Key learnings from our landscaping research
With a rich history of government and NGO driven reforms, the education landscape in India has seen important shifts in policy — driven by an improved understanding of challenges that contribute to the continuing problem of high dropout. Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go and learning from this trajectory of reforms suggests the need for continued effort towards documenting failed strategies, successful solutions and stories of overcoming challenges. Here are a few insights, from our research, for a strengthened movement against the school dropout problem in India:
Systems-focussed approach; a need of the hour: The dropout problem in India is clearly characterised by a strong interdependence between demand and supply level challenges and calls for a systems focused approach to solutions. For instance, exam failure and absenteeism are equally symptomatic of poor teacher motivation or capacity on one hand and lack of parental support for uninterrupted education on the other. In this context, interventions need to root themselves at the centre of the parent-student-teacher triangle to enable change that is owned and driven by key stakeholders demanding overall improvements in the system.
The government; as a partner, stakeholder and beneficiary: To enable reform that is systemic, it is critical that interventions strategize to serve as partners that help the government execute existing policy provisions — as a strategy for scale that is both, cost-effective and sustainable.
Collaborating for and at scale: A systems focussed approach relies on multiple interventions working simultaneously with all relevant stakeholders that make up the system. Identifying partners whose work can strengthen the impact of your work (or vice-versa) can help enable scale that is extensive in terms of its geographic reach and comprehensive in terms of its impact in every geography. Although challenging in the short-term, collaborations, of any scale, can contribute to significant longer term gains.
Innovate-implement-document: Most reforms introduced in the education policy in the last two decades have been driven by learnings from extensive research around large-scale pilot programs. It is critical that non-profit interventions draw from this history of learning as they design and execute new program strategies; while continuing to document their learnings from these innovations as well.
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Akanksha Babbar, Senior Research Officer