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Literacy Research in Indian Languages (LiRIL): Research report of a Study of Literacy Acquisition in Kannada and Marathi (2013-2016)

The Literacy Research in Indian Languages (LiRIL) project, jointly supported by the Tata Trusts and Azim Premji University, aimed to study how children learned to read and write in two Indian languages—Kannada and Marathi--and to document the challenges faced by marginalized learners in this process. The project was conducted in two socio-economically disadvantaged areas – Yadgir block (Yadgir district, Karnataka) and Wada block, (Palghar district, Maharashtra). It used a longitudinal design, and followed 360 students per site as they moved from Grades 1-3 (2013-2016). The schools in Karnataka followed the Nali Kali (Multi Grade Multi Level– MGML) curricular approach and the schools in Maharashtra used the Bal Bharati textbooks for teaching language and literacy.

The LiRIL project confirms what is well known – children in both sites perform very poorly in a variety of reading and writing tasks. It was clear that children are not just unable to read words and passages at an appropriate level of difficulty, but that, even those who are able to read the script, are often unable to comprehend it. Higher order skills like comprehension and composition are alarmingly poor. The principal investigators were Shailaja Menon, Ramchandar Krishnamurthy from Azim Premji University.

This paper aims to describe and analyse these experiences in four clusters of Uttarakhand where sustained efforts of the CRCCs, teachers and members of the Foundation have revitalised cluster-level monthly meetings and created a teacher-owned space for academic dialogue.

Click here to download the final report.

Click here to read the Kannnada version of the report

Evolution of Cluster-level Monthly Meetings as a Forum for Continuous Professional Development of Teachers:Experiences from Uttarakhand

Cluster Resource Centres (CRC) and Block Resource Centres (BRC) were first set up under the centrally sponsored District Primary Education Program (DPEP) in 1994, with the primary aim of training teachers in improving their pedagogic practices. Under the aegis of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the vision of these centres was further expanded to include the provision of continuous academic support to teachers. As an integral element of this strategy, the cluster resource centre coordinator (CRCC) is expected to hold monthly meetings; where teachers from the cluster can connect with each other, discuss classroom challenges and collaboratively arrive at solutions. However, since most of them are over-burdened with administrative concerns, these meetings have often been reduced to focusing on purely administrative and transactional issues like data collection.

Azim Premji Foundation (Foundation) has been working towards improving the quality of public education with a central focus on teacher professional development for long. Based on its experience on the ground, the Foundation recognises that platforms that break the isolation of teachers and enable collaboration and peer learning amongst them are important to creating a coherent and integrated approach to teacher professional development. Across several districts of Uttarakhand, the Foundation has worked with cluster-level monthly meetings and has witnessed their transformation from forums for data collection and information exchange to spaces where teachers converge as professionals and collaboratively engage with classroom related challenges and other academic issues; and through this process, further their own professional development.

This paper aims to describe and analyse these experiences in four clusters of Uttarakhand where sustained efforts of the CRCCs, teachers and members of the Foundation have revitalised cluster-level monthly meetings and created a teacher-owned space for academic dialogue.

Key Insights

  • Any initiative to transform cluster-level monthly meetings into collaborative spaces for teacher professional development will require deep capacity building of the CRCC.
  • It is important to build a relationship of mutual trust and respect among all stakeholders through formal and informal interactions. This relationship is crucial for collaborative learning.
  • Setting up meaningful processes for organising and conducting cluster meetings is essential. This includes allocation of sufficient time for discussion, selection of relevant topics and adequate preparation by resource persons.
  • The effectiveness of any such platform ultimately depends on the quality and depth of the conversations it facilitates. It is also necessary to establish backward-forward linkages with classroom processes to ensure that the platform has direct relevance for the teacher.
  • It is imperative to involve teachers at different levels of decision making in matters concerning such meetings - at the level of content as well as processes.
  • It is paramount that a democratic environment is created during these meetings.
  • A conducive physical environment is crucial to learning. Selecting a convenient location and creating a clean, comfortable space is an acknowledgment of the teachers’ needs and attracts them.

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Setting Up Teacher learning Centres:Experiences from some districts of Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, and Rajasthan

Teacher professional development has occupied centre stage in the discourse on school improvement for the past many years, both in India and globally. Though there is broad agreement on what constitutes effective teacher professional development processes, there is little consensus on how to operationalise them within the Indian context, especially given the characteristic features of the country’s vast government school system.

Azim Premji Foundation has been working towards improving equity and quality in the government school system for over fifteen years. Facilitating teacher professional development has been at the core of this work. Working with teachers over these many years, one of the many lessons for the Foundation has been that teachers need conducive autonomous spaces—in the physical and symbolic sense—to engage with each other, with other experts, and with professionally relevant materials and resources, to be able to learn and develop professionally.

With this in mind, the Foundation has set up resource centres called Teacher Learning Centres (TLCs) in the geographies that it works in. TLCs are increasingly becoming a key element of the Foundation’s strategy of working with teachers. This paper, the first among a series of papers on understanding the working of TLCs, documents the insights gathered from the Foundation’s experience in setting up and starting TLCs in some selected districts. In particular, it focuses on the groundwork and efforts required to set up a TLC.

Key Insights

  • It is important to set up TLCs in locations that are convenient for teachers to access—in this particular context, it amounts to setting up TLCs close to where large number of teachers reside.
  • The facilities should also be conducive for the kind of engagements that are envisaged within the centre; these should be spaces where teachers like to come and spend time.
  • Having appropriate resources and materials in the TLC is important; these include curricular resources that are directly relevant to the teachers’ practice, as well as others.
  • It is not sufficient for the TLC to be a resource centre; it needs to be a platform where teachers can access a range of high-quality, relevant professional development opportunities.
  • This requires that competent ‘resource persons’ are available at the TLC to facilitate such opportunities
  • Whether it be in the case of location, facility, resources or professional development opportunities, it is important to consider contextual considerations while visualising such a centre.
  • As TLCs are envisaged as platforms where teachers can choose professional development opportunities that suit them in terms of content and process, encouraging voluntary participation is fundamental.
  • Such a concept is working against the existing cultural currents of top-down, one-size-fits-all teacher professional development processes; this means that awareness creation as well as continuous mobilisation of teachers is very important, even past the early stages of a TLC.
  • Creating and sustaining an environment of equality and respect makes teachers feel valued and respected and helps to build ownership; this needs to be purposively built into all processes in the TLC.

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Innovation, Intellectual Property, and Development
Dean Baker, Arjun Jayadev and Joseph Stiglitz

"This paper aims to provide an intellectual basis to think about the relationship between development, intellectual property and innovation; where we currently are and what alternatives are available. For the most part, we are concerned less with the implications of current IP laws for the advanced countries as we are with their impact on developing countries. We focus here not only on the current pathologies of the system and on potential alternative ways to tackle its most egregious excesses; but on a more positive note, on what kind of “system” would best promote development and well-being in the developing world. We are looking for a world with new and better rules for intellectual property"

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Starting and Sustaining Voluntary Teacher Forums: Experience From Tonk, Rajasthan.

"This paper explores what it takes to start and sustain Voluntary Teacher Forums, , providing teachers in the government school system with much needed opportunities for collaboration and peer learning, based on the experience from Tonk, Rajasthan"

Click here to download a copy of the Report.

Click here to read the Hindi version.

Teacher Absenteeism Study

"Government school teachers demonstrate exemplary commitment; actual teacher absenteeism substantially lower than general impressions"
Teacher Absenteeism is as low as 2.5%.

The study by the research group at Azim Premji Foundation concludes that the general impression and claims of teacher absenteeism in government schools are vastly exaggerated. The qualitative part of the study explores the background and reasons as to how, many teachers overcome multiple hurdles in their daily work life, and demonstrate exemplary commitment. The new research study by the research group at Azim Premji Foundation found that in government schools, teacher absenteeism (absence without legitimate reason) is as low as just 2.5%. This is vastly different from the popular narrative on teacher absenteeism, which often refers to numbers ranging from 20% to 50%. This study makes it clear, along with other similar studies that have been done in the past, that the issue of teacher absenteeism is not as big a problem as it is often made out to be.

The Key Findings were

  • The findings of the study show that ‘teacher absenteeism’, i.e. absence without legitimate reason or truancy is only 2.5%. This aspect needs due attention in the larger teacher accountability discourse
  • While the overall teacher absence – i.e. instances of teachers not being physically present in the school was 18.9%, the reasons are less about the delinquency of teachers but rather about the systemic issues that require them to undertake other official activities, apart from legitimate leaves
  • In spite of exhibiting characteristics such as difficulty of access, poor school infrastructure or even high pupil-teacher ratio our ethnographic case studies found the schools studied to have an engaged cadre with no visible concerns of teacher absenteeism as expressed by education officials or community
  • These cases stand counter to the widely received stereotype of disengaged and frequently absent teachers. Given a certain kind of enabling and positive work environment that facilitates collegiality and trust, many teachers show commitment and motivation and hold themselves accountable without external supervision and monitoring

Click here to download a copy of the Report.

सरकारी स्कूल के शिक्षक अनुकरणीय प्रतिबद्धता प्रदर्शित करते हैं; वास्तविक शिक्षक अनुपस्थिति प्रचलित धारणा से काफी कम है " शिक्षक अनुपस्थिति की दर 2.5% जितनी कम है।

अजीम प्रेमजी फाउंडेशन के शोध समूह द्वारा किया गया अध्ययन इस निष्कर्ष पर पहुंचता है कि सरकारी स्कूलों में शिक्षक अनुपस्थिति के बारे में व्यापक धारणा और दावे बेहद अतिशयोक्तिपूर्ण हैं| इस अध्ययन का गुणात्मक विश्लेषण वाला हिस्सा उसके पृष्ठभूमि और कारणों को खोजने की कोशिश करता है कि कैसे, बहुत सारे शिक्षक अपनी रोजमर्रा की नौकरी में आने वाली विभिन्न बाधाओं पर काबू पाते हैं तथा अनुकरणीय प्रतिबद्धता प्रदर्शित करते हैं।

शोध समूह के इस नए अध्ययन में यह पाया कि सरकारी विद्यालयों में, शिक्षकों की अनुपस्थिति (वैध कारण के बिना अनुपस्थिति) केवल 2.5% तक ही है। यह शिक्षक अनुपस्थिति के बारे में उन सामान्य धारणाओं से बहुत अलग है, जो अक्सर 20% से लेकर 50% तक के आंकड़ों को दर्शाते हैं।

शिक्षक अनुपस्थिति से सम्बंधित इस अध्ययन के अलावा जो पूर्व में हुए अन्य अध्ययन भी इस बात को रेखांकित करते है कि शिक्षक अनुपस्थिति उतनी बड़ी समस्या नहीं है जितनी इसके बारे में अक्सर चर्चा की जाती है|

इस अध्ययन के प्रमुख निष्कर्ष निम्न थे -

  • अध्ययन के निष्कर्ष यह बताते हैं कि 'शिक्षक अनुपस्थिति', अर्थात् ‘बिना वैध कारण के विद्यालय से बाहर रहना’, केवल 2.5% है। इस पहलू को शिक्षक की बड़ी जवाबदेही से सम्बंधित विमर्श में ध्यान देने की जरूरत है|
  • कुल शिक्षक अनुपस्थिति - अर्थात स्कूल में शारीरिक रूप से उपस्थित नहीं होने वाले शिक्षकों के उदाहरण 18.9% थी, किन्तु यह शिक्षकों के कर्तव्यच्युत से कम, बल्कि उन प्रणालीगत मुद्दों से ज्यादा सम्बंधित है, जो उन्हें अन्य आधिकारिक गतिविधियों के कारण विद्यालय से बाहर रखते हैं|
  • इस अध्ययन में स्कूल पहुंच में कठिनाई, कमजोर स्कूल ढांचा या यहां तक कि अति उच्च छात्र-शिक्षक अनुपात आदि से संबंधित केस स्टडीज में पाया गया कि इन स्कूलों में शिक्षक की अनुपस्थिति उतनी दिखाई नहीं दे रही थी जितना की शिक्षा विभाग के अधिकारियों या समुदाय द्वारा व्यक्त किया जाता है।
  • यह अध्ययन शिक्षकों की अनुपस्थिति से सम्बंधित व्यापक रूप के किए गए अध्ययनों से असहमति जाहिर करता है और इस विचार में विश्वास रखता है कि अगर कार्यस्थल पर ऐसा सकारात्मक वातावरण हो, जो आपसी सामंजस्य और विश्वास को बढ़ावा दे, तो बहुत सारे शिक्षक बिना किसी बाहरी पर्यवेक्षण और निगरानी के स्वयं अभिप्रेरित होते हुए अपनी प्रतिबद्धता जाहिर कर खुद को जवाबदेह बनाते हैं|

Click here to read the Hindi version.

Multiple projects using a comparative subnational framework are being planned across different policy & governance domains.
Focus Project Title Lead Researcher / Team
Policy & Governance Explaining Village-level Variation in Education: A Quantitative-Qualitative Study in Chhattisgarh and Karnataka (3-year project) Suraj Jacob & Balmurli Natrajan
Maternal Health in Assam and Meghalaya – A Comparative Perspective (2-year project) Sreeparna Ghosh, Suraj Jacob, and Arima Mishra
The Institutional System in School Education: A Study of Monitoring, Regulation, and Activism in Rajasthan in a Comparative Framework (2-year project) Rahul Mukhopadhyay, Sujatha Rao, Rishikesh B. S., and Suraj Jacob
Pathways to Political Power: An Inter-State and Intra-State Comparison of Karnataka and Odisha (2-year project) Narayana A., Suraj Jacob, and Sailen Routray

Village Level study of land in Karnataka
Focus Project Title
Policy & Governance Mapping institutions involved in Land Governance
Studying E-governance in Land Records Management
Studying Land Tenure systems and Rights
Conducting an Ethnography of Land Administration
Conducting an Ethnography of the Office of the Village Accountant
Several projects related to “Right to Education” through the Hub for Education Law and Policy: On awareness, Impact Analysis, RTE admissions online.

Focus Project Title Lead Researcher / Team
School Choice Does school choice help rural children from disadvantaged sections improve their learning outcomes? D D Karopady
Azim Premji Foundation entered into an MoU with the government of Andhra Pradesh in 2004 to carry out joint research in the state on education related topics. Under this, the Foundation launched the Andhra Pradesh School Choice (APSC) research to assess if joining a private school improved the learning of a child compared to a government school, after minimizing the impact of other influencing factors. This is the largest research study in India (and perhaps the world) involving a sample size of over 10,000 children and a rigourous Randomized Control Trial (RCT) design.
Click here to read DD Karopady’s article in on the research findings in Economics and Political Weekly ( EPW).

Focus Project Title Lead Researcher / Team
Early Childhood Care and Education An Evaluation of the Non-formal Pre-School education in Medak District Research Centre
Devaki L.Priya Iyer, Sukanya Mohanty
and Andhra Pradesh Team
Umamaheswarea, R Jaggena
The first six years of a child's life lays the foundation for lifelong learning and development. The present study has been taken up in response to the need for generating a data-based understanding on pre-school education. The key objectives of the study are as follows:
(i) To assess the extent to which Anganwadi centers provide the entitlements on food, nutrition and pre-school education
(ii) To identify gap areas in implementing the pre-school education component of the ICDS program
(iii) To study the relationship between classroom processes, resource utilization and the ability to use concepts of shape, color, number and language.

Focus Project Title Lead Researcher / Team
Teacher Professional Development A Study of School Leadership in Government Schools in Karnataka Saswati Paik,Sujatha Rao, Swati Chanda
This is a grounded, longitudinal study of school leadership in seven districts in Karnataka (India), with particular focus on government schools. The objectives of the research are to understand:
(i) the construct of school leadership in Karnataka, and how leadership gets enacted in schools
(ii) the role of structured leadership development programs in developing effective school leader

Focus Project Title Lead Researcher / Team
Teacher Professional Development Teacher Professional Development in Whole Class Technology Integration Meera Gopi Chandran, Santhosh.S , Manjunatha.M , Suneetha. P; In collaboration with DSERT Karnataka.

The research on Teacher Professional Development through Whole Class Technology Integration is being conducted in 12 government schools in Karnataka, among 24 teachers of Math and Science of grades 5 through 7. The 3 year long research has the objective of studying the processes involved in the integration of digital technology in classrooms towards a nuanced understanding of teacher professional development. The research repositions technology integration not as a goal but as a point of entry while retaining the primacy of the teachers’ role in the classroom.

Focus Project Title Lead Researcher / Team
Nutrition Do we know what they eat, and why? A Study on School-level Dietary Adequacy and Impact of Cultural Beliefs in Remote Rural Areas in Southern India Shreelata Rao
What is the current nutritional intake of children in Grades 1-5 in terms of both macro- and micro-nutrients, and what is the educational and clinical impact?
What are the household characteristics, both in terms of (i) economic and social status; and (ii) traditional and cultural practices that determine nutritional choices, and how rational are these choices (as judged by whether they contribute to a well-balanced diet)?
Are there deficiencies that can be addressed on the short-term by supplementation or fortification?
Are there locally available solutions (short- or long-term) that can be mainstreamed into the everyday lives and diets of the children to address significant nutritional deficiencies?

Focus Project Title Lead Researcher / Team
Reconciling the Census of Nagaland Reconciling the Census of Nagaland with Local Sources of Demographic Information Ankush Agrawal and
Vikas Kumar
The study attempts to look at the factors explaining the decline in population in Nagaland after abnormally high population growth in the state. To examine the extent and mechanism of manipulation of Census data in Nagaland.• To look at the driving force behind manipulation of the 2001 Census.

Focus Project Title Lead Researcher / Team
Decentralization and Health Decentralization and Decision Space in the Health Sector in Karnataka Shreelata Rao
The study aims to:
1. To measure the degree to which decentralisation and devolution have been operational at district level and below under NRHM in six districts of Karnataka state
2. To identify the constraints faced by the authorities in the course of decentralisation process
3. To study the effect of high or low decision space on health outcomes (Key health indicators)
4. Areas that need to be strengthened to enhance implementation effectiveness at the district level and below (recommendations at the policy and program levels

Click here for report on Karnataka’s Roadmap To Improved Health

Focus Project Title Lead Researcher / Team
Rural-urban conundrum Rural-urban conundrum: a treatise on the small farm dynamics Seema Puroshotam
The proposed study aims to understand : (i) what available approaches have to offer in explaining a small farm, as a reliable livelihood option and small farmer as an identity in India. (ii) To synthesise and evolve an integrated and dynamic framework for explaining the Indian small holder.

Focus Project Title Lead Researcher / Team
Local Health Traditions Policy lessons of and for revitalization of Local Health Traditions in India Arima Mishra, Harilal Madhavan (Azim Premji University) and Devaki Nambiar (Public Health Foundation of India).
  • What constitutes ‘local health traditions’ (LHT) in the policy framework in various Indian states? What parameters are currently used, if any, to classify a medical/therapeutic tradition as ‘LHT’? What are the standards of inclusion and exclusion?
  • Does/could the state have a role in revitalizing local health traditions (would state interventions thwart the autonomy, vibrancy of LHT as community driven initiatives or would it lead to a fruitful state-community venture in inclusive evidence and policy)?
  • What does revitalization entail? (greater state legitimacy/acknowledgement of the use of parallel therapies, policy support in terms of research and practice of LHTs, integrating it with the formal health system, limiting it to first level of care or any other?)
  • What are specific experiences, interpretations, models and lessons of revitalization across and at the intersection of multiple perspectives – governmental agencies and departments, non-governmental organizations and formations, LHT and non-LHT practitioners, as well as communities or users?

Focus Project Title Lead Researcher / Team
Social capital on websites Social capital on websites: understanding collective architecture from social spiders and their webs Divya Bellur Uma

Social capital refers to the relationships, norms and networks that facilitate collective action for mutual benefit . the present research study would examine social spider webs as animal architecture that facilitates social capital. The study attempts to:

  • Characterize the architecture of the web
  • Examine the mechanics of the silk
  • Examine if there is task differentiation in web building
  • Understand the coordination of web construction through social networks

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