Market-Linked Education For Government Schools

Market-Linked Education For Government Schools

There is precedence of market-linked education at university level although the potential is under-utilised in developing countries. The collaboration helps in transfer of new technology to the market, ascertaining the focus of research, conducting research collaboratively with industry partners, internship placements and offering practical courses such as quality management. At the school level however, a clear link to the market is missing.


Impact Series: Revisiting Astha’s story


It is probably the oldest story in the world - a girl with a million dreams - questioning the existence of those dreams and wondering if they will ever come true.  The girl in our story is Astha.


We met and spoke to Astha through our career planning sessions, with her class. And it is safe to say that we learned from her as much as we may have taught. She forced us to think more in-depth about what a career means to girls like her - the very reason why one would want a job? Most commonly a career is about achieving one's professional goals, and fulfil one's aspirations of 'doing well'.  Astha’s career aspirations are aligned with that of her mother's. She realises the sacrifices her mother has made, and doing something for her is the only dream she has. If her Ma is proud, she will succeed.  


Astha aims to be a science teacher in a good school and says that will make her mother happy.  Her plan B is to become a soldier and serve the nation. She says some of these ideas came to her through discussions in the career planning workshops, before which she admits to not knowing much in this regard.  Astha’s most significant source of motivation is her mother’s trust in her, and the support provided by the faculty at her school. 

She has even started working towards her goals. Astha knows she needs to gain expertise in biology, physics and chemistry (which she dislikes).  She has started doing more science experiments and other related activities. She proudly tells us that she is regularly making notes, and searching for resources online. Through the career planning and work readiness workshops, Astha has discovered that it is not just about academics, values and soft skills are equally important, and she wants to acquire both. The classes have helped her get rid of the negative thoughts, understand her strengths and think of other exciting career avenues.  


It has been a thrilling experience working with Astha and being able to start a conversation about career, dreams and aspirations. We hope to work with many more Asthas and learn more about their ambitions, dreams and ideas of careers. 

We have just started, and have a long way to go. You can help us in supporting more children like Astha by donating on our crowdfunding campaign here. 

Snippets From Our Pilot Programme

Previously, we had shared the story of the completion of 6 months of Arthan Foundation. We touched upon our experiences of interacting with school children in Delhi government schools and talking to them about career planning. Our aim was to help them decide a path for themselves. Our pre-pilot was on a smaller scale with 30 girls from a school in Sangam Vihar. Several stories from the pre-pilot taught us about the reality of these children, while some made us disheartened, others were a simple reality check. A few of them had ideas about a future but lacked information on how to go about the career, or what were the minimum education requirements to meet them. On the other hand, a few girls had no idea at all. We were prepared to go on this journey where each story will be unique and decided to dive into the education system to start a conversation about career aspirations. 

In February, we partnered with Teach for India fellows to implement our modules on career planning and work readiness. Through them, our workshops were conducted all over Delhi, covering 10 government schools and 500 children. The workshops were conducted over a period of 3 weeks. This time, we interacted with more students, and each one with new ideas, visions and dreams. Some stories stuck with us, and some we hope to work within the coming years.  

 During one of our workshops in a Delhi Government School

During one of our workshops in a Delhi Government School

 

While we are still looking at our pilot findings, initial results show that 43 % of students showed interest in higher education and the options related to it.  For instance, Astha told us that the classes had helped her analyse her strengths and understand the importance of interests, values, soft skills and other criteria in deciding and achieving success in one’s career. 

At the same time, 37% of students could look up resources relating to the career options they were interested in. With good digital literacy skills, the students were confident enough to do a Google search, read up on the professions they wanted to pursue and what were the requirements or eligibility criteria for the same.

Finally, 32% of the children were sure about on the subjects they wanted to choose after the class tenth.  

These are not our final findings as we are still evaluating some of our modules. However, the first trends have shown us a new direction, we have learnt about more students and what stops them from pursuing their goals, their problems and the solutions. The results from our pilot will help us to further expand on our module and make additions to the same. 

Going forward, we want to work with 10,000 children across Delhi and support these children in identifying their goals, pursuing them as they move from school to the world of work. We have started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to support more children and you can help us achieve our goal. Donate now. 

Sustainable development, global citizenship to be a part of school curriculum in Sikkim

In a move to reform education curriculum - peace, sustainable development and global citizenship will be included in textbooks of Sikkim schools.  This move is a partnership between UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) and the Human Resource Development Department (HRDD) of Sikkim.  

The State Council of Education, Research and Training  (SCERT) and Azim Premji University, Bangalore will implement the project. 

After signing the partnership agreement, in a first, Sikkim became the only state in the country to have school education module focussing on Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED).

HRDD Additional Chief Secretary GP Upadhaya and UNESCO MGIEP Curricular Head Yoko Mochizuki signed the agreement at a local hotel in Gangtok in February 2018. 

As the entire world is talking and aspiring to achieve sustainable development goals, education on the same is necessary.  The project aims to include ideas of peace, global citizenship and sustainable development in textbooks of core subjects such as math, social sciences and languages. 

GP Upadhaya said, 'Sikkim is the first state to sign an agreement with UNESCO. It is a proud moment for Sikkim and HRDD to have Sustainable Development Goals incorporated into the school curriculum for Classes I-V.  A total of 45 resources teachers are under training for this project.  We are training teachers for writing scientifically, and we are in the process to adopt and pass Sustainable Development Act. It is essential to have SDGs in school education for the future generation to understand the depth of the problem.'

30 experts from around the world have prepared a guidebook focusing on embedding sustainable development into core subjects. In its next phase, UNESCO MGIEP will join hands with book development agencies and governments to train authors on utilising the guidebook and creating coursework accordingly.

Yoko Mochizuki said, 'it is a great learning journey for us in improving the education textbook system in Sikkim, and we are looking forward to this opportunity in front of us.'

Dr. Rabin Chettri, Director, SCERT confirmed that books for class I-V would be ready in December 2018. 

 

Bridging the gap between design and implementation

By Ahmed Irfan and Sana Kazi  

Despite India’s remarkable progress towards universalising primary education, learning outcomes remain poor: only 35 percent of ninth and tenth graders in government and private schools are able to read at a level expected of a fourth grader.

One of the reasons for these poor learning outcomes is the weak foundation in the early years. Research by FSG found that over 54 percent of children entering Grade 1 in affordable private schools (APSs)2 could not pick out the correct number of objects corresponding to numbers from 10-20 (for example, picking 13 pencils from a stack of 20); 78 percent could not read three simple three-letter words. 

The science behind the potential of high-quality early learning is clear, as is the fact that children from low-income households—a group that constitutes 70 percent of urban India—are likely to benefit disproportionately from improvements in early learning.

Our research to understand how we could help unlock this potential yielded interesting insights. We found that low-income parents already clearly valued pre-schooling: 95 percent had enrolled their 2-6 year-old children at a pre-school provider, despite no legal requirement to do so.

We also found that parents care about the quality of pre-schooling and are willing to invest in it: 86 percent of low-income families were investing in private options (typically APSs) because they believed these to be of better quality.

In 2014, we launched the Program to Improve Private Early Education (PIPE), a multi-year initiative that aims to improve learning outcomes for over 200,000 low-income children in India, and set the urban APS market on the path to transforming learning outcomes for children from low-income urban households.

The programme is premised on the idea that the education solutions that could transform pre-schooling already exist, but are currently limited to the upper end of the market. The challenge is providing access to them inside APSs. PIPE is currently working with seven solution providers and is already in 161 APSs across five cities.  

The past three years of the programme have surfaced some key lessons for the team on designing a programme for sustained impact at scale.

1.  Leverage existing motivations

While changing behaviour can be very hard, leveraging existing motivations to achieve this can be extremely effective. For example, the main motivation of parents for pre-primary enrolment is to help their child learn basic academic skills, especially English and mathematics.

PIPE uses solutions that can help children develop a range of skills, including English, mathematics, working in teams, and executive function. But there is greater emphasis on English and mathematics because these are skills that parents want from pre-schooling. Other important skills such as teamwork and collaboration are simply not valued by them in equal measure.

We realised early on that if we wanted parents to adopt the PIPE programme, we had to work within their existing belief systems; we needed them to recognise the benefits of the intervention without requiring them to fundamentally shift their beliefs and motivations around what skills their children should be learning in preschool. 

An approach that leverages existing motivations in this manner also helps ensure sustainability over the long-term—because all the constituents are doing what they already perceive to be in their best-interest, there is no need for an ongoing intervention.

2. Be prepared to pivot


In order to be successful, programmes must be able to respond to changing conditions and to new information that is learned by working in the system. This may require significant pivots in approach and activities.

For example, PIPE’s original approach focused on scaling chains of preschools, which specialise in pre-schooling and do not offer any classes beyond kindergarten.

However, data from our research revealed that 74 percent of the four-and five-year olds were attending pre-school at ‘attached providers’—schools that offered classes beyond pre-primary all the way to Grade 10—rather than a ‘standalone’ preschool provider.

The programme therefore had to pivot to meet the realities of the market, and is now focused on improving quality at existing APSs rather than standalone providers—a necessary shift that put the programme on a radically different path from what had been planned and agreed to with funders.

3. Invest in credibility


A key element in achieving impact at scale is the ability to engage with and influence the work of others in the field—credibility is therefore critical. It is important to think about activities that can not only achieve immediate objectives, but also contribute significantly to the broader field and therefore help build credibility. 

In the case of PIPE, the research spanned over 4,400 parents across eight cities. While a less extensive piece of research could have met immediate project goals, investing in a larger effort allowed us to share new and valuable data with the field and make a significant contribution, despite being a relatively new participant in the conversation.

This laid the foundation for building several key relationships with diverse stakeholders—funders, APSs, education experts and academics—and that continues to be a major strength for the programme today. 

 

This article was originally published in India Development Review. You can read the original piece here.

HRD Minister: NCERT Syllabus to be reduced by 50% by 2019

On 24th February, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar announced, that the NCERT school syllabus will reduce by 50% in the 2019 academic session. This news will be a relief for school children, minimising the pressure of too much course. 

Javadekar said that children should get time for other activities that contribute to their overall development. The Union minister said the school syllabus was more than that of B.Com and BA courses. He also added that students need full freedom for the development of their cognitive skills. NCERT will cut down the syllabus which will be in practise from the academic session 2019.

 

Providing inputs of other reforms in school education - Javadekar added that examinations and detentions would be introduced. A bill on education reforms will be presented in the parliament in the next budget session. Javadekar said that without exams, there is no goal or competition. He further added that there should be an element of competition for better outcomes.

The minister suggested that students will get two chances to clear exams - first in March followed by May. However, if the candidate fails to pass the May’s exams - they will be detained. The HRD minister highlighted his concerns over the poor quality of teachers, which he said was resulting in poor learning outcomes.

Javadekar informed that 20 lakh teachers were to be given training trained in 2015 under the Right to Education Act but only five lakh of them were trained. He added that he was hopeful for better results as over 14 lakh teachers are enrolled in a skill improving course. The New Education Policy will be submitted for approvals soon - concluded Javadekar. 

Google and NCERT to create a course on ‘Digital Citizenship and Safety’

Google and NCERT (The National Council of Educational Research and Training) are coming together to integrate a course on ‘Digital Citizenship and Safety’ in information and technology curriculum subscribed by the schools.  

cyber-security-1914950_640.jpg

 

In the light of increasing use of social media and cyber threats, this is a relevant addition to the course. The Internet is a phenomenal resource that has made everything easy, but it comes with its own risk.  ‘Internet can help us; it has a potential of damaging the social structure and an individual. It is imperative for us to understand how can we keep ourselves safe,’ Union School Education Secretary Anil Swarup said, reported firstpost

The course designed by NCERT and Google will be for the students from class I - XII and taught across 1.4 million institutes in the country. The course aims to prepare students on how to be responsible digital citizens.  Teachers will be trained on the latest developments on the debates surrounding the Internet. The module will have four themes - being smart, being safe, being a digital citizen and being future ready. 

Sunita Mohanty, Google India Director, Trust and Safety added 'We have provided NCERT (a) lot of content that was ready with Google, tools and tips about internet use. We also segregated the curriculum into four different area. We have a different set of programmes for different age groups.’ Students will be able to identify good and bad content. In more advanced classes, the curriculum will focus on privacy, device management, intellectual property and reputation management. Google will do the training free of cost.  

Six months of Arthan Foundation

The idea of Arthan was the result of a series of conversations we had with students studying in grades 8 and 9.

As we stepped into a classroom with dusty desks, worn out paint in an old uninviting building and asked students about their aspirations, many of them were quiet. Their eyes, seemingly unsure of their future. When asked ‘what do you want to become?’ - a handful had answers to give, but there was a definite disconnect with reality. They were convinced that they cannot achieve anything. 
The data on the dropout rate in India is an eye-opener. 50 % students drop out after class 8; many are demotivated and unclear about their future career path. Out of the 50% students who go on to grade 10,  only 25% join class XI. The reason for dropping out is often lack of motivation and confusion about future ambitions. 

 A picture from our pilot programme 

A picture from our pilot programme 


While conducting our research - a realisation struck to us; nobody had spoken to government school children about career aspirations, ambitions and how to achieve them. There was a need for them to understand the world of work, employability skills after school education and the options available to them. 


The first step was to create a curriculum for the children who studied in these government and low-income schools in urban, semi-urban and rural India. We drew upon from studies from all over the world, designed an interactive curriculum to involve children and push them to approach the idea of a career  - understand their interests, skill set and how to search for a job. 


Our first module focused on 'knowing yourself',  was about looking inwards. It was to help students understand their talents and skills.  Unaware and uninspired - these children, from a small locality in Delhi, had never thought about what they want to become and how they could become what they want to become - a luxury many other students had while growing up. 

  When we conducted our pre-pilot on career planning and work readiness - 30 girls in Standard IX from a government school in Sangam Vihar joined us. Even though located in Delhi, Sangam Vihar is far away from anything city like - with its cramped, overcrowded lanes with very little space to walk.  There, in a tiny room, with very little ventilation and limited chairs, we started our pre-pilot. 

 Another still from our pilot programme

Another still from our pilot programme


Getting to know the girls was our first step. A few had some ideas, a few sat with quietly, while some sat with the curiosity to observe the class with an open mind. Majority of them were carrying the baggage of social barriers. Some had financial limitations, and others were discouraged by societal norms with no idea how to overcome them.  

Out of these 30 girls, the stories of two struck us deeply.  First was Shikha who had no idea about what she wanted to do, but was present in every class, listening to every word and trying to make sense of it. When we spoke to her about her aspirations, she said she wanted to become something to help her brother have a better future, but she did not know what that something was. Then we met Isha, focused on a dream to be an aeronautical engineer but without an idea on how to approach it. She had all her hopes pinned on becoming a space scientist and had never thought of a Plan B. The two stories were both similar and different. And we learned that this is how this journey will be - where each story while unique also has a universal bottom-line - the children deserve to learn, know and be aware of their aspirations. 

Our goal is to get them to start broadening their horizons. The lessons from our pre-pilot are out. We have revised our modules and kickstarted our pilot programme with 500 children across Delhi government schools. We will be doing this together with Teach for India fellows. In future, our goal is to make our workshops gender neutral and work with 10,000 children. We have started out on a journey hoping to support millions of children in their path from school to the world of work. 

Scaling: How to go from x to 10x

This article was originally published on India Development Review. You can read the original piece here.

By Satyam Vyas

Nobody says no to the government. Most nonprofits in India—big and small—want to leverage government reach and resources, because doing so allows us to dramatically increase our impact. We also recognise that such opportunities to partner with the government are infrequent and unpredictable; we prefer not to forego them.

But what happens when you walk into a government meeting prepared to scale your programme from 10 schools to 50, and instead you’re asked to grow to 1,000 schools across several districts? Do you decline?

If you have participated in such meetings before, you know that preparation and flexibility go a long way in helping you manage the outcome. In most cases that require a dramatic operational scale up, you will also need to ensure that the following four stakeholder groups—the government, your funders, your organisation and an evaluation partner—are ready and prepared as well. 

 Photo credit: New Statesman

Photo credit: New Statesman

 

I. Navigating the government relationship better

First, before you walk into a bureaucrat’s office, remember that the numbers you are proposing must relate to the numbers and outreach that the official usually deals with. For example, you might meet with a district education officer in West Champaran, Bihar, which has approximately 900-1,000 upper primary schools. If you propose working in 100 schools (10% of the schools in that district) the bureaucrat might be interested. Yet, this number would mean little to an official operating at the state level, because the outputs and outcomes you could promise would be minuscule in relation to the state population and to the size of the problem.

Second, if you are not ready to scale up dramatically, you can buy some time to revisit your plan. So if you had planned to scale X but were asked to grow 10X, you might return to the drawing board, evaluate your original proposition, and develop a new strategy.

The reason this is important is that often, rapid scaling is accompanied by a dip in quality. So all programme aspects that have worked well thus far, including the assumptions you might have made based on your past experience, will no longer hold true.

So how should you go about it?

Select aspects of your model that are more replicable than others
One way of revisiting your original plan is choosing not to scale your entire model. Instead, you can select aspects of it that are more easily replicable; this is especially useful for organisations that are smaller in size or those that may not have the funding lined up to grow exponentially on short notice.

For instance, if you are running an education intervention that includes curriculum development, teacher training and technology, you might choose to scale just the technology or teacher training modules after taking into account both the scale and the outcomes you seek to achieve. This approach will help ease your operational burden while meeting your scaling goals.

Choose activities and outcomes that are aligned with government priorities
Focusing on aspects of your model that align with government priorities and aspirations can heighten your probability of success and long-term sustainability.


II. Leveraging your funders

Once you have the government partnership, you need to figure out funding to support programme expansion.

Go back to your existing funders for support
In my experience, existing funders are happy to write their grantees a cheque and assume the risk of supporting growth on the basis of an MoU with the government. 

This is because many funding agencies like to see their support being leveraged for other grants towards increasing both scale and cost-effectiveness. For instance, if you indicate to a funder that the cost of running your education programme in the past was Rs 1,000 per child, but now with additional resources, it will reduce by 50%, the probability of hearing a ‘no’ for additional funding is very limited.

Identify the funders that can help you reach your goal


Having said this, however, it’s very important to understand the different kinds of investments that funders make, for what purpose they make them, and at what stage of growth they choose to play a role. Funders that helped you grow from X to 10X may not be the right partner to support your expansion to 100X.

Understanding your funder’s priorities is critical to ensuring that you are reaching out to the right people at the right time. For instance, in the case of CSR, the geographic spread of your programme expansion plays an important role in funding decisions. This is because companies often like to run initiatives where they have operations or strategic future business interest; they are less inclined to enter a new state or district where they have no presence.

III. Building organisational capacity

When scaling your programme in partnership with the government, funding tends to be an easier nut to crack. The challenge is mostly around human resources and systems and processes, because you don’t have staff and you need to quickly hire as many people as possible. In addition, you need to find and train quality candidates, which is also a challenge.

The other challenge with scale is that it is inversely proportionate to quality. So, when you are quickly growing your impact, having robust systems and processes in place is key to ensuring as smooth a path to scale as possible. Systems and processes that have worked for a beneficiary group of 10,000 will not work for 100,000 people.

IV. Evaluating your processes to understand your progress

Getting an agency to review your processes while you are scaling up is your best-case scenario, because you will learn about which aspects of your programme have the most impact in the shortest time.

For instance, in a training of trainers model, you might learn that by increasing the duration of a training module from three days to nine and splitting the same over a period of time, trainers are more motivated, productivity increases by 3X and leads to a visible impact in the quality of training and intended outcomes eventually. 

Knowing this is useful to the nonprofit in two ways. First, you are able to identify what works and focus on scaling that. Second, you might see overlaps with what works in your programme and what models the government is looking to support. If the government has funds for teacher training, skill development initiatives, you can be strategic in what you suggest for future partnerships.

Process evaluations are less common because they are expensive. But investing in them from the start is worth it if you are able to secure the funding. Just bear in mind that, much like funders, different evaluation agencies are suited for different levels of scale. There is no substitute for doing your homework so you find the right long-term partner to create impact at the systems level and influence policy.