Starting implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP), the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a World Bank-aided scheme, with a total project cost of Rs 5,718 crore, to set up a national assessment centre and help six states on a pilot basis to improve learning and assessment in schools.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) will establish PARAKH, an assessment centre that will set standards for the 60-odd examination boards in the country through the STARS (Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States) project, it was announced.
PARAKH is among the assessment reforms proposed in the NEP that collectively aim to move schools boards away from high-stakes examinations and towards holistic assessment.
The STARS Project will also support Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha in improving basic reading and math skills of students and undertake assessment reforms, the ministry stated.
“The STARS project is directed at strengthening the government-managed school education system that primarily caters to the educational needs of girls and students from marginalised groups,” the MoE stated in a release. “The programme covers many key areas: access and retention; Right to Education entitlements; quality interventions; teacher education; gender and equity; inclusive education; entitlements (uniforms, textbooks, scholarships, etc); upgradation of learning environment.”
For the six states, STARS proposes several interventions, ranging from developing teacher capacity and teaching-learning material to making Board exams more competency-based.
India’s participation in the 2022 cycle of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey will also be funded by this project, it was informed.
PISA, introduced in 2000 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), tests the learning levels of 15-year-old children in reading, mathematics, and science. The test is conducted every three years. India stayed away from PISA in 2012 and 2015 on account of its dismal performance in 2009, when it was placed 72nd among the 74 participating countries. The government decided to end the boycott in 2019.
The proposal, close to the time of World Bank’s approval, had received flak from NGOs working in the education sector on the ground that its implications had not been discussed enough. “The project encourages spending tax payer’s money on partnerships with private actors, has no concrete steps to build system capacity from within and is being passed without adequately consulting with stakeholders in the 6 states,” OXFAM India stated.