Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) is an evidence-backed educational approach that helps children develop basic reading and mathematics skills, opening doors to a brighter future. Scroll down to learn more about TaRL or use the menu above to explore.
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 the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (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.
What is Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL)?
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.
Is TaRL right for my context?
TaRL is not right for every context, organisation 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.
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. Each aspect of the approach is essential, and the full approach has the potential to provide all children with foundational 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.
Pratham currently uses two distinct models in India:
1. 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 programme. Children then return to their regular grade classes in between the bursts of TaRL instruction.
2. A 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.
Visit the blog for TaRL news and insights from around the world.
Read Meagan Neal’s post on Vox, about how to improve government policy, using the Zambian government’s implementation of Catch Up (Zambia’s TaRL programme) as an example.
“In 2014, the Zambian government knew its education system had a problem. The country had…”
Read Nany Birdsall’s post about Pratham’s TaRL approach.
“I was in Delhi last week and saw Pratham—India’s largest non-governmental education organization—in action, thanks to its irrepressible CEO Rukmini Banerji, who arranged a tour of local Pratham sites for me…”
Read Evidence Action's blogpost reflecting on the TaRL Conference and sharing lessons on recruiting and retaining youth volunteers. "Last month, our team attended the inaugural Teaching at the Right Level conference in South Africa, hosted by pioneers in the field,...
Who are Pratham and J-PAL?
Pratham is an innovative learning organisation created to improve the quality of education in India.
The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a global research centre working to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence.
Pratham pioneered the TaRL approach. They have refined and enhanced the approach since its initial conception in the early 2000s. This process has been largely informed by a series of rigorous evaluations conducted by J-PAL affiliated professors.
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