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Transforming Education on a Massive Scale

BCG enabled the Department of School Education in the Indian state of Haryana to quickly and sustainably boost its academic quality—for perhaps the first time ever in India—for the millions of students attending its thousands of schools.

For years, India has focused on improving access to schools. Haryana, a state in northern India, has been successful in expanding accessibility to match the national average. In the process, however, academic quality has not been adequately addressed.

Although 99% of the 4.5 million school-eligible children are now enrolled in the state’s 15,000 public and 5,000 private schools, this access and attendance hasn’t always translated into actual learning. Students were consistently underperforming on national standardized tests, and more than half of the children in class V couldn’t read at even the class II level. The state initiated more than 40 pilot projects—run by different organizations—in an attempt to affect systemic change and improve academic outcomes. Yet all of these were too limited in scope and scale to achieve any real impact.

In 2013, BCG was asked to diagnose the problem and help Haryana officials implement a comprehensive and transformative roadmap for change. By early 2014, we had begun designing and implementing Haryana’s Quality Improvement Programme (QIP). Our team brought about radically different results because we provided:

  • A much more robust and conceptualized design than previous efforts delivered
  • An extremely rigorous implementation
  • A management approach that supports client enablement
  • Client-enablement efforts to ensure program continuity in the event of any leadership change in the future.

Teachable Moments

BCG’s rollout of a structured QIP has quickly delivered significant improvements in academic quality and learning outcomes across all government schools in Haryana. Our comprehensive approach has succeeded for three key reasons:

  1. BCG's roadmap is top-down, statewide, and systemic. Previous efforts to transform and improve the system were disparate and disjointed, and they involved multiple owners and little accountability. By contrast, BCG developed a program that is coordinated and governed by the state education department and is focused on core outcomes—such as ensuring that 80% of children are performing at grade level by 2020—rather than on inputs such as textbooks and teacher training. 
  2. We recognized the primary problem as one of scale. Any successful intervention had to be designed to scale across thousands of schools. But it also needed to be flexible and achievable with the available government infrastructure, staffing, and resources. Although some previous reform initiatives had been designed for scale, they couldn't be sustained because they lacked effective monitoring for the right outcomes. BCG solved this dilemma through extensive and easy-to-use online monitoring interfaces, which are now used and managed entirely by the government. 
  3. BCG incorporated change from the inside out, not from the outside in. The state education system faced five major challenges: It suffered an anemic teacher-to-student ratio—at least 2,500 primary schools had just one or two teachers for the entire student population. It also struggled with large numbers of vacancies in critical roles, very weak training systems, misdirected accountability systems, and a lack of focus on the quality of academics. To address these challenges, BCG built accountability systems and new data and assessment systems, upgraded capacity, and brought about a renewed focus on quality improvement through various in-school and systemic initiatives.

Real Change, Real Fast

As a result of BCG’s implementation of the QIP, the Haryana school system has already realized several large-scale achievements in a very short period of time:

  • About 1.8 million Haryana students are now assessed monthly on every subject—and results are available for use in decision-making within 10 days of assessment. 
  • A new performance appraisal system for 100,000 employees has been up and running for two years. 
  • For the first time, the state has information on its more than 2 million students through the implementation of a student MIS system. The implementation uncovered some 500,000 fake students in the system, which led to an immediate 15% savings in the state's education budget. The MIS is now being used to deliver a number of key employee services online to more than 125,000 department staff members.
  • In classes I through VIII, students have seen an improvement of 3-6% in learning outcomes—the only program in India to show results at scale so quickly. Third-party studies of the program have estimated academic score improvement as high as 10%. 
  • Once-declining literacy and numeracy rates have turned around within just two years of program implementation.

The Haryana QIP has been so successful, in fact, that it is now being seen as a potential model for education transformation in other Indian states—as well as in other countries—that are struggling to achieve higher learning outcomes at scale.

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