The Sustainable Action for Transforming Human capital – Education (Project SATH-E) initiated by the NITI Aayog in 2017 aims at making a wide transformation with a focus on improving quality education. Of the 16 states that showed interest in the proposal made by NITI Aayog, 3 were selected for the project – Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.
The recent report by NITI Aayog titled ‘ Learnings for Large–scale Transformation in School Education’ mentions the various structural, academic and governance reforms that were taken as a part of the project. The report also emphasised the need for school consolidation, teacher rationalisation and various professional reforms to enhance quality education.
“The Project enables a system-wide governance transformation in school education. The objective is to ensure that quality is not diluted even when we operate on a larger scale,” the report quoted B V R Subrahmanyam, CEO, NITI Aayog.
The report analyses the implementation of Project SATH-E in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha under 9 intervention categories namely school consolidation, remedial learning interventions, assessments, teacher recruitment and rationalisation, teacher capacity building, management information systems and academic monitoring systems, governance and accountability, organisation strengthening and leader schools.
The NITI Aayog report pointed out 6 issues that need to be addressed in order to implement a large-scale transformation in providing quality education. That includes:
- Addressing the issue of sub-scale, inadequately resourced schools head-on with strong political support
- Solving large-scale teacher vacancies issues
- Improving teacher quality and pedagogy
- Enforcing accountability towards learning outcomes
- Focus on Early Childhood Education (ECE) and contextualised Mother tongue-based Multilingual Education (MLE)
- Strengthening the governance structures in education departments
According to the report, India has 5 times the number of schools than China does for the same enrolment of students. It was also mentioned that more than 50% of primary schools across many states in our country have an enrolment of less than 60 students. NITI Aayog puts forward the idea of merging schools as a plan to mitigate the cost of such sub-scale schools.
School merging was executed in the project and the report presented favourable results from the action plan. The report states that third-party studies in SATH-E have also demonstrated that when executed rigorously the benefits of mergers are largely positive and can lead to improved learning outcomes.
Drawing an example from the project being implemented in Madhya Pradesh, the report stated that 35,000 schools were merged into 16,000 same-campus schools with an aim to improve the quality of education. The merged large schools had adequate teachers and resources and 55 percent of the schools now had a principal when compared to 20 percent before the merger. Similarly, in Jharkhand 4380 schools and in Odisha 2000 small-scale and same-campus schools were merged.
In order to address the issue of the unequal distribution and shortage of teachers in the education sector, the report suggested the need to take up teacher rationalisation and structured policies to be implemented. Aligning with the National Education Policy 2020, NITI Aayog also emphasised the need to priortise Early Childhood Education (ECE) to improve the school readiness of the students.
States have been asked to reconsider the decentralisation of powers to principals, district and block officers by the policy think tank. This step according to the report will give them more financial power and autonomy to take decisions in line with local needs.