In collaboration with a local NGO (“Avanti Fellows”) the Government of Haryana is responding to the Covid-19 crisis while schools remain closed. Under an official government mandate, Avanti Fellows provides remote teaching-learning content, primarily through WhatsApp, video materials, and online quizzes. This home-based learning program (called “Ghar se Padhao”) is expected to continue until regular in-school classes resume.
More specifically, the government’s Covid-19 response strategy requires teachers to provide technology-enabled remote-learning solutions to grade-9 and grade-10 students, in mathematics and science. Teachers form WhatsApp groups with their students, enabling content sharing on a common platform. Avanti Fellows creates and curates digital learning materials, which are shared with district officials, who in turn pass them on to teachers. Teachers are also expected to address students’ questions, review assignments, and provide one-on-one support over the phone. Avanti Fellows also creates a weekly quiz every Saturday, and teachers ask students to participate by submitting responses through a Google Form.
Several features make this intervention noteworthy. First, in stark contrast to other technology solutions, it only requires access to low-end “feature phones”, which are readily available in the great majority of households. In fact, recent survey data (ASER, 2020) suggests 70.7 percent of Haryana’s government secondary students had received remote learning materials from their school in the week prior to the survey, and 92.2 percent of those government-school students did so over WhatsApp. Second, the intervention is directly mapped to the official, state-sanctioned curriculum, and it is delivered in the local language (Hindi). And third, the program is delivered through public teachers, effectively replacing instructional activities that would have otherwise been provided in schools, in-person.
While the program is rolled out state-wide, Avanti Fellows also provides direct support to 160 “encouragement schools”. This direct intervention seeks to contravene two patterns that are common among many educational technology solutions: (a) selective sign-up (where more privileged students are more likely to take up an intervention), and (b) sharp drop-off rates (where, even if students sign on initially, they often do not continuously engage with a given remote-learning platform) (see Reich, 2020). To provide this encouragement, NGO staff join schools’ WhatsApp groups and provide one-on-one support to teachers.