Bringing together an inspired and motivated community for our Teaching at the Right Level Conference

Participants at the Teaching at the Right Level conference in Johannesburg.

From left: Dr. Sara Ruto (PAL Network), Emily Cupito (J-PAL Africa), and Usha Rane (Pratham) discuss the role of assessment during a panel at the TaRL Conference.

“Finding people with a common vision has helped make this a movement around the world.”
– Usha Rane, Pratham

Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL), an education approach pioneered by education NGO Pratham, is designed to help ensure that all children learn the basics of reading and mathematics in primary school. The approach, developed and strengthened in India, is now taking root in Africa.

African organizations and governments inspired by the TaRL evidence and faced with similar educational challenges to those in India—children in school but not learning—have begun to adapt the approach for their contexts.

To facilitate learning across these different contexts, Pratham and J-PAL Africa hosted a TaRL Conference from 26-27 September in Johannesburg, South Africa. The event marked the launch of a new TaRL website and celebrated the uniting of an inspired and motivated community committed to overcoming this learning crisis through the adoption of evidence-based approaches.

The event brought together more than 70 curious and engaged participants from African ministries of education, donor organizations, and education NGOs from 18 countries, connected by their mutual dedication to get children learning.

The two-day conference focused on providing participants with practical insights to strengthen TaRL implementation, drawing on the deep and varied experience in the room. It also provided tailored sessions for building a shared understanding of the roles of different players in addressing the learning crisis and how to best work together to make real progress.

Presentations, panels and case studies were interspersed with productive tea and lunch breaks during which participants discussed the potential for future collaborations and engaged in passionate debates on popular education policy topics, like the role of technology in education, and languages of instruction for foundational reading and mathematics.

Strengthening TaRL programs

Day one of the conference focused on systems’ strengthening and improving program implementation. Sessions included:

  • The role and importance of assessment within TaRL programs and as a way to shift the focus of education systems to foundational skills.
  • Pratham’s vision of moving from “schooling for all to learning for all.”
  • How to effectively recruit and motivate volunteers, engage communities, and support teachers through coaching and mentorship.

The highlight of the day was a panel discussion on government’s perspective on adopting Teaching at the Right Level. Angela Tsheole from Botswana’s Ministry of Basic Education, Raoul Kone from Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Education, Cynthia Efua Bosumtwi-Sam from Ghana’s Ministry of Education, Habat Abdi from Kenya’s Ministry of Education, and Mahuba Hazemba from Zambia’s Ministry of General Education shared their rationale for implementing TaRL-inspired interventions in their contexts as well as the successes and challenges of implementation.

The government panel at the Teaching at the Right Level conference.From left: Raoul Kone, Cynthia Efua Bosumtwi-Sam, Angela Tsheole, Mahuba Hazemba, and Habat Abdi speaking on the government panel at the TaRL Conference.

“TaRL might seem modest in terms of its ambitions but I can tell you how effective it would be if all teachers were implementing it. Colleagues went to India and came back and were just a bit crazy, I would say. It was the same “illness” I saw in Zambia. This is so contagious. Those who went to India were so enthusiastic when they came back. Now I see why. There is some magic in Pratham.” –Raoul Kone, Côte d’Ivoire Ministry of Education

Building collaboration

The second day focused on looking forward – moving to scale and building collaboration. Participants discussed:

  • Creating and strengthening monitoring systems and feedback loops.
  • The challenges of moving to scale.
  • How to collaborate to build stronger TaRL programs across various organizations and ministries.

Throughout the day key questions emerged about how to ensure quality at scale, including making sure that mentoring and monitoring remains effective at scale.

Want to learn more? Visit the website to see a recap of the conference and download slides or read more about the approach and community.

Have your own conference reflections to share? Visit the TaRL forum and post about your experiences.

Posted by Kim Tichmann, Policy Associate, J-PAL Africa and Ashleigh Morrell, Senior Policy Manager, J-PAL Africa