Schools have been closed across the country since March, bringing misery to students and parents alike. While multiple states have launched home learning initiatives, two programmes have stood out - Himachal Pradesh’s Har Ghar Pathshala (HGP) and Haryana’s Ghar Se Padhao.
Both campaigns have leveraged WhatsApp extensively to build an easily accessible and direct connection between students and their teachers and both are now seeing huge participation with respect to regular online assessments. The secret to their success can be broken down into five key elements:
1. Good Content
Both states have set up dedicated in-house teams to curate learning materials--in the form of videos and worksheets--to be sent to students every day. This content is a combination of open-source material from high quality sources across the education ecosystem as well as that created in-house. In Himachal, a State Resource Group (SRG) was formed comprising some of the best teachers in the government school system as its members, while in Haryana, the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) collaborated with both teachers and mentors to develop content. In both cases the emphasis has been on having quality, easily accessible content made available every day.
2. Strong Engagement Plans
Engaging teachers, parents and students at home over multiple months is a major challenge and both states have developed and improved upon this over time.
Right from the outset, Himachal started an outreach campaign through social media, print media, radio ads / jingles and infographics which included strong participation by the state’s Chief Minister (CM) and Education Minister (EM). The HGP programme was launched by the CM, and while the former EM launched the first e-PTM, the current EM conducted a state-wide interaction with parents, teachers and students while launching the second e-PTM round. These e-PTMs were conducted to ensure parent engagement, wherein teachers across the state interacted with parents of students through online platforms/voice calls, providing updates on student performance, school reopening and resolving concerns. Between August and October, 48,000 teachers conducted e-PTMs, which were attended by 92% of parents.
In Haryana, similar engagement plans have been supplemented by a ‘Shiksha Mitr’ initiative for students and an e-Mentoring initiative for teachers.
3. Regular Assessments
Haryana SCERT is conducting weekly quizzes through online forms, disseminated through WhatApp, for grades 5-12. Each week 6.5+ lakh students participate in these quizzes, which is nearly 40% of the students in these grades. Himachal is conducting weekly assessments directly on WhatsApp itself through a Chatbot. Through the Chatbot teachers are provided a report on the performance of each of their students. On an average 3-4 lakh students participate in these weekly quizzes. For competencies in which students don’t perform well, the bot automatically sends videos explainers.
4. Thorough Review & Monitoring
Both states are tracking student and teacher engagement in home learning through quiz participation rates and regular surveys of students engaging with WhatsApp content. The insights from this data is available on public dashboards for both Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. Based on this granular data regular reviews happen at the state, district, block and school levels to drive continued engagement with home learning.
5. Incentives & Appreciation
Multiple means have been used to maintain momentum for home learning initiatives during the long months of Covid school closures. In Himachal, at the state level, the SRG has received regular public recognition from both the CM and EM and have been given certificates of appreciation and opportunities for upskilling through workshops. The state has also recognized individual student achievements through ‘Masti ki Pathshala’ competitions and prizes. Masti ki Pathshala is an initiative which entails assigning students fun activities along with daily worksheets and homework, such as Covid-awareness poster-making, planting saplings, poetry writing, letter writing origami, etc. At the district level, one student each from primary, upper primary and higher classes is selected as the winner on the basis of performance in these activities.
In Haryana, the Department of Education has set up regular ‘Champion of the Week’ posts for teachers, officials and mentors which highlight the contribution of individuals. These posts are shared across more than 350 state and district WhatsApp groups which include up to 1 lakh teachers and education officials.
It’s a marathon not a sprint
Covid-19 is here for the foreseeable future, with further disruption to schooling inevitable in the months and possibly years to come. Other states can learn from the playbook adopted by Haryana and Himachal Pradesh to continue to improve their home learning initiatives and ensure continuous learning for students in the coming months.