Working Group on Mathematics and Science Education (WGMSE)

What is the Working Group on Mathematics and Science Education?

The Working Group on Mathematics and Science Education (WGMSE) was launched in November 2004 to help Africa's MSE programs improve and adapt to the challenges of the 21st century. It strives to achieve this goal by strengthening individual, institutional, and societal capacities and promoting regional cooperation by sharing information among member countries regarding challenges and successful innovative experiences in MSE. Although WGMSE is currently focused primarily on teacher development and research at the secondary and primary levels, it is expanding the scope of its activities to include MSE at the pre-service level to include ministries of education, collaborating institutions, development partners, members of the Africa Principals Convention, and education professionals. 

WGMSE is hosted by Kenya's Ministry of Education. The Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA) based in Nairobi, Kenya, is the coordinating institution and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); its lead ageway. 

What are the objectives of the WGMSE?

The main goal of WGMSE is to:  

  • Improve mathematics and science education in Africa at the school level by strengthening individual, institutional, and societal capacities to advance teaching/learning of these subjects;
  • Promote regional cooperation on MSE through a program of activities approved by both the ADEA and WGMSE Steering Committees. 
  • Special attention is given to girls through specially designed activities within WGMSE's work program.

What does the WGMSE do?

a. Capacity building

Teacher development through In-Service Education and Training (INSET) is WGMSE's main strategy for teachers of mathematics and science. Every year, WGMSE trains a number of trainers from selected countries to strengthen institutional capacities in MSE, muster broader participation of experienced and interested participants, and widen the circulation and the dissemination of MSE knowledge and skills. The focus is on issues likely to have the most impact on transforming classroom practice and on in-service/pre-service MSE development. This includes demonstrating and documenting the methods and impact of effective practices/experiences in education already underway in Africa, such as ASEI (Activity, Students, Experiment, and Improvisation) through the PDSI (Plan, Do, See and Improve) pedagogic paradigm. WGMSE continues to offer technical assistance for training and resource personnel exchanges. School principals, education managers, and quality assurance and standards officers are also trained to build capacities in resource management.

b. Networking 

WGMSE benefits from the established network of SMASE-WECSA Association and its annual regional conferences. The conferences provide a professional forum to take stock of WGMSE's activities, try new approaches to teaching and learning, and discuss key and emerging issues in MSE in collaboration with partners and interested organizations, including other ADEA working groups. Particular emphasis is given to actual classroom demonstrations and lesson studies based on ASEI/PDSI. WGMSE can also explore collaboration possibilities with other organizations such as the AU, the World Bank, UNESCO, and other agencies. WGMSE is already networking with institutions in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and the Philippines.

c. Analytical work 

WGSME seeks to upgrade the capacity of practitioners and responsible educators to improve their ability to conduct participatory evaluation and action research based on their own experience, and to be able to communicate results more widely. Investigating and experimenting with new kinds of partnership will involve documenting the relationships that presently exist among ministries of education and the varied players in primary/secondary education, assessing the role that the public sector can play in supporting these highly diverse educational modalities, updating members knowledge of productive linkages between primary and secondary education, and developing pre-service or in-service teacher training programs. 

A special analytical team studied the impact of In-Service Training (INSET) on students' learning attainment, and presented results at ADEA's 2008 Biennale. Kenya's SMASSE Project Impact Assessment Survey (SPIAS) investigates, among others, how teacher participation in the SMASSE INSET affects teachers' attitudes, pedagogical preparedness, and classroom practices and how students' attitude and participation in lessons affect their achievement. The findings were that the quality of INSET brought about a better attitude towards teaching and that the practice of ASEI-PDSI improved students' learning process, students' attitude towards mathematics and science subjects, participation, and test-scores. SPIAS findings inform the revision of training/workshop course content for greater impact. 

d. Information dissemination

WGMSE will establish a regular publication system, develop and maintain a website on MSE information, and establish an information center to facilitate exchange among African educationists and policy makers in MSE. In addition to country-based activities, country working groups will be expected to make presentations to international gatherings in the area of MSE and to contribute to WGMSE's publications. 

e. Advocacy 

WGMSE will promote the formation and growth of country working groups to provide a framework for analysis and review of policy and practice at country level and identify training needs. WGMSE will also make a concerted effort to dialogue with policy makers in Africa on effective resource mobilization, prioritization, and use for enhancing quality in the classroom. It will seek to foster interest among potential donors to provide material support that WGMSE cannot provide alone. This will allow the most promising experiences to gain a wider audience and opportunities to be replicated in other settings. Being a performance-oriented working group, WGMSE will try to fill the gap between practitioners in MSE and policy makers through advocacy, which will enlist the latter to be more supportive to the former.

What has WGMSE achieved?

The WGMSE Steering Committee, launched in March 2005, has had four meetings to engage member in WGMSE, including education ministers, permanent secretaries, and university professors from several African countries. CEMASTEA, which has already created a strong network for mathematics and science educators in Africa, has organized nine regional conferences since 2001, conducted 13 training course since 2004 for more than 1,090 educationists from 27 African countries, and organized other capacity development activities. WGMSE will continue similar activities in keeping with ADEA's working philosophy.