Improving learning outcomes for each child through C-NAS

September 30, 2016 by Ashish Dhawan, Central Square Foundation

Dear Friend,

India’s education system today is currently in the midst of a massive shift from providing access and equity to focus on improving learning levels of children in schools. Governments at the center and in various states are contemplating progressive reforms aligned to the theme of quality education. Simultaneously, there are multiple innovative experiments in school education in different parts of the country, as a new breed of social entrepreneurs are emerging. At CSF, we have had a very eventful and productive quarter as we worked towards our goal of an excellent education for all children in our country.

We engaged meaningfully with governments at the central, state and local body level and supported their endeavours in the field of school education. One of our significant engagements with the central government includes supporting NCERT in their efforts to effectively roll-out Census-Based National Achievement Survey (C-NAS). C-NAS will be conducted annually across Classes 1-8 for all government and private –aided schools. CSF has been involved in supporting NCERT in all the key stages of the process including drafting the learning outcomes and reviewing test items and developing a data system.

We continued our engagement with the Delhi government in their journey to strengthen their vocational programme for secondary school students. We conducted a diagnostic study of the older Grade 11/12 vocational stream running in more than 250 schools and provided a roadmap to the government for streamlining this with the newly rolled out NSQF scheme which begins in Grade 9. We have also brought on board a Project Manager, who will exclusively work with the Delhi government on scoping out and executing initiatives around this. At a broader level, we continued to explore opportunities to engage with committed entrepreneurs and disruptive ideas around imparting employability skills for students in the 14-17 age group.

Technology plays an important role in the education system and we are increasingly seeing its relevance in teacher training too. CSF has developed a mobile app in collaboration with Pune City Connect to conduct teacher observations based on pre-determined teacher competency standards. The aim of the tool is to provide timely personalised feedback to teachers on improving classroom practices, ensuring consistent teacher professional development. We plan to pilot the app with 1800 teachers across 240 Pune Municipal Corporation schools in the coming months.

In this quarter, we continued to seek out committed entrepreneurs and disruptive models of excellence in school education. We expanded our portfolio in the area of technology for student learning. We made a grant to iTeach Schools to help them build a complete digital school with a technology centric pedagogy for all content areas. The long term vision of iTeach is to make this a model digital school, defining and codifying the best practices for the Indian context. The government can then use this as a playbook and replicate in upcoming e-learning schools. We have also partnered with Motivation For Excellence (MFE), a foundation that gives grants to several education & health sector non-profits with a technology orientation. We’re funding one of their incubation projects called The Nalanda Project, which is a blended implementation of KA Lite (offline Khan Academy) in classrooms to improve learning levels in mathematics.

We believe that the first few years of a teacher’s career are critical. Teachers are building habits and have many opportunities to learn and grow rapidly during this period. We partnered with Pune based organisation iTeach Fellowship to explore this space further. This fellowship programme recruits new teachers from B. Ed. colleges into a 1-year Fellowship and provides training and coaching support to these teachers. We have also partnered with Chennai-based Madhi Foundation which runs the Transformational Academic Programme (TAP). TAP provides academic teaching – learning material including bilingual lesson plans, student workbooks, behavior trackers and wall charts. They support teachers through weekly 1:1 coaching on their classroom practice.

In continuing our efforts to create collective impact, CSF co-hosted a convening with Accountability Initiative in July focusing on the role and challenges of the middle management layer to provide academic support to teachers. The convening included a panel discussion by experts like R.Govinda, Rukmini Banerjee, Urvashi Sahni and Vimala Ramachandran, as well as practicing organisations sharing their ground experiences. The convening provided a unique platform to learn from collective experiences of working on the issue and drawing out learnings for larger systemic reform.

We deepened our work in Early Childhood Education by releasing our report on Pre-Primary Sections (PPS) in Government Primary Schools. With the ICDS unable to deliver quality ECE at scale, and the private sector being largely unregulated, access to quality age-appropriate education for kids in the 3-6 age bracket remains an issue. By providing one year of quality pre-school education in a PPS attached to primary schools, state governments could address the twin problems of dwindling enrolment in their primary schools and sub-par learning outcomes in early primary grades. Read more in our full report that can be accessed here.

We began supporting a child-tracking study by researchers from Indian Institute of Management- Ahmedabad and Centre for Policy Research, Delhi. This study will provide valuable insights on school choice decisions, and academic and social experience of economically and socially disadvantaged children admitted through section 12(1)(c) in private schools. Along with Indus Action, we also shared our system-level learning on RTE Section 12(1)(c) to officials from 15 States at NUEPA.

At CSF, we are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to partner with organisations and individuals working on the same challenges as us. Please do write in to if any of our work interests and excites you.


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Ashish Dhawan