The Government of India, Government of Gujarat and the World Bank have signed a $500 million program to improve education outcomes for children across the state of Gujarat. More than 11 million students between the age of 6 and 17 in about 54,000 schools, and more than 400,000 teachers are expected to benefit from the program.
The Outcomes for Accelerated Learning Program (GOAL) will build on the long partnership between India and the World Bank (since 1994) for strengthening public school education. It will build synergy with the World Bank-supported Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States Program (STARS) that aims to improve the quality and governance of education in six states.
“The quality of education for all, which builds the cognitive, behavioral and employability skills of its young people is central to India’s social and economic development. The challenges in achieving this due to the COVID-19 pandemic are being addressed through several innovative initiatives,” said Anand Mohan Bajaj, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. “This Program will support the Government of Gujarat’s response to the pandemic shock and try to ensure that the education system is built back better,” he added.
The agreement was signed by Anand Mohan Bajaj, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of India; Vinod R Rao, Secretary, Education Department, on behalf of the Government of Gujarat; and Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, India on behalf of the World Bank.
“Investing in early childhood learning is a critical component of investing in the human capital of India. This objective is at the core of the project design,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director. “Through this program the Government of Gujarat will strengthen implementation at the district level, invest in stakeholder engagement and in teacher capacity to ensure a learning environment where no child of any background is left behind.”
Gujarat has made significant progress in enhancing classroom-teaching practices and has initiated multiple channels for teacher training. The drop-out rate in grades 1-8 has reduced from 19 percent in 2004-05 to less than 6 percent in 2017-18. The state has created a district level decentralized management system. However, efforts are needed to improve learning gains. Nationally, school closures due to COVID-19 have further decreased adolescent girls’ access to learning, increased time spent on household chores, and affected future job aspirations. This has also impacted school education in Gujarat.
GOAL will focus on a series of reform initiates. These include:
i) Direct delivery of education services at the state, district, and sub-district levels by providing customized local-level solutions for school improvement. District-level fiscal allocation and large-scale school infrastructure upgrades will be undertaken to create international-standard student-friendly schools with state-of-the-art technology and facilities.
ii) Build the capacity of district, block, cluster, and school level bodies on decentralized planning and management through collaboration with the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) – the national expert body on educational planning.
iii) Implement the key tenets of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 with a focused attention on foundational learning and ensuring that the school environment is conducive to educational reforms through child-friendly facilities.
iv) Teachers are central to achieving better learning outcomes. The program will equip teachers to manage this transformation by providing them with individualized, needs-based training that will give them an opportunity to have a say in shaping training programs. It will also strengthen the Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA) platform that offers online teacher training to more than 1.5 million registered teachers.
v) Recognizing the need for investing in human capital for future economic growth, GOAL will strengthen foundational learning for children in classes 1 to 3 and equip them with the cognitive, socio-behavioral, and language skills to meet future labor market needs.
The program will also support the Government of Gujarat’s response to the COVID-19 shock to ensure that the education system is built back better than before. It will increase investments in remote learning; invest in holistic home-learning programs; adopt blended models when schools partially reopen; support teachers and subject experts to develop high-quality teaching-learning materials along with supportive co-curricular activities; and create remedial courses. Technological and digital pedagogies for teachers will also be developed through diversified and innovative teacher capacity-building programs such as virtual coaching and activating regular follow-up plans to support the skills developed, using both remote tutors and peers.
In line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal for education (SDG 4), the program will help produce better data on learning levels by improving the Gujarat Achievement Survey. India’s participation in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a historic strategic decision by the Government of India to obtain data on how India’s learning levels compare globally. GOAL will assist India in this major step forward by building the capacity of the Gujarat State Assessment Cell in classroom-based assessments and eventually joining PISA in its later rounds.
“This program will support the Government of Gujarat’s vision to provide greater flexibility for decentralized planning and budgeting for school education. This will help the state implement evidence-based planning to factor in the needs of the most deprived sections, strengthen accountability at all levels, and thereby adopt a holistic approach to improve education outcomes,” said Shabnam Sinha, Lead Education Specialist, and World Bank’s Task Team Leader for the project.
The $500 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a final maturity of 17 years including a grace period of seven years.