STARS Project: Strengthening Teaching-Learning Results for States Project

Abhivyakti Mishra

Abstract

The article explores the implementation and goals of India’s Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) Project, a government-financed initiative launched in 2021 to enhance school education. The project’s focus on six selected states aims to improve learning outcomes, teaching quality, and education governance. It aligns with the National Education Policies objectives and includes measures such as creating a National Assessment Center, improving data systems, and fostering cross-state learning. The essay also addresses pressing concerns in Indian education, such as gender disparity and varied learning outcomes among different school types. The STARS Project’s strategies, derived from successful school models, offer insights for broader educational enhancement.

Background

In October 2020, the Cabinet authorized the Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) Project, which would be carried out as a government financed program. Following the Loan Agreement’s signature, the STARS Project went into operation on February 23, 2021, and would last for five years, or until the fiscal year 2024–2025. The six states that have been selected to participate in the STARS Project are Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala. Samagra Shiksha is divided into the STARS Program, with an emphasis on the components that will most directly promote improving school education.

As a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme under the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education, the STARS initiative would be put into action. The establishment and maintenance of the National Assessment Centre, PARAKH, as a stand-alone, independent organization within the MOE’s Department of School Education and Literacy.

Implementation of the Rs. 5718 crore Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project, with funding from the World Bank of US$ 500 million (about Rs. 3700 crore).

About the Project

Six states are included in the project: Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Himachal Pradesh. The designated States will get assistance for a range of initiatives aimed at raising educational standards. Along with this initiative, it is planned to carry out a related Asian Development Bank -funded project in each of the following five states: Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Assam. Every state will collaborate with another state to exchange best practices and experiences. The goal of the STARS project is to assist the states in creating, putting into practice, assessing, and refining interventions that directly contribute to better educational results and transition plans from school to the workplace that enhance labor market outcomes. The goals of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 of Quality are in line with the general theme and elements of the STARS initiative.

The project defines different goals at National and State Levels:

The project envisions the following nationwide interventions that will help all states and UTs:

  • To improve MOE’s national data systems in order to collect reliable and accurate information on student completion, retention, and transition rates.
  • To assist MOE in raising state PGI scores by using SIG (State Incentive Grants) to reward state governance reform initiatives.
  • To aid in the improvement of learning assessment systems.
  • To assist MOE in creating a National Assessment Center (PARAKH). Utilizing the experiences of the states chosen for the operation would be one of the responsibilities of such a center. This would involve gathering, organizing, and disseminating these experiences to other states via online portals (like Shagun and DIKSHA), social media engagement, technical workshops, state visits, and conferences.
  •  Implementing a Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) t to make the stars projectmore adaptable to any natural or man-made disasters as well as health-related ones. It will assist the government in responding to circumstances that cause learning loss, such as school closures or infrastructure damage, insufficient facilities, and the use of technology to support remote learning, among other things. The quick reclassification of funding and the application of expedited finance request processes would be made possible by the CERC component.

According to the project’s plans for the State:

  • Strengthening Foundational Learning and Early Childhood Education
  • Systematic Improvement of Learning Assessment
  • Enhancing teacher development and school leadership to improve classroom instruction and remediation. Governance and decentralized management for improved service delivery.
  • Enhancing career education through internships, career assistance and counseling, mainstreaming, and coverage of out-of-school youth

As part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the STARS project also aims to concentrate on the initiatives of PM e-Vidya, the Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission, and the National Curriculum and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education.

The project’s quantifiable results include an increase in students achieving grade-level language proficiency in selected states, an improvement in the completion rate of secondary schools, an improvement in governance index scores, strengthened learning assessment systems, partnerships created to promote cross-state learning, and an improvement in state-level service delivery, such as strengthening planning and management capabilities for decentralized management.

Pressing Concerns for India

In India, education is seen as essential to alleviating poverty and raising general levels of affluence. With a population that is both young and socioculturally varied, public education is crucial in fostering chances for growth. The GoI has significantly increased access to basic and secondary education over the past ten years through its centrally funded school education initiatives, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA).

In the 28 states and 8 Union Territories that make up India’s federal system, 1.5 million public, government-aided, and private schools currently enroll about 255 million children between the ages of 6 and 17.

Gross Enrollment Ratio: In the past ten years, enrollment and attendance at schools have increased significantly. The gross enrolment ratio (GER) for elementary schools was over 93.6 percent as of 2016–17, and the GER for secondary schools was 79.4 percent, up from 58 percent in 2009–10. The current move by the government to combine teacher education, RMSA, and SSA into one integrated program (Samagra Shiksha) is a step toward developing a seamless K–12 system with an emphasis on improving learning at every level. In order to

  • Promote interventions and innovations that are in line with the local context and improve educational outcomes, Samagra Shiksha builds on the spirit of cooperative, competitive federalism in India and grants greater flexibility to states for school education planning and budgeting.
  • Employing evidence-based decentralized planning to facilitate clear development objectives and results;
  • Implementing a whole-school strategy;
  • Enhancing both vertical and horizontal accountability
  • Providing chances for peer learning.

Through a single State Implementation Society (SIS) at the state level, MHRD is putting the program into action.

Gender Disparity: India has effectively achieved gender parity in primary enrollment thanks to the focus on delivering elementary education. Additionally, the weighted average secondary school completion rate for the six participating states in STARS is 76.7% for girls and 74.7% for boys. However, there are clear interstate differences, with completion rates for female students being lower than those for male students in Madhya Pradesh (62.23%) and Rajasthan (77.27%).

Girls at the secondary level still drop out at a higher rate than males because of domestic care duties, a lack of parental involvement or community support, and other socioeconomic impediments notwithstanding the horrifying gender disparity. Boys drop out of school for a variety of reasons, including the necessity to start working and earning money almost once, a lack of interest in school, and an inability to keep up with the curriculum.

Low levels of young women’s transition from secondary education to enrollment in training programs focused on finding work and eventually the labor market are another important cause for concern. In India, the Female Labor Force Participation (FLFP) rate fell to 23.3% in 2017–18, which means that more than three out of every four women over the age of 15 are neither employed nor looking for work.

This is due to a number of factors, including a lack of early career guidance, parental/community engagement strategies to address social norms that prevent adolescent girls from finishing school, and the frequently traditional and standardized nature of available Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) occupations. Through gender-specific interventions, the operation will:

  • Increase secondary school completion rates for both adolescent boys and girls
  • Remove supply and demand-side barriers to females’ engagement in the TVET system.

Why Some Types of Schools Have Better Learning Outcomes Than Others?

In India, there are various kinds of schools, and the educational quality differs across and within them. Disaggregated data show that certain government school networks, such as the Navodyaya Vidyalayas (NVs) and Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs), achieve better outcomes than other schools with similar funding and income profiles.

This is typical across the globe, as outcomes closely track school funding levels and the income levels of students’ parents. In contrast to the national average of 98.8%, NVs and KVs have a pass percentage (senior secondary school leaving examination) of 99.7%.

Way Forward

The following lessons, which have been incorporated into the STARS design, can, in theory, be repeated in all schools, when examining the governance and management procedures employed by NVs and KVs.

  • With annual school inspections in both the academic and administrative domains, decentralized academic planning and management.
  • Intense ongoing professional development; every five years, instructors must complete at least one 21-day in-service course in addition to rigorous ongoing professional development at regional training facilities.
  • Effective financial and non-financial teacher incentives that produce motivated teachers (KVs).
  • A focus on ensuring school readiness; despite the fact that KVs only offer education up to Grade 1 and do not offer preschool, the admission process and transition for new students are meticulously planned and carried out (a six-week, activity-based “school readiness program” develops the core competencies and skills of all primary school students).
  • Strategic alliances with non-state entities; KVs have worked with a variety of corporations (such as the Intel Corporation, Microsoft, and Oracle) to teach teachers and students in all schools information technology skills.

Support for PISA Participation: This initiative will also provide financial support for India’s participation in the PISA survey’s 2022 cycle. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched PISA in 2000. It evaluates the reading, arithmetic, and science comprehension of 15-year-old students. The examination is done every three years. Due to its poor performance in 2009, when it finished 72nd out of the 74 participating countries, India skipped PISA in 2012 and 2015. The boycott will expire in 2019, the government decided.

Conclusion

The Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) Project stands as a crucial stride towards revolutionizing the landscape of education in India. Through a comprehensive approach that encompasses a range of initiatives targeting improved learning outcomes, teaching methodologies, and governance structures, the project demonstrates a commitment to elevating the quality of education for millions of students across the nation. The recognition of diverse concerns within the Indian education system, such as gender disparity and differential learning outcomes among various school types, reflects the project’s holistic perspective.

The STARS program relies on the long-standing collaboration between India and the World Bank to improve public schooling and help the nation achieve its “education for all” objective. Through a number of reform measures, STARS will assist India in solving the ‘learning outcome’ dilemma and assisting students in better preparing for the occupations of the future.

In a country where education is acknowledged as a transformative force, the STARS Project emerges as a beacon of hope, steering India towards a future where quality education is a reality for all, transcending socio-economic backgrounds and ensuring a brighter tomorrow for generations to come.

References

1.Cabinet approves Rs. 5718 crore World Bank aided project STARS For Improving School Education, PIB Delhi, 14 October 2020, https://dsel.education.gov.in/sites/default/files/PIB1664361.pdf

2. Department of School Education and Literacy, 12 January 2023, https://dsel.education.gov.in/stars-project

3. Program Appraisal Document On A Proposed Loan In The Amount of US$500 Million To The Republic of India For A Strengthening Teaching-Learning Results for States, The World Bank, 2 June 2020, https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/789561593309621894/pdf/India-Strengthening-Teaching-Learning-and-Results-for-States-Operation.pdf

4. STARS: Supporting the enhancement of school education in Himachal Pradesh, IPE Global, Accessed on 2023, https://www.ipeglobal.com/project-management-unit-to-support-strengthening-teaching-learning-and-results-for-states-stars-project-in-himachal-pradesh-india/

5. Impacts of TIMSS and PISA on Mathematics Curriculum Reforms, Raisa Guberman, Armando Solares – Rojas, Max Stephes, Djordje R. Kadijevich, Springer, 29 June 2023

Acknowledgement: Author would like to thank Chaitnya and Swetha for their kind comments and suggestions to improve the article

About the Author

WhatsApp Image 2023 09 08 at 9.00.55 PM

Abhivyakti Mishra, Research Intern at IMPRI.