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WORLD BANK’S STARS PROJECT NEEDS AN OVERHAUL

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Introduction

  • Delivering a service, like education, requires a capable state, especially given the scale and complexity of its large and diverse population. Building state capability involves a process of learning to do things on one’s own, fundamentally making it something that cannot be outsourced.
  • The World Bank’s STARS project, a $3 billion project to improve education in six Indian States gives a larger role to non-state actors and by increasing the use of technology.

What is the World Bank’s STARS?

  • STARS is – Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States Program (STARS).
  • It is a project to improve the quality and governance of school education in six Indian states.
  • Six states are- Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Rajasthan.
  • Beneficiaries: More than 15 Lakh schools with over 25 crore students between the age of 6 and 17.

What are the Initiatives under STARS?

  • Focusing more directly on the delivery of education services at the state, district and sub district levelsby providing customized local-level solutions towards school improvement.
  • Addressing demands from stakeholders, especially parents, for greater accountability and inclusionby producing better data to assess the quality of learning; giving special attention to students from vulnerable section.
  • Equipping teachers to manage this transformationby recognizing that teachers are central to achieving better learning outcomes.
  • Investing more in developing India’s human capital needsby strengthening foundational learning for children in classes 1 to 3 and preparing them with the cognitive, socio-behavioural and language skills to meet future labour market needs.

Flaws in the STARS approach to build state capacity

  • It fails to address the basic capacity issues: major vacancies across the education system from District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs), district and block education offices, to teachers in schools, remain unaddressed.
  • World Bank ignores that decentralising decision-making requires the devolution of funds and real decision-making power. It requires not just investment in the capacity of the front-line bureaucracy but also in increasing their discretionary powers while fostering social accountability.
  • Trust is entirely ignored in the World Bank project. Instead, the Bank displays yet again an over-reliance on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as a panacea that lacks any backing in evidence (Trust here implies listening and collaborating across different levels within the administration).
  • Outsourcing basic governance functions by “expanding private initiatives” and “reducing government tasks” will not make education “more relevant to local needs” or “democratically promote people’s participation by empowering local authorities” as stated in the project document.

Way Forward: For “building state capacity” and delivery of education

  • Administration must be equipped with adequate physical, financial and human resources. An overburdened bureaucracy with vacancies and without basic equipment cannot be expected to be effective.
  • Administrative or governance reforms must give greater discretion to the front-line bureaucracy to address local issues and innovate if required.
  • There needs to be trust within the administration among peers and across different levels within the administration.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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