Teacher agency in the reform of curriculum under Universal Primary Education in Uganda and its implications for emerging practices
Ogwang, Tom Henry
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This thesis deals with the role of teacher agency in the reform of curriculum under Universal Primary Education (UPE) in Uganda. It draws on empirical research conducted in two UPE case study schools in Uganda. The study was conducted in order to highlight the role of teacher agency in teachers’ professional practice and to analyse the ecological factors that contribute in shaping it, as well as its effects. The thesis begins with a description of the UPE curriculum in its global dimensions. It subsequently reviews the theoretical and empirical literature dealing with the role of teacher agency in the reform of curriculum under UPE, under the themes of ‘globalisation’, ‘teacher/biographical barriers to UPE reforms’, ‘contextual challenges of the reforms on teachers’, ‘teachers’ mediation of the reform challenges’ and ‘effects of the teachers’ mediation of reforms’. The study’s theoretical position draws on the critical realist philosophy of Roy Bhaskar and Margaret Archer, which guided the development a two-phased study design comprising of secondary document analysis using retroduction (Elder-Vass 2010; Edwards et al. 2014) in phase one and field work within the framework of Priestley et al.’s (2015b) ecological approach to teacher agency in phase two. The field work involved semi-structured interviews, observation and primary document analysis. The study established that the globalisation of UPE was driven by Education for All (EFA) under a neo-liberal agenda, which involved both structural and cultural reform. The structural reform has impacted UPE’s ecology through the evolution of a new ‘governance’ structure underpinned by partnership, decentralisation and performativity. Furthermore, it has involved access and inputs reform, which has been characterised by universalisation and the adoption of a partnership funding approach. Cultural reform has focused on curriculum and pedagogy. However, at the micro level of school/classroom practice, most of the reforms have resulted in ‘first order’ changes (Cuban 1998; Priestley 2011a), which are currently manifested by only partial success in absorbing the curriculum and pedagogy reforms, coupled with the continued lack of inputs. This is attributed, among others, to the responses of the teachers, or teacher agency. The study analysed the role of teacher agency in the case studies and concluded that it is widely manifested and is primarily driven by the practical-evaluative dimension, followed by the projective and iterational dimensions respectively. Furthermore, it has significant effects, which are both positive and negative. It therefore plays a significant role in the teachers’ professional practice, which needs to be acknowledged in educational planning. Finally, the study offered some recommendations and suggestions for further research.