Teaching at the Right Level: Inside the classroom

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The application of the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) approach in Zambia, through the Ministry of General Education’s Catch Up program, provides an opportunity to capture key aspects of TaRL in an African context.

TaRL pioneer Pratham, together with J-PAL Africa, worked closely with the Ministry of General Education to produce a set of videos that transport the viewer into a Catch Up classroom and highlight essential aspects of the TaRL approach.

At its core, TaRL is an education intervention that targets teaching to the basic skill level of the child. TaRL teachers assess learners’ basic reading and mathematics levels, group them according to level (rather than age or grade), and spend a period of the day or year using engaging, relatable activities to teach basic skills.

Rigorous impact evaluations over the last 17 years have demonstrated the effectiveness of the Teaching at the Right Level approach.

The videos were developed with the primary goal of strengthening training as Catch Up moves to scale in Zambia.

As with any program, as it expands, key principles of the approach risk getting diluted through multiple rounds of training and implementation, which could affect the success of the program. J-PAL Africa and Pratham created the videos in an effort to further ensure that information gets delivered accurately and consistently to teachers and mentors.

As interest in TaRL grows, we hope these videos will also serve as a useful tool for policymakers and organizations across Africa, helping to deepen their understanding of the TaRL methodology—and spark their interest in learning more about adapting and building their own TaRL programs.

For those seeking a more tangible TaRL experience than an academic paper or policy report, the videos provide a window into the energy and feel of a TaRL classroom. However, they are just one component of a broader set of resources and support systems designed to help policymakers and organizations understand and implement TaRL and should be used together with other pieces of process support.

Pratham and J-PAL Africa work collaboratively to provide this process support to stakeholders interested in building TaRL interventions in Africa. 

The Catch Up program was piloted in 2016/17 and is being scaled up by the Ministry of General Education to 1800 schools over the next three years. The program drew on support from a number of collaborating partners, with J-PAL Africa working together with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), Pratham, UNICEF, USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures, USAID Zambia, VVOB, and Zambia Education Sector Support Technical Assistance.

The TaRL videos were filmed in two Catch Up pilot districts, Pemba in Southern Province and Katete in Eastern Province. Thank you to Makomba Primary School and Kazulabowa Primary School for making it possible for us to document Catch Up classes in action!

Listen in on our next TaRL webinar on training best practices, scheduled for 6 March 2018, to learn more about the TaRL approach.