Key document on World Bank school project not disclosed: Activists

Key document on World Bank school project not disclosed: Activists
Team Careers360 | Jun 22, 2020 - 6:53 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: Over 1,400 academics, activists and teachers have endorsed a letter to Hartwig Schafer, vice president, South Asia Region, World Bank, asking for the finalisation of a project and loan to be postponed.

They have grave misgivings about the “Strengthening Teaching Learning and Results for States”, or STARS programme, which is set to be finalised on Monday, June 24. It involves the Ministry of Human Resource Development taking a USD 500 million loan from the World Bank, just 15% of the total cost, to fund education reform in six states and initiate policy changes at the Centre. The six states include Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha. The central and state governments will cover more than 85% of the cost of the project.

A statement on their letter says the academics have raised “key concerns about STARS project such as lack of provisions to improve access to education among marginalized communities, potential involvement of for-profit entities in education and excessive focus on standardized assessments”.

However, their critique is based on the “Project Information Document” and not the complete Project Appraisal Report which has not been disclosed.

The letter has been endorsed by over 40 organisations including education and child rights non-profits and teachers’ unions, both state and national.

Project Appraisal Document not released

Their critique is based on the Project Information Document prepared on June 4 which, according to the World Bank’s own definition, “outlines the scope of the intended project and contains useful public information for tailoring bidding documents to the proposed project”. The more detailed Project Appraisal Document is not public yet.

Anjela Taneja, lead specialist, education and inequality, Oxfam India, explained that for the project to be placed before the board, it would have been approved by the government. The World Bank typically places an approved Project Appraisal Document on its website 10 days before it is tabled before the board, unless they do not have the permission to disclose. In the case of the STARS project, the PAD is not online. “It will be useful to know what is in it and if there is nothing to hide, why not disclose it?” asked Taneja.

The project information document lists MHRD as the implementing agency and mentions the school education secretary, Anita Karwal, as the main contact. Careers360 contacted Karwal to understand why the complete Project Appraisal Document has not been disclosed yet but did not receive any response. If she does, this copy will be updated.

The objections

The project emphasises testing of school children and collaborating with “non-state actors” – or, private parties – on public education. It also stresses on extensive use of ICT in education. “Public money for private entities with an excessive focus on technology, without improving basic state capacity, does not spell governance reform. Nor does ramping up measurement of cognitive abilities lead to improved learning. The thrust of the project seems mis-directed,” said Kiran Bhatty, senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research, in the statement.

“The project fails to address caste and gender-based discrimination or to embed the equity agenda at the heart of system reform by not including measures like equity audits of all schools (both government and private),” added Taneja in the statement.

The educationists believe the STARS programme offers an “ineffective route of improving quality”. Their statement says: “The project excessively emphasizes standardised testing, particularly preparation for Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), not investing in addressing the everyday realities of teachers’ lives or allowing for change from within the education system.”

Ram Pal Singh, president, All India Primary Teachers’ Federation which has endorsed the letter said that the “design of the STARS project reflects that the teacher community was not consulted”.

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