Baseline Study Report: Language Supportive Teaching and Textbooks in Tanzania

Angeline M Barrett, Noah Mtana, Kalafunja Osaki, Casmir Rubagumya

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The baseline research in this report was conducted as part of a research project directed at strengthening innovation and practice in the education of Form 1 students in Tanzania, who are making the transition from Kiswahili-medium primary education to English-medium secondary education. The baseline study was designed to generate recommendations for the design of a Biology, an English and a Mathematics textbook for Form 1. It involved data collection in 21 schools across Dodoma, Morogoro and Lindi regions and had three main parts:
(i) a survey of 420 Form 1 students to assess their reading ability;
(ii) a survey of the availability of textbooks in schools and teachers’ and students’ use of textbooks; and
(iii) a review of Biology, English and Mathematics textbooks used in Form 1 classrooms.
The study found that the majority of Form 1 students are not ready to use English for academic purposes. Most schools do not have class sets of textbooks. The problem was most acute in Lindi, where across three subjects and seven schools, we found only one class set of a textbook.
Textbooks that are available in schools make no allowance for the fact that their intended users are not fluent in English except to offer explanations of key words in English. The language demands of Biology textbooks are greater than Form 1 English textbooks and out of step with the Tanzanian English syllabus. English textbooks and most Mathematics textbooks use simpler language but around one half of our sample of students would still struggle to read them. Kiswahili was never used. Biology and Mathematics textbooks did use illustrations and students were heavily dependent on these to help them understanding the meaning of the text. Only English textbooks had activities that support students to talk, write and read in English. Generally, textbooks offer few or no ideas for activities that support interactive learning.
Implications are drawn for textbook design in Tanzania and ongoing project research. Key recommendations are that secondary school textbooks across all subjects should be language accessible, i.e. easy to read, and language supportive, i.e. support students to improve their English proficiency. WE also recommend that secondary school textbooks be reviewed by language experts as well as subject experts before being authorised for use schools. Finally, English textbooks for primary and secondary schools should support learning of English for academic purposes as well as for informal purposes.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Bristol
Number of pages79
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • Secondary Education
  • language in education
  • School textbooks
  • Tanzania


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