Children in a TaRL classroom in Côte d’Ivoire. Photo: TaRL Africa
Education is the key to the future and a fundamental right for all children. Growing up in a rural area in Kenya, education offered other learners and me the opportunity to expand our worldview. We could dream of becoming architects, doctors, and diplomats in communities where such careers hardly existed. Still, many barriers existed for us that affected our access to quality education.
The International Day of Education is celebrated on January 24 to advocate for and promote the importance of improving access to quality education. The theme for this year is “Changing Course, Transforming Education,” which focuses on the need to nurture transformations to allow access to education for all and help build sustainable futures. To attain the Sustainable Development Goals, educators will need to adapt to new forms of teaching and learning. Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) is one such initiative that is making transformative changes to learning systems across Africa by supporting governments and partners to equip children with basic reading and math skills. TaRL is an approach that evaluates children using a simple assessment tool and then groups them according to learning level rather than age or grade. Each group is taught using level-appropriate activities and materials. We ensure that children’s learning comes first when designing and delivering the approach. We also use data and research to inform our programs, promoting a culture of continuous learning and improvement in the countries implementing the TaRL approach.
As the world marks this day, it is as important as ever to think about the learning crisis, which was already festering before and further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Bank Report, “Learning to Realize Education’s Promise,” millions of children across Africa are failing to master even basic reading and math skills. For example, over 60% of Grade 2 students in Ghana and Uganda and over 50% in Kenya could not perform two-digit subtraction in 2017.
Transforming education and changing the course of education to focus on all children learning will first require Governments to think of innovative ways to reduce education inequalities that shift education systems towards learning progress rather than curriculum completion. Education stakeholders and donors must support the government to effectively and efficiently improve learning outcomes through various training and mentoring methods.
Second, we also need to focus on those left behind and find innovative ways to ensure that all learners catch up through adopting result-based instructional techniques such as TaRL and prioritize simple and regular one-on-one assessments that teachers can use to determine the relevant activities for each child.
Third, innovations in education must be introduced as a collaborative effort to garner adequate adoption and support. Education stakeholders should collaborate on innovations during the planning, investment, and implementation phases to customize programs and help determine scalability.
Quality education transforms lives and societies and addresses many equity and social issues. Education is associated with improved life outcomes, including income, health, and opportunity. Education can promote innovation, reduce socioeconomic inequalities, and strengthen institutions. Quality education and learning are essential if Africa is to leverage and empower its young and dynamic population. Happy International Day of Education.