At this moment the Indian education sector is certainly not at its healthiest. Its chronic ailments — crumbling infrastructure, severely limited faculty and so on — aside, it is struggling to cope with a gaping wound. Also known as the Right to Education Act, the legislation enacted with much fanfare a couple of years ago, promising a revolutionary change and raising hopes sky high, has failed to deliver as yet. Critics and domain experts have dismissed it as an eloquently worded but miserably executed policy. Worse still, some ‘rogue’ schools in cities like Bengaluru are hiking up fees, citing the RTE diktat on free seats for the underprivileged, as an excuse. Evidently something has gone wrong with the machinery of mainstream education. But what is it?
Perhaps it would be useful to explore some of the more successful models of management that are being practiced outside the government sector. Of course, their scales are almost laughably small as compared to the government institutions. But their fundamental principles remain relevant. Let us take for instance, Shikha Saarthi, the joint initiative between Coastal Gujarat Private Limited (CGPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Power Company, and Pratham Education Foundation, a front-runner in the field of education. Its area of operations is CGPL’s project site in coastal Kutch, spanning the catchment villages that lay within – Tunda-Vandh, Mota Kandagra of Mundra; Nanabhadia, Tragadi and Modva of Mandvi Taluka of Kutch. Launched in 2012, Shiksha Saarthi has been able to position itself right on the centrestage, thanks to the sheer range of issues it addresses and the efficiency with which it has been able to execute its plans so far. Education pundits today consider it to be a programme that is potent enough to transform the profile of school education in Kutch. So what is its success formula? Meticulous monitoring; regular assessment; willingness and ability to change route and reinvent itself as per the feedback received, declare the partners.
To understand this better let us follow the track record of the Learning Camps, one of SS’s most successful initiatives. Focused on mathematics and language subjects, these camps are held especially for students who need to be prodded a little harder than the rest to move ahead. They provide an ‘activity based learning experience’, that require a range of resource materials, that are distributed by CGPL among the student participants. In the first year the partners used this tool sparingly, focusing instead on visiting the weaker learners at home. The strategy was revised as the partners realised that more time was needed to be spent in schools in order to improve the learning levels.
Now Pratham tracks the learning levels of the children before, during and after learning camps. The learning levels were measured through an assessment tool. The Measurement, Monitoring and Evaluation (MME) unit of Pratham is responsible for conducting timely assessments and data entry. A Management Information System (MIS) has set up on Salesforce (a web-based cloud platform) for data collection and analysis.
Have the efforts paid dividends? Yes indeed they have. Learning levels of each participant have moved upwards. There is meticulously analysed data to prove that. And then there are stories, like that of Rashid Sameja’s that lend dry numbers that unmistaken-ably authenticate the flavour.