Mapping the African research evidence base for educational policy and practice

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This paper reports on a project to ‘map’ education research conducted by researchers and institutions based in sub-Saharan Africa as a basis for addressing the Sustainable Development Goals. A strong research base is required for governments, donors, NGOs, researchers and practitioners to engage in evidence-informed debate and decision-making on educational policy and practice. Despite signs that the volume of African education research has increased significantly over the past two decades, African scholarship is routinely ‘overlooked and undervalued’ (Maclure 2006), including studies with findings which are important for the achievement of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa, Agenda 2063, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Researchers based in the North are in a comparatively privileged position when it comes to disseminating their work. African research outputs are spread across a wide array of journals, working papers, monographs and other publications, which poses a challenge to policymakers, researchers and others seeking to access the evidence base. As a result, African research regularly fails to attract the necessary attention to effect changes in learning and conditions in schools and other educational settings. In the absence of an accessible indigenous research evidence base, local knowledge and expertise is frequently overlooked in favour of solutions developed elsewhere, often in markedly different socio-cultural and material contexts. This project seeks to address this issue and raise the visibility and impact of African education research through the development of an open access database and accompanying literature review of African education research. This study sought to identify social science research with implications for educational policy and practice conducted in the past decade by researchers and institutions based in sub-Saharan Africa. The research identification strategy involved two main strands. Firstly, structured searches were conducted using academic and ‘grey’ literature databases, including Scopus and BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine). The latter draws on university repositories which have only recently become available online. The second strand involved a broad consultation of African researchers, institutions and organisations, including the Association for Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), in addition to NGOs, researchers and others based in the North. Steps were taken to maximise the scope of the consultation in terms of regional and thematic coverage. The search was conducted in English initially, with plans to incorporate Portuguese and French at a later stage. Studies identified through this process were catalogued by author, institutional affiliation, country of focus, research methods, keywords, and number of citations. The keywords were developed through an iterative process of induction and deduction with reference to the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) thesaurus, and other indexing systems. The study reveals significant variation in the research productivity of different institutions and countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Positive outliers are identified, with implications for knowledge sharing and capacity development.. Analysis of the keywords offers comparative insights on national and regional research foci. The exercise indicates a significant untapped source of policy- and practice-relevant research evidence in areas such as school-level language policy and planning, early childhood education, literacy development, teacher deployment and retention, and ICT in education. Key findings in these areas are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2018
EventCIES Annual Conference 2018: Re-Mapping Global Education: South-North Dialogue - Mexico
Duration: 25 Mar 201829 Mar 2018


ConferenceCIES Annual Conference 2018

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