Zambia’s Education Sector Support Technical Assistance Facility (ZESSTA)

Key information

Location Zambia
Clients Centre for Commonwealth Education

Effective teaching and learning of large cohorts in institutions of higher learning in Zambia: Challenges and opportunities


Higher education institutions (HEIs) in low-to high-income countries have experienced dramatic transformation due to increasing enrolment, use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and globalisation. There has been high demand for skills, products, and services in many professional areas. However, the overall demand has often not been matched with the developments in the HE sector, often failing to provide effective teaching and learning. One of the challenges, therefore, is how to provide quality teaching and learning for everybody who wishes to access higher education. The Zambian higher education environment has been in existence for roughly four decades and has had its own opportunities, dynamism as well as challenges in the management of large classes.

The Government of the Republic of Zambia’s (GRZ) Ministry of Higher education (MoHE) oversees a number of HEIs. There are three public HEIs, namely University of Zambia (UNZA), Copperbelt University (CBU), and Mulungushi University (MU). The Zambian higher education system has been in existence since 1966, with the University of Zambia being the oldest public institution. The second oldest and largest is CBU. These HEIs have associated “new” universities, often former colleges (respectively e.g. Chalimbana University; Mukuba University, Kapasa Makasa University Campus; Nkrumah University). The Higher Education Authority (HEA) accredits all HEIs (public and private). A number of colleges (including around 300 TVET colleges) come under MoHE, while other tertiary institutions are administered under the Ministry of General Education (colleges of education), or the Ministry of Health (health colleges). Admissions requirements vary, with e.g. Grade 9 required by TEVETA, but Grade 12 being the norm for most colleges of education and universities.

Demand for higher education has increased, whereas access for many, especially poor, families has been limited. Public institutions have grappled with how to serve large numbers, while private institutions proliferate to respond to demand. Despite the increase in enrolment, institutions both in low-to high-income countries are determined to find solutions on how to improve the learning environment in their respective contexts.

Additional challenges include lack of infrastructure or poor infrastructure; less than relevant programs; lack of internationalization and regional cooperation (Wolhuter & Wiseman, 2013); delayed policy (or policy implementation) for regulating the higher education sector; and the lack of specialised skills to promote new paradigms of learning. Such challenges and situations they create can exacerbate the problem of large classes in higher education.

Often the traditional mode of teaching is largely face-to-face with the lecturer being the main supplier of knowledge to the students. Interaction among the group of national HEIs is often varied, depending on programme being offered. As far as large class strategies and solutions are concerned, there is little or no evidence that shows significant collaboration or other efforts meant to assist in resolving large class/cohort scenario prevailing in the HEI. Moreover, conditions for students in rural and remote areas are extremely challenging, confounded by the lack of affordable internet access and energy supply.


Recent programmes

Predictive Models for Classroom Conditions

This project aims to understand (1) What the potential for AI models could be to determine certain conditions, like temperature,…

Improving Learning through Classroom Experience

The ILCE study focuses on investigating whether modification of the built environment (temperature, light intensity, and acoustics) can positively impact…

Citizen Digital Literacy Policy Framework

The governments of the Smart Africa Member States recognize the urgency to drive inclusion and economic growth through the development…

Evidence in Education

OpenDevEd is building tools to create a online evidence libraries. The evidence library can be used by organisations and institutions…