Call for papers – Addressing the ‘learning crisis’ in sub-Saharan Africa: Critical factors and potential solutions


We invite researchers and practitioners to submit manuscripts for our forthcoming special issue titled Addressing the ‘learning crisis’ in sub-Saharan Africa: Critical factors and potential solutions’. Education systems in sub-Saharan Africa are undergoing extensive re-orientation away from serving relatively more advantaged groups of pupils and towards a universally accessible and quality education to all. This transition nonetheless has led to a ‘learning crisis’: Recent trends in learning proficiency reveal that while enrolment rates have notably improved, sub-Saharan Africa continues to lag behind the rest of the world in terms of learning outcomes, with the majority of children not meeting minimum proficiency levels at the end of primary and secondary education.

The main objective of the special issue is to consider critical factors and solutions to addressing this ‘learning crisis’ prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, recognising its significant impact on millions of children enrolled in schools who could benefit from improved education outcomes. It explores how various factors–including historical and sociocultural factors, national education policies, curricular expectations and their implementation, and the extent of school autonomy–may explain or have contributed to the learning crisis. This issue also aims to examine the concepts of ‘unfair inequality’ and ‘unfair equality’ as highlighted by Rolleston and Crouch (2021) and Crouch and Rolleston (2017), as well as potential applications of value-added analysis to diagnose the learning crisis as employed by Oketch et al. (2020; 2021). The special issue sheds light on these crucial aspects of the learning crisis and foster discussions that can contribute to finding effective solutions to the issue in sub-Saharan Africa. With the year 2023 being the halfway point of UN's Sustainable Development Goals, the special issue calls renewed attention to SGD4 on the importance of achieving quality education for all.

We invite submissions that focus on any one or multiple of the following themes in addressing the learning crisis in sub-Saharan Africa:

  1. Curricular expectations
  2. Pedagogical approaches
  3. Medium of instruction and language policy
  4. Applications of teacher value-added approach
  5. Teaching at the right level
  6. Within class heterogeneity and pupil grouping strategies
  7. Teaching and learning strategies – such as ‘differentiation’ or ‘mastery’

Contributions can take the form of conceptual papers or empirical studies, utilising innovative methodologies to shed light on the chosen theme. We encourage researchers to bring forth their unique perspectives and insights to contribute to our understanding of the learning crisis and potential solutions in sub-Saharan Africa.


Call open: 1st June 2023
Submission open: 1st August 2023
Submission close: 31st March 2024

Submission Information

Papers should be up to 8,000 words, including the structured abstract and references. Please refer to this page for detailed submission guidelines under ‘Manuscript Requirements’.

Guest Editors

Professor Moses Oketch and Dr Nozomi Sakata

Moses Oketch is a Professor of international education policy and development at the University College London (UCL), Institute of Education. Additionally, he serves as a co-director of the Centre for Education and International Development at UCL. With an academic career spanning 25 years, Prof Oketch has dedicated his research to the intersection of education and development in sub-Saharan Africa. His expertise encompasses a wide range of research areas, including the economics of education, education policy analysis, access to education, and learning outcomes. Prof Oketch's recent involvement in the RISE research programme has focused specifically on studying teacher value-added, contributing to the understanding of its diagnostic potential in the Global South. Prof Oketch has held various positions: He has worked as a Research Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education at Vanderbilt University, a Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, the Director of Research at the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), and a Senior Research Fellow at the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), and currently a Visiting Professor at Hiroshima University.

Nozomi Sakata is an Assistant Professor at the Center for International Cooperation in Education, Hiroshima University. After completing her PhD on learner-centred pedagogy in Tanzanian primary schools, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University College London and Hiroshima University. Her research interests lie in education policy analysis in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on gaps between policy ideals and practical implementation, pedagogical processes, and pedagogies aligned with peoples’ values. Dr Sakata currently sits in the Editorial Boards of Journal of International Cooperation in Education and Comparative Education Review.

Examples of Relevant References

Crouch, L., & Rolleston, C. (2017). Raising the Floor in Learning Levels. Equitable Improvement Starts with the Tail. RISE Insight. Retrieved on 26 August 2022 from

Rolleston, C., & Crouch, L. (2021). Eliminating global learning poverty: The importance of equalities and equity. International Journal of Educational Development. doi: 10.1016/j.ijedudev.2020.102250.

Oketch, M., Rolleston, C., and Rossiter, J. (2020). Teacher Value-Added Using Young Lives Ethiopia School Survey Data - Diagnosing the Learning Crisis: Potential Applications of Value-Added Analysis. RISE Insight Series. 2020/016.

Oketch, M., Rolleston, C., & Rossiter, J. (2021). Diagnosing the learning crisis: What can value-added analysis contribute? International Journal of Educational Development, 87, 102507.

Sakata, N. (2021). Capability Approach to Valued Pedagogical Practices in Tanzania: An Alternative to Learner-Centred Pedagogy? Journal of Human Development and Capabilities 22 (4): 663-681.

Sakata, N., Bremner, N., & Cameron, L. (2022). A Systematic Review of the Implementation of Learner-Centered Pedagogy in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. Review of Education 10 (3).