Administrator | March 30, 2017

Incubatee spotlight: Adhyayan

What does your company do?
Adhyayan is an education movement set up by educators for educators, dedicated to ensuring a good school for every child.

The support that Adhyayan provides leaders is the tools and process for undertaking evidence based, stakeholder inclusive school self-review, working alongside the school for improvement and capacity building and developing a robust professional learning community as a school environment.

Exit strategy: Adhyayan begins with outlining its exit strategy that emphasises its belief in the absolute ability of every school to be a continuously improving good school with facilitative leaders participating and promoting a collaborative culture of professional development that enables students to lead their own learning, in a collaborative eco-system of schools with a growth mindset. Therefore, all our offerings enable the school to build its own capacity for independent continuous improvement and link with other schools and allied organisations, to form a professional learning community that will support this independence.

The review: Schools begin with learning to review their performance against the Adhyayan Quality Standard (AQS) that has six performance areas. Their first self-review is validated by an external review team of educators from schools that have previously reviewed themselves. This validation benchmarks the schools performance.

School improvement: Each school uses their benchmarked baseline data as the base for school improvement. They develop a strategic plan for professional development of key stakeholders. Adhyayan supports their professional development as Facilitators as well as hand holding schools in the change management of allied systems. Adhyayan also encourages the schools to sign up their leaders and teachers to the Assessor Programme for participation in the external validation teams.

Sustaining progress: Schools are able, through annual self-review, to track the impact of their school improvement strategies, celebrate their successes and identify the next challenge they wish to address. They value the professional learning communities that they participate in, learn from and contribute to.

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How did it come about?
Kavita and Spokey were school leaders – one in India (Mumbai) and the other in the UK. When working together on a leadership programme, they realised that there was no official systemic school improvement framework dealing with the Leadership and Management of Teaching and Learning. All attempts thus far had floundered on the immense variety of contexts that schools in India were situated in. No one in India had identified global good practice in schools that was context free. Spokey had developed a tool of this kind with Roy Blatchford of the National Education Trust. He had used it in Jharkhand when setting up schools for the CSR of a company, and Kavita had seen the impact on the school leaders and teachers there. Kavita offered the school she was running in Mumbai, Shishuvan, as the space in which the tool could be trialled to check how it could be proved context free. The trial included assessing its match with the National Curriculum Framework. The impact on Shishuvan was visibly good.

Spokey and Kavita felt fortified with the evidence that the tool would be of enormous help to all schools across the country, thereby leading to all schools becoming good and all children benefitting. In the world’s largest democracy, both founders believed it was unacceptable that only some children got access to a decent education. The assessments of school quality had not thrown up a universally acceptable solution. The Adhyayan Quality Standard was offered as a way to enable a common language of school quality for every school, irrespective of its board affiliation, socio economic status and geographical location.

Over time, it has become apparent that school leaders are hearing about recent developments going on around the world in leadership of teaching and learning, but have not had the chance to be trained in learning new skills that will enable them to adopt these practices.

Our first school took us on in Jan 2012. The next one in August 2012 and then the next at the end of the year. That was the beginning of Adhyayan’s word of mouth spread to 285 schools five years later. We spoke at conferences and sent out a one pager. But most importantly we focused on the schools that wanted to improve and ensured we were always there for them.

Why are you excited about this space?
The scale of the opportunity for children growing up in India is only matched by the challenges they face. India will soon be the largest youngest nation on earth. But today there are more mobile phone owners than people who can read and write. That can’t be right. What has sustained us over the past five years is the impact we have begun to see in many of our schools across now 27 states. We do not have to build school quality from scratch - we have to facilitate, connect, support and share best practice by helping our partners to develop a common vocabulary and lexicon around the quality of schools.

What excited us was the possibility of bringing together passionate leaders and teachers from remarkably different backgrounds and contexts to work together as assessors and facilitators in improving the quality of our schools in the 21st century.

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What is innovative about your service?
We may be alone in India in operating a quality standard that is founded on inclusive school self-review with school teams consisting of the community of parents, teachers, support staff, leaders, alumni and children. This enables schools to develop their school improvement community that shares a common vocabulary from day one.

The diagnostic, now in 11 languages, which underpins the school review is based on extensive research on what good schooling looks like around the world and is benchmarked against global best practice. However our tiers allow schools to be good at three levels, thereby ensuring all schools have a next best step to work towards, that is practical and feasible.

Third, our schools value the fact that Adhyayan is an ‘insider’ that is focused on what good looks like and on building this into the schools future. Schools have got into the habit of seeing their “backgrounds” and socio-economic constraints as perpetual barriers to quality. Our lead assessors are school leaders, teachers, and those who work closely, long term, with schools and school leaders, practice self-review and school improvement annually and encourage and support their colleagues to grow their growth mindsets.

Importantly, the review is just the first step in a comprehensive school improvement strategy to increase the capacity of school leaders, and teachers to improve themselves. The professional learning community we are building is enabling schools to share best practice without the barriers of board affiliation, geographical distance, socio-economic levels and language.

Finally, our software makes it possible for schools to access training and self-review without validation, making it a tool for learning as well as accreditation.

What is the impact you want to have?
There are 1.56 million schools in India. We want to impact on every one of them so that all children in the country have access to quality education. This is not limited to assessment grades but is about the holistic development required to ensure that all students have the ability to learn for life so that they are assured a life of dignity and happiness.

We believe this is possible if we establish a large community of committed leaders as assessors across India who understand the leadership and management of teaching and learning requires them to know and learn from each other, how to review their own schools and then undertake school improvement.

What successes and challenges have you seen till now and what is next?
280+ schools have undertaken the first self-review, establishing their baseline from which they can track progress. With an average self-review team size of 12, this means that 3,360+ persons, consisting of school leaders, teachers, parents, students, alumni and support staff, have been trained in school self-review.

150+ school leaders and teachers are certifying themselves as Adhyayan assessors for self-review. 40 of them have been coming out to other schools for the external validation of the review of other schools’ self-review. 40 school leaders and teachers have undertaken training in facilitation in order to facilitate learning in their classrooms and staff rooms.

10 schools have already undertaken second round reviews (which takes place after 2 years of the first review). Of these schools 40% schools showed an improvement in the level of award received, 60% showed a 10-point progression in at least one KPA, and 80% showed a 10-point progression in the KPA – Teaching and Learning, which focuses on the impact of teaching and learning in schools. 60% schools showed an increase in their level of understanding of what ‘good’ schools look like.

The biggest challenge is to rapidly get more schools to take the 1st step by doing their evidence based self-review so that we can reach our projected target of 1,00,000 schools by 2021.

The second largest challenge is to virtually handhold schools that are neither comfortable with technology nor with continuous school improvement.

The simultaneous challenge is to get ourselves future ready for this scale.

What keeps your team motivated?
It is our obsession with quality, commitment to improving quality of education for children, which keeps us going. We believe there is immense potential in each school, its leaders & each child as long as they have a will to honestly self-reflect & learn 21st century skills.

Many of our schools are now undergoing their 2nd round of reviews, which enables impact measurement. The positive shifts observed in schools in the 2nd round is captured in our data and in the social media currently used as a platform for our professional learning community of school leaders and teachers. Our early evidence is that the schools of those leaders who join our external review teams is that they are improving at a faster rate than the rest.

The focus of the conversations on teaching and learning, the growing number of assessors and facilitators, the use of the software and the courses for professional development by school leaders and self-review teams and the data showing positive impact, is what makes this journey exciting & motivating.

Word of mouth continues to be our biggest marketing tool. We can see how the growth of this professional community will grow the DNA of ‘good’ for each school in India.

How do you think Villgro will help?
Villgro and Adhyayan have found synergies in our social impact goals and will help us grow to reach 1,00,000 schools by 2021, to handhold them on their journey to good 21st century schooling.

We believe Villgro would help us scale up rapidly through supporting our immediate requirements for (1) finance, (2) auditing and augmenting our administration and operations to deal with scale by increasing the work done by automated systems and the Adhyayan software; and (3)build our capacity to increase sales through efficient marketing.

Further, we believe Villgro would help as thought partners interested in the impact we are making and in communicating our impact to the right people including the largest school provider in India, the government.