The Union Cabinet has approved the following –
- Implementation of the Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project with a total project cost of Rs 5718 crore with the financial support of World Bank amounting to US $500 million (approximately Rs. 3700 crore).
- STARS project would be implemented as a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme under Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education.
- Setting up and support to the National Assessment Centre, PARAKH as an independent and autonomous institution under Department of School Education and Literacy.
- Besides this project, it is also envisaged to implement a similar ADB funded project in 5 states namely Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Assam. All states will partner with one other state for sharing their experiences and best practices.
What is the STARS Project?
- The project covers 6 States namely Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha. The identified States will be supported tor various interventions for improving the quality of education.
- The STARS project seeks to support the states in developing, implementing, evaluating and improving interventions with direct linkages to improved education outcomes and school to work transition strategies for improved labour market outcomes. The overall focus and components of the STARS project are aligned with the objectives of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 of Quality Based Learning Outcomes.
- The Project envisions improving the overall monitoring and measurement activities in the Indian School Education System through interventions in selected states.
- The project shifts focus from the provision of inputs and maintaining of outputs to actual outcomes by linking the receipt and disbursement of funds to these outcomes.
- At the national level, the project envisages the following interventions which will benefit all states and UTs –
- To strengthen MOE’s national data systems to capture robust and authentic data on retention, transition and completion rates of students.
- To support MOE in improving states PGI scores by incentivising states governance reform agenda through SIG (State Incentive Grants).
- To support the strengthening of learning assessment systems.
- To support MOE’s efforts to establish a National Assessment Center (PARAKH). Among the tasks of such a centre would be to leverage the experiences of states selected for the operation by collecting, curating and sharing these experiences with other states through online portals (e.g. Shagun and DIKSHA), social and other media engagement, technical workshops, state visits and conferences.
At the State level, the project envisages
- Strengthening Early Childhood Education and Foundational Learning
- Improving Learning Assessment Systems
- Strengthening classroom instruction and remediation through teacher development and school leadership
- Governance and Decentralised Management for Improved Service Delivery.
- Strengthening Vocational education in schools through mainstreaming, career guidance and counselling, internships and coverage of out of school children.
Outcomes for measurement
- Some of the measurable outcomes of the project are Increase in students achieving minimum proficiency in grade 3 language in selected states, Improvement in secondary school completion rate, Improvement in governance index scores, Strengthened learning assessment systems, Partnerships developed to facilitate cross-learning between states, and improvement in the State level service delivery such as Strengthening planning and management capacities for decentralised management by training of BRCs and CRCs, Strengthened school management by training of Head Teachers and Principals for improved education service delivery.
Background – World Banks’s STARS Project
- The programme was launched in 1994. The World Bank through the programme has helped India achieve its vision of “Education for All”.
- The project is to focus governance of government schools in 6 Indian states. The fund allocated by the World Bank is to be used to implement the project called STARS (Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States).
- The programme is to be implemented through Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan. The states that are to benefit under the programme includes Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
Criticism of World Bank’s STARS Programme
- This $3 billion project has the mistaken understanding that state capability should be built by giving a larger role to non-state actors and by increasing the use of technology. Both these premises are misguided as they do not contribute to the capability of the state to deliver better education.
- First, it fails to address the basic capacity issues – major vacancies across the education system from District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs), district and block education offices, to teachers in schools, remain unaddressed. Without capable and motivated faculty, teacher education and training cannot be expected to improve.
- Second, the Bank ignores that decentralising decision-making requires the devolution of funds and real decision-making power. Greater decentralisation can allow accountability to flow to the people rather than to supervising officers. It requires not just investment in the capacity of the front-line bureaucracy but also in increasing their discretionary powers while fostering social accountability.
- Third important element requiring attention is the state capability to be enhanced. Trust, which implies listening and collaborating across different levels within the administration, is entirely ignored in the World Bank project. Instead, the Bank displays yet again an over-reliance on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as a panacea that lacks any backing in evidence. It is based instead on the idea that a flawed system can be fixed merely through the injection of more and better technology.
- Fourth, measurement is seen as a way to improve performance. Yet, just like fever does not go away by checking the temperature more frequently, service delivery does not improve by measurement alone. Schools in India need improvement. The question is: should money be invested in improving the capability of the system to improve learning or in testing infrastructure, that too for standardised assessments alone?
- Lastly, outsourcing basic governance functions by “expanding private initiatives” and “reducing government tasks” will not make education “more relevant to local needs” or “democratically promote people’s participation by empowering local authorities” as stated in the project document.