Review 1: Reference PTCEDH_12_01 (This article was not accepted for publication)

General comments

The submitted article provides an account of the difficult times education in Tanzania is going through. In particular, it describes the decline in academic performance, with and emphasis on secondary school students. Although this is a topic which is recurrently addressed in the literature, it is always of interest given the importance for all countries of improving the opportunities to access to education, as well as improving qualitatively and quantitatively the educational quality of a country’s educational system.
Yet, the presentation and discussion of results presented in the aricle is too superficial. The fact that a study is defined as descriptive does not imply that it is simply sufficient to transfer numeric data in tables to written language in the body of the text. It is necessary to give substance to the descriptive analysis through the use of conceptual and theoretical elements that need to be previously worked out in the paper. It is essential to remember that theoretical elements should be considered tools for the interpretation of the data extracted from the social world.

Suggestions

The suggestions outlined below focus on the following issues: 1) context of the study 2) theoretical aspects, 3) methodological decisions and 4) presentation of results and conclusions.

1) At the level of context: The information that is presented should be elaborated and this would contribute to make the text much more comprehensible. For example, more should be said about the distinction between the types of secondary schools that is mention in the paper or about the teacher development programs to which are discussed.

(2) At a conceptual theoretical level: I think it is important to developing some concepts, especially those referred to the quality of the educational system and the opportunity structure present in society. This should be done paying particular attention to access to formal education, since these are the concepts that would develop the analysis of the data provided.

(3) At a methodological level: There are some deficiencies that can be solved by paying more attention to aspects of internal coherence of the research design. A first issue is related to sampling procedures, not explicit criteria is presented to definition of the study population or the sample size and the paper only presents the mechanisms used to select samples. As regards the type of study that is presented in the paper, the author argues that it is a study with a descriptive aim, however, the results that are presented are oriented towards ‘factors which lead, to a greater or lesser extent, to the decrease in academic performance of the students’, thus in effect a causal logic prevails.

(4) At the level of the presentation and discussion of results and the conclusions of the study: Despite the descriptive goal of the paper, all effort is (discursively) aimed at proposing the existence of factors which explain the decline in the academic performance of students in recent years. From my perspective, the information on which the conclusions draw does not do allow to do this; in other words, conclusions and presented results do arise directly from the data that was collected. This question of internal coherence should be reviewed.

Final assessment

Although the main topic of the article is of permanent interest, it is also very important to address the aspects outlined above. In the current version I would not recommended the publication of the article. I would suggest a substantial revision which paid special attention to the conceptual and theoretical aspects and the issues internal coherence of the study presented above (approach goals, conceptual aspects, methodology, results, conclusions).

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