Ensuring ‘Mission Aadhar’ Equips Children in Bihar with FLN Skills
We at Central Square Foundation interviewed Sanjay Kumar, the Additional Chief Secretary in the Education Department at the Government of Bihar, to understand how the state plans to implement the mission. Called ‘Mission Aadhar’, Bihar is one of the first few states to have launched a state-wide FLN mission to achieve the goals outlined by NIPUN Bharat.Go Back
By The EDge Editorial Team
July 28th, 2021
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education launched the National Initiative for Proficiency in reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN) Bharat. A national mission, NIPUN Bharat aims to achieve universal acquisition of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) skills — a child’s ability to read with comprehension and perform basic maths problems by Class 3 — for all children by 2026-27. The ministry also released guidelines for all states on how to implement NIPUN Bharat to ensure the mission succeeds and achieves its targets in a time-bound manner.
We at Central Square Foundation interviewed Sanjay Kumar, the Additional Chief Secretary in the Education Department at the Government of Bihar, to understand how the state plans to implement the mission. Called ‘Mission Aadhar’, Bihar is one of the first few states to have launched a state-wide FLN mission to achieve the goals outlined by NIPUN Bharat.
What have been some of the major achievements in the school education sector in the last few years in the state? Bihar has been one of the first few states to plan for FLN; what were the key areas that needed attention?
With nearly 70,000 schools and over 15 million students in primary and upper primary classes in government schools alone, Bihar has one of the largest education systems in the country. And despite its historical disadvantages and socio-economic challenges, Bihar has successfully transformed school education. The state allocated 19.3% of its total budget for education in 2020-21; this is higher than the average expenditure allocated by other states at 15.9%.
We’ve increased student enrolment, and incentivised matriculation and high school for girls under ‘Kanya Uthan Yojana’. We’ve also increased the penetration of schools in remote areas with a school in every two wards. We expanded recruitment for teachers, and followed a decentralised process in doing so. Many of our schemes like the ‘Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojana’ and ‘Mukhyamantri Poshak Yojana’ have been successful and replicated by other states.
Bihar was the first India state to prioritise early grade education. We launched ‘Anandshala’, an initiative that ensured classrooms for Grades 1 and 2 are print-rich, colourful, and attractive by way of posters or stories on the walls. Schools were encouraged to set up libraries and procure books for early grades which were then hung on a rope in the middle of the classroom for children to choose from. Sensitive teachers were identified and allotted to grade 1 and 2 to focus on every child and track their progress.
We are also one of the first states to sign an MoU in January 2021 with the Central Square Foundation on a state-wide mission for Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN). We’re calling it ‘Mission Aadhar’ and have set up a 5-member team to support the mission. We believe teachers are integral to the success of the mission, and organised a virtual orientation programme for them during the lockdown. Over three lakh teachers attended it, which gives me immense hope.
As part of ‘Mission Aadhar’, the state-wide FLN Mission, we organised a virtual orientation programme for teachers during the lockdown. Over three lakh teachers attended it, which gives me immense hope.Sanjay Kumar
Could you share some of the immediate measures adopted to help children with foundational skills given the school closures due to the pandemic?
Bihar launched e-LOTS (e-Library of teachers and students) to provide online support to teachers and students from Grade 1 to Grade 12. All textbooks, additional reading materials, videos and other learning items are uploaded to it. In addition to a print-rich repository, the state is trying to mobilise audio-visual materials from different sources which are publicly available. The state is also trying to collaborate with different agencies to procure learning materials for different grades.
The State has arranged with Doordarshan Bihar for an exclusive 5-hour slot to telecast learning programmes for different grades under the programme ‘Mera Doordarshan Mera Vidyalaya’. Given the low rates of device and internet penetration, broadcasting has proved useful in ensuring continued learning for children, especially the young ones.
Despite large-scale initiatives, the digital penetration has been low in the State which has led to a digital divide among students. Could you elaborate on this?
The pandemic has exposed and accentuated the digital divide in the country. it has become a serious concern and requires concerted intervention at all levels of the government and society. The coming year will also be challenging, but we will ensure we work towards ensuring that education is delivered till the last mile. The sooner we put a system in place, the better it is going to be for our education system.
The MOE has guidelines with states with direction on how to implement NIPUN Bharat, the national mission on FLN. In terms of budgets, direction, and support, how useful have they been? And going forward, what would the state benefit from?
The National Education Policy 2020 highlights the need for a focused programme to enhance FLN skills. The first two chapters provide detailed inputs on how to improve the early grade competency skills among children. The revision in the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan AWP&B guidelines, and the relatively good allocation under FLN head establishes the sincerity of the Central Government in rolling-out interventions for the FLN Mission. NIPUN Bharat was launched on 5 July, 2021, by the Ministry of Education (MoE) — an important indication for States to prioritise FLN as an education intervention. The detailed guidelines provided by the MoE have been helpful, and Bihar is trying its best to implement the FLN programme in mission mode. We have already launched ‘Mission Aadhar’ for seamless implementation.
I think a print and audio-visual rich school environment is a must for the success of the mission. In addition, teacher support, children’s assessment and academic support and monitoring, are important levers for ensuring the success of ‘Mission Aadhar’ in Bihar.Sanjay Kumar
How does Bihar plan to measure success for the FLN Mission? Is there a system or mechanism in place to assess improvement in FLN outcomes among children?
Bihar has developed learning competency targets for languages and maths. For example: oral reading fluency assesses children’s ability to accurately read a certain number of words with comprehension in a minute. If a child is reading 40-45 simple words per minute in Grade 2 and 55-60 words per minute in Grade 3, we may say that the child has achieved reading proficiency in the language. Similarly in Grade 3 if a child is able to solve simple problems based on addition and subtraction, we can say that the child has achieved the foundational mathematics competency.
The State has decided to introduce three-tier assessments to understand the FLN outcomes. The assessment cell is being constituted at the State and district level to assess and track learning outcomes of children in foundational grades.
What are the key levers according to you, that will ensure that the mission succeeds?
I think a print and audio-visual rich school environment is a must for the success of the mission. In addition, teacher support, children’s assessment and academic support and monitoring, are important levers for ensuring the success of ‘Mission Aadhar’ in Bihar.
I believe quality learning in schools is not possible without motivated and trained teachers. Bihar is appointing more than one lakh trained and qualified teachers in the vacant positions at schools. The State will subsequently initiate large-scale induction training programmes to sensitise teachers towards the children while focusing on first-generation learners.
We will put in place a robust 3-tier assessment system which will help us identify learning gaps and remedial measures. In the past we have tried to introduce an internal assessment system and that resulted in improved learning outcomes in NAS. Based on the assessment system, the State is committed to establish a digital tracking system which will help in tracking individual student learning outcomes in early grades. If this succeeds, we will expand the tracking system for other grades as well.
Lastly, I think academic support and monitoring are a very important part of the school improvement programme. Bihar has already completed training more than 6000 BRPs and CRCCs on mentoring. With support from the Language Learning Foundation, BRPs and CRCCs have been trained in foundational skills. Additionally, BRPs and CRCCs will monitor schools in real-time when they reopen using a GPS enabled app called BEST. The app will help evaluate the efficiency of schools on the parameters of learning outcomes, infrastructure, and sanitation.
The EDge Editorial Team
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