Research, as one of the three mandates of the MIE, has always been valued as an important component of the work of the Institute. Staff members have consistently engaged in research activities since the early years of the setting up of the MIE, because they certainly understood that research is a cornerstone for teacher education and curriculum development, the other two responsibilities of the Institute. Indeed, educational research is meant to (i) inform policy decisions and guide educational and/or curricular reforms, (ii) contribute to advance the frontier of knowledge in the field of education at large and teacher education in particular, as well as (iii) provide the practical grounding and theoretical framing to review teacher education models and programmes.

Given the fact that the MIE had been set up with the primary aim of contributing to educational development in newly independent Mauritius, the research activities staff were involved in mainly revolved around evaluation of curricular reforms in a bid to propose improved measures. Various reports, produced locally, or in collaboration with UNESCO or UNICEF, act as testimony to the type and nature of early research work at the MIE.

Throughout those decades, research endeavours were more often the result of the collective effort of a group of staff members, either because the research work had been commissioned or because it was the fruit of a collaborative venture with one or more colleagues from an international partner organisation. As a matter of fact, the MIE staff partnered with researchers in the region, namely from Reunion Island, as well as those from French Universities, and such links fostered research interest at the Institute. Moreover, the appointment of Professor Terry Morrison (from Canada) as consultant was instrumental in enhancing the research skills and interest of the MIE staff. This collaboration contributed in capacity building as well as in informing changes in teacher education. Major findings from the research work led by Prof Morrison resulted in the development of modules on ‘Thinking Skills’, and helped to address emerging issues in our teacher education programmes. A similar collaboration with Dr O. Akinluyi, a Commonwealth Consultant, was decisive in assisting the MIE take bold steps in reviewing its teacher education model, based on latest research, thereby being abreast with international trends. It must also be pointed out that the close working relationship the MIE staff have had over the years with eminent external examiners appointed to assist on the B.Ed. programme, has been propitious in building capacity.

Over the years, imperatives evolved and the MIE started to open up to newer challenges. A ground-breaking change was brought about with the establishment of the UoB/MIE partnership in the early 1990s to offer a Master’s programme in Education. This collaboration triggered a major change in outlook and ambiance. The programme proposed featured a strong research component. This set the train in motion for a more dynamic research agenda at the MIE, and there was not looking back. Indeed, this link triggered interest in research and contributed in enhancing staff’s own research capacity. Academic staff was additionally motivated, because alongside, the MIE devoted more resources to research activities through a financial scheme which was incorporated in the Staff Development Policy of the Institute. A cohort of MIE academic staff engaged in the Master’s programme and got quickly accustomed to the language of research.

The MIE also hosted a number of research conferences on Inter-cultural Education and Open and Distance learning, while the UoB/MIE annual postgraduate conferences organised for an international and inter-institutional audience largely contributed in providing staff with an adequate academic platform to share their research endeavours. The publication of the MIE research journal, with the help of local and external editors, also provided staff with avenues for the dissemination of their research work.

The trajectory was all set and the next legitimate step was the setting up of a formal structure within the organisational framework of the MIE to further push the research agenda and empower the Institute’s academic personnel to engage in research. The Research Unit was established in 2009. A research policy, which aimed at establishing a framework for the conduct, funding and promotion of research at the MIE, was developed. To date, research projects are undertaken in diverse areas to improve practice at the MIE and in schools, to guide curriculum development, and to inform policy. The increase in staff and students engaging in doctoral studies also contributes in reinforcing the research culture at the Institute.

Structures to enhance quality in Educational Research

There are two structures that implement the research agenda of the MIE. The main structure responsible for the establishment of processes to encourage staff to engage in educational research is the Research Unit, while the Higher Studies Cell caters for the enhancement of the postgraduate research-based programmes.

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Ramma Y (Dr) Professor