How Haryana has used an inter-block competitive model to improve student learning levels

Introduction
How does a state with 14000+ government schools, 60000 teachers and more than 15 lakh students create momentum to achieve a common goal: improving learning levels? This was the question to which the Government of Haryana was seeking an answer. To substantially improve the learning levels of students in government schools, the state government launched the Saksham Haryana campaign with the objective of making 80% of the students in the state grade-level competent. 

Towards this end the Saksham Ghoshna campaign was launched in December 2017 which devolved ownership and accountability to blocks for ensuring that 80% of students in each block became grade-level competent. Samagra’s Saksham Haryana team supports the state government in implementing Saksham Ghoshna as part of the state’s Saksham Haryana programme. Samagra | Transforming Governance is a mission-driven governance consulting firm. Chief Minister’s Good Governance Associates (CMGGA) Programme, which deputes 1 young professional in every district, has been critical in the onground implementation of interventions under Saksham Haryana.
Blocks that meet a certain cut off  are declared Saksham and felicitated. By introducing a competitive framework among blocks to attain Saksham status, the state government has been able to generate momentum on the ground and spur multiple stakeholders in the system to work towards improving learning outcomes.

Design
In the simplest terms, the campaign is based on leveraging a nomination-based, third-party assessment of students in government schools that allows performance comparison across blocks and districts. These assessments are conducted periodically by a designated third-party across the state. The question paper, evaluation and analysis of results is done by the third-party independent of the state. Till May 2019, at the start of every round of assessment, the state’s education department declared the nomination window for Saksham status open. Blocks which believed 80% students in their respective blocks are grade-level competent nominated themselves to be evaluated. Starting in September 2019, all 119 blocks are assessed simultaneously.

It is important to recognize here how a competitive assessment model is separate from regular student assessments, which are also equally important. A competitive framework that rewards blocks for taking initiative and achieving targets, spurs the entire system into action.  
The questions for the test are based on competencies that have been taught up to one month before the Ghoshna exam. The competencies are defined by SCERT in a learning outcome framework, Saksham Taalika, for the respective classes. Till May 2019, the test was conducted for Classes- 3, 5 and 7 to assess Hindi and Maths. Starting in September 2019, it is being conducted for all Classes from 3 to 8 to assess Hindi, Maths, EVS/Science and SST. 
Implementation
Improving the learning levels of government school students by using a quantifiable metric is the essence of Saksham Ghoshna. However, to achieve this objective, schools and blocks across the state are encouraged to carry out certain academic interventions. Among other things, this includes:
  • Holding daily structured remedial classes to help weaker students
  • Making the shift from rote-based learning aimed at syllabus completion to competency-based teaching
  • Providing mentoring and training support to teachers to improve the quality of classroom instruction
  • Analysing assessment data to keep track of weaker students who need more support as well as weaker competencies and subjects that require more attention.
Three to five days prior to the exam, vocational teachers are trained on how to administer the test. Measures are taken to ensure the sanctity of the test instruments as well as to curb cheating during the assessment. This includes sending in flying squads on the day of the test. DCs, ADCs, SDMs, DEOs, Deputy DEOs, BEOs and BEEOs (from other blocks), DIET principals, lecturers, Chief Minister’s Good Governance Associates and Saksham Haryana team members from Samagra are all part of flying squads. All the answer sheets undergo an advanced post-test data analysis which identifies patterns and flags tests which indicate the possibility of cheating.
The third-party assessor sets a cut-off and establishes a measurement scale. If at least 80% of the students achieve the required cut off, the block is declared ‘Saksham’ or grade-level competent. A district becomes Saksham when all blocks in the district are declared Saksham. 
Saksham blocks receive recognition from officials in the Chief Minister’s Office, the state’s education department. They are felicitated in multiple ways, through media articles, social media posts, congratulatory WhatsApp messages and appreciation at district and state level review meetings.
Impact
Since December 2017, ten rounds of assessment have been conducted.
Wave 1: 2017-19

During Wave 1, all 119 blocks were assessed in Hindi and Maths at least once, some sitting for the exam multiple times before being declared Saksham. 

At the end of  wave 1.0, third-party assessment declared 107 of 119 blocks ‘Saksham’  in Hindi and Maths.

Wave 2 – 2019-20
During Wave 2, all 119 blocks sat for the exam twice for Hindi, Maths, EVS/Science and SST. 
 
In the second wave, results have been declared grade-wise. Two exams were conducted during the 201

9-20 Academic Year, one in September 2019 and the second in February 2020. Saksham Ghoshna results show a significant improvement in performance through the course of the academic year. 

  • Through this assessment, learning levels of students are measured and tracked, and block and district-level performance can be compared.
  • Low-performing blocks are identified for targeted interventions and resource allocation. As a consequence, block and district-level strategies are formed to improve learning outcomes
  • When teachers and administrative officials are rewarded for innovative practices and achieving good results, they are automatically motivated to sustain their performance or better it. This translates into each individual stakeholder having more skin in the game and knowing that their glory is in their hands. A mechanism of self-nomination puts the onus solely on blocks and teachers to do well.
  • An overarching benefit of providing recognition to teachers and blocks is through a demonstration effect. Blocks that are lagging behind are also motivated to do better so that they can achieve Saksham status in subsequent assessment rounds.
Transforming a government school system is predicated upon all actors within the system having an aligned vision and being motivated to perform their role to the best of their abilities. Under Saksham Ghoshna because the recognition for success of a block is given directly to key stakeholders within the system, they are motivated to meet a specific target, truly believing that their glory lies in their hands. 
To know further about this, please write to gayatri@samagragovernance.in
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