource backgrounds with relevant digital resources in mother tongue and English in sub-Saharan Africa is key to strengthening basic literacy.

But there are few audio resources for basic literacy in the region. There is also little support for teachers who teach language and literacy at school, and for parents and guardians who support children’s learning at home. During the pandemic, school closures have compounded the problems.

In response to this need, the English Learning Audio Program (LEAP) was co-created by the South African Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the British Council, with support from UNICEF. In 2014, a pilot LEAP program was launched in South Africa, where more than 60% of public schools are free, in partnership with the DBE.

LEAP was recently selected as a promising digital solution to showcase on United Nations Education Solutions Day on September 17, 2022, ahead of the United Nations Transforming Education Summit 2022.

The problem LEAP seeks to solve

LEAP seeks to support teachers in remote and disadvantaged schools in nine African countries, including South Africa, to improve learners’ listening and speaking skills and gain access to teaching and learning materials. quality English learning.

Listening and speaking skills are vital for the development of literacy in any language. These skills become even more important in the acquisition of a second language, such as English in the South African context, where English effectively becomes the language of instruction from year 4.

However, listening and speaking are skills that are often overlooked, and this is where LEAP has helped fill this skills gap for learners – as well as teachers, parents and guardians – to help embed the building blocks early literacy and providing access to quality English learning resources.

The impact and successes of LEAP

The audio lessons produced under LEAP are directly linked to the South African DBE curriculum and national textbooks. LEAP has also been mapped to national programs in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Bilingual songs and storybooks (in English and 17 African languages) written and recorded by teachers and volunteers as part of the African Storybook Initiative and the British Council Story Making Project accompany these audio lessons.

The program provides training for teachers so they can use the materials in the classroom and encourages parents and guardians to support learning at home.

LEAP is a versatile digital solution, and it has been delivered through a variety of modalities, devices, and platforms since 2013, including solar-powered MP3 players, USB sticks, and SD cards on laptops and teachers’ cell phones.

During Covid-19, audio content was migrated to a WhatsApp Chatbot platform, with animated versions streamed onOpen viewSouth Africa’s first free-to-air satellite television service platform, andYoutube. There is also whatsapp chatbot Platform.

LEAP has reached over 47,000 teachers, parents and guardians in five countries and the plan is to reach a much larger number, while providing additional global support for teachers and more content, so that more teachers and learners in sub-Saharan Africa Can be reached.

The program has been designed in accordance with a theory of change that works as follows: if parents, guardians and teachers (especially those in remote and disadvantaged areas) are equipped with quality language learning and teaching resources , and resources are provided through an accessible digital mechanism that is also familiar, such as WhatsApp and Open TV, and follow-up support is provided, then learners will have more opportunities to develop language skills and learning. literacy.

The integration of LEAP into national education systems is essential

The successes achieved with LEAP can be attributed to several factors. Content is tailored to national curricula and developed with Ministries of Education. Teacher education is integrated into national teacher education systems, while monitoring and evaluation are integrated into national education systems. Learners can access relevant audio resources for basic literacy on their own, and parents or guardians have the resources to support children’s learning at home.

There have been positive changes in classroom practice through the use of audio materials, and teachers have reliable ways to play audio content in English lessons. They are also backed by EdTech to handle large, multi-grade classes.

The key findings from 2015 were enlightening. Learners have been found to be eager to mimic pronunciation, they have shown signs of improved listening and speaking skills, are responsive and ask questions about audio resources. They are also alive and interactive during lessons. It is obvious that LEAP creates greater interaction, participation and creativity on the part of teachers and learners.

Monitoring, evaluation, research and learning constantly inform the design and delivery of projects and measure the tangible benefits for teachers and learners.

In 2019, the results indicated that LEAP was considered one of the best implemented programs, that its resources were well integrated into DBE textbooks in South Africa, and that the program made a positive contribution to the development of listening skills and learners’ oral expression.

Mr. Mathanzima Mweli, Chief Executive of the Department of Basic Education in South Africa, said: “The Learn English audio project is an innovative approach to providing materials to teachers to improve their knowledge of English and other languages. other languages, as well as to allow learners to access materials to improve their language skills.

Dr Andile Dube, Education Specialist, UNICEF South Africa, endorsed LEAP for the following reasons: “The most marginalized learners need to be at the center of digital solutions – we need to RE-IMAGINE education through access to quality content, affordable data, connectivity and devices. » ‘

The aim now is to extend LEAP to other African countries by adapting and developing the content for contextual relevance and also extending it to higher primary and secondary levels.

The success of the program demonstrates what can be achieved through partnerships focused on building quality, inclusion and innovation. These benefits must now spread across the continent, and to that end, we invite partners interested in scaling up LEAP to get in touch with the British Council.

Contacts: [email protected] and [email protected]

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