Who designs Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) programmes, teaches children foundational skills, and ensures that TaRL is properly implemented? TaRL programmes usually require at least three teams: TaRL Programme Teams, TaRL Instructors, and TaRL Mentors.
TaRL Programme Teams
These teams support the implementation of TaRL programmes, assisting with programme design and management, material development, and measurement. They may be composed of different TaRL actors, depending on the context. In some instances, programme teams may be made up of a mix of government officials and NGO staff. In other instances, where TaRL is being directly implemented by an NGO, programme teams could be made up solely of NGO staff. Programme teams do not work in silos. They spend time in the field working with local teams to deeply understand programmes. Members of the programme team may have different focus areas and responsibilities, but they understand all the different design elements of TaRL and communicate regularly with one another to think holistically about what they can do to improve children’s learning.
TaRL instructors assess children, group them according to the results of the assessment, and facilitate engaging reading and mathematics activities to help them progress. Instructors attend a short (usually 5-day) initial training to learn about the TaRL approach and are equipped through refresher trainings and ongoing mentoring. The role of TaRL instructor has been played by different stakeholders including: volunteers, government teachers, tutors, or NGO staff.
TaRL mentors offer consistent support to instructors throughout TaRL implementation. This is done through visiting classrooms to observe TaRL classes, stepping in to demonstrate activities, noting successes as well as areas for improvement, and giving instructors feedback on how well they are using TaRL activities and materials. Mentors keep track of whether instructors are focusing on foundational skills, grouping children by level, using level-appropriate activities, and fully engaging children in the classroom. Capacity building of mentors is key to ensuring successful mentoring. One of the key ways in which the capacity of mentors is built is through field practice (mentors conducting TaRL classes themselves). Pratham advises that mentors conduct classes for 15 to 20 days. During this time, mentors acquire practical skills and experience the power of the approach by witnessing children’s learning progress.
As Banerji and Chavan1 explain, “within the government elementary school system, there usually is a layer of people who were meant to play this role but over the years have become, so to speak, cogs in the administrative wheel – frontline personnel who are collecting data, ensuring utilization and doing a variety of non-teaching tasks. […] Pratham works with this cadre of government staff, usually called cluster coordinators. Although called by different names in different states, this person usually has anywhere between 12 and 15 schools in his or her charge. They represent the layer of government officials just above the school level. This cadre not only is trained by Pratham but also implements the Teaching at the Right Level model daily in schools for a period of 15–20 days. These ‘‘practice’’ classes prepare them well to train teachers and provide support to the teachers in their charge.”
Leaders of Practice
Throughout the TaRL programme implementation teams are Leaders of Practice. These leaders have a deep understanding of TaRL and serve as advocates and catalysts for the approach. TaRL leaders could be instructors, government supervisors, NGO staff, or volunteers. They have all been trained in the approach, have practised TaRL in the classroom themselves and provided support to help instructors and others implement TaRL in a robust manner. Leaders of practice support, mentor and inspire their colleagues, empowered by their own experience delivering the approach and seeing the gains in learning that can be made. This leadership is the linchpin in strong, sustainable TaRL ecosystems. It ensures that the focus remains on the child, that teachers stay on track, and that innovation and learning is threaded back into TaRL delivery.
1) Banerji, Rukmini, and Madhav Chavan. “Improving literacy and math instruction at scale in India’s primary schools: The case of Pratham’s Read India program.” Journal of Educational Change 17, no. 4 (2016): 453-475