The effect of English-only instruction on skill formation and labour market readiness of young Malawians:

First wave of evidence gathering and dialogue between experts and stakeholders

This is a challenge-led project that will gathered and commission evidence on the complex interactions of language, schooling, labour market outcomes and economic development. We focus on the case of Malawi, which is typical for many Commonwealth countries where there is tension between the practicalities of English as a common language, and the cultural and educational benefits of diverse native languages. Importantly, the impact on skill formation and employability of an English-only schooling policy are not clear. The project has two aims: 1) to promote an informed and effective discussion between academics and stakeholders in Malawi in order to strengthen the evidence base for policy making and 2) to identify remaining gaps in the evidence base in order to inform an application for a large collaborative research project. This is an inherently interdisciplinary problem, which straddles linguistics, education, public policy, labour markets and economics. To gain traction we have assembled an interdisciplinary network of academics in Glasgow, Malawi and South Africa.

PI & Co-Is - International Collaborators

  • Mr Colin Reilly, teaching associate, University of Glasgow, School of Education
  • Professor Melanie Simms, University of Glasgow, Adam Smith Business School, Management
  • Professor Simon Chiziwa, School of Education, Chancellor College, University of Malawi
  • Professor Winford Masanjala, Department of Economics, Chancellor College, University of Malawi
  • Dr Jean Chavula, Centre for Language Studies, Chancellor College, University of Malawi
  • Professor Lewis Baison Dzimbiri, Deputy Vice Chancellor and chair of public administration and management, Lilongwe University of Agriculture & Natural Resources
  • Professor Rajendra Chetty, Faculty of Education, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
  • Vera Kamtukule, Malawi-Scotland Partnership, Lilongwe, Malawi

Start and End Date

1 December 2018 - 30 June 2019

Funder & Funding Amount

Global Challenge Research Fund via the Scottish Funding Council (£84,652)

Related Publications

This is still a work in progress, see publications section of website for what's ready so far:

Project News

For the last six months an interdisciplinary research team from linguistics, education, public policy, labour markets and economics has been running a project funded by a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) grant from the Scottish Funding Council to inform this debate in Malawi. Working from Scotland, Malawi and South Africa, the project has explored this conundrum from several perspectives. Preliminary findings where recently presented in a stakeholder workshop in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, and the final reports are being published on the project’s website:  The event was hosted by the Scotland Malawi partnership in Lilongwe and attended by invited delegates representing trade unions, employers, government and educational experts. For details see:

Associated Websites