Children learn best when they have opportunities to play and develop their individual personalities
Photo credit: Kevin Oloo (Aga Khan Foundation Kenya)

For every child to learn, they must feel welcome in their classroom, no matter their ability, background, culture, or religion. It is a teacher’s responsibility to create inclusive and engaging learning environments, but they cannot do this alone. To develop these skills, teachers need to have access to professional development opportunities and peer support networks so they can go beyond the day-to-day curriculum and explore their own attitudes, biases, and relationships in and out of the classroom.

In collaboration with the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), Samuel Hall, and the Government of Kenya, the Education Commission commissioned research in response to Action Area 2 of the Save Our Future white paper as part of a broader process to assess, reflect, and plan for increasing the use of Inclusive, Engaging, and Adaptive (IEA) pedagogies in classrooms across Kenya. Through this, it became evident there are many teachers who struggle to include all learners in their classrooms. Fewer than half of teachers (43% in rural, 33% in sub-urban and 31% in urban schools) offered choices to students about how they were learning, a reality driven by diverse realities including a lack of resources, limited teacher professional development, and overcrowded classrooms.

Values-Based Education (VBE) – designed and delivered as part of an AKF, government, schools, and civil society organization partnership – is “a transformative journey that assists the teacher in becoming more aware of oneself, allowing them to be more empathetic and give the learner a sense of belonging,” explains Aisha Abeid, AKF Mombasa County Coordinator. The VBE course uses diverse playful approaches, experiential learning, sharing and reflecting on experiences, guided collaboration, and the use of inquiry-based and project-based learning within their classrooms.

Mrs. Mwanakombo Popo loves teaching and making a difference in her community by growing the knowledge of young learners | Photo credit: Aga Khan Foundation Kenya

Mrs. Mwanakombo Popo has been a teacher for more than 22 years. After participating in the VBE process, she has been working on transforming her classroom into a more inclusive, playful, and supportive environment. She admits that previously she stuck to compliance and simply delivered lesson plans, meaning that learning in her classroom wasn’t always fun.

Now, Mrs. Popo embraces learner needs by supporting children to read at their own pace based on their ability, rather than pushing everyone to read at the same level. She says, “I am now fully committed to teaching. I have taken it on as a personal responsibility, not just a task set by my employer.”

Rachael Sure is another graduate of the VBE course who has since changed her approach to teaching. Previously, Rachael thought her role was simply to teach, but now she recognizes that teachers have many more roles to play in the wider school community. At her school, she is leading a second-hand clothes initiative where staff, students, and parents donate uniform and clothing for those who are struggling financially.

Rachael says, “the relationships that have been built and strengthened will go a long way in making us better people, full of empathy, understanding and open to new ideas as we create a world where people value each other regardless of their differences.”

In Kenya, to continue to advance IEA pedagogies in classrooms the team developed an action plan linked to existing priorities, including targeted teacher professional development and funding adequate resources. Following the formation of the Competency Based Curriculum Task Force, it will be critical to ensure these action plans around IEA pedagogies remain visible, relevant, and integrated to the emerging national priorities.

teacher and students
As well as being a teacher, Rachael Sure is also the co-deputy head of her primary school in Mombasa | Photo credit: Aga Khan Foundation Kenya