June 2 2016

Open Space Literacy ICT4D project in Kenya improves scores and attendance

The Open Space Literacy project in Kenya was launched in 2015 to bring technology into primary school classrooms and increase literacy among children. A study has now shown that students, teachers and the community are benefitting from the ICT4D project.

The Open Space Literacy Project (OSL) was brought to life with the aim of improving literacy – one of the major challenges in education in Kenya. SOS Children’s Villages teamed up with other national and international partners to improve the reading and writing skills of Kenyan school children with the help of ICT4D (Information and Communications Technologies for Development) tools in Kenyan classrooms. The goal of the project has been to improve teachers’ efficacy and learning outcomes for children in disadvantaged communities, by making new technologies available to students and teachers.

What does an OSL classroom look like?

In OSL classrooms technology is integrated into lessons to enhance students’ learning experiences and build their literacy. In addition to classroom computers and other ICT devices, teachers receive comprehensive training on interactive, learner- and child-friendly teaching methods, and communities and local stakeholders are encouraged to participate more actively in school governance and in learning content creation.

Interactive learning with digital tools has many advantages:

  • Children can access quality educational content in different languages using laptops or mobile phones.
  • The technology enables students to learn at their own pace and allows for better feedback, even in crowded classrooms.
  • School books are often scarce in disadvantaged schools; when they are not available to all students, teachers can use projectors to share content.
  • Teachers can monitor each child individually through an easy-to-use online Learning Management System.
  • Teachers use interactive teaching methods, and apply the concepts of gender equality and positive discipline.
So far, SOS Children’s Villages’ OSL project has been implemented in one SOS Children’s Villages Hermann Gmeiner School, as well as in 27 public primary schools in Nairobi County in Kenya, with an average school size of 984 pupils and 21 teachers. The participating schools now have computer rooms and other ICT facilities, which did not exist before.  Almost 18,000 students, 664 teachers, 204 management boards, and about 19,000 members of the local communities have benefitted from the OSL approach already, according to the project team.

OSL shows promising results

An independent study of the OSL project by Women Educational Researchers of Kenya (WERK) found that children using the new digital learning tools in OSL classrooms demonstrated better literacy than their peers who were not using technology for learning. In OSL classrooms, children were able to correctly read more words per minute in English (41.44) than their peers in control schools (36.63). In Kiswahili, OSL students also showed better results (42.48 vs. 39.55 words).

OSL projects in Kenya combine digital and non-digital learning. Photo: Jens Honoré
Interestingly, the students with access to technology in their classrooms also had better attendance. Children in a ‘control school’ without the OSL project were almost twice as likely (26.2%) to miss more than a week of school in a year than a child in an OSL school (14.7%).

The teacher training courses, which are part of the OSL project, also show positive outcomes. Teachers who had never used computers or other ICT devices before are now able to do so. Almost 75% of all teachers in the OSL schools now use both digital and non-digital learning materials in their teaching.
In addition, almost 80% of teachers in OSL schools now use inclusive teaching methods – also called ‘inquiry-based facilitative methods’ – which engage students in discussing problems or scenarios, rather than only memorizing information. In ‘control schools’, only 45% of all teachers were applying inclusive teaching methods.

OSL in more schools

SOS Children’s Villages continues to support OSL, with plans to implement the project in three more schools in Kenya in 2016.
The OSL project was designed and implemented in cooperation with partners including Plan International, private companies, public institutions and the government. 

Find out about all of SOS Children's Villages' ICT4D projects

Read more about SOS Children's Villages' Kenya