Government officials visit TaRL sessions in Uganda. Photo: VVOB in Uganda
“Why are we not teaching like this in all classrooms?” asked Mr. Ismael Mulindwa, the Director of Basic & Secondary Education from the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES), when he and colleagues witnessed the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) methodology at various primary schools in Uganda’s Rwenzori region.
Mr. Mulindwa was one of several senior government officials visiting schools implementing the TaRL approach. He was also accompanied by Ms. Doreen Ankunda Tumwebaze, Commissioner of Nursery, Pre-primary & Primary Education; Mr. Robert Ikwap, Assistant Commissioner for Primary Education; and Mr. Musa Birungi, the Senior Education Officer – Basic Education. The team had a chance to observe TaRL classrooms and interact with learners, parents’ representatives, and school leadership. They also met with the district leadership, including the District Inspector of Schools (DIS), Center Coordinating Tutors (CCT), and District Education Officers (DEO).
Mr. Mulindwa said most of the learners in schools are struggling with maths and literacy because of how they are taught. However, he was very impressed with how learner friendly the methodology was. “I must admit, when I first heard of the TaRL methodology, I had my doubts, but when I entered the classroom to witness for myself, I was very impressed,” he said.
Ms. Doreen too was impressed by the TaRL methodology and how it brought the teacher closer to the learner.“The methodology brings the teacher to the level of learners, removing shoes, sitting on the floor, and the children like it, even those who are not on the programme sneak in or attend through the window because it makes learning so interesting,” she said. Ms. Doreen encouraged the teachers who have been trained as TaRL instructors to, in turn, train their peers so that many of them can integrate the TaRL methodology into their classes.
Joris Rossie, the Country Programme Manager for VVOB in Uganda, shared the organisation’s vision for TaRL in Uganda. Having implemented the programme from pilot to scale in Zambia, VVOB commits to working with the government to co-create a cost-effective, contextualised, and feasible government-led TaRL model to benefit the most learners in Uganda.
During the visit, the Ministry of Education pledged to support VVOB and the TaRL project.“This programme shouldn’t stop here, other schools are longing for this programme, and the results speak for themselves. As a Ministry, we commit to supporting you to have this programme effectively implemented in our schools here. We need to find our way of supporting this programme to continue,” said Mr. Mulindwa.
In TaRL, teachers are trained on how to conduct a one-on-one assessment for learners in upper-primary grades (P3 to P5) to identify their learning levels and then group them accordingly. VVOB follows a school-based modality where TaRL lessons are delivered before and after ordinary school hours. Learners are taught foundational literacy and numeracy through a variety of TaRL activities that are playful and interactive. As learners improve, they progress to the next group without elaborate assessments.
VVOB in Uganda is implementing TaRL in different regions and contexts with support from different donors and partners. In Terego, Madi-Okolo, and Isingiro, the project targets over-age-for-grade adolescent primary school students in refugee hosting communities to develop foundational skills in numeracy and literacy in adolescents aged 12 to 19 who are over-age for the grade they are placed in. The project is supported by UNICEF.
In Rwenzori, VVOB has piloted TaRL in 24 primary schools and targets to reach 80 schools by the next school term. This being the second term of implementation in these schools, the high-level visit was, therefore, to showcase the achievements, analyse key challenges, and lessons learnt, and discuss possibilities of expanding TaRL to more schools. This project is with support from the Hempel Foundation.
In the Adjumani district, the Lego foundation supports VVOB to implement TaRL with extra emphasis on social-emotional learning. Overage-for-grade primary level learners (P3 – P5) have better chances of a sustained return to school thanks to improved literacy, numeracy, and social-emotional skills.