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Implementing Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) for over-age-for-grade adolescent primary school students in refugee hosting communities
Arua district; Isingiro district
Primary education
Teaching at the Right Level; professional development of teachers (INSET); refugee education

Uganda is one of the largest refugee-hosting nations in the world, hosting 1.31 million refugees and asylum seekers (UNHCR, 2019). Refugee learners attend school together with their Ugandan peers. As a result, many schools in hosting communities have doubled in size, some have even increased fourfold (MoES, 2018; Hicks & Maina, 2018). In addition, refugee learners face particular socio-emotional and psycho-social challenges, and have to go to school in a language that is different from their own.

As a result, many refugee learners are placed in at least two grades below their age level, or the level they had reached in their country of origin – though this practice is not limited to refugee learners alone. About 68% of host primary 5 learners and 90% of refugee primary 5 learners in Arua and Isingiro are over-aged (Hicks & Maina, 2018). A 2018 Uwezo assessment across refugee hosting districts also showed that 33% of primary 3 and 5 students are unable to read more than one out of five English words.


The Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports and schools implement remedial teaching methodologies for numeracy and literacy skills, enabling over-age-for-grade adolescents in primary schools across refugee hosting communities to transition smoothly to post-primary learning pathways or the world of work.

  • Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) Uganda
  • TaRL Africa

The project aims 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. 

This project is built around the following main pillar:

  • Piloting the effectiveness of various modalities of Teaching at the Right Level, a remedial teaching approach that focuses on basic numeracy and literacy skills. Over-age upper primary learners are grouped according to their performance instead of age or grade, and instructors apply learner-centred pedagogies.

VVOB strengthens the capacity of government staff at district and national level to ensure the remedial teaching approaches are infused in the regular activities of both schools and MoES. In the first phase, the modalities are piloted in 50 schools in Arua and Isingiro. In a second phase, the intervention is scaled to 180 schools in the two districts, reaching a total of close to 105,000 adolescents.

By the end of the programme:

  • MoES:
    • will have endorsed a set of teaching, learning and assessment materials to implement the TaRL methodology for literacy and numeracy in the Ugandan context, taking into account the particular psycho-social challenges and needs of refugee learners, in line with Uganda’s thematic curriculum;
    • will facilitate the implementation of the Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities by MoES in Uganda by determining the preferred intervention model for scaling up based on monitoring evidence collected throughout the project and with a particular focus on ensuring high quality teacher training, mentoring and monitoring.
  • District coordinators:
    • support schools in Arua and Isingiro on the TaRL approach, including the use of locally available learning materials;
    • strengthen the skills of school mentors on coaching and mentoring, and how to help teachers to improve their pedagogical skills using TaRL methodology.
  • TaRL instructors:
    • provide TaRL sessions to over-age for grade learners;
    • monitor learners’ progress enabling their progression from one level to the next.

To reach its goals, VVOB in Uganda develops the capacity of its education partners. VVOB uses capacity development trajectories that give partners maximal responsibility in the execution and management of their own change processes. This is done through technical assistance provided by the VVOB team in Uganda, which includes both local and international educational and change management experts.


Banner picture: Beneficiaries of the Accelerated Education Programme studying at Kashojwa Learning Center, hosted by Kashojwa Primary School, Isingiro District.
Credit: ©UNICEF/UNI218006/Abdul