Part B: Policy highlights and initiatives

This part of The School Education in India: Data, Trends, and Policies report provides an overview of key policy developments of the recent past, along with evidence on the topic, and analysis. Starting with the discussion of the National Education Policy 2020, this part of the report further explores the policy interventions and initiatives in school education that are being implemented by the union and states governments.

At the time of writing this part, India had been under lockdown for about 5 months. Hence, this report also includes a discussion of the potential impacts of COVID-19 induced school closures on school education, the important role played by EdTech in addressing disruption to learning and its challenges, and the education response to COVID-19 of some states in India.

Disclaimer: This report is based on publicly available information. The discussions in this report pertaining to the National Education Policy (2020), and Union and State Government initiatives are not necessarily reflective of the Government’s official view and must not be construed as such. All errors are our own. 

List of abbreviations

AEC: Adult  Education Centre
ASER: Annual  State of Education Report
AWC: Anganwadi  Centre
BEO: Block  Education Officer
BRC: Block  Resource Centres
CBSE: Central  Board of Secondary Education
CRC: Cluster  Resource Centres
DCF: Data  Collection Form
DIET: District  Institute of Education and Training
DIKSHA: Digital  Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing
ECCE: Early  Childhood Care and Education 
ETB: Energised  Textbooks
FLN: Foundational  Literacy and Numeracy
GDP: Gross  Domestic Product
GER: Gross  Enrolment Ratio
GSDP: Gross  State Domestic Product
KRP: Key  Resource Persons
MHRD: Ministry  of Human Resource Development
MIS: Management  Information System
MOE: Ministry of Education
NAS: National  Achievement Survey
NCERT: National Council of Educational Research and Teaching 
NCF: National  Curriculum Framework

NCTE: National  Council for Teacher Education
National  Education Policy, 2020
NGO: Non-government  Organisation
NIEPA: National  Institute of Educational Planning and Administration
NISHTHA: National  Initiative for School Heads and Teachers' Holistic Advancement
OBC: Other  Backward Communities 
PGI: Performance  Grading Index
PISA: Programme  for International Student Assessment (PISA)
pp: percentage  point
PTR: Pupil  Teacher Ratio 
RTE: Right  of Children to Free and Compulsory Education
SC: Scheduled  Castes
SCERT: State  Council of Educational Research and Training
SEQI: School  Education Quality Index
SEZ: Special  Education Zones 
SMC: School  Management Committees
SSA: Sarva  Shiksha Abhiyan
SSSA: State  School Standards Authority
ST: Scheduled  Tribes
UDISE: Unified  District Information System for Education
URG: Under  Represented Groups

Policy highlights and initiatives: an overview

National Education Policy and other  Developments

Documents key policy developments in school education in India in the past one year

Government initiatives in the education space

Captures key central and state initiatives in school education in India in the past one year

Education in the times of COVID-19

Discusses the impact of COVID-19 on school education and response strategies of Indian states


National Education Policy and other developments

National Education Policy, 2020- School Education

Retracting no detention policy 

Compulsory English medium instruction in Government Schools of Andhra Pradesh

School Education Quality Index (SEQI)

India’s re-entry into Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

Governmentinitiatives in the education space


Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA) platform

National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers'Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA)

Education reforms by Delhi government

Mission Prerna by Government of Uttar Pradesh

Education in the times of COVID-19
Go to Next Section

National Education Policy and other developments

National Education Policy (2020)- School Education

Early Childhood Care and Education(ECCE)
Foundational Literacy and Numeracy(FLN)
Equitable and inclusive education: learning for all
Curtailing dropout rates
and ensuring universal access to education at all levels
Efficient resourcing and effective governance through school complexes/ clusters
Curriculum and pedagogy in schools: Learning should be holistic, integrated, enjoyable, and engaging
Standard-setting and accreditation for school education

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)

“Universal provisioning of quality early childhood development, care, and education must thus be achieved as soon as possible, and no later than 2030, to ensure that all students entering Grade 1 are school ready”

- NEP, 2020

Why is ECCE so important?

Multidisciplinary research suggests that first few years of a child’s life lay the foundation for future development

In fact, research in neuroscience provides strong evidence that the pace of development of the brain is most rapid in the early years of life

90% of the brain’s growth has already occurred by the time a child is 6 - years - old (Karoly et al., 1998)

Thus, intervening early to provide appropriate support and care to young children can lead to a range of benefits overtime (Ludwig & Miller, 2007)

A longitudinal study conducted by the CECED and ASER, tracking 13,000 children for five years, showed that students' average test scores (math and language) improved significantly as a result of quality ECE (Kaul et al., 2014)

Highlights from NEP, 2020

Ensure universal access to high-quality ECCE in a phased manner prioritising the socio-economically disadvantaged districts of the country

National curricular and and pedagogical framework for children upto age8 will be developed by the NCERT

Identifies four different modalities for providing early childhood education:

  • Stand alone Anganwadi Centres(AWCs)
  • AWCs co-located with primary schools
  • Pre-primary schools co-located with primary schools
  • Standalone pre-schools

Anganwadi teachers will be trained to prepare initial cadre of high-quality ECCE teachers

Early childhood education has a high rate of return…

“Skill formation is a dynamic process with strong synergistic components. Skill begets skill. Early investment promotes later investment.”

- James Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics

James Heckman demonstrated that investments in the early childhood stage yield maximum returns as compared to later stages of childhood and education. However, recent research suggests that later stage interventions also hold promise (Rea & Burton, 2020)

Longitudinal study in 3 Indian states tracking ~13K children for 5 years shows that student’s average test scores in (math & language) improved significantly as a result of quality ECCE (Kaul et al, 2014)

Starting 1973, an ECCE programme has been implemented in Kingston, Jamaica. Evidence suggests that the programme has had wide ranging benefits including cognitive,social, educational and mental health benefits, and increased wages (Walker et al., 2011; Gertler et al., 2014)

Colombia has formalised ECCE and made transition grade (grade 0, for 5 - years - old) compulsory for all children. In 2011, ECCE was made a presidential priority with the adoption of a comprehensive ECCE strategy -  from zero to forever (OECD, 2016)

Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN)

Various governmental, as well as non-governmental surveys, indicate that we are currently in a learning crisis: a large proportion of students currently in elementary school - estimated to be over 5 crore in number - have not attained foundational literacy and numeracy”

- NEP, 2020

FLN is children’s ability to read with meaning and do basic calculations by grade 3

State of FLN in India

Over 70% children in grade 3 do not have basic arithmetic skills and 50% do not have basic reading skills
Only 50.8 % of children in grade 3 in rural India could read a grade 1 level text
Only 30.6% of children in grade 3 in rural India could do a 2-digit subtraction problem task
Source: Annual status of education report (ASER) 2019

Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN)

“The highest priority of the education system will be to achieve universal foundational literacy and numeracy in primary school by 2025.”

- NEP, 2020

Why is FLN so important?

Foundational learning forms the basis of all future learning

Those who fail to attain basic literacy and numeracy skills by grade 3 find it difficult to catch up with the rigour of the curriculum in later classes and fall behind, creating wide learning gaps (NEP, 2020)

Lack of FLN increases the chances students dropping out of the school system altogether(Nakajima &  Otsuka, 2018)

Highlights from NEP, 2020

A National FLN Mission will be set up by MOE and all the states/UT governments will prepare implementation plans for attaining universal FLN in all primary schools

Urgent filling of teacher vacancies with focus on areas with large pupil-to-teacher ratios or high rates of illiteracy

Increased focus on FLN in preparatory and middle school curriculum coupled with continuous adaptive assessments to track individual student’s learning

Other FLN initiatives
in the NEP, 2020

To ensure that all students are school ready, an interim 3-month play-based‘school preparation module’ for all Grade-I students will be developed by NCERT and SCERTs

National repository of high-quality resources on FLN will be made available on DIKSHA

States are encouraged to consider establishing innovative models to support peer-tutoring and volunteer activities to support learners

Nutrition,and physical and mental health of children is important for learning. These will be addressed through provision of healthy meals and introduction of well-trained social workers, counsellors, and community involvement in schools

Measurement of
FLN in India

36% students at grade 3 are not able to read a paragraph with understanding and 43% cannot use basic math to solve daily life problems

- NAS, 2017

Components of FLN

Foundational Literacy: Are students able to read with comprehension by Grade 3 i.e.

Identify letters

Identify initial or final words

Read non-words

Read familiar words

Listen with comprehension

Read with fluency and comprehension

Foundationa lNumeracy: Are students able to do basic mathematics calculations by Grade 3 i.e.:

Identify numbers

Discriminate between numbers

Find missing numbers

Solve addition problems

Solve subtraction problems

Solve word problems

How is FLN measured in India?

Identify Through two large-scale nationwide learning assessments conducted periodically- Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)and National Achievement Survey (NAS)

NAS covers both urban and rural areas whereas ASER focuses only on rural areas

Due to differences in sample and content assessed, ASER and NAS estimates are not comparable

NAS and ASER: learning assessment surveys


Who is assessed?
What is assessed?
Test format and administration

National Achievement Survey (NAS)

Started in 2001-02

Conducted by NCERT in 33 states and UTs

Students in grade 3, 5 and 8

Government and aided schools only

Rural and urban areas

Grade-level competencies of :

Grade 3: Language
and math

Grade 5: Language, math and EVS

Grade 8: Language, math, social sc. and science

In the past, each grade surveyed once in three years.Since 2017, all three grades are surveyed simultaneously

School based study

MCQ format, with addl. writing task

Pen and paper test

Coordinated by state agencies like SCERTs, SIEs, DIETs

Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)

Started in 2005

Conducted in 15,000 villages in India by Pratham, a leading NGO

Children in the age group of 5-16 years (government,private, out of school)

Rural districts only

Basic reading and arithmetic

Previous grade competencies (except for grade 1 students)


Household based study

Test administered
one-on-one in oral format

Conducted by 30,000 volunteers from partner organizations

Curtailing dropout rates and ensuring universal access to education at all levels

“A concerted national effort will be made to ensure universal access and afford opportunity to all children of the country to obtain quality holistic education–including vocational education - from preschool to Grade 12”

- NEP, 2020

Potential causes of large dropout rates

Lack of ECCE and FLN means many students fall behindin terms of learning curve and eventually dropout from school (NEP, 2020)

Limited access to secondary schools and upper secondary schools (ibid)

Socio-cultural and economic issues: early or child marriage, perceived roles of gender or caste, or child labour and pressure on  children/ adolescents to work and earn (Sajjad et al, 2012)

Parental characteristics, especially literacy ofparents (M., Sateesh & Sekher, T V., 2014)

Inadequate infrastructure and lack of safety (Bandhopadhyay, 2015)

Highlights from NEP, 2020

The schooling system must ensure that children not just enroll but also attend school

Through various initiatives, India has achieved near-universal enrollment in primary school. Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in 2016-17 for grades 1-5 was at 95.1% (UDISE data)

However, there are some serious issues in retaining children in the schooling system. GER for grades 6-8 was 90.7%, while for grades 9-10 and 11-12 it was only 79.3% and 51.3% respectively indicating dropouts

How to bring the dropouts back to schools and prevent further children from dropping out?

NEP, 2020, advocates for two basic initiatives to be undertaken:

Provide effective and sufficient infrastructure so that all students have access to safe and engaging school education at all levels (pre-primary to class 12)

Achieve universal participation in school by carefully tracking students and their learning levels in school. This is to ensure that students attend the school and have opportunities for remediation and re-entry if they fall behind or dropout

Curriculum and pedagogy in schools:
Learning should be holistic,integrated, enjoyable, and engaging

“The curricular and pedagogical structure of school education will be reconfigured to make it responsive and relevant to the developmental needs and interests of learners at different stages of their development”

- NEP, 2020

Issues regarding current
Pedagogy and Curricula

Children in India, are on an average two grades below proficiency defined by their textbooks (Bhattacharjea, Wadhwa, Banerji; 2011)

Current instruction practices are focused on rote based learning (NEP, 2020)

There is a lack of access to locally relevant TLM in India, especially for marginalised communities (Kidwai et al, 2013)

There is a lack of focus on meaning making and higher- order thinking skills in the teaching-learning process (Menon, 2014)

The use case of assessments is not learning and improvement focused rather punitive and high stakes (NEP, 2020)

Highlights from NEP, 2020

The focus of curriculum and pedagogy will be to move the education system from culture of rote learning to real understanding

Experiential learning will be adopted as standard pedagogy within each subject

Students to be provided with increased flexibility and choice of subjects to study, especially in secondary school

Mother tongue/ home language will be the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5 and preferably till Grade 8, wherever possible

Introduction of contemporary subjects such as AI,Design Thinking etc. at relevant stages will be undertaken

Assessment systems will be overhauled with shift in towards systems which are more regular, formative, competency-based, and test higher-order skills

Suggestions to tackle these issues in NEP, 2020

Restructuring of school curriculum and pedagogy to go in a new design (5+3+3+4)

Reducing curricular content and introducing essential skills

Textbooks aligned to local languages and context

Designing a new National Curriculum Framework for School Education, 2020

Evidence on the suggested curriculum reform

NEP’s focus on creating a holistic,developmentally appropriate and contextually relevant curriculum can becorroborated by the growing body of research on children’s learning

Bringing research to bear on different dimensions of curriculum reform

Bringing in children’s local context into textbooks and learning materials
Focus on constructivism and interaction
Developmentally appropriate pedagogy
Focus on higher order thinking skills
Formative assessments
Mother tongue as language of instruction

Promotes equitable learning, instruction in children’s languages promotes development of  higher order skills of thinking, reasoning and expression (UNICEF-LLF: Guidelines for Design and Implementation of Early Learning Programmes, 2019)

Learning is based on interactions which is seen as an essential for cognitive growth and holistic development of the child (Vygotsky,1978). Children bring with them experiences, knowledge and skills, that can be used to learn new concepts.

It is important to pace curriculum according to children’s learning levels, and students face a disadvantage with the rapid pacing of concepts related to certain skills (Menon et al., 2017)

Unconstrained skills, which rely on children inferring meaning and go beyond the sequential acquisition of proficiency, are linked with greater learning gains in the long - term (Levya et al.,2015).

Formative assessments inculcate a process of review and feedback, with a focus on continuous learning and improvement. It helps teachers’ differentiate classroom instruction according to the learner’s needs(Gove et al., 2016)

Using children’s mother tongue, in the first few years of schooling, as the language of instruction has been found to be extremely effective in improving children’s academic outcomes (Thomas & Collier, 2002)


“Teachers truly shape the future of our children - and, therefore, the future of our nation. It is because of this noblest role that the teacher in India was the most respected member of society”

- NEP, 2020

Some issues affecting
teachers and their education

Teacher education- curriculum and programme structure- is severely lacking (Justice Verma Commission Report, 2012; Young Lives, 2013)

Deployment of teachers to schools is often sub -optimal (Young Lives, 2013)

Teachers often spend large portions of their time on non-teaching activities (Puppala, 2018)

Professional development opportunities are limited and career-progression of teachers tend not to have formal merit-based structures(NEP,  2020)

Highlights from NEP, 2020

In India,  the quality and motivation of teachers does not reach the standards where it could be. This is due to a host of factors including quality of training,recruitment, deployment, service conditions, and empowerment

Proposes changes to all the factors that have a bearing on teachers- from teacher recruitment to career management

Lays out an approach for teacher education with a comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education to be developed by NCTE by 2021

Emphasises on the urgent need for special educators for certain areas of school education such teaching for children with disabilities

What can be done to address the issues affecting the teachers?

NEP, 2020,calls for complete overhauling of the structures of:

Teacher education, recruitment, and deployment

Service environment and culture, professional development, and career management

Some proposed teacher reforms in NEP, 2020

and deployment

Merit-based scholarships for 4-year B.Ed. programmes

In rural preferential employment in local areas to local students upon completion of B.Ed.

Excessive teacher transfer to be discontinued

Teacher Eligibility Tests (TETs) to cover teachers across all stages of school education

Hiring of ‘master instructors’ in various subjects by schools/ school complexes

Technology based forecasting of teacher requirement

Service Environment and Culture

Provide adequate and safe infrastructure at school

More autonomy to teachers in choosing aspect of pedagogy that are most effective

Non-teaching activities of teachers to be reduced and rationalised

Developing a caring and inclusive culture at schools will be an explicit role expectation of principals and teachers

Teachers will be recognized for novel approaches to teaching that improve learning outcomes of students

Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

Provide continuous opportunities to learn latest innovations and advances in teaching

Online platforms will be developed for teachers to share ideas and best practices

Atleast 50 hours of CPD opportunities for teachers each year,driven by their own interests

CPD opportunities to cover latest pedagogies regarding FLN, formative and adaptive assessments, competency-based learning, and related pedagogies

School principals and school complex leaders will have similar workshops and online development opportunities to hone their leadership and management skills

Career Management
and Progression

A robust merit-based structure of tenure, promotion,and salary structure will be developed that incentivizes and recognizes outstanding teachers

A corresponding rigourous performance assessment system will be developed by State/UT Governments

Ensure that career growth is available to teachers within single school stage

Outstanding teachers with demonstrated leadership and management skills would be trained over time to take on academic leadership positions in schools and beyond

Teacher quality and student outcomes; evidence supporting proposed teacher reforms in NEP 2020

What defines a good teacher?

“…..a good teacher is simply the one who consistently gets higher achievement from students (after controlling for other determinants of student achievement such as family influences or prior teachers)”

(Hanushekand Rivkin, 2012)

Some issues affecting
teachers and their education

Teacher quality in school is strongly predictive of adult outcomes - college attendance, quality of college attended, and wages(Chetty, Friedman & Rockoff, 2014)

Pre-service teacher training and having a Master’s level qualification were found to have a significant positive correlation to learner outcomes in India (Kingdon, 2006)

A meta-review of studies from developing countries by Glewwe et al. (2011)found a positive but weak relationship between in-service teacher training and student outcomes

Glewwe et al. (2011) find that instructional time is a key determinant of student outcomes in developing country contexts. This lends support to the argument that non-teaching tasks of teachers should be rationalised in India

The school context- including  leadership and governance of schools- has a direct impact on teachers’ classroom practices and thus impacts on student outcomes (Lee et al. 2012)

Application of the data from Education Management  Information Systems (EMIS) can be effective in ensuring effective deployment of teachers (Barrett et al. 2007)

Ensuring that composition of teaching force reflects the diversity of the learners is important. Lloyd (2009) finds that having enough female teachers in schools can be an effective strategy for increasing girls’ access to basic education

Having a teacher of the same gender and ethnic background as the learner is found to increase student outcomes (Aslam and Kingdon 2011)

Equitable and inclusive education: learning for all

“Education is the single greatest tool for achieving social justice and equality”

- NEP, 2020

Causes of exclusion and
discrimination in education

NEP, 2020, identifies a host of causes of exclusion and discrimination in education:

Under Represented Groups (URGs) often suffer from lack of access to quality schools

Poor families find it difficult to send their children to school, even when it's accessible, due to lack of means

Social biases significantly contribute to discriminatory practices

Lack of access to quality schools, poverty, social mores & customs, and language are some of the factors detrimental effect onrates of enrolment and retention of students from Scheduled Castes

Students from tribal communities often find school education irrelevant and culturally and academically disconnected from their lives

Highlights from NEP, 2020

Considerable progress has been made in bridging gender and social category gaps in all levels of school education over the last three decades

However, large disparities still remain - especially at the secondary level. This is particularly true for groups that have been historically underrepresented in education

Enrollment drop-off rates are higher for URGs, with steeper decline for female students within each URG

The central government will constitute a‘Gender-Inclusion Fund’ to build the nation's capacity to provide equitable quality education for all girls as well as transgender students

Inclusion and equal participation of children with disabilities in ECCE and the schooling system to given highest priority

What can be done to attain full equity and inclusion in schools?

NEP 2020 has some concrete propositions:

Policies, schemes and interventions must be targeted towards URG, and female students within each URG

Special Education Zones (SEZs) will be set up in disadvantaged regions across the country. It will be identified on the basis of social development and socio-economic indicators. Above schemes will be implemented in SEZs with additional resources from the centre and state government

Teacher quality and student outcomes; evidence supporting proposed teacher reforms in NEP 2020

While overall enrollments in schools decline steadily from grade 1 to 12, this decline is considerably more pronounced for many of these URGs

According to UDISE 2016–17 data, about 19.6% of students belong to Scheduled Castes (SC)at the primary school level but this figure falls to 17.3% at the higher secondary level. These enrollment drop-offs are even more severe for ST students (10.6% to 6.8%), Muslim students (15% to 7.9%), and differently-abled children (1.1% to 0.25%), with even greater declines for female students within each of these URGs. The decline in URGs’ enrollment in higher education is even steeper

Evidence based interventions to address education inequities for (some) URGs

The NEP talks about taking into account the research that ascertains which measures are particularly effective for certain under-represented groups. For example:

Providing bicycles and organising cycling and walking groups to provide access to school have been shown to be particularlypowerful methods in increasing participation of female students. Even for short distances, this practice works because it provides safety benefits and comfort to parents (Muralidharan & Prakash, 2017)

Peer tutoring, open schooling and appropriate infrastructure to ensure access can be particularly effective for certain children with special needs (Mahapatra, 2016)

Schools having quality early childhood care and education reap the greatest dividends for children who come from families that are socially or economically disadvantaged (Heckman, 2012)

Women are especially disadvantaged

The NEP highlights that women cut across all underrepresented groups and make up about one half of all other URGs

Even within URGs, women are likely to face higher level of exclusion and inequities

NEP recognises that women play a special and critical role in the society and in shaping social mores - not only in their own generation but in the next one

The NEP highlights that women cut across all underrepresented groups and make up about one half of all other URGs

The NEP highlights that women cut across all underrepresented groups and make up about one half of all other URGs

Efficient resourcing and effective governance through school complexes/ clusters

“Although consolidation of schools is an option that is often discussed, it must be carried out very judiciously, and only when it is ensured that there is no impact on access”-

- NEP, 2020

Rationale for
school consolidation

According to NEP, 2020:

The small size of schools makes it economically sub-optimal and operationally complex, to allocate and deploy all the resources necessary to run a good school, including teachers and physical resources

Too many small schools present a systemic challenge for governance and management

Schools with small number of students and few teachers, are educationally sub-optimal because:

  • Optimal learning environments require a critical cohort size (about 15 at least) of same-age students
  • Even teachers work optimally in teams. At the moment, 80% of elementary schools have less than three teachers

Highlights from NEP, 2020

India has near universal enrollment of children in primary schools, essentially driven by establishment of primary schools across the country through various initiatives, including  Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)

Nearly 28% of India’s public primary schools and 14.8% of upper primary schools have less than 30 students(UDISE 2016-17 data)

Enrollment drop-off rates are higher for URGs, with steeper decline for female students within each URG

Proposes creation of school complexes which will be a cluster of public schools in a contiguous geography offering education across all stages from foundational to secondary

School complexes will be the basic unit of governance and administration

Proposed composition of school complexes as per the NEP, 2020

A semi-autonomous unit that will offer education from the foundational stage (age between 3 and 8 years) till grade 12 (age 18 years)

Consist of all the public schools in its neighbourhood that offer education from pre-primary till grade 8 and one secondary school (grades 9-12)

All schools, that are part of a complex, will bechosen due to their proximity to each other

It will also have Anganwadis, vocational education facilities, and an Adult Education Centre (AEC) etc. associated with them

Case study: School consolidation in Rajasthan

Re-organisation of schools at scale can be disruptive, especially in the short run (Beuchert et al, 2018). By changing the number of teachers available, administrative and monitoring structures, resource-use etc., the consolidation can impact the education system in the long run (Shukla, 2019)

Between 2014-15 and 2018-19, around 19,500 government schools in Rajasthan were consolidated

Creating Adarsh schools or large schools involved the closure of elementary schools (grades 1 to 5, grades 1 to 8, or grades 6 to 8)and their consolidation with secondary schools (with any grades from 9 to 12),especially in 2014. However, elementary schools were consolidated with other elementary schools as well, especially in 2016-17 (Bordoloi & Shukla,2019)

In Rajasthan, Bordoloi & Shukla (2019) find a greater decline in enrollment in consolidated schools compared to all government schools across the state; the decline was most pronounced for students with disability,followed by that of SC and ST students. However, the availability of teachers and facilities improved post consolidation

Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra followed in Rajasthan’s footsteps and consolidated their public schools

Estimated number of Government schools across categories in Rajasthan: 2013-14 Vs 2016-17
Source: Bordoloi & Shukla, 2019

Standard-setting and accreditation for school education

“The goal of the school education regulatory system must be to continually improve educational outcomes; it must not overly restrict schools, prevent innovation,or demoralize teachers, principals, and students”

- NEP, 2020

Highlights from NEP, 2020

The regulatory and governance culture of school education in India is rigid and disempowering

In the present structure, the three main functions of provision of public education, regulation of all educational institutions, and making policy are all handled by the Department of School Education or its arms leading to concentration of power and conflict of interest

There is immense asymmetry between the regulatory approaches to public and private schools

Private philanthropic efforts for quality education will be encouraged while protecting parents from arbitrary increases in tuition fees

Public and private schools will be assessed and accredited on same criteria, benchmarks, and processes

There is overemphasis on inputs in the current regulatory framework, this will be reviewed and rationalised

Proposed state school system architecture in NEP, 2020

Department of School Education

Apex state-level body in school education, will be responsible for overall monitoring and policy making

Will not be involved in provision, operation, and regulation of schools

Directorate of School Education

Will handle educational operations and service provision for public schooling system of the whole state

Will work independently to implement relevant policies

State School Standards Authority (SSSA)

Establish a minimal set of standards based on basic parameters which shall be followed by schools

State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT)

Will lead on academic matters including academic standards and curricula in state

Develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through wide consultations with all stakeholders.

Retracting No Detention Policy

Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 and No Detention Policy

RTE ACT 2009

Children in the age group of 6-14 years the right to free and compulsory elementary education (grade 1 to 8) in a neighbourhood school
No detention policy:
Up until completion of grade 8, no child can be detained in a grade even if their learning outcomes did not match their grade level

RTE ACT 2009

Regular examinations should be held in grade 5 and 8. If the child fails in the examination, s/he will be given additional instructions to take are-examination within two months and if the child fails again, then the state government will have the discretion to detain the child in the same grade
(Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha), Bill No. 166 of 2017)


Views in favour

Detention demotivates children resulting in increased dropouts

Detention shifts the focus away from systemic factors that affect learning

Views against

Automatic promotion reduces incentives for children to learn and teachers to teach

Stand of various states on the no detention policy

Those in favour

“The policy has reduced school dropout rates and helped in building self-esteem.States should be given freedom to decide whichever policy to follow”


“It enables a child to learn better without the fear of failure, detention and stigma. CCE should be strengthened as it doesn’t focus on rote learning”


“It is important to sustain students’ interest in education. Year-end evaluation should be conducted and students with low scores should be helped”

West Bengal, Gujarat and Odisha were the first states to retract the no detention policy

Those against

“There is no harm in allowing a student one more year to re-cope rather than allowing her to pass to the next stage in an unbaked condition”


“It leads to decreased commitment levels of stakeholders. Test/exam provide students with competitive spirit besides motivating them to study”


“The policy results in undisciplined behaviour of students or increased dropouts. No-detention policy may be restricted up to grade 3”

Source: RitikaChopra , Uma Vishnu, Indian Express, 2016

What do the numbers say ?

While enrolment has been near-universal at the primary level, there is low transition of students from one grade to another at progressively higher levels
This has resulted in high dropouts at the secondary education level, with the highest dropout rate being 17% for grade 9-10
While there is some variation in dropout rates by gender, the variation is more pronounced in dropout rates by sub-groups with ST category having the highest dropout rates
Obligation to automatically promote and not detain children in a grade under the No Detention Policy is one of the reasons for low dropouts at the elementary level
When there is no such obligation in secondary school, grade 9 onwards, we see a significant increase in dropout rates

Compulsory English Medium in Government Schools of Andhra Pradesh

Move to English as medium of instruction in Andhra Pradesh (AP)*

Rationale for
school consolidation

Andhra Pradesh government plans to introduce English as a medium of education in all government schools in the state from the academic year
2020-21(Business Standard, 2019)

Beginning academic year 2020-21,English will replace Telugu as the medium of instruction for grades 1 to 6 in all schools (Economic Times, 2019)

Urdu or Telugu will be compulsory subject. Grade 7 onwards will gradually shift to English as the medium of instruction (ibid)

Reason behind English as
medium of instruction

Widespread belief in the populace that English-medium schooling can secure good jobs. This has fuelled the recent exponential increase in the demand and supply of English medium schools in India (Mody, 2019)

Economically constrained families are also shifting their children from free government schools to private English-medium schools posing a threat to government teaching jobs (ibid)

Many state governments are trying to contain and reverse the above trend by moving to English as medium of instruction (ibid)

*As of 3rd September 2020, Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has refused to stay Hon’ble High Court’s order against AP government order introducing English as the medium of instruction, and is examining if AP can insist on compulsory English as medium of education

Importance of mother tongue in schools for improving students’ learning outcomes

National Curriculum Framework (NCF,2005) emphasises on the importance of instruction in the mother tongue in schools for improving students’ learning outcomes, especially at primary education level
Students are likely to better understand the concepts in their mother tongue. Linguistic studies suggest mastering one language facilitates learning other languages (Yadav, 2014)
Differences in the mother-tongue and medium of instruction (English) make learning challenging for students,especially the ones from weaker socio-economic background as they are likely to lack adequate support mechanism at home to learn English

Education Quality Indices in India


India has two different indices to benchmark and assess state performance in education:

Performance Grading Index (PGI)

Developed by the Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSEL) in the Ministry of Education (MOE), PGI is an aspirational and relatively static benchmark

School Education Quality Index SEQI

Developed by NITI Aayog, SEQI is adynamic benchmark set by the currently best performing state


Index components/ domains
Data Sources
Number of indicators



All states and UTs in India

Learning outcomes & quality, access, infrastructure, equity, and governance process

School education quality

NAS, UDISE, MOE’s Shagun MIS/ State, MDM Portal


Index score for each state and UT basis which they are assigned a grade


NITI Aayog

All states and UTs in India

Learning outcomes, access outcomes, infrastructure outcomes, equity outcomes, and governance process outcomes

Education outcomes

NAS, UDISE, MOE’s Shagun MIS/ State

30 (a subset of PGI indicators)

Index score for each state and UT

Objectives of SEQI (SEQI Report, NITI Aayog, 2019)

Developed to provide a framework to evaluate the performance of states and Union Territories (UTs) in the school education sector

The index aims to shift the focus of education policy to improving education outcomes in respect to learning, access, equity and governance in India

To provide a platform for the states and UTs to asses their relative performance on education outcomes, and undertake policy interventions or relevant course correction measures as required

PGI: data and methodology

“The Performance Grading Index (PGI) is a tool to provide insights on the status of school education in States and UTs including key levers that drive their performance and critical areas for improvement”

- Ministry of Education

Performance of Indian states on PGI, 2018-19


& Quality
& Facilities
Government Processes

Top-domain wise achievers

  • Rajasthan (168/180)
  • Chandigarh (160/180)
  • Karnataka (160/180)
  • Jharkhand (156/180)
  • Kerala (79/80)
  • Haryana (78/80)
  • Delhi (77/80)
  • Andhra Pradesh (77/80)
  • Goa (137/150)
  • Chandigarh (136/150)
  • Delhi (130/150)
  • Punjab (128/150)
  • Delhi (220/230)
  • West Bengal (217/230)
  • Dadar & Nagar Haveli (217/230)
  • Gujarat (213/230)
  • Gujarat (315/360)
  • Chandigarh (310/360)
  • Kerala (296/360)
  • Odisha (282/360)
Source: Ministry of Education, Government of India.

SEQI: data and methodology

“SEQIi s based on a set of indicators that measure the overall effectiveness, quality and efficiency of the Indian school education system”

- NITI Aayog, 2019
Source : NITI Aayog, 2019, School Education Quality Index (SEQI)

SEQI: data and methodology

The overall performance score for large states ranged from 76.6% for Kerala to 36.4% for Uttar Pradesh

Out of the 20 large states, 18 improved their overall performance score between 2015-16 and 2016-17

Figure A : Large States: Overall and category – wise performance, 2016-2017

Source: NITI Aayog, 2019, School Education Quality Index (SEQI) Report

SEQI overall performance score: large states

Among small states, the overall performance score varied from 68.8% for Manipur to 24.6% for Arunachal Pradesh

In UTs, the overall performance score ranged from 82.9% for Chandigarh to 31.9%for Lakshadweep

FigureB : Small States and Uts: Overall and  Category wise performance,2016-17

Note: The  Outcomes Category score for Himachal Pradesh is 55.6 Percent and Meghalaya is 46.0 percent

Case Study

How Brazil created basic education quality index

India has two different indices to benchmark and assess state performance in education:

Indice de Desenvolvimento da Educação Básica (IDEB)

Introduced by the Brazilian Ministry of Education in 2007

For systematic monitoring of basic educational progress in every school, municipality, state and federal district,and region of Brazil
Combined measure of student learning results and student flows-grade progression,repetition, and graduation rates

IDEB in focus

IDEB builds on Prova Brasil- Brazil’s biennial national learning assessment in math and Portuguese for grade 4 and 8 students

The innovation lies in the construction of the index which combines Prova Brasil test results with administrative data on school enrollment, repetition, and promotion (Bruns, Evans & Luque, 2012)

The design of the index discourages schools from automatic promotion of children who are not learning in order to improve their performance on the index (ibid)

The IDEB has quickly become the key metric for assessing the relative performance of both individual schools and municipal and state systems (ibid)

The results of IDEB are widely reported in the media,and are used by the federal government to establish targets for improvement of primary and secondary education results for each of Brazil’s 26 states (and federal district) and 5,564 municipal school systems (ibid)

Examples of IDEB’s impact

IDEB has facilitated the implementation of teacher bonus programs at both state and municipal levels (Bruns, Evans & Luque, 2012)

Although different state and municipal programs in operation have various design features, all are based on annual targets for improvement in IDEB metrics (ibid)

Overall, IDEB has created a powerful platform for comparative analysis of state (and federal district) and municipal innovations in basic education (ibid)

India’s re-entry into Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)


India will participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2022 after a gap of 13 years

The HRD Ministry signed an agreement with the OECD, which conducts PISA, confirming India's participation in the triennial international survey that assesses 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, science and collaborative problem-solving (Business Standard, 2019)
3 hour long PISA test(2022)
Students from government
schools in Chandigarh
Navodaya Vidyalayas
Kendra Vidyalayas
A team of PISA officials will conduct a trial test in the participating schools in 2021

India’s previous experience with PISA

India participated in PISA in 2009. The assessment was done in two states Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu (Rana, 2019)

India fared poorly coming second to last amongst the 73 participating countries (ibid)

Reports suggest that officials from the NCERT learnt that students performed poorly particularly in the mathematics segment of the PISA test (ibid)

What can India learn from PISA?

PISA can help in improving the education system in India. It would act as a diagnostic to better understand the shortcomings of the existing system (Mehta, 2019)

In addition, participating in PISA would also allow India to benchmark itself relative to 88 other countries worldwide (ibid)

NAS, India’s own survey to assess its education system, is moving towards testing for competency-based learning. PISA can compliment NAS

What is PISA?

The most well known international assessment of learning outcomes

The first PISA study was carried out in 1997 and since then it is held every three years. It is administered to 15-year-old school students
PISA emphasises on the reading, mathematics and science skills that students need in their everyday lives when they pursue post-secondary education or enter the workforce
Test items are adapted to the local context and language, pilot tested and validated

PISA tests students on three
different dimensions

PISA 2015assessment and analytical framework define these dimensions as (OECD, 2015)

Science literacy is defined as the ability to engage with science-related issues, and with the ideas of science, as a reflective citizen

Reading literacy is defined as students’ ability to understand, use, reflect on and engage with written texts in order to achieve one’s goals, develop knowledge and potential, and participate in society

Mathematical literacy is defined as students’ capacity to formulate, employ and interpret mathematics in a variety of contexts. It includes reasoning and using mathematical concepts, procedures,facts and tools to describe, explain and predict phenomenon

Cross‐country comparability of
the PISA results is limited

The assessment results for non-OECD countries are not directly comparable with OECD countries in PISA

Often for non-OECD countries in PISA, the student sample is chosen from a select regions within that country and hence is not nationally representative

For example, results reported for China are based on assessments in only four Chinese provinces including Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsuand Guangdong

PISA: objective, criticism, and recent changes

“The aim with PISA was not to create another layer of top-down accountability, but to help schools and policy makers shift from looking upwards within the bureaucracy towards looking outwards to the next teacher, the next school, the next country.”

- Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, OECD

PISA’s influence

Volante (2017) conducts a cross-cultural analysis which suggests the influence of PISA is growing around the world

Assessment systems of countries such as Germany and Canada have been developed to mirror the PISA test (Volante et al, 2019)

Governments often juxtapose PISA results with other social outcome measures such as equity in education, social mobility or immigrant success for policy decision (ibid)

Criticisms of PISA

Critics contend that PISA tries to do too much,distorts what is important, and creates an arms race in education (Andreson & Shendruk, 2019)

PISA creates an over-reliance on testing and atendency to recommend simple solutions for complex problems (ibid)

In 2014, more than 100 academics around the world called for a moratorium on PISA testing (Gaurdian, 2014)

Changes in PISA

In order to reduce the measurement error, the OECD changed the model on which previous PISA scores were based (Volante et al,2019)

The test covered new areas such as collaborative problem solving, financial literacy and global competence (ibid)

PISA will include an assessment of creative thinking(OECD, 2019)

Can student assessments spur reform?

Whether testing and assessment can be used as tools to leverage systemic improvements in the education system leading to improved learning is a matter of debate

Detractors contend that high stake tests are inappropriate (Koretz, 2017) and growing trend of student testing has been damaging to schooling (Hout & Elliott, 2011). However, others argue that increased testing is important for improving educational and economic outcomes (World Bank, 2018; Hanushek and Woessmann, 2014)

Students in school systems, that have an external exit exam combined with local autonomy, perform better on internationally comparable tests (Woessman, 2018)

On the contrary, cross-country analysis by Bergbauer et al (2018)suggests that autonomy without testing leads to worse performance on the tests which suggests that only informed demand from parents can make a real difference

Case Study

Education reforms
in Brazil

Brazil has simultaneously expanded schooling coverage and learning over the past 15 years through a host of educational reforms

Country’s national assessment was benchmarked to PISA and has shown considerable improvement since 2000

Steep gains achieved since 2005 when the national assessment began testing every student, and the government,media, and civil society groups began actively publicizing the results (OECD,2011)

In 2005, Basic Education Development Index was introduced allowing parents to compare school achievement and promotion on a 10-point scale aligned with the country’s PISA scores (ibid)

The country reformed its school funding, educational requirements, and teacher pay and bonuses (OECD, 2015)

12 years of schooling was made mandatory, curricula was redesigned and longer school days were promoted (ibid)

The reforms fostered greater accountability, especially in some of the poorest states of Brazil (OECD, 2011)

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Government initiatives in school education*

*The initiatives included here arenot an exhaustive list. Union and state governments have launched a number ofeducation initiatives beyond those covered here. Through extensive discussionswith experts in the field, we have chosen initiatives that cover a spectrum ofnational and state initiatives across training, data, and  reform programmes thatare large scale and innovative in our subjective view.

Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+)

An online first system, it will gradually move towards collecting data in real time

One of the largest MIS of its kind in the world

Enabling conditions for reforms

UDISE+ is envisaged to address the limitations of UDISE making it more robust. It’s a result of an extensive consultation process with stakeholders and experts.Important features according to UDISE+ booklet, 2019:

DCFs were rationalised and online uploading of data was made possible establishing clear traceability

UDISE+ is hosted on the server of NIC which also has the responsibility of its overall supervision

Integrates geo-spatial database with UDISE+ data allowing GIS School Mapping

To ensure accuracy of data, UDISE+ provides for an app for third-party verification of the information

Emphasises on data analytics with an automated programme generating real time reports for states and UTs on education parameters, and supporting query based reports and charts

UDISE+ supports descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive forms of data analytics

Curricular reforms for students

Offline data collection system affecting the quality,reliability and timeliness of the data

Absence of audit trail led to lack of accountability

Single data collection form (DCF) for all categories of schools leading to confusion and inconsistencies

Limited verification of UDISE data and lack of analysis of verification data for remediation

Over time, coordinating and supervising UDISE became difficult for NIEPA as it lacked the requisite infrastructure, resources and expertise to keep up with increasing number of schools nationwide

Multiple versions of data collection software used by the many states and UTs

MOE Launches

DIKSHA platform

In 2017, the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MOE) launched a digital education portal Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing, or DIKSHA, to connect teachers and amplify solutions in the realm of their education

Teachers can create, upload, and view digital content relevant to their syllabus, and use it to enhance student learning (and attention)

QR-code imposed textbooks were introduced for students of grade 9 and 10. The QR codes were placed at hard spots identified by subject experts

DIKSHA in focus

DIKSHA’s objective is to connect teachers across India and enable them to create, share, and verify educational content

It also provides them with training modules, serving as a one-stop shop for all teacher-related services

Initially geared towards teachers, access to DIKSHA is not limited to them; any Indian citizen with an email address can view the platform’s content (Ramanujam, 2019)

QR code-enabled textbooks, called Energised Textbooks or ETBs, allow students to access digital content through an internet enabled smartphone

Each QR code is linked to a DIKSHA-hosted content module, which could be an animation, video or a quiz, to help students learn specific concepts (Ramanujam, 2019)

ETBs make learning interesting and promotes a culture of self-learning among students (The Hindu, 2020)

Some snippets of states’ adoption of ETBs

In Andhra Pradesh, ETBs will be used for grade 6 to 10i n English and Telugu, with more than seven million books under publication(Pandey, 2018)

Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are adopting ETBs for all subjects for grade 1 to 10 and grade 1 to 8 respectively (ibid)

In 2018, Tamil Nadu rolled out QR code embedded textbooks for grades 1, 6, and 9 (Ramanujam, 2019)

Kerala plans to introduce ETBs for grade 8 to 12 in 2021 (The Hindu, 2020).

MOE Launches

NISHTHA Programme

National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers' Holistic Advancement
(Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Samagra Shiksha in 2019-20 )

A national mission to improve learning outcomes at the elementary level through an Integrated Teacher Training


Motivate and equip teachers to encourage and foster critical thinking in students leading to improvement in their learning outcomes(PIB, 2019)

The functionaries shall be trained on learning outcomes, school - based assessment, learner-centred pedagogy, new initiatives in education, addressing diverse needs of children through multiple pedagogies etc (ibid)

In addition, a MIS for delivery of the training,monitoring and support mechanism will also be integrated with this capacity building initiative (NISHTHA website, 2019)

Trainings will be conducted directly by 33,120 Key Resource Persons (KRPs). The KRPs will be trained by 120 National Resource Person identified from NCERT, NIEPA, Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, CBSE, NGOs etc (Livemint, 2019)


According to a government press release, NISHTHA aims to build the capacities of around 42 lakh participants in all states and Union Territories (UTs) covering:

All teachers and heads of schools at the elementary level in all government schools

Faculty members of State Councils of Educational Research and Training (SCERT)

District Institute of Education and Training (DIETs)

Officials and resource persons from Block Resource Centres (BRCs) and Cluster Resource Centres (CRCs)

NITI Launches


Sustainable Action For Transforming Human Capital in Education

Aims to systematically reform school education and create model states of transformation
Implemented in three - phases over a period of 30 months, the programme is scheduled to conclude in 2020

The SATH-E programme

NITI Aayog launched SATH-E to identify three model states which could be potential benchmark for school education in India

Out of 16 states that went through a three-step selection process based on the Challenge Method, three states- Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha- were selected for the project implementation (PIB,2018)

SATH-E is implemented in these states through a tripartite agreement which includes state governments, knowledge partners Boston Consulting Group and Piramal Foundation, and NITI Aayog (NITI AayogAnnual Report, 2019-2020)

A review by National Steering Group of Project SATH-Ehas found that programme interventions have resulted in an improvement in learning outcomes across all  three states (ibid)

Somecritical interventions of SATH-E

(NITIAayog Annual Report, 2019-2020)

The implementation of large-scale learning enhancement programmes

School merger and consolidation

Teacher recruitment and rationalization

System-wide training and monitoring programmes

Strengthening of the management information systems (MIS)

Boosting competition through district-wise scorecards

School certification programmes

Education reforms by Delhi government

Since 2015, Delhi Government has undertaken a host of reforms in school education

These reforms are constituted of a complementary set of interventions targeted towards different stakeholders in school education. Specifically, the interventions have been targeted towards students, principals and teachers,school community and infrastructure

-Here we focus only on intervention for students since 2018

Curricular reforms for students


launched in 2018 with an aim to improve learning levels of students attending grade 3 to 8 in the state government and municipal schools in Delhi (Govt. of Delhi, 2018). Due to substantive improvements in learning levels due to the programme, it was repeated in 2019 (Baruah, 2019).


Focuses on holistic education by including meditation, value education, and mental exercises in the conventional education curriculum from nursery to grade 8 in all Delhi government schools (Govt. of Delhi, 2018).

mindset curriculum

Implemented in government schools of Delhi from grade 9 to 12 in order to build awareness and knowledge of various aspects of entrepreneurship amongst students. The programme is based on an activity based curriculum developed by SCERT (Education Times,2019) and includes interaction with Delhi-based entrepreneurs (India Today,2019)

Enabling conditions for reforms

Increased budgetary allocation to the education sector; 26% of 2019-20 Delhi budget was allocated to this sector
(India Today, 2019)

Development of school and support infrastructure at scale between 2015-18 (Outlook, 2019)

Revival of School Management Committees (SMCs) to engage with the community (The Hindu, 2020)

Enhanced training, support and career development
opportunities for teachers (ibid)


Improve the quality of education in
1.6 lakh schools
on basic
teaching skills
Key Goal
Ensure basic education in grade 1 to 5 by March 2022

UP has always performed poorly in the ASER survey which measures learning levels of children in language and mathematics

Mission Prerna envisages to address the issue of low learning outcomes in UP. Gupta (2020) documents the Mission Prerna process

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Education in the
times of

COVID-19 and school closures worldwide

Global monitoring of school
closures caused by COVID-19

Global monitoring of school closures due to COVID-19

Country-wide closures in 168 countries

Have affected about 1.2 billion learners worldwide

Almost 71% of the total enrolled learners

Potential impact of COVID-19 on education

World Bank (2020) highlights potential impacts of school closures due to the pandemic on school education:

While school closures may cause imminent loss of learning in the short - term, extended school closures may translate to loss of human capital and diminished economic opportunities over the long - term

Impact on education would be most detrimental in countries with fragile education systems characterised by low learning outcomes, high dropout rates, and low resilience to shocks

Most vulnerable students are likely to be worst hit by school closures as they have fewer opportunities to learn at home

Poor households may not have the resources for prolonged childcare or even adequate nutritious food for children in the absence of school meals

How are countries coping?

Most countries are exploring options for remote or distance learning and use of other educational resources to mitigate loss of learning (World Bank, 2020)

This involves capitalizing on work on EdTech that has been evolving in the recent years. However, challenge of equity of access to remote learning resources remain

COVID-19 spurred online learning in India; challenges to access remain

In wake of school closures due to COVID-19, more than 50 countries have announced plans for implementing distance learning through internet, TV, or radio


School closures due to the lockdown has affected schools’ academic cycles, board examination dates and college entrances for the next year

There is a push towards deploying technology for instructional purposes

Online learning portals such as SWAYAM or E-Pathshala and the integration of traditional distance education programmes via internet have taken centre stage


Online learning is the most common form of distance learning emerging as countries transition to remote learning strategies.However, access to internet is a key challenge

Less than 40% households in low and lower-middle income countries have access to internet (Carvalho &Hares, 2020)

Tech-intensive bridging solutions have limited reach,especially among government and elementary school students (Choudhary, 2020)

The reach of EdTech solutions might further decline if the pandemic is accompanied by an economic shock, as low income households might not be able to afford internet packages

Whether a country has announced plans for distance learning is highly correlated with income

85% of high-income countries have announced plans for distance learning opportunities, compared to just 15% of low-income countries.

In sub-Saharan Africa, only 4 out of 30+ countries that implemented mass closures have announced distance learning plans for primary and secondary education; these are Kenya, Senegal,Seychelles,
and South Africa

Mitigation of disruption to mid-day meals during school closures

Mid-day meal (MDM) scheme benefits more than 11.5 crore students throughout the country

All primary and upper - primary students in government, government - aided and local body schools, several school types under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and National Child Labour Project (NCLP) schools run by Ministry of Labour are eligible for the MDM scheme

In view of school closures due to COVID-19, the union ministry has asked states and UTs to provide cooked mid-day meals or a food security allowance to all eligible students during school closures

Disruption of mid-day meals and response of some states (March/April 2020)

Operationalisation of the distribution of
mid-day meals

For the distribution dry rations for mid-day meals,many state governments have relied on the services of teachers, anganwadi workers, and volunteers

Reports suggest that provision of cooked mid-day meals has been challenging for states

Response of Indian states to disruptions
in education due to COVID-19 lockdown

Response of Centre
and State Governments

Online learning, through virtual classes, phone-apps and/or web-based educational portals, has become key strategy by states to provide learning at home during school closures due to COVID-19

In May 2020, the finance minister announced PM eVidya programme for multi mode access to digital/ online education which, amongst other initiatives, will include one earmarked TV channel for each grade from 1 to 12 (Times of India, 2020)

Cognizant of the issue of access, states have augmented their online learning initiatives with radio and TV based programmes, SMS, andIVRs

WhatsApp has become an important medium for learning in many states where teachers engage with students and their parents through voice and text messages, including conducting assessments through the app

Structural issues limiting
efficacy of EdTech

Access to electricity, computer and smartphone is limited with significant variations across states in India

NSSO Report on Education (2017-18) indicates that 24%of Indian households have an internet facility. Moreover, only 8% of all households with members aged between five and 24 years have both a computer and an internet connection (Kundu, 2020)

Large gender disparities in access to internet- 67%men had access to internet whereas this number was only 33% for women (Kala,2019)

Online teaching requires a skill set that is not apart of current teacher training curriculum. Thus, a large proportion of current teachers are inept at imparting online learning

Adapting to online education is easier for English medium schools relative to schools with vernaculars as medium of instruction which comprise a large proportion of total schools in India (Kalra, 2020)

How private schools adopted EdTech in responding to school closures?

Similar to states’ response, many private schools across the country have moved to online or virtual classes which take place through Google Meet, Zoom, WebEx or other web-based platforms
Reports suggest that there is a large variation amongst schools in the quality of content delivered through the virtual classes ranging from structured classes to just sharing PowerPoint presentations with the students
Teachers from private schools working with limited access to digital infrastructure are using Whatsapp to engage with students and parents

States leveraged digital, TV and radio to mitigate learning loss; some case studies*

Madhya Pradesh


Digital Learning
Enhancement Program

Provides learning opportunities for students in grade 1 to 12 over WhatsApp covering all competencies for major subjects. WhatsApp architecture has been designed to operationalise this programme

CM Rise

Digital teacher training programme through DIKHSA

Top Parent App

The app, which in turn hosts three high quality edtech apps for early grade children, allows parents to track the child’s performance and contribute towards their education

Radio School

A state-wide programme, launched in collaboration with All India Radio, is broadcasted for one hour each day and covers stories and academic programs focused on grades 1-8

DDMP  - Classroom

Partnered with DD MP to telecast special educational TV program, "Class Room" for grade 10 and 12. This programme is aired twice-a-day, five days a week (Times of India, 2020)

Uttar Pradesh

Gupta (2020) documents that Uttar Pradesh is taking a multi-pronged approach with following elements:


Through e-Pathshala, the state government is disseminating educational content among students through smartphones. To do so, it is leveraging the existing network of WhatsApp groups at district, block and school levels


Intensify the usage of content uploaded on DIKSHA platform. Three featured content categories in the Diksha app include TicTac Learn, Khan Academy, and content from Pratham Education Foundation

Top Parent App

Use of Top Parent App and the three high-quality edtech apps such as Chimple, Math Masti and Bolo- for early grade children is being encouraged


For students without access to smartphones,educational content is being disseminated through DD-UP, All India Radio, and community radio


Response coordinated through government’s Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE) initiative. Jinoy Jose P (2020)documents the state’s approach:

Online training

Conducted five - day online training for 81,000 primary schoolteachers to refresh their digital skills

Avadikala Santhoshangal

(Happy Vacation times)

A programme under which online edutainment content was released on state’s SAMAGRA resource porta, with its phase I focusing on grade 5 to 9

Akshara Vriksham

(Tree of Letters)

A programme that aims to collect, curate and publish creative content such as stories, poems and articles created by the students. SCERT selected the best entries later to be published as a book

KITE’s Victers TV

Special programmes are aired on KITE’s Victers TV channel delivered through DTH. In addition, KITE also provides a MOOC for flexible training of teachers

* States discussed here are not necessarily representative of the range of education responses of all Indian states and UTs. Case studies are based on information from publicly available sources and discussions with relevant stakeholders. Not to be construed as comprehensive coverage of the state’s education response to COVID19.