TEACHING AT THE RIGHT LEVEL

Strengthening foundational skills to accelerate learning

Welcome to the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) website! If you are here, you are likely interested in helping to improve learning for children. We share this mission and hope this site, complemented with other support from Pratham, J-PAL and the TaRL community, will support you in helping more children learn.

Schooling for All, Learning for Few

Governments across Africa have made tremendous gains in promoting school enrolment, with most low- to middle-income countries now enrolling primary school-age children at rates close to those in high-income countries. But data on learning highlights an unfortunate truth: enrolment in school does not guarantee learning. In schools across the continent, many children are well below grade level, and millions of children fail to master even basic reading and mathematics skills.

How can children be in school and not learn even the basics? Pratham and J-PAL have spent the last two decades trying to untangle this problem and develop solutions. Our experience and research reveal that structural inefficiencies in education systems are at the root of the problem. School systems are not well designed to address the needs of students who may be the first in their families to attend school or who enter the school system without having gained early-learning skills during early childhood. Often, children who miss key concepts in the early grades never have a chance to catch up, no matter how many years they spend in school.

Teaching at the Right Level

Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL), an approach pioneered by Indian NGO Pratham, targets the root of the learning crisis by transforming the structures that lead to it. The approach works by dividing children (generally in Grades 3 to 5) into groups based on learning needs rather than age or grade; dedicating time to basic skills rather than focusing solely on the curriculum; and regularly assessing student performance, rather than relying only on end-of-year examinations.

Since 2001, J-PAL-affiliated researchers have rigorously tested the theory of change underlying Pratham’s TaRL approach. Through 6 randomised evaluations in India, as well as a growing body of research in Africa, they find that when TaRL is successfully implemented, learning outcomes improve.

THE TaRL APPROACH

TaRL is an adaptable, holistic approach which helps education systems focus on the basics and improve learning for all. The approach is made up of several components which work together to improve learning outcomes.

Diagram - aspects of the Teaching at the Right Level approach

At its core is assessment. Children are assessed one- on- one using a simple tool..

Assessment results are immediately used to create groups of children with similar learning needs. Instructors then use TaRL classroom methodology to support children with materials and activities specifically designed to accelerate learning.

Strong TaRL implementation teams are cultivated through careful training and mentoring inspired by a deeply engrained “learning by doing” philosophy.

Programmes are measured and monitored to continually strengthen implementation.

Each aspect of the approach is essential, and the full approach has the potential to provide all children with basic reading and mathematics skills.

This website is not intended to give you a complete guide on how to design a TaRL approach for your setting, but rather to complement in-person TaRL training and sharing.

Models

Pratham currently uses two distinct models in India:

A DIRECTLY IMPLEMENTED LEARNING CAMP MODEL

Pratham staff provide TaRL instruction for bursts of time during the year. Children (generally in Grades 3 to 5) are re-grouped according to learning level rather than age or grade for two to three hours a day for six to 10 consecutive days. Learning camps are organised throughout the year with the total instructional days ranging from 30 to 50 days depending on the need identified at the beginning of the program. Children then return to their regular grade classes in between the bursts of TaRL instruction.

GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP MODEL

Government teachers are trained and supported. In these models, teachers re-group children in Grades 3 to 5 based on learning level for 1 or 2 hours a day to focus on basic skills. Teachers receive strong mentorship support.

These models help millions of children master basic skills in reading and mathematics.

A child writes a mind map on the board during a Teaching at the Right Level activity in Zambia.

Is TaRL right for my context?

TaRL is not right for every context, organization or government. Assess whether it might be appropriate for your circumstances, and then engage with the Pratham and J-PAL team on your ideas and plans.

REFERENCES

1)  91% of primary-school-age children worldwide were enrolled in school in 2015 (UNICEF 2017).

2) World Bank.2018. World Development Report 2018. Learning to Realize Education’s Promise. Washington, DC: World Bank.