Gyan Shala's Concept and Strategy

Diagnosis

  1. A large number of people believe that the solution for providing universal primary education coverage lies in improving and strengthening the government school system, including making higher budgetary allocation for that. Many others argue that privatization of school education with the government giving vouchers to poor is a better alternative.
  2. But, at the moment, there is no working and reliable example of good quality education on a large scale. There are many good schools in the government sector, and many in private sector, but none of the systems provides reliable model to replicate the success on a large scale and at an appropriately low cost. A choice between improving on government school system and reliance on private schools is meaningless to meet the country’s requirements. 
  3. Unless a model of providing good quality education to children, particularly from poor rural and urban families, is developed and credibly demonstrated, the problem of universal effective basic education in India  can not be solved. This model should work at a unit cost at which most/ all children can be brought under the school system, under the real financial constraints of public exchequer over the foreseeable future. It should also be replicable to meet the large demand of basic education.
  4. India  has had a large number of government and non-government education programs that have excelled in various aspects, addressed various needs of the education sector, and made distinctive contributions. But there is none, to our knowledge, that has aimed to provide and credibly demonstrate a total system solution that, (i) delivers quality of basic education as per national curriculum norms, (ii) has cost in conformity with the money available with public exchequer and the target to bring all children in schools, and (iii) can be replicated on a large scale without loosing its cost and quality effectiveness. Gyan Shala is designed to meet these three criteria in one package while also reaching the poor rural and urban children effectively.

Gyan Shala Strategy

In its initial stage, Gyan Shala decided to focus on the foundation stage, grades 1-3, in the school cycle. With demonstrated success and consolidation of work in this stage, the work would be extended to middle school, and later to high school stage. Gyan Shala is conceived as a self-contained complete education design and delivery unit catering to around 15000 children. This unit would be capable of (i) nurturing and retaining the required human resource/ skills, (ii) sustaining the systems and processes needed for delivering target quality, and (iii) being replicated under human and financial resource constraints of India .

The strategy of Gyan Shala is designed to unfold in three stages. In Phase I (2000-2003), the focus was on evolving and establishing core elements of learning methodology and education organization, and demonstrating the potential efficacy of this approach, both in rural and urban contexts. This phase was used to lay the foundation of an education design and delivery organization that would be able to implement the program on some scale.


In Phase II (2003-2007), the aim was to fully develop and to test-demonstrate all aspects of the Gyan Shala model, covering the learning model, class-process, teacher preparation, learning material, and program management. During phase II, its middle school program (grades 4-7) was launched on a pilot stage, and a beginning was made to work with and in partnership with the Government School  system to improve quality.


Starting at mid-point in Phase II, but largely in Phase III, Gyan Shala would work towards integrating its design features within the mass primary education system. Various approaches and strategies would be employed. A partnership with government school system would be established to introduce selected design features of Gyan Shala to improve quality therein. An attempt would be made to sell the proposition that lower primary education could be delivered by a multitude of independent units working on the Gyan Shala pattern that would act as a feeder to the government and other upper primary schools. These units would not belong to any one organization and instead would compete for contracts or grants to run the feeder classes. In this phase, work could be taken up in concert with bilateral and multilateral aid institutions, particularly to address the requirements for urban areas. The program is designed to fit the needs of metro cities, which are growing fast, becoming the center of India's economy, and are expected to become the home of more than 50 per cent of India's population, by 2015. During this phase, the model for the middle school stage would be fully developed.


The Gyan Shala approach is inspired by the example of AMUL/Operation Flood, in which a model unit-AMUL-was developed first, and later replicated under Operation Flood. The difference would be in the design of a replication strategy that, unlike Operation Flood, would rely on market mechanism, measurement of output, and competitive dynamics among alternate service providers to ensure cost effectiveness and accountability.


Strategy and Potential for Larger and Long Term Impact

  1. The long-term and sustained impact of Gyan Shala model could unfold in two ways. First, those agencies that have resources earmarked for education of disadvantaged children and looking for effective agencies to deliver quality education, could accept Gyan Shala model to work for their objective. This has already started in the first phase itself. VIDE, USA, had commissioned Gyan Shala in 2001 to start primary classes in selected villages in the region near Kuttch where it had committed to support children's education. An Indian NGO, JanVikas, commissioned Gyan Shala team in 2003 to set up Gyan Shala pattern classes in 17 village-locations where Gujarat  riots have disturbed communal relations.
  2. We hope and expect that the largest of such opportunities is likely to arise in selected large municipal corporations, where the numbers of public primary schools have not kept pace with fast growing population and settlements, and where municipal corporations/ state governments are under severe resource constraints and looking for cost effective solutions to meet the stated commitment of the government for universal availability of basic education. The projected expansion of urban population would lead to Indian cities hosting more than 50 per cent of India 's population by 2015, and a vast proportion of that would come to metro cities. In terms of need, such opportunities already cover millions of children, and if Gyan Shala model is considered to address even a small portion of that, the scope of potential impact would be immense indeed. Gyan Shala has already submitted a concept note of such possibilities to, for example, Secretary (Education), Government of Gujarat, and he has agreed to come and visit Gyan Shala to assess its potential and to carry forward the dialogue. Of course, no new and major program decisions in Government can be finalized in less than 4-5 years, but the initial discussions are hopeful.
  3. Second, we also believe that after the reform process in the economic and physical infrastructure sectors, the next set of structural reforms would focus on social services sectors of education and health, when nations and societies would look for new modes of cooperation between the private and government sector to meet social goals. We believe that Gyan Shala model, that aims to send its students to the Government school in grade IV, having built a strong foundation of basic education, could be a significant player in such collaborative work between the government and non-government sectors, and a potential candidate for participating in structural reforms in the basic education sector. It will take at least around ten years for such a dynamics to unfold, but Gyan Shala could be emerging as a fully developed and credible demonstrated model right at that time, in around 2007-2010.

Progress Achieved

  1. By 20007-08, Gyan Shala has established its model for elementary grade 1-3 classes, and provided credible demonstration of its success at scale, both in the rural and urban context. The learning attainments of grade 3 children in Gyan Shala were found by an internationally reputed research group to be 100% higher than of their counterparts in municipal schools, on all language and math competencies specified for that level. Other independent reviews had observed that Gyan Shala has established a system to obtain desired performance from the teachers and children. The model worked at a unit cost equal to one fourth of the current government cost, and it worked with human resources that were available in large numbers, thus contributing to its replicability. The children were attaining learning levels in conformity with national curriculum framework, and the project was well on course to achieve terminal targets for learning attainments, even after adjusting for drop out and absenteeism, which otherwise were appropriate for the project context.
  2. In 2007-08, Gyan Shala had more than 300 centers in Ahmedabad slums that had around 7000 children attending grades 1-3 classes. On completion of Gyan shala module, or mid-way, children take a test administered by the government and then join other mainstream government or private schools in the next grade.
  3. Over 2202-06, the project was implemented in rural areas and obtained performance comparable to its urban counterpart. 
  4. Gyan Shala had been invited by the School Board of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in 2006-07 to help its teachers adopt and practice Gyan Shala pedagogy and learning material/ approach. In 2007-08, around 3700 children were covered under this project whose impact was rigorously studied by reputed researchers. Early indications of the impact of this pilot on improving children’s learning levels were very positive. 
  5. The main challenge during the phase III would be to work towards a policy environment that supports large scale extension or replication of assured quality primary education, particularly for poor children.  
  6. It is important to note that even while developing the new model, Gyan Shala would continue to deliver education to children from poor rural and urban slum families, at a unit cost-quality combination, that would be among the best among all providers of education. Throughout its existence, Gyan Shala would thus provide probably the best possible value for money, earmarked for the education of poor children.
  7. Gyan Shala has started a pilot scale middle school program to evolve the system solutions for grades 4-7 classes,  that too would meet the quality-cost effectiveness parameters attained by elementary classes program. 
  8. Gyan Shala has initiated replication of its program in Bihar  state in 2008.

Year

Number of Elementary Classes

Urban

Rural/ Govt.

Total

2000-01

10

 

10

2001-02

25-28

23-30

48-58

2002-03

31-35

45-52

76-87

2003-04

46-50

62-70

102-120

2004-05

93-95

73-74

166-169

2005-06

205-7

53-55

258-262

2006-07

300

40

340

2007-08

300

90

390

 

Typically, a class has 25-30 children, and the total operational cost of running the program per child came to less than Rs. 1400/- in 2005-06, and is expected to rise to Rs. 1650/- in 2007-08.