Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, facing a number of attendant challenges in the education sector which are reinforced by the dearth of basic literacy and numeracy skills. Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in Sub-Saharan Africa and largest gap in teacher recruitment. In addition, many children who have finished six years of primary education do not have basic literacy and numeracy skills. The absence of these basic skills creates a gap which affects performance at secondary school level. The insufficiency of teachers and a focus on completion of curriculum targets leads to undue pressure on the serving teachers and a consequent disregard for children who are struggling in their classes.
LEARNigeria, a citizen-led assessment and advocacy programme implemented by TEP Centre has identified the poor state of learning outcomes is some communities/states across Nigeria. The results from the 2017 survey indicate that only 59 per cent of 15 year olds are able to read a primary 2 level story while 41 per cent can complete a one-digit by one-digit multiplication task.
Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) as a remedial methodology, presents an opportunity to bridge this competency gap through a partnership model between communities and their governments and an avenue to address the learning needs of children in upper primary levels as a means of preparing them for a productive future.
The Education Partnership (TEP) Centre implemented Nigeria’s first TaRL pilot programme with support from the Akwa Ibom and Kano State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEB), Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), Pratham, J-PAL, and PAL Network (the global network of countries implementing citizen-led assessments). Support for the design of the programme was provided by Pratham Foundation and the PAL Network. Prior to the launch of pilot programme, a content development workshop was organized to develop a robust curriculum that reflects the TaRL methodology and aligns with the national curriculum. At this workshop, representatives from NERDC, Federal Ministry of Education, SUBEB and teachers were present. Using their experience and expertise, a curriculum was developed and designed to help pupils have fun while learning.
TEP Centre also collaborates with UNICEF and Plan International on content and instructional material development for TaRL in Nigeria.
TaRL Pilot Results
A holiday camp model was implemented at school and community level for the TaRL pilot programme. The programme was delivered in Akwa Ibom state (2 schools) and Kano State (4 schools) for children in Primary 3 to Primary 5 working with volunteer teachers as facilitators. The camp ran for six weeks, from July to September 2018, and reached over 600 children. In Akwa Ibom, literacy instruction was in English language while Hausa was used in Kano. Foundational numeracy instruction was implemented in both states.
The TaRL pilot ended in September and the results have been inspiring. After 24 days of intervention in Kano, the share of children at beginner level (children unable to recognise syllables) dropped from 71 per cent to 34 per cent while share of children competent at story level (indicator of basic literacy) increased from zero to 7 per cent. There was also significant learning improvements in Akwa Ibom where there was a 27 percentage point drop in the share of beginner level children and the share of children with story level competence increased from 17 per cent to 25 per cent.
Additionally, pupils also learned innovative ways of solving simple word problems by using objects in their environment and many of the trained volunteers now teach pupils in other schools using the knowledge derived from TaRL. Given the promising outcomes of TaRL, in 2019, TEP Centre plans to scale up the current model while pilot testing a term time approach to the remedial programme.