Aligning instruction with children’s learning levels has resulted in large gains in student learning in developing countries when implemented through a variety of approaches. This insight note identifies four principles that are common across successful approaches.

  • Principle 1: Set clear learning goals that are coherent with children’s current learning levels. In most developing country contexts, particularly for primary school-age children, this means focusing on foundational literacy and numeracy.
  • Principle 2: Make instruction coherent with children’s current learning levels and targeted learning progress. Different approaches act on different components of instruction, including national curriculum standards, the content taught in the classroom, teaching and learning materials, and others. Many approaches bring multiple instructional components into coherence with each other.
  • Principle 3: Provide effective and coherent support to teachers. This is often delivered through practical, ongoing coaching rather than traditional teacher training.
  • Principle 4: Find contextually appropriate ways to implement the preceding principles.

In support of these principles, this note reviews related evidence from the cognitive science, education, and programme evaluation literatures. It then presents three distinct approaches to aligning instruction to children’s learning levels – a national curriculum reform in Tanzania, a national literacy programme in Kenya (Tusome) and a remedial programme operating in many countries (Teaching at the Right Level) – and illustrates how each approach embodies the four principles. It concludes with a longer (though not exhaustive) table of programmes that show the full range of possible ways to implement the four principles.