As an organisation focused on improving learning outcomes of students, we recognise the importance of assessments to measure their learning levels and using that evidence for decision making. Assessments must be at the core of any education reform effort.
It is therefore encouraging that, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) allocated budgets beginning in 2013 to states to conduct State Learning Achievement Surveys (SLAS). The aim of these surveys is to understand the learning levels of students at district and sub-district levels.
Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA), MHRD approved a total budget of Rs. 14.50 crore for conducting SLAS in 2013-14 and allocated Rs. 11.75 crore for 2014-2015. While the MHRD is responsible for allocation of budgets, the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) created a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to guide states in the process of implementing learning surveys.
Many states conducted their SLAS in 2013-14, where some states even set broad learning goals in their Annual Work Plan & Budgets.
Himachal Pradesh (HP) is one of the states to take the lead in the implementation of SLAS. In October 2014, the Government of Himachal Pradesh invited CSF to be a part of a Project Management Unit (PMU) to work on strengthening SLAS.
The state has already conducted two rounds of census based assessment covering all students in elementary school. Gathering data from the assessments, HP developed reports to determine student performance in various subjects at different grade levels. The work of the state machinery in gathering this information is worthy of applause for its efficiency as the results generated correlated with a third party diagnostic assessment.
As part of the PMU, CSF along with its partners Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Educational Initiatives and Learning Links Foundation, will support the HP government to conduct rigorous SLAS and use the results for decision making (policy initiatives, teacher training, learning improvement programs etc.). Our efforts will focus on
- Consolidating learnings from the state led assessments conducted
- Designing a robust large scale assessment process incorporating learnings from other states and global best practices
- Identifying gap areas where capacity building and technical assistance are needed and suggesting necessary interventions to address these issues
We also conducted a Vision Workshop with the State Project Director and senior SSA members and teachers from Himachal Pradesh on November 11, 2014. The objective of the workshop was to “Define the scope of the program to further strengthen Himachal Pradesh Large Scale Assessments” and focused on:
- Defining a roadmap for the state leadership to design large scale assessments that suit their purpose
- Enabling the state team to understand the key elements of conducting a rigorous large scale assessment and defining the scope of external interventions and support that are required
- Creating a RFP for inviting tenders from specialised agencies / experts to conduct the SLAS
The workshop included discussion on the desired assessment framework for the state was discussed along with best practices from different states and countries. The state team shared their experiences and learning from the previous efforts around state conducted assessments and invited input on ideas to strengthen the state capacity for implementing assessments and using the results to effect change.
As a next step, Central Square Foundation and Michael & Susan Dell Foundation along with technical inputs from Educational Initiatives and Learning Link foundation, are developing a framework for the Himachal Pradesh government which would be presented to MHRD and other organisations for further support required by the state in implementing rigorous SLAS.