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ZEST - Improving the quality of teaching in Zambia

Principal Investigator: Dr Kris Stutchbury, Dr Lore Gallastegi
Co-investigators: Clare Woodward, Alison Glover, Catharine Bleasdale, Clare Lee, Dr Jennifer Agbaire, Ebony Carberry, Olivier Biard
Consortium Partners: World Vision Zambia
Focus Country: Zambia
Dates: October 2017 - ongoing


Learning outcomes for Zambia are low. Over 80% of children are unable to read and write at the end of their first year of learning, Grade 5 learners score below 40% in national assessments and Zambia has one of the highest pupil-teacher ratios in sub-Saharan Africa.


The Zambian Education School-based Training (ZEST) programme is helping teachers improve the quality of teaching and learning experiences for children in primary schools in Zambia’s Central Province.

ZEST responds to the Zambian Ministry of Education's (MoE) request for the OU to support teachers and school leaders to develop skills in active, learner-centred approaches. It helps schools operationalise the government’s SPRINT in-service strategy (2017) to support pedagogical change in line with Zambia’s revised Curriculum Framework (2013).

Working with 600 teachers over 3 years, ZEST has developed a scalable, school-based teacher professional development programme (SBTPD). The programme includes 6 short training courses that revolve around 9 active teaching and learning approaches. It builds on existing practice and supports a learner-centred approach to teaching in line with Government of Zambia priorities for improving learning outcomes.

The programme draws on a range of open educational resources (OER) including TESSA Zambia. The training programme and resources are available online, under an open OGL licence, to teachers and educators throughout Zambia and beyond. It is also embedded within Zambia’s Ministry of Education SPRINT school-based CPD and practice thus ensuring sustainability.


As well as delivering tools, to support pedagogical change, ZEST has three distinct research strands:

  • Strand 1: Investigating the impact of technology on schools
  • Strand 2: Investigating the role of school leaders in supporting SBCPD – what is it that effective school leaders do and how can they be supported? 
  • Strand 3: Teacher agency. How is SBCPD experienced by teachers?  


Working with World Vision the project has achieved the following practical outcomes so far: 

  1. A TPD programme co-designed with 600 teachers and tested over 3 years, comprising 6 short courses for teachers, school leaders, and education officials, providing contextualised, freely accessible training and materials (in digital and print).
  2. Scaled up and implemented with over 4000 teachers in 460 schools in Central province, building on existing systems and structures.
  3. Successfully pioneered the use of inexpensive, battery powered computers (Raspberry Pis) to provide teachers off-line and off-grid access to the digital courses and materials (including audio and video) on their own devices.
  4. An evaluation at the end of 2022 showed that the project had helped teachers achieve a pedagogically and statistically significant improvement in learner engagement in lessons.
  5. Evidence of improved relationships and collaboration amongst teachers.
  6. Built the capacity of Provincial and District officials to better support SBCPD in their localities.

The research has provided: 

  1. Insights into the impact of technology.
  2. New understandings of the mechanisms of implementation.
  3. New understandings of the role of school leaders and how principles of distributed leadership can be operationalised in this context.
  4. New understandings of teachers’ lives and experiences in Zambia, and how to support them in becoming agentive professionals.

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