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The ‘Fundamentals’ of the Fundamental Right to Education in India

research, Right to Education

Researched and written by

Dr Niranjanaradhya and Aruna Kashyap

Designed and Published by

Book of Change

India is signatory to three key international instruments that guarantee the Right to Education – Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Covenant), 1966 and the (UDHR) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1989. In 2002, India joined, albeit after fifty-two years of Independence, the host of countries that provide a constitutional guarantee for free and compulsory education (FCE).

 Article 21–A of the Indian Constitution casts a duty upon the State to provide FCE to children in the age group of six to fourteen years, ‘as the State may, by law, determine’. India is signatory to three key international instruments that guarantee the Right to Education – Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Covenant), 1966 and the (UDHR) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1989. In 2002, India joined, albeit after fifty-two years of Independence, the host of countries that provide a constitutional guarantee for free and compulsory education (FCE). Article 21–A of the Indian Constitution casts a duty upon the State to provide FCE to children in the age group of six to fourteen years, ‘as the State may, by law, determine’.

Historically, there has been a demand for a law for FCE in India and several Central-level legislative attempts have been taken towards this end. The last of such attempts resulted in the Draft Right to Education Bill, 2005. One of several oppositions to this Bill came from private unaided schools. They lobbied against a provision that required them to make a twenty-five per cent reservation for poor children. The Centre kept this Bill in abeyance and circulated to all States a modified version – the Model Right to Education Bill, 2006 (Model Bill). A reading of the Model Bill reveals that some provisions were removed from the original draft. The provision for reservation in private unaided schools was one of them.

Click here to read more: http://www.ncpcr.gov.in/Acts/Fundamental_Right_to_Education_Dr_Niranjan_Aradhya_ArunaKashyap.pdf

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Using evidence for better policy: The case of primary education in India

Learning Achievements, Primary Education, Quality, Research

Ideas for India

18 March, 2013

While India has achieved considerable success in increasing primary school enrollment and improving input-based measures of school quality over the past 10 years, learning outcomes continue to be abysmally low. This column synthesizes over a decade of research on the challenge of converting increased spending into improved education outcomes and highlights key policy implications

Investments in education contribute both to aggregate economic growth as well as enable citizens to broadly participate in the growth process through improved productivity, employment, and wages, and are therefore a critical component of the “Inclusive Growth” agenda of the Government of India. The past decade has seen substantial increases in education investments under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), and this additional spending has led to considerable progress in improving primary school access, infrastructure, pupil-teacher ratios, teacher salaries, and student enrolment. Nevertheless, student learning levels and trajectories are disturbingly low, with nationally-representative studies showing that over 60% of children aged 6-14 are unable to read at a second grade level (Pratham 2012). Further, learning outcomes have shown no sign of improving over time (and may even be deteriorating).  Thus, the poor performance of the education system in translating spending into outcomes threatens both aggregate productivity in the economy and also denies citizens the capabilities they need to fully participate in a modernising economy.
The past decade has also seen a number of high-quality empirical studies on the causes and correlates of better learning outcomes based on large samples of data and careful attention paid to identification of causal relationships.  This research has yielded robust findings both on interventions/ inputs that do not appear to contribute meaningfully to improved education outcomes, as well as on interventions that are highly effective.  In particular, the research over the past decade suggests that increasing inputs to primary education in a ‘business as usual’ way is unlikely to improve student learning in a meaningful way unless accompanied by significant changes in pedagogy and/ or improvements in school governance (Muralidharan 2013).  It is therefore imperative that education policy shift its emphasis from simply providing more school inputs in a ‘business as usual’ way and focus on improving education outcomes.
 
School inputs
The most important components of education spending in the past decade have been on improving school facilities and infrastructure, improving teacher salaries and training, hiring more teachers to reduce pupil-teacher ratios, and expenditure on student benefits such as textbooks, and mid-day meals.  Analysis of both administrative and survey data shows considerable improvements in most input-based measures of schooling quality.   But the research of the past decade finds very little impact of these improvements in school facilities on learning outcomes (this is true across multiple studies and data-sets as summarised in Muralidharan 2013).  This is not to suggest that school facilities and infrastructure do not matter for improving learning outcomes (they may be necessary but not sufficient), but the results highlight that infrastructure by itself is unlikely to have a significant impact on improving learning levels and trajectories.  Similarly, while there may be good social reasons for mid-day meal programs (including nutrition and child welfare), there is no evidence to suggest that they improve learning outcomes.
Even more striking is the fact that no credible study on education in India has found any significant positive relationship between teachers possessing formal teacher training credentials and their effectiveness at improving student learning.   Similarly, there is no correlation between teacher salary and their effectiveness at improving student learning, and at best very modest positive effects of reducing pupil-teacher ratios on learning outcomes (Kingdon and Teal 2010, Muralidharan and Sundararaman 2011, 2013; see summary in Muralidharan 2013).  As discussed further below, these very stark findings most likely reflect weaknesses in pedagogy and governance which are key barriers in translating increased spending into better outcomes.
The results summarised so far can be quite discouraging, and could plausibly be interpreted as suggesting that “improving learning outcomes – especially across a distribution that includes millions of first-generation learners – is very difficult, and so the best we can do is to provide the standard inputs associated with functioning schools and hope for positive effects in the long run”.  Fortunately, the news is not all bad, because the evidence of the past decade also points consistently to interventions that have been highly effective at improving learning outcomes, and are able to do so in much more cost-effective ways than the status-quo patterns of spending.
 
Pedagogy
While there have been significant increases in schooling inputs, a key determinant of how these investments translate into learning outcomes is the structure of pedagogy and classroom instruction. Getting aspects of instruction right is particularly challenging in a context such as India where several millions of first-generation learners have joined a rapidly expanding national schooling system.  In particular, standard curricula, text books, and teaching practices that may have been designed for a time when education was more limited may not fare as well under the new circumstances, since the default pedagogy is one of “completing the textbook”, which increasingly does not reflect the learning levels of children in the classroom, who are considerably further behind where the textbook expects them to be.
Evidence that ‘business as usual’ pedagogy can be improved on is found in several randomised evaluations finding large positive impacts of supplemental remedial instruction in early grades that are targeted to the child’s current level of learning (as opposed to simply following the text book) (Banerjee et al. 2007, Banerjee et al. 2010, Lakshminarayana et al. 2012, Banerjee et al 2012; see summary in Muralidharan 2013).  Four points are especially noteworthy.  First, these positive results have been found consistently in programs run by multiple non-profit organisations in several locations (including UP, Bihar, Uttaranchal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh).  Second, the estimated magnitudes of impact from these interventions (whose instructional time is typically only a small fraction of the duration of the scheduled school year) are considerable – often exceeding the learning gains from a full year of conventional schooling.  Third, these interventions are typically delivered by modestly-paid community teachers, who mostly do not have formal teacher training credentials.  Finally, these supplemental remedial instruction programs are highly cost effective and deliver significant learning gains at much lower costs than the large investments in the standard inputs (reviewed above) that have not been found to be effective.
Governance
Beyond pedagogy, another explanation for the low correlation between increases in spending on educational inputs and improved learning outcomes may be the weak governance of the education system and limited effort on the part of teachers and administrators to improve student learning levels.  The most striking symptom of weak governance is the high rate of teacher absence in government-run schools.  While teacher absence rates were over 25% across India in 2003 (Kremer et al 2005), an all-India panel survey that covered the same villages surveyed in 2003 found that teacher absence in rural India was still around 24% in rural India in 2010 (Muralidharan et al. 2013).  The fiscal cost of teacher absence was estimated at around Rs. 7,500 crores/ year suggesting that governance challenges remain paramount in the education system.
On the positive side there is evidence that even modest improvements in governance can yield significant returns.  The all-India panel data show that improving monitoring and supervision of schools is strongly correlated with reductions in teacher absence, and we estimate that investing in improved governance by increasing the frequency of monitoring could yield an 8 to 10 times return on investment in terms of reducing the fiscal cost of teacher absence and could be 10 to 12 times more cost effective at reducing effective pupil-teacher ratio (which is the pupil-teacher ratio after adjusting for teacher absence rates) than hiring more teachers  (Muralidharan et al. 2013).
The evidence also points to the importance of motivating teachers by rewarding good performance as a key lever in improving the performance of the education system.  Rigorous evaluations of carefully designed systems of teacher performance pay show substantial improvements in student learning in response to even very modest amounts of performance-linked pay for teachers (that was typically not more than 3% of annual pay) (Muralidharan and Sundararaman 2011).  Long-term evidence over five years in Andhra Pradesh shows that teacher performance pay was 15 to 20 more times more effective at raising student learning than reductions in pupil-teacher ratios (which is a default policy position for improving education quality) (Muralidharan 2012).  More broadly, these results suggest that the performance of front-line government employees depends less on the level of pay and more on itsstructure. In particular, introducing small amounts of performance-linked pay is much more likely to improve public worker performance than large amounts of across the board increases in pay, and is also much more cost effective.  The lessons from this research are likely to be relevant not just for teachers but for government employees more broadly.
From evidence to policy
The evidence summarised above does not imply that we should stop improving school infrastructure or training teachers. Rather, it strongly cautions that simply doing more of the same ‘business as usual’ expansions of education spending are unlikely to solve the crisis in learning outcomes. It also highlights the critical importance of considering evidence on cost effectiveness in making optimal policy in a fiscally constrained environment.
Three immediate policy implications of this research are summarised below (see Muralidharan 2013 for a more detailed discussion):
1) Make learning outcomes an explicit goal of primary education policy and invest in regular and independent high-quality measurement of learning outcomes: A truism of management in large organisations is that “what you measure is what you get”. The Indian state has done a commendable job in improving the education indicators that were measured (including school access, infrastructure, enrolment, and inclusiveness in enrolment) but has fallen considerably short on the outcome indicators that have not been measured (such as learning outcomes).  While independently measuring and administratively focusing on learning outcomes will not by itself lead to improvement, it will serve to focus the energies of the education system on the outcome that actually matters to millions of first-generation learners, which is functional literacy and numeracy (that the system is currently not delivering).
2) Launch a national campaign of supplemental instruction targeted to the current level of learning of children (as opposed to the textbook) delivered by locally-hired teacher-assistants, with a goal of reaching minimum absolute standards of learning for all children: While gaps in enrolment between disadvantaged groups and the population averages have reduced, there is a considerably larger gap in learning levels, which exist at the point of entry into the school system and continue to grow over time.  Thus, the gains of the past decade made in terms of reducing inequities in primary school enrolment will be at considerable risk (because low learning levels are strongly correlated with the probability of dropping out) if urgent attention is not paid to the crisis in learning outcomes with a mission-like focus on delivering universal functional literacy and numeracy that allow children to “read to learn”.  The evidence strongly supports scaling up supplemental instruction programs using locally-hired short-term teaching assistants that are targeted to the level of learning of the child, and the cost-effectiveness of this intervention also makes it easily scalable.
3) Pay urgent attention to issues of teacher governance including better monitoring and supervision as well as teacher performance measurement and management: A basic principle of effective management of organisations is to have clear goals and to reward employees for contributing towards meeting those goals.  The extent to which the status quo does not do this effectively is highlighted in the large positive impacts found from very modest improvements in the alignment of employee rewards with organisational goals.  Implementing these ideas effectively in a public sector setting will take considerable effort, but the evidence highlights the potentially large returns to doing so.
The next ten years will see the largest ever number of citizens in the school system at any point in Indian history (or future), and it is critical that this generation that represents the demographic dividend be equipped with the literacy, numeracy, and skills needed to participate fully in a rapidly modernising world.  In a fiscally-constrained environment, it is also imperative to use evidence to implement cost-effective policies that maximise the social returns on any given level of public investment. The growing body of high-quality research on primary education in the past decade provides an opportunity to put this principle into practice.
A shorter version of this column appeared as a section of Chapter 2 of the Economic Survey of India 2013. This column is based on the author’s background paper on primary education policy for the 12th Five-Year Plan that summarised a decade of research and synthesised the policy implications (Muralidharan 2013).
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Long-term effects of class size

Research

Authors: Peter Fredriksson, Björn Öckert and Hessel Oosterbeek

Abstract: This paper evaluates the long-term effects of class size in primary school. We use rich data from Sweden and exploit variation in class size created by a maximum class size rule. Smaller classes in the last three years of primary school (age 10 to 13) are beneficial for cognitive and non-cognitive ability at age 13, and improve achievement at age 16. Most importantly, we find that smaller classes have positive effects on completed education, wages, and earnings at age 27 to 42. The estimated wage effect is much larger than any imputed estimate of the wage effect, and is large enough to pass a cost-benefit test. Click here to read more.

Stockholm University, June 2012

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Moving High-Performing Teachers: Implementation of Transfer Incentives in Seven Districts

research, Research

Authors: Steven Glazerman, Ali Protik, Bing-ru Teh, Julie Bruch, Neil Seftor

Abstract: There is growing concern that the nation’s most effective teachers are not working in the schools with the most disadvantaged students (Goldhaber 2008; Peske and Haycock 2006; Tennessee Department of Education 2007; Sass et al. 2010; Glazerman and Max 2011). Policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels have considered a range of policies for helping struggling schools attract and retain effective teachers. One goal of such policies is to improve the access that disadvantaged students have to top teachers.
This report describes the implementation and intermediate impacts of an intervention designed to provide incentives for a school district’s highest-performing teachers to work in its lowest-achieving schools. The report is part of a larger study in which random assignment was used to form two equivalent groups of classrooms organized into teacher “teams” that are composed of teachers in the same grade level and subject (math, reading, or both in the case of an elementary school grade). Teams were assigned to either a treatment group that had the chance to participate in the intervention described below and or a control group that did not. Intermediate outcomes, measured for both the treatment and control teams, include the mix of teachers who make up the team, the climate of collaboration and cooperation in the team, and the way in which resources are allocated within the teacher team. A future report will focus on the impacts of the intervention on student achievement and other outcomes like retention. Click here to read more.

Institute of Education Sciences, April 2012

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The Behaviouralist Goes to School: Leveraging Behavioural Economics to Improve Educational Performance

Research

Authors: Steven D. Levitt, John A. List, Susanne Neckermann and Sally Sado

Abstract: Decades of research on behavioral economics have established the importance of factors that are typically absent from the standard economic framework: reference dependent preferences, hyperbolic preferences, and the value placed on non-financial rewards. To date, these insights have had little impact on the way the educational system operates. Through a series of field experiments involving thousands of primary and secondary school students, we demonstrate the power of behavioral economics to influence educational performance. Several insights emerge. First, we find that incentives framed as losses have more robust effects than comparable incentives framed as gains. Second, we find that non-financial incentives are considerably more cost-effective than financial incentives for younger students, but were not effective with older students. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, consistent with hyperbolic discounting, all motivating power of the incentives vanishes when rewards are handed out with a delay. Since the rewards to educational investment virtually always come with a delay, our results suggest that the current set of incentives may lead to underinvestment. For policymakers, our findings imply that in the absence of immediate incentives, many students put forth low effort on standardized tests, which may create biases in measures of student ability, teacher value added, school quality, and achievement gaps. Click here to read more.

Centre for European Economic Research, 2012

Comment

Independent Schools and Long-Run Educational Outcomes – Evidence from Sweden’s Large Scale Voucher Reform

research, Research

Authors: Anders Böhlmark and Mikael Lindahl

Abstract: This paper evaluates average educational performance effects of an expanding independent-school sector at the compulsory level by assessing a radical voucher reform that was implemented in Sweden in 1992. Starting from a situation where all public schools were essentially local monopolists, the degree of independent schools has developed very differently across municipalities over time as a result of this reform. We regress the change in educational performance outcomes on the increase in the share of independent-school students between Swedish municipalities. We find that an increase in the share of independent-school students improves average performance at the end of compulsory school as well as long-run educational outcomes. We show that these effects are very robust with respect to a number of potential issues, such as grade inflation and pre-reform trends. However, for most outcomes, we do not detect positive and statistically significant effects until approximately a decade after the reform. This is notable, but not surprising given that it took time for independent schools to become more than a marginal phenomenon in Sweden. We do not find positive effects on school expenditures. Hence, the educational performance effects are interpretable as positive effects on school productivity. We further find that the average effects primarily are due to external effects (e.g., school competition), and not that independent-school students gain significantly more than public-school students. Click here to read more.

Uppsala Center for Labor Studies, June 2012

Comment

The Role of Awareness, Information Gathering and Processing in School Choice

research, Research

Authors: Ghazala Azmat and José Garcia Montalvo

Abstract: This paper studies the determinants of school choice, focusing on the role of information. We consider how parents’ search efforts and their capacity to process information (i.e., to correctly assess schools) affect the quality of the schools they choose for their children. Using a novel dataset, we are able to identify parents’ awareness of schools in their neighborhood and measure their capacity to rank the quality of the school with respect to the official rankings. We find that parents’ education and wealth are important factors in determining their level of school awareness and information gathering. Moreover, these search efforts have important consequences in terms of the quality of school choice. Click here to read more.

Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Barcelona GSE, May 2012

Comment

Improving Educational Quality through Enhancing Community Participation: Results from a Randomized Field Experiment in Indonesia

research

Authors: Menno Pradhan, Daniel Suryadarma, Amanda Beatty, Maisy Wong, Armida Alishjabana, Arya Gaduh, Rima Prama Artha

Abstract: This study evaluates the effect of four randomized interventions aimed at strengthening school committees, and subsequently improving learning outcomes, in public primary schools in Indonesia. All study schools were randomly allocated to either a control group receiving no intervention, or to treatment groups receiving a grant plus one or a combination of three interventions: training for school committee members, a democratic election of school committee members, or facilitated collaboration between the school committee and the village council, also called linkage. Nearly two years after implementation, the study finds that measures to reinforce existing school committee structures, the grant and training interventions, demonstrate limited or no effects; while measures that foster outside ties between the school committee and other parties, linkage and election, lead to greater engagement by education stakeholders and in turn to learning. Test scores improve in Indonesian by 0.17 standard deviations for linkage and 0.22 standard deviations for linkage + election. The election intervention alone leads to changes in time household members accompany children studying per week, but this does not lead to learning. Linkage is the most cost effective intervention, causing a 0.13 change in standard deviation in Indonesian test scores for each 100 dollars (US) spent. Click here to read more.

World Bank, September 2011

Comment

The Jordan Education Initiative: A Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Model to Support Education Reform

research

Authors: Haif Bannayan, Juliana Guaqueta, Osama Obeidat, Harry Anthony Patrinos and Emilio Porta

Abstract: The Jordan Education Initiative, launched in 2003 under the umbrella of the World Economic Forum, is a publicprivate partnership, or multi-stakeholder partnership, that integrates information and communication technologies into the education process as a tool for teaching and learning in grades 1–12. This initiative fits within the ongoing reform of the education system in Jordan that began in the 1990s. The Jordan Education Initiative’s main objective is to help Jordanian students develop critical knowledge economy skills crucial for competitiveness and economic growth. The Initiative also seeks to build the capacity of the local information technology industry for the development of innovative learning solutions, and to build a sustainable model of reform supported by the private sector that could be scaled nationally and replicated in other developing countries. Click here to read more.

World Bank, June 2012

Comment

Why are Migrant Students Better Off in Certain Types of Educational Systems or Schools than in Others?

research, Research

Authors: Jaap Dronkers, Rolf van der Velden and Allison Dunne

Abstract: The main research question of this article is concerned with the combined estimation of the effects of educational systems, school composition, track level, and country of origin on the educational achievement of 15-year-old migrant students. The authors focus specifically on the effects of socioeconomic and ethnic background on achievement scores and the extent to which these effects are affected by characteristics of the school, track, or educational system in which these students are enrolled. In doing so, they examine the ‘sorting’ mechanisms of schools and tracks in highly stratified, moderately stratified, and comprehensive education systems. They use data from the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) wave. Compared with previous research in this area, the article’s main contribution is in explicitly including the tracks-within-school level as a separate unit of analysis, which leads to less biased results concerning the effects of educational system characteristics. The results highlight the importance of including factors of track level and school composition in the debate surrounding educational inequality of opportunity for students in different education contexts. The findings clearly indicate that analyses of the effects of educational system characteristics are flawed if the analysis only uses a country level and a student level and ignores the tracks-within-school-level characteristics. From a policy perspective, the most important finding is that educational systems are neither uniformly ‘good’ nor uniformly ‘bad’, but they can result in different consequences for different migrant groups. Some migrant groups are better off in comprehensive systems, while others are better off in moderately stratified systems. Click here to read more.

Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, 2012

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