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A case study of girls' educational experiences in English medium Rwandan basic education

A project critically exploring the ways that learning in English influences Rwandan girls' educational experiences and outcomes.



Project status



Project started on 1 Nov 2018

About the project

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This project critically explores the ways that learning in English influences Rwandan girls' educational experiences and outcomes throughout the basic education cycle.

Sustainable Development Goal 4 calls on all governments to ensure that, by 2030, all children complete a basic education that is inclusive, equitable and of high quality. While much research has explored the ways that gender and the language-of-instruction separately present a challenge to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4, there is an evidence gap about girls' learning in a dominant language, such as English. This study addresses this gap through a mixed-methods case study of girls' learning in Rwandan upper primary and secondary education; the years of basic education where the language-of-instruction is English.

Rwanda was chosen as the case study as it is a country where gender parity has been achieved, if measured solely on access across the education cycle, but where girls are disadvantaged regarding measures of equity (e.g. significantly higher numbers repeating years) and quality (e.g. fewer girls passing national secondary examinations).

The language-of-instruction policy is English-medium teaching from the start of primary school and recent research has suggested that it is a significant barrier to learner participation and success in national examinations. It, therefore, provides an excellent case study to explore the potential ways that learning in English may be impacting on Rwandan girls' educational access, experiences and outcomes. The study focuses on girls in the final year of primary schooling (approximately 12 years old) and of lower secondary education (approximately 15 years old) – to enable snapshots of girls' experiences at these key transitional points in their basic education cycle.

The case study is multi-level, mixed method and interdisciplinary. The first phase identified co-occurring trends between girls' learning metrics, gendered attitudes and the use of English Medium Instruction. This was achieved through statistical analysis of national education statistics, household survey data (attitudinal survey responses) and girls' examination results in English (in lieu of any available national language proficiency test results).

The exploratory phase focused on girls' experiences of learning in English, both in the classroom and other sites of learning (e.g. the home). Data was generated through learner-focused classroom observations and narrative interviews with the same 48 girls observed in lessons.

Project team

  • Dr Lizzi O. Milligan, University of Bath (PI)
  • Dr Harry Kuchah, University of Leeds (Co-I)
  • Dr Alphonse Uworwabayeho, University of Rwanda (Co-I)
  • Aloysie Uwizeyemariya, University of Rwanda
  • Aline Dorimana, University of Rwanda
  • Dr Laela Adamson, University of Bath



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