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Scaling the School Readiness Initiative: strengthening school and community capacities for adoption of play-based learning in Uganda and Zambia

Project ID
Total Funding
CAD 1,000,000.00
IDRC Officer
Joy Nafungo
Project Status
22 months

Programs and partnerships

Lead institution(s)

Project leader:
Cleopatra Muma


While Uganda and Zambia have made significant gains in early-childhood development and education (ECDE) in recent years, they continue to face many challenges. Access to ECDE is limited, especially among marginalized and rural communities.Read more

While Uganda and Zambia have made significant gains in early-childhood development and education (ECDE) in recent years, they continue to face many challenges. Access to ECDE is limited, especially among marginalized and rural communities. Further, the ECDE work force lacks adequate knowledge, skills and attitudes to implement play-based approaches. Learning environments to facilitate play-based learning are lacking and coordination among key stakeholders such as parents, teachers, school administrators and communities needs to be improved.

The School Readiness Initiative (SRI) is an early-learning system that involves home, school and community to support holistic development of children and prepare them for a smooth transition to school. The SRI has been implemented in two provinces in Zambia and holds promise for promoting quality early-childhood education that prepares children to be ready for primary school, and schools to be ready for children to provide them an age-appropriate learning experience and environment.

This project will build on lessons learned from the SRI and strengthen it through wider stakeholder involvement. It will carry out a thorough review of play-based learning in the ECDE curriculum frameworks of Uganda and Zambia and design an enhanced learning framework for ECDE, including the identification and development of contextually relevant learning materials with the involvement of teachers, parents and children. School administrators, parents, teachers and ECDE teacher-educators will be trained on its implementation and data on implementation will be collected using action research, workshops, conferences, observations, interviews and reflective journal writing. The project will address issues of gender imbalance in the ECDE work force, in which women dominate despite having little or no formal training either as teachers or caregivers. The research team will work closely with officials from the ministries of education and regional, district and local community education officials in the two countries throughout the project period.

This project is one of the five projects selected through a Global Partnership for Education Knowledge and Innovation Exchange call for proposals for early learning in East, West and Southern Africa: Generating and mobilizing innovative knowledge for regional education challenges.

Research outputs

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This qualitative study investigated the complex issues and dynamics associated with the transitions in early childhood education (ECE) within Kabwe, Kapiri, and Choma districts of Zambia. Utilising an exploratory methodology, the research thoroughly explored the various factors that impacted school preparedness and the progression from early childhood education to primary schools. Diverse perspectives from parents, educators, community leaders, and legislators were examined through in-depth interviews, focus groups, and participant observations. The results of this study shed light on several significant factors such as limited parental involvement arising from knowledge gaps and financial constraints, digital inequality affecting children’s adaptability, and the absence of well-structured transition programmes leading to mismatches in instructional approaches. Thematic analysis reveals nuanced insights, emphasising the crucial role of digital inclusion initiatives, programmes promoting parental engagement, and collaborative efforts between ECE institutions and primary schools.

Mambwe, Robinson

While several studies have been done on parental involvement in early childhood education, gaps still exist relating to the conceptualisation of play and play-based learning in different contexts. The various perceptions of play and play based learning have a strong influence on their involvement in play-based learning activities involving children in Early Childhood Education. Using a qualitative approach, framed within the interpretive research paradigm, this study revealed a disjuncture between the positive perception held by the stakeholders on play and PBL to the reality of play-based learning in the ECE schools.

Sichula, Noah

This systematic review is based on studies that explored school readiness and transition through play-based pedagogies in Early Childhood and Primary Education. Relevant literature involved global literature whose search was conducted by independent researchers following the keyword string, which included among others, stakeholders’ roles in school readiness, transition, and play-based pedagogies. The literature search was done from May to August 2022 following the Preferred Reporting Item for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA). Twenty peer-reviewed studies were identified, appraised, and included in the review.

Kalinde, Bibian
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About the partnership


Knowledge and Innovation Exchange

KIX will accelerate the generation and uptake of evidence and innovation in the education sector