Educational reforms see light in Bhilwara schools

Rajasthan, which has been the leading state in terms of reforms, became the first state in the country to assess the education standards on output based parameters rather than inputs as provided for in the Right to Education Act (RTE), in September, 2015.

The state has made a few changes with respect to assessment methodologies and the role of the private sector, encouraging the sector to invest and have assured them of returns. Some of the corporates have found the model, Development Impact Bond ( DIB) motivating and have decided to join the bandwagon. Known as the Development Impact Bond (DIB), this pioneering pilot project currently underway in 166 government schools across Bhilwara district (around 275 km from here) is akin to a business model and promises a return for the investor from the outcome payer if the target of improving enrolment and test scores of students is met. Its backers say it is the first such project in the world.

Rajasthan Post gets an insight into the working of the unique model

Education akin to a business model. Unheard of but that is what is underway in Bhilwara, a pilot project, the success of which may pave the way for more such ventures in the future, shaping and changing the scenario in rural Rajasthan.

Manbhari, 12, in Salempur, Bhilwara dropped out of school three years back. She went back to school last year and topped her class.

Her top grade, besides helping her educationally, will also help the private investor, who invested his money in educating girls in a remote village of Rajasthan, earn a profit if targets are met.

In Rajasthan, 40 % of girls drop out before reaching fifth grade, because either there are no schools in the village or parents want their sons to pursue education. Child marriages and prejudices against a girl child hamper their education. Only 15% of children in primary school can read a simple story in Hindi, say education activists.

Known as the Development Impact Bond (DIB), this pioneering, the pilot project currently underway in Bhilwara district (around 275 km from here) is akin to a business model and promises a return for the investor from the outcome payer if the target of improving enrolment and test scores of students is met.

Its backers claim it is the first such project in the world. An outcome payer is usually a foundation or a government agency, that enters into contract to pay for specific, measurable social outputs and outcomes.

Vikram Maharashi, development director of Educate Girls, the NGO, which is initiating the project in villages, said : “The DIB’s uniqueness from all other social campaigns is that 100% of its funding is tied to outcomes and is not activity-based as in other educational or health projects.”

Its backers say the success of this pilot project is likely to unlock the gates of private sector capital investment in development projects as linking financial returns with outcomes, will ensure that targets are met.

Experts say the main difference between Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) and DIBs that in SIBs, the outcome payer is usually the government, while in DIB, it is a donor.

In this case, the outcome payer is Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), an independent philanthropic organization, headquartered in London.

So Bhilwara’s 166 government schools is witnessing a first of its kind pilot project, wherein the private investor, a Zurich-based grant making foundation (UBS Optimus Foundation of multi-national bank UBS in this case) would get a return of about 10 to 12 percent of the amount invested, based on the target achieved.

The target in this case is to educate 15000 children, 9000 of them girls. The specific targets are focused on increased enrolments and upgradation of at least 5590 grades of the children in literacy and numeracy, informed Maharishi.

The Bhilwara project, being carried in 150 villages in the district’s educationally most backward blocks, started last year and is a three-year project.
The UBS Optimus Fund Foundation has put in a working capital of Rs two lakh sixty seven thousand US dollars. Of the total payment, 80% has been assigned for enhancing learning and 20% to enrolments. The financial returns would depend on the success rate of the intervention and are set at a maximum rate of 15 % over three years.

At the end of three years in 2018, CIFF would make just one payment for performance against outcomes. The investor would share a portion of the outcome payment with NGO Educate Girls, based on the targets achieved.

The first year results which were made public at an event in London’s Overseas Development Institute on July 5 this year, said till now the program has enrolled 44% of all out-of-school girls identified in the first year and has achieved 23% of the total target for learning progress.

Vikram Solanki, head of the Bhilwara’s Educate Girls project, said : “Till now, 762 out-of school girls have been identified, of which 348 have been re-enrolled in schools,”

It is a joint project between investor UBS Optimus Foundation NGO Educate Girls, CIFF, Instiglo, the project manager and IDinsight, the independent evaluator.

After the programme ends, IDinsight will deliver an evaluation report, which will show the measured impact of enrolment and learning for the target population.

The investor has already recouped a 40% of the initial investment in first year. The remaining 60% is going to be disbursed at the end of 18 months.

Maharishi said : “The model is likely to work as there is a reputation risk and financial risk involved for all the participating agencies. It is not about how many teachers we train, how many schools we reach but the focus is on how many enrolment we ensure and how many of the poor grades of the students in schools get upgraded. Like if a student has been getting say D in Maths, the focus would be to get the grades upgraded to A over the three year period.”

But there are others who say financial return for the investor may be a bait to lure other private investors to developmental projects but education is a very complex system and government cannot absolve itself of its responsibility.

Nikhil De, social activist of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, said : “Private participation to enhance education is welcome but education is a very complex system. How many students have really started scoring well, how many drop outs, quality of students and teachers, all these are government’s priority and should be for everyone. With private players, only a few would be benefitted. When it is a government thing, it is public money and there is accountability and done within legal framework and the people have a right to know.”
Maharishi said: “In case the targets are not met, the outcome payer CIFF would repay investor, UBS a minimum threshold amount. The minimum amount is paid irrespective of how much ever target is achieved.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *