Teaching At The Right Level
While Botswana ranks highly on access to education, learning lags behind. In recent Southern African Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality (SACMEQ) and UNESCO reports, Botswana ranked above Tanzania and Kenya on access, yet fell short of both neighbors on learning. Although over 90% of students are enrolled in primary school, the government has identified an urgent need for quality education interventions to ensure that students are achieving their learning potential.
We verified this need in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic Education and the University of Botswana. We conducted a needs assessment adapted from the PAL Network, ASER and Uwezo, in 2 regions with all 2,500 students across 47 schools in Standard 5.
We found striking gaps in learning: 32% of Standard 5 students could not do subtraction, and 88% could not do division. 43.5% could not read a story in English, and a fifth of students could not read a paragraph. Students are falling multiple grade levels behind without acquiring the basic skills. There is a clear need for interventions that improve learning.
Only 1 in 10 Standard 5 students could do division
4 in 10 Standard 5 students could not read a story
1 in 3 students are falling 2-3 years behind in numeracy
Teaching at the Right Level (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
Group students by ability level
Use fun and targeted activities
Our results speak for themselves: in a recent round of implementation, 80% of students progressed at least one operation level. The percentage of students who could not do any basic operations dropped from 25% to 4% and those who reached “TaRL numeracy”-- can add, subtract, multiply, and divide-- increased from 7% to 53%.
The impact goes beyond numbers. One TaRL student reflected on the programme saying,“it helped me because some of us did not understand some things taught in our class but TaRL taught us what we did not understand.”
Next Steps in Botswana and Beyond
Youth Impact has recently renewed its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Basic Education to scale-up Teaching at the Right Level nationwide for a total of 8 years. In partnership with the government, we will scale-up TaRL in stages with plans to reach all primary schools in Botswana by 2025.
Youth Impact has also partnered with J-PAL and Pratham to build an Innovation Hub in Botswana for Teaching at the Right Level. As Teaching at the Right Level gains traction and is scaled across Africa, Youth Impact will co-host trainings in Botswana, share lessons learned, and test new innovations to maximize cost-effective impact at scale. Youth Impact has also partnered with The Brookings Institution to be a Real-Time Scaling Lab as part of the Millions Learning project.