Monday, 17 March 2014

Mumbai Makeover

The Mumbai Program was struggling towards the end of 2013 with very low school participation and engagement. Since we launched the first phase of the project in 2012, usage and activity in Mumbai have remained relatively low. We would attribute this partly to interest from the Mumbai schools and partly to a lack of dedicated management from our side.

In November of last year we designed a strategy to revamp the Mumbai program, including a number of different interventions. As the graphs below indicate, we were able to re-engage schools, more than tripling their usage. Furthermore, many of our previously disengaged schools were converted into high-performers.

Some of the specific steps we took in revamping the program include:

Dedicated Staff
Previously the Mumbai Program was managed by the Central Team. Hence, in busy times, including launch of the 2nd phase, the field staff were left to manage on their own with minimal guidance or planning.  In November we made a few changes to the structure of the Mumbai team:
  • Promoted one our high performing RPAs to be a full-time manager of the Mumbai program.
  • Hired two new, well-qualified RPAs to support the program.

Having a team that was completely dedicated to the Mumbai program ensured that there was a constant focus on planning for the Mumbai program. Additionally, a larger team allowed us to provide each school with more individualized attention.

Localizing the Content
When we designed Phase II we focused on creating NCERT content as majority of the states we work in follow an NCERT aligned curriculum. Additionally, we had gotten news that the Maharashtra state board would soon be changing to align to NCERT as well. Hence, we decided not to invest the time and resources into creating content tailored to the Maharashtra board but instead provided NCERT content. However, teachers found this very difficult to work with, with content for many chapters either missing of hard to locate. In order to ease usage we made a few changes:
  • Re-organized content from NCERT and the Karnataka State Board to fit into the Maharashtra framework;
  • Inserted relevant videos from Make Me Genius;
  • Created slideshows for chapters found exclusively in the Maharashtra board;
  • Created and distributed a content manual so that teachers could easily locate relevant content.

School Management Engagement
The program has always focused on teachers rather than the management, and we found that in many schools principals were unaware of the details of the program and their school’s performance and WebBox usage. In order to engage management, we:
  • Created report cards that detailed the school’s performance with quantitative usage updates and qualitative teacher ratings;
  • Held joint meetings with management and teachers to discuss plans for the upcoming semesters;
  • Provided bi-monthly verbal updates to the management on progress as well as plans from the programme side

We found that engaging the management was an important bridge to working with teachers. It enabled teachers to give more time to the program, as well as resolved a lot of smaller problems such as space constraints and class duration.

Working with Teachers
Although we have always recognised working with teachers as the key to program success, we experimented with different ways of working with teachers and found the following to be most effective:
  • A 1-day teacher workshop, subject and class specific,  focused on planning upcoming chapters
  • Regular visits every week to each school to meet with the teacher
  • Follow up phone calls to teachers a few times in a week;
  • Needs-based planning for teacher support based on observations.
Although some of these activities were previously planned; ensuring that teacher support happens on a very regular basis has proven to be key to teacher engagement.