The cornerstone of effective governance is effective communication. How successfully intentions translate into favourable outcomes depends on how articulately the state government or any decision-making body issues instructions and advisories to ground-level officials and stakeholders responsible for implementation. In recent years, the Government of Haryana has consistently used effective communication tools to drive the implementation of complex, state-wide education reforms.
The Department of School Education, Government of Haryana employs more than 100,000 teachers across 15,000 schools in the state. In 2015, the state decided to pivot primary school education from mere syllabus completion that incentivised rote-learning to competency-based learning. It means that a student had to demonstrate proficiency with respect to predefined learning outcomes set for her grade. While this was a step in the right direction, it was easier said than done. This required an alignment of the administration at the state level with teachers at the school level. This required proactive communication and support from the state to -
According to the 2016 ASER report, only 54.6% of class 5 government school students in Haryana could read text of class 2 level. Similarly, only 30.1% class 5 students of government schools could do division, an at grade math competency, while 63.9% of their peers in private schools could successfully do it. ASER reports over the years have been a great tool to identify the gaps in learning at school level. To narrow down this learning gap, Haryana put in place a state-wide, structured remedial learning programme called the Learning Enhancement Program (LEP). As part of this programme students were grouped - L0, L1 and L2 - where L0 represented students performing poorly and L2 representing the students doing optimally. This required training teachers to adopt new techniques for classroom interaction. To this end, the state government used an innovative communication strategy-- an ongoing teacher training programme through WhatsApp called DigiLEP. Under DigiLEP, more than 150 WhatsApp groups were formed for all 35,000 primary grade teachers across 119 blocks. A plan was charted out by SCERT wherein competencies were mapped for each subject. Video-based content was put out based on a daily plan. This network of WhatsApp groups became the medium to bring the entire education department together, focusing their energies on a singular target--making government school students grade level-competent.
The success of the government’s communication strategy lay in the two-pronged approach adopted for top-down communication--choice of medium and a defined procedure for conveying messages. The choice of medium, WhatsApp, ensured that the department could reach out to its personnel directly and scale up training in a simple and quick manner. A standard operating procedure brought a sense of discipline, regularity and reinforced the core idea. Both these factors brought trust and confidence in the process.
The state has been able to leverage learnings from the last few years and apply it to achieve bigger targets. The collaborative approach adopted to make a switch from syllabus completion to competency-based learning became the model to align secondary grade teachers to improve the Haryana state board results performance. The strategy was condensed into a five-point agenda--daily practice, extra classes, remedial classes for weak students, solving previous year papers and focus on high weightage topics. The continuous messaging around the agenda brought all the stakeholders in sync with it.
The spread of Covid-19 affected the normal functioning of schools and by extension the teaching-learning process. Over the last 1.5 months, teacher WhatsApp groups have become instrumental in reaching out to parents of government school students. They have been leveraged to send out homework to parents of 22 lakh students on their phones.
The experience of Haryana is evidence that implementing complex governance reforms requires communication that is simple, user-centric and continuous. Over a period of time a system that allows ground-level stakeholders to communicate freely with officials higher up in the administration, builds trust, credibility and lays a foundation which can then be leveraged in unprecedented circumstances.