In 2014, a national assessment of literacy and numeracy of primary school students in Zambia brought to light some disconcerting figures: nearly 1 in 7 grade 2 learners were unable to read a single word in their local language, and 30 per cent of grade 5 learners were illiterate with poor math skills.
One of the underlying reasons for this learning challenge is the size of class groups. Large classrooms contain large variations of learning levels. Learners that fall behind never have the chance to catch up in big heterogeneous groups. These pupils are most vulnerable to demotivation and eventual dropout, negatively impacting their future.
Government staff provide effective mentorship and support to teachers and school leaders on integrating the Teaching at the Right Level approach in grades 3 to 5.
Zambia’s Ministry of General Education (MoGE), VVOB, UNICEF and J-PAL Africa completed the pilot project ‘Catch Up’ in four selected districts in 2017, aimed at improving the learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy of primary students in grades 3 to 5.
After successful completion of the pilot, the Ministry identified its preferred model of the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) approach: for one hour during the school day for two terms, teachers regrouped children based on performance instead of age or grade, and focused on basic literacy and numeracy skills.
The Catch Up programme scales up this successful approach to approximately 1,800 schools from 2017 to 2020. VVOB provides support for the scale-up for at least the first two years.
In the pilot phase, VVOB had an implementing role at the level of teachers and schools. However, in the scale-up, VVOB operates as a capacity developer of government staff at zonal, district and provincial level to ensure the TaRL approach is infused in the regular activities of both schools and the Ministry of General Education.
By the end of the Catch Up project:
Zonal in-service coordinators:
- support schools in their zone on the TaRL approach, including the use of locally available learning materials;
- strengthen the skills of school coordinators on coaching and mentoring, and how to help teachers to improve their pedagogical skills using TaRL methodology.
- will have improved management, facilitations, coaching and mentoring skills for the proper implementation of the project and monitoring of schools’ results;
- organise the making of locally available learning materials during teacher group meetings and grade meetings at the resource centre;
- support the zonal in-service coordinators with troubleshooting and refresher trainings on TaRL.
- will have organised stakeholders’ workshops where progress and challenges of the project are discussed;
- identify districts with challenges and suggest interventions;
- verify progress and data from the districts and plan district trainings.
To reach its goals, VVOB Zambia 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 Zambia team, which includes both local and international educational and change management experts.