Jacobs Foundation Research Fellow

Ivy Kesewaa Nkrumah

University of Cape Coast

Research Focus

Ivy Kesewaa Nkrumah’s research focuses on selective attention, working memory, and cognitive control. In addition to studying the nature of the representations and psychological processes that underpin the untroubled interplay among attention, memory, and action, she utilizes a variety of methods to evaluate and unravel factors that could improve classroom teaching and learning.

Her current studies champion language of instruction as the cornerstone of effective human capital development. Her goal is to provide rigorous and cutting-edge research that supports the implementation of effective language of instruction policies in fulfilment of the global dialogues on helping children achieve their full potential.

My plans for the fellowship period

Many children that are enrolled in primary school in Africa annually, dropout, i.e., are unable to complete the six years of education culminating in a primary school certificate. Dropout is often a process with proximate supply (e.g., cultural factors) and demand side (e.g., financial, and religious factors) causes. Over the fellowship period, I will examine the effect of language of instruction as a cultural factor that impacts the dropout process, in furtherance of an earlier study by The Education for All global monitoring report.

The key issues that will be addressed are to examine the realities of the implementation of the mandated language policy in the lower primary classroom (grades 1-3), i.e., to understand and uncover how teachers translate instruction in the mandated language and select words and themes in ways that unlock or transmit the meaning of the words and the concepts that underlie them for students to gain understanding.

I plan to further examine the impact of the language of instruction on children’s scholastic attainments and develop an evidence-based model of instruction that will ensure uniformity in instructional practices beneficial to learners; and further backed with a validated training manual to support teachers in the classroom implementation.

How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives?

There is an increasing consensus among the scientific community that a learning gap in the first few years of school has far-reaching ramifications on all future educational goals, and by extension, long-run well-being. Yet, millions of young children in underdeveloped and developing countries do not reach basic developmental milestones due to such factors as poverty, low stimulation, and in particular poor schooling.

Language of instruction can be a critical cultural barrier to scholastic attainment, particularly at the foundation level. When children are not taught in languages they speak and understand best, it harms their learning, access, equity, and inclusion. My work will draw on data and conduct informed analyses to offer distilled sound policy advice for language of instruction issue as a whole and for virtually all relevant sub-issues.

Thus, my study seeks to streamline and support the implementation of the policy of inclusivity in language of instruction at the foundation stage to reduce learning frustrations and dropout, and strengthen learning outcomes, in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 which seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.