Learning from Difference. Understanding Community Initiatives to Improve Access to Education. Final Report


This report presents the findings of a participatory action research project entitled 'Understanding Community Initiatives to Improve Access to Education'. The study was carried out in primary schools in Mpika, Zambia, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, between July 2001 and December 2002.

The intention of the study was to encourage practitioners to articulate practice through developing written accounts that could later be shared with other practitioners working in similar contexts. This generation of Southern accounts would promote more inclusive educational practices by providing a body of much-needed South-based evidence on which practitioners can draw as reference material and examples of good practice.

The study's processes examined ways of encouraging analytical and writing skills among stakeholders in predominantly oral cultures. It drew on a combination of workshops and other structured reflective activities with teachers, parents and children as a means of promoting reflection and, in the longer term, changes in thinking and practice. A barrier analysis approach was used to encourage teachers to look more carefully at the way attitudes, the environment and institutions prevent the full participation of marginalised groups in education and in society. Video and other image-based approaches were used to promote reflection and documentation. The study also explored the role of external facilitators in building the capacity of practitioners to reflect, analyse and document their experience of promoting inclusive education.

The report is structured around the following research questions:

  • How can people with different knowledge, skills and perspectives be helped to think about, document and learn from their efforts to address barriers to the learning and participation of all children?
  • What needs to happen to make this process empowering, particularly for practitioners and people from marginalised groups?
  • How can the particular experiences of one community speak to a wider audience and at the same time remain authentic?
  • How can insiders and outsiders best work together to improve practice?


University of Manchester, Manchester, UK, 153 pp.

Published 1 January 2003