This study aims to critically explore the ways that learning in English influences Rwandan girls' educational experiences and outcomes throughout the basic education cycle. Sustainable Development Goal 4 calls on all governments to ensure that, by 2030, all children complete a basic education that is inclusive, equitable and of high quality. While much research has explored the ways that gender and the language-of-instruction separately present a challenge to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4, there is an evidence gap about girls' learning in a dominant language, such as English. This study will address this gap through a mixed-methods case study of girls' learning in Rwandan upper primary and secondary education; the years of basic education where the language-of-instruction is English.
Rwanda has been chosen as the case study as it is a country where gender parity has been achieved, if measured solely on access across the education cycle, but where girls are disadvantaged regarding measures of equity (e.g. significantly higher numbers repeating years) and quality (e.g. fewer girls passing national secondary examinations). English is the language-of-instruction from the fourth year of primary school and recent research has suggested that it is a significant barrier to learner participation and success in national examinations. It, therefore, provides an excellent case study to explore the potential ways that learning in English may be impacting on Rwandan girls' educational access, experiences and outcomes. The study will focus on girls in the final year of primary schooling (approximately 12 years old) and of lower secondary education (approximately 15 years old) - to enable snapshots of girls' experiences at these key transitional points in their basic education cycle.
The case study will be multi-level, mixed method and interdisciplinary, involving perspectives from sociology, education and applied linguistics. An initial contextualising phase will identify co-occurring trends between girls' learning metrics, gendered attitudes and the use of English Medium Instruction. This will be achieved through statistical analysis of national education statistics, household survey data (attitudinal survey responses) and girls' examination results in English (in lieu of any available national language proficiency test results). The trends identified will be triangulated through eight key stakeholder interviews with policymakers and practitioners related to girls' education and EMI. The main exploratory phase will focus on girls' experiences of learning in English, both in the classroom and other sites of learning (e.g. the home). Data from photo-linked interviewing with 48 girls from four schools, and classroom observations, will be thematically analysed to identify key inhibitors and facilitators for girls' learning in English.
A relevant learning justice framework, which brings socio-cultural theories of learning within a gender justice framing, will be developed from this analysis and its applicability will be explored with relevant stakeholders through a range of workshops (including girls, teachers and national stakeholders). It is intended that implications for a more inclusive and equitable education for all in Rwanda, and across the Global South, will be co-constructed. These will be disseminated in national and global academic and policy networks through four journal articles, conference attendance, two advocacy videos and an extended policy brief. If national policy impact is achieved, the study will ultimately improve the learning experiences and outcomes for all girls in English Medium Rwandan basic education.