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Teaching at the Right Level: A Global Movement in Botswana

On Monday, September 24 and Tuesday, September 25, the Botswana Ministry of Basic Education, UNICEF Botswana and Young 1ove Organization hosted education experts and specialists from around the world to observe the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) programme. The visit marked the kick off for the 2018 TaRL conference hosted by the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab and Pratham Education Foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa. The conference served as an opportunity to gather stakeholders in the global movement to ensure quality education reaches every child.

The TaRL approach works by dividing children (generally in Standards 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.

“This program, Teaching at the Right Level, is needed here and now in Botswana. In order to address the critical issue of quality education, we need a radical program. We can’t just tweak a few things and expect major change. TaRL restructures the way we think about education-- it removes the note taking and the books and focuses on harnessing youthful energy to make learning engaging,” said Julianna Lindsey, UNICEF Representative to Botswana, as she welcomed guests to the country.

Young 1ove is working closely with UNICEF to develop and adapt the program to the Botswana context. Furthermore, the Botswana Ministry of Basic Education has signed a 4-year MOU with Young 1ove to scale the program throughout the country by 2021. This stakeholder visit served to highlight Botswana as a center of excellence and progress made on Teaching at the Right Level.

Over the course of the two days, the guests were warmly welcomed into five primary schools in Gaborone to observe TaRL in action. In each school they had the opportunity to meet the school staff, teachers, facilitators and students involved in the program.

“Since Young 1ove has come to our school, we have seen such a difference in our students’ attitudes towards learning. They line up at the door waiting for the TaRL sessions to begin and we see them playing the games and teaching other students the activities they learn in class,” Mma Malete, School Head at Bosele Primary, told the visitors.

The experts had the opportunity to share their own personal experiences as TaRL creators, implementers, and evaluators at a breakfast meeting on the second day. The meeting was chaired by the Ministry of Basic Education Southeast Regional Director, Mr. Labane Mokgosi, and featured a welcome address and presentation on Botswana’s educational landscape by Acting Permanent Secretary, Mr. Simon Coles.

Mr. Simon Coles, Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Basic Education, points to PSLE trends in public and private schools

“We can see that there are major discrepancies in learning outcomes between public and private schools across Botswana,” outlined Mr. Coles as he pointed to PSLE trends showing only 70% of public school students had passed the exam in 2017, while 97.1% of private school students passed the same year. “In order to address this learning crisis, we need innovative remediation at the primary level.”

In addition to the visiting education stakeholders and the Ministry of Basic Education, the meeting included representatives from UNICEF Botswana, the World Bank, European Union, UNAIDS, school heads and teachers from TaRL implementing schools, and the media.

“It doesn’t just take a village to raise a child,” said Meera Tendolkar, Head of Math Content at Pratham, the organization that initially developed the education intervention, “it takes a village to educate a child.”

Meera Tendolkar reviewing multiplication tables with students at Ithuteng Primary School

The meeting ended with a call to action for governments, civil society organizations and individuals to step up and recognize the need for quality and equitable education for all students. In the words of Dr. Sara Ruto, Director of the PAL Network:

“It doesn't matter whether you are in government or not in government, or whether you are in a funding agency or not. If you are a citizen who has the belief that quality education should be attainable for all students, then you can be the change that is needed in the space that you are in. If we do that, perhaps we can be the generation that will ensure every child in the world can actually read and do math.”

We are thrilled to be an innovation hub as part of this global movement. The visit and conference invigorated a sense of an international TaRL community. Although we may be operating in our individual communities and nations, we are all driving towards the goal of ensuring every child has access to quality education.

Check out this short video on the experience!

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