Winning Start offers a potential solution to the “age-grade” structure problem. Winning Start is a promising, simple, cost-effective intervention which connects lightly-trained volunteers to primary schools where they can offer specialized attention to struggling students. Through level-oriented sessions in which children are grouped according to competency, Winning Start volunteers meet students where they are to help get them where they need to be.  

The project is premised on two fundamental, evidence-backed ideas that originate from research conducted by JPAL, Pratham and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). First: that orienting learning activities according to a child’s learning level rather than their age—teaching at the right level (TaRL)—leads to greater student success. Second: that using lightly-trained volunteers to deliver level-oriented supplementary learning sessions is highly effective at improving learning outcomes.

Notably, there are several different models for implementing TaRL: some models use existing class teachers in the place of volunteers as a way to minimize cost and secure access to students; some provide remedial support during the school term but outside of school hours; some provide remedial support during holidays and others offer support within standard class time. A variety of permutations have been tested. 

Winning Start is designed around evidence showing the volunteer-led, after-school support model to be the most effective. The notable drawback of this particular model—the need to cost-effectively recruit a large cohort of volunteers—doubles up as an opportunity low and middle income countries, where a dynamic but under-utilized young labour force abounds. Several Governments are already seeking to leverage the potential of their youth populace through strategic investments aimed at yielding a demographic dividend. In 2013, for example, eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa invested $241 million to operate youth civil service programs. Winning Start offers governments an innovative way to invest in youth while simultaneously achieving other public gains.

“Winning Start volunteers meet students where they are to help get them where they need to be.