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Scaling New Heights in India and France with the Three Peaks of Transformation

By analyzing public sector transformations around the globe, BCG has identified the three peaks—vision, design, and delivery—in play. They are exemplified, for example, in India’s effort to reform education in the state of Haryana and in France’s effort to lower school dropout rates.

“By analyzing public sector transformations around the globe, BCG has identified the three peaks—vision, design, and delivery—in play.”

Restructuring the Educational System in Northern India

The restructuring of the educational system in the northern Indian state of Haryana, a state of 30 million inhabitants, illustrates BCG’s three peaks of transformation at a massive scale—to serve 2.2 million students at 15,000 schools—and in a short timeframe: 3 years, between 2014 and 2017. 

The program set its vision on the exceptional ambition of ensuring that 80% of students were learning at grade level by 2020. It used pilot programs—scaled up through a comprehensive roadmap—to design continuous mobilization of the main stakeholders. And it was able to deliver, through careful implementation efforts, considerably improved academic performance in a visible, fast, and sustainable way. 

This transformation was based on a deep understanding of the Haryana’s concrete and measurable deficiencies: late acquisition of basic knowledge by the students, high dropout rates, and a high percentage of students enrolling in private sector schooling. These difficulties were rooted in a clear imbalance. 

Teachers’ energy was distracted from purely educational tasks by logistical constraints, such as the demands of meal preparation and the limits of washrooms still under construction. Indeed, the teachers’ performance measurement system was focused on outdated goals: building the schools and expanding student enrollment.


In order to compensate for these deficits, a single and symbolic target was set: having 80% of students learning at grade level by 2020. All the stakeholders in the educational system, working in close collaboration, have shared this objective and used it as a measure for defining all aspects of the reform and of its implementation. In order to secure buy-in on the reform, this objective was communicated to the citizens largely through media and cultural workshops--and through teachers’ participation in the field.


The education reform program identified a multitude of possible initiatives, among them: changing how teachers were recruited, recruiting and training new school principals, and using more technology during lessons.

Numerous benchmarks have been used and 40 pilot projects have been launched. The team built the transformation roadmap for Haryana’s educational system by focusing on scaling up only those initiatives that met three criteria: 

  • Could be applied to all 15,000 institutions
  • Were actionable in the field by teachers. Budget constraints and technology shortcomings made online learning impossible to execute across the entire state
  • Measured results and advanced the learning-at-grade-level goal


Implementing this roadmap demanded the structured collection of students’ school performance data. It has also required a reorganization of academic services and the restructuring of the remedial educational program.

Communication has been a key lever for change. The dearth of computers has been bypassed by the use of smartphones, by gathering more than 100,000 teachers in hundreds of Whatsapp groups.


The preliminary results have been communicated regularly to the citizens, raising enthusiasm and popular support for the undertaking.

Overall, the program has been highly successful, boosting by about 5% the students’ scores on standard tests. Consequently, Haryana’s program to improve educational quality has been extended to other states in the country.

Reducing School Dropout Rates in France

In 2011, the French Ministry of National Education (MEN) took on the scourge of high dropout rates—the human, social, and economic consequences of which are devastating.

The program’s vision was to attain the EU objective of lowering the dropout rate from 12% to 10%. It sought to accomplish this goal both by taking steps to prevent dropouts—and by finding ways to bring dropouts back to education and training or place them in the workforce. Its design was a broad set of platforms run by multiple stakeholders to monitor and assist school dropouts. The delivery was executed by MEN coordinating the gathering of data and the disseminating of best practices.

The Problem

In the years after 2010, the prognosis for school dropout rates was rather bleak across of Europe. Many governmental and academic studies highlighted the human burden and cost exacted by high rates of school dropouts on both individuals and society, including the income lost to less favorable career paths, the cost of social safety nets, and the reduced social cohesion. 


Solving the problem required a detailed exploration of its nature and reach. The initial step consisted of launching deep statistical analysis and gathering all relevant stakeholders, at the central and local levels, and engaging in a discussion of the French approach to high rates of dropout and its shortcomings.

An assessment was conducted to define the cost to French society of a school dropout, set conservatively at €230,000. This figure helped all the stakeholders share an objective understanding of the urgency of identifying dropout risks and preventing student dropouts—and of quickly redirecting dropouts back into the education system or labor pool.

MEN was well-positioned to identify dropouts and provide reschooling or retraining solutions. Other players—local governments, NGOs, corporations and private companies—were also involved in preventing dropout or providing solutions in vocational guidance and employment, health care and social affairs, and even defense.


Five French cities tested “platforms for monitoring and assisting school dropouts.” Each platform gathered a few individuals to dedicate all or part of their time to these efforts, constantly cooperating with relevant educational institutions, dropouts, and the leaders of reschooling and retraining solutions.

The platform structure was designed to be instrumental in providing tailor-made and long-lasting support to each dropout, finding a solution that best fit his or her needs after a potential “trial and error” process. The test cities helped create best practices in defining categories of dropouts—and in connecting with those individuals and convincing them to speak about their future.


A network of 380 platforms was progressively implemented in France. MEN actively supported this initiative, sharing best practices to accelerate deployment of the platforms. It also created a system for gathering data to monitor the results of the initiative on a continuous basis. This tool enabled the monitoring team to communicate on the policy progress, support disadvantaged areas, and celebrate successes.

The Results

At the end of first 9 months, more than half of the 170,000 phone calls from young dropouts led to one-on-one interviews, which also led to 50,000 dropouts returning to training or school, and 8,000 returning to the job market. Seven years after launching, the program is acclaimed for waging a “relentless” fight against high dropout rates. Through it, France has reduced the number of pupils who leave the educational system without any diploma from 150,000 to 100,000 yearly.

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