This paper sets out the approach and rationale for researching education quality in low income countries that underpins a 5-year research programme focused on sub-Saharan Africa. Equity is an indispensable dimension of education quality. Mainstream conceptualisations of quality are critiqued as divorced from any broader understanding of the historical, socio-cultural, political and economic forces that generate inequality. Our approach is influenced by critical theory, postcolonial theory and political economy. At its heart is a concern to develop a rich, contextualised understanding of what counts as education quality in different settings and for different groups of learners along with the processes of teaching and learning that lead to improved outcomes, especially for the most disadvantaged groups. This requires recognising that the role of education systems in both perpetuating and overcoming inequalities including those based on gender, class, 'race', ethnicity, language, religion, urban/ rural location, and disability. Capacity-building is intrinsic to the research programme, which means seeking to empower policymakers, educators, learners and other key role-players through supporting their development as reflective practitioners and agents of change. At the same time, we aim to be self-reflexive and self-critical concerning our own role as education researchers interested in Africa.
First presentated at the 9th UKFIET International Conference, University of Oxford, UK, 11-13 September 2007. ISBN: 978-1-906675-00-4, 22 pp.