Cabinet approves new STARS project to strengthen school education system


It will cover Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha

The Union Cabinet has approved a project partially funded by the World Bank to carry out a reform agenda in the governance of school education, and improve data and assessment systems at the national level, as well as teaching and learning outcomes in six States, especially for early childhood and vocational education.

 

The project includes an emergency response component to help the government respond to disaster situations which lead to school closures and loss of learning, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, according to an official statement issued after the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

 

The Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project will have a total project cost of ₹5,718 crore, with the World Bank’s support amounting to about ₹3,700 crore ($500 million), said the statement.

Cabinet meeting updates | October 14, 2020

A major component of the project is the establishment of PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) as a National Assessment Centre. Included in the National Education Policy 2020, this autonomous institution under the Union Education Ministry will set norms for student assessment and evaluation for all school boards across the country, most of which currently follow norms set by State governments. It will also guide standardised testing to monitor learning outcomes at the State and national levels, according to the NEP.

 

The other major initiative at the national level is to strengthen the Education Ministry’s data systems to capture information on the retention, transition and completion rates of students.

 

At the State level, the project seeks to improve education outcomes and school-to-work transition strategies for better labour market outcomes in Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha.

 

A similar project to be funded by the Asian Development Bank will cover Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Assam and every State will partner with one other State to share best practices, said the statement.

 

Education governance reform will be a major focus, with the World Bank’s project document estimating that 83% of the project will be dedicated to the public administration of education. Other areas of focus are assessment systems, teacher development, early childhood, foundational literacy and numeracy, and vocational education, which are all highlighted in the NEP as well.

 

The World Bank’s latest status report for the project, released earlier this month, also includes plans to include private sector players in the government school system, in “the area of school education governance, management, monitoring, teacher training, school service delivery reform, and overall education service delivery.” This component has raised concerns among some education activists, who have also raised red flags about the emphasis on standardised testing and the use of information and communication technologies in teaching.

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