Author: Leah Sikoyo
Institution: Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
Full reference: Sikoyo, L. (2010) ‘Contextual challenges of implementing learner-centred pedagogy: the case of the problem-solving approach in Uganda’, Cambridge Journal of Education, 40: 3, 247 — 263
This article discusses the challenges for teachers in Ugandan primary schools of implementing a new official curriculum that introduced a problem-centred approach, requiring a learner-centred pedagogy.
The study reports observations on the teaching of the curriculum in practice and sets these in the economic and social context of the school system and broader society in Uganda. It finds that, although teachers understood and recognised the benefits of active learner engagement in pedagogic process, they were unable to implement the problem-solving approach in the manner prescribed. Limitations cited included: time constraints; inadequate learner participation in instructional activities owing to large class sizes (average of over 100 students in half of the case study schools) and learners’ low proficiency in English; pressure to complete the centrally mandated, overcrowded curricula (the author explains that primary education is terminal for the majority of learners in Uganda), as well as inadequate instructional materials, particularly science equipment and materials.
The study raises questions about the transfer of education ideas from the developed world without regard to the practicalities of teaching in Sub-Saharan Africa where school resources are limited, large classrooms persist and teachers are inadequately trained and oriented to implement learner-centred pedagogy. The author concludes that education research in low income countries like Uganda needs to focus more on strategies to help teachers enhance pedagogies in large classrooms than on adopting learner-centred approaches.
The study adopted a qualitative interpretative design, employing a multiple case study approach. Data were collected through classroom observations, interviews and analysis of official curriculum documents. The participants comprised 16 teachers of science in the fifth and sixth grades in eight primary schools in the urban and peri-urban parts of the Kampala district of central Uganda.