Reading Campaign: A Case Study of Micro Improvement Project in Punjab
Updated: Nov 2, 2022
“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are”- These profound words by Mason Cooley are the most relevant when it comes to WHY reading is important. Reading is one of the best adventures you can embark upon. It has the ability to transport us to incredible places, and unearth and explore new cultures, languages, and experiences that can shape the way we look at the world. Above all, it opens up a world of imagination – not just for children, but also for adults. From our own experience as educators and mentors, we have noticed that the more child reads, the better they write, and the better their diction, writing, and understanding becomes. In today’s fast, tech-driven world, it is more important than ever to inculcate in children the value of reading books — be it virtual or physical — on their path to becoming change-makers and trendsetters.
Since we understand the importance of reading habits, we must be aware of where we stand as a nation in terms of reading proficiency among children.
13-18% of students from classes 3, 5, and 8 are below basic learning levels, and only 39-53% have achieved proficiency: NAS 2017 Report
55% of India’s school-going children can't read and understand a short, age-appropriate text by class 5: World Bank’s Learning Poverty Index
Research suggests that class 3 is an inflection point. Only if children ‘learn to read' by then do they ‘read to learn.’ NIPUN Bharat aims at helping children ‘read to learn’.
Through this comprehensive case study, we have tried to highlight the current state of reading proficiency among children and the government’s approach to solving the problem at scale. We have used the example of reading campaigns held in Punjab, as we had the opportunity in the state to work with the education department on the Micro Improvement Projects.
Background: NIPUN Bharat Mission
The Department of School Education and Literacy, the Ministry of Education, and the Government of India have launched the National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy called National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN Bharat) on 5th July 2021 under the aegis of Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Samagra Shiksha.
The mission aims to achieve universal foundational literacy and numeracy in primary classes and ensure all children attain grade-level reading, writing, and numeracy competencies. The Mission lays down priorities and actionable agendas for States/UTs to achieve the goal of proficiency in foundational literacy and numeracy for every child by grade 3.
The National Education Policy has laid out inspiring objectives for the school education system. Different actors in the ecosystem will need to work together to ensure that students get the desired conducive learning environment. This will also necessitate new behavior and practices to be learned and practiced by the stakeholders. Bringing these changes to a systemic level can become a long, overwhelming and daunting process for the stakeholders to undertake.
Hence their capacity will need to be developed such that they develop the muscle for innovation, problem-solving, and, leading continuous micro-improvements.
The proposed solution: Micro Improvement Projects
"In order to make meaningful changes to the way we work, don't start with a mammoth challenge. Start small."
Micro-improvements cater to the objective of making the improvement process easy, simple, and achievable for every teacher and leader in the education system. The approach uses the 'learning by doing' concept.
Micro Improvements are enabled through Digital Projects and are available to leaders at all levels through the National Infrastructure for Education - DIKSHA. This is aligned to the 'Learn - Do- Practice' of NDEAR (Building Block 9 under the Manage Learn scenario for Administrator Persona).
It is an approach that helps the stakeholder to break down a big idea into clear actionable tasks & modify it to suit their context. It bridges the gap between concepts, evidence, and practice. The frequent wins experienced through micro-level changes in schools eventually feed into a continuous improvement cycle across the education system. Making micro improvements each day repetitively over a period of time will also lead to compounding growth and mega impact across the system. Thus it brings a huge opportunity to transform various 'learning' initiatives into 'learning to improve' initiatives.
Reading Campaign: A Micro Improvement Project
Translating learning from workshops to the workspace has been a perennial challenge. Several states are now adopting the micro-improvement approach to design their flagship programs with the singular motto of 'Learn To Improve'. In September 2021, Uttar Pradesh became the first state to use the approach under Mission Prerna. The state enabled its school heads to design and implement a project to celebrate, appreciate and motivate teachers on the occasion of Shikshak Parv.
In January 2022, a 100-day Reading Campaign was launched by the Ministry of Education. Headmasters and School Heads in the states of Bihar, Gujarat, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Puducherry applied the micro improvements approach to implementing the campaign. More than 50,000 improvement projects were undertaken reflecting the positive energy the approach has been able to create.
Mantra’s role in Micro Improvement Project
Mantra4Change has been instrumental in helping the department in materializing the concept of the Micro Improvement Project and further building the implementation structure for the state. The program team at Mantra4Change has also provided backend technical support, query resolution during the implementation, data review, and analysis.
Mantra4Change played the role of design and consulting partner to the state for effective implementation. The team supported the state core group in terms of adding crucial steps in program rollout, designing project resources, data analysis parameters, how to increase adoption, etc.
MIP Punjab: Reading Mela
The Micro-Improvement Project, Reading Mela was launched in the Shri Muktsar Sahib district of Punjab in 326 primary schools (with 40710 students enrolled). Shri Muktsar Sahib is identified as one of the 10 Low Performing Districts (LPD) under Mission Education, based on its performance in National Achievement Survey (NAS) 2017. The reading campaign was targeted toward the objectives of Mission Education in the context of improving foundational learning levels. The Micro-Improvement approach emphasizes that small actions taken by Head Teachers (HTs) will create a large impact on the school and community. So, a step-by-step guided project was launched on the DIKSHA portal for the Head Teachers. The project was launched on 8th July'22, under the leadership of SCERT Director, Dr. Maninder Singh Sarkaria followed by a 1-hour virtual orientation conducted by the State Resource Group. DEO, Deputy DEO, BPEOs, PPDC, APPDC, BMTs, CHTs, DIET officials, and State and District Media team attended the orientation.
Schools conducted this project from 11th July 2022 to 1st August 2022. The district support team's leadership and guidance to Head Teachers (HTs) proved to be a key success element. HTs appreciated the activities and resource materials that were attached to the project. We learned that such project campaigns are adoptable on the ground given systematic and timely support is ensured by the state. 70% of HTs were able to start the project on DIKSHA and 52% of HTs successfully submitted the project. HTs also expressed that they observed a lot of positive changes in students because of this project and the DIKSHA project helped them to plan their steps and guide the school team.
Head Teachers expressed that they felt teachers became more conscious of children's learning needs. They observed teachers work as a team to make Reading Mela project successful. Head Teachers also observed that students developed an interest in reading different books along with confidence skills to express themselves. Head Teachers noticed the active participation of parents and community members.
Context-Based Reading for Children
ਸਭ ਨੂੰ ਸੁਪ੍ਰਭਾਤ! ਅੱਗੇ ਦਾ ਦਿਨ ਚੰਗਾ ਹੋਵੇ। (Sabha nū suprabhāta! Agē dā dina cagā hōvē). If you are someone who has never heard or read Punjabi, you must be finding it difficult to read this text. Imagine a child who is born in Shri Mukthar Sahib, whose parents speak Punjabi at home, whose friends and relatives speak Punjabi outside the home, and whose teachers speak Punjabi in school. How will they be interested in reading text in Hindi or English, which to a five-year-old, seems like an alien language?
Let’s imagine another situation. I gave a book written in Hindi to a kid in Patna, Bihar, which talks about food eaten in the south of India. Someone from Bihar, who has never been out of the state and has eaten daal-chawal rather than uttapam-sambhar would not be able to relate and feel alienated. So, what we learned from the reading campaign was that the participation from students will also depend on the reading resources provided, the language of the resource, and the context it talks about.
Planning and Monitoring
Our active involvement in the planning and implementation of the project in Punjab, bought us learning that is of immense value to us as an organization working on educational leadership. In Shri Muktsar Sahib, we saw how context-based solutions can be effective in generating ownership of the project. Outlining the objective, defining a set of roles and responsibilities for each stakeholder, and planning a set of actions in orientation ensured that everyone has clarity on the outcomes. We also had a great learning experience on how keeping the tasks and activities simple and easy to do can help the HTs execute the project smoothly. Clear and effective communication is something that ensures the success of a project. Sometimes we are lucky to have a communication channel and sometimes not. What do we do then? We learned that, how free chat applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram can be used to do structured communication.
Every project, by virtue of its being for the benefit of the masses, brings challenges. The MIP Reading Campaign was not any different. We faced challenges and we are working around them to come stronger when we do the subsequent round of MIPs. One of the major challenges for us was to get the full attention and engagement of the HTs as they would have other administrative priorities and simultaneous projects due to the lack of a common calendar at the state level. Even for HTs who gave attention, the technical difficulties of how to adopt DIKSHA were a challenge. Parents and community engagement was a difficult task. We had to send invitations, both, digital and print, to get them to the Reading Mela, and yet the participation was low.
We would be happy with the fact that;
40,710 Students impacted;
70.03% of Head Teachers started the project;
51.99% of Head Teachers submitted the project;
1,760 Project evidence were uploaded;
and strive towards improving the numbers by incorporating the learnings we had and coming up with solutions to counter the challenges, when we do another reading campaign.
“The biggest impact of the Reading Mela was that students who had been lagging in their reading levels during the Covid-19 period were motivated to improve their reading levels by conducting only reading activities in a focused manner. This led to the development of students' interests in reading different books and creative skills.”
-Kamalpreet Singh Parho Punjab District Coordinator
“Reading Mela was a good initiative. Students really enjoyed all the activities according to the monthly schedule. Teachers and students completed all the activities with enthusiasm. Students reading fluency in Punjabi really improved. Students now show a lot of interest in reading books from the reading cell.”
-Amandeep Kaur Cluster Head Teacher
A case study by:
Palak Sharma, Content Development Lead - Punjab, Mantra4Change
Sushant, Program Communications Lead, Mantra4Change