University of Alberta
Department of Educational Policy Studies
Faculty of Education
Authentic learning is a branch of constructivism, a pedagogical approach that places the student at the center of the learning experience. This instructional model has undergone gradual adoption in first-world countries, with underdeveloped countries still struggling to implement a systematic approach for incorporating authentic learning in the classrooms. In the meantime, the global economy has evolved from an industrial, factory-based economy to one involving the manipulation of knowledge. Consequently, the implementation of authentic learning has assumed an increased importance within education systems around the world, especially at the post-secondary level, where instructors need to prepare new graduates for a modern, service-oriented workforce. Authentic learning teaches the required soft skills that students can transfer from one situation to another: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity, innovation, problem solving, and decision-making. In African countries, most teachers still use an instructivist, or teacher-centered approach to lesson planning and delivery, forcing students to learn through the memorization of isolated facts. This type of learning, which continues through all levels of education, leaves students unprepared for the twenty-first century workforce. Consequently, the following paper argues that African countries require a centralized and systematic approach for revising their education systems to promote authentic learning opportunities. The literature has enumerated the benefits to authentic learning, including enhanced motivation and learning outcomes for students as well as advantages for other stakeholders such as teachers. In addition to academic benefits, authentic learning also contains economic advantages by enhancing students’ readiness for the working world and citizenship duties as well as benefitting employers, individual sectors, and overall economies. Although Africa faces many hardships, including a paucity of resources, a wholesale revision of their education systems will ultimately prove advantageous in the long term. This modification requires the coordinated efforts of all stakeholders, starting with governments.