STiR Education is an international NGO that supports education systems to reignite intrinsic motivation in children, teachers and officials through teacher networks. We believe in a world where teachers love teaching and children love learning, and since our founding in 2012, we have been proving that teacher intrinsic motivation can be improved sustainably and at significant scale: this year impacting more than 180,000 teachers and 4.7 million children across 4 Indian states (Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu).
India has the world’s largest school system, but despite great progress in access, education quality remains low. 55% of grade 5 students can’t read a grade 2 text, and 75% don't division. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has invested heavily in technical interventions (‘seeds’), as well as increasing teacher salaries to make them some of the best paid in the world per capita. But these haven’t made much difference, since there are almost no interventions that develop the ‘soil’ of intrinsic motivation and lifelong learning.
To create a citizenship and workforce ready to cope with a world that is changing fast socially, economically and technologically, children need to develop intrinsic motivation and a love of lifelong learning. Intrinsic motivation is based on autonomy (children feel able to drive their own learning and take risks), mastery (they experience their learning improving) and purpose (they see why learning is important and feel connected to their teachers and peers); and only by developing all three elements can children become lifelong learners.
Unlike most approaches in the sector, we don’t work directly with children. Global evidence shows that teachers are the main in-school agent of change and opportunity for role-modelling in a child’s life. Children are much more likely to be influenced by what teachers do, rather than what they preach or say. We therefore believe that investing in developing the autonomy, mastery and purpose of teachers – as well as the officials who support them – is the most cost-effective and sustainable way to build a love of lifelong learning in children.
The core of our approach is local teacher networks – groups of 20 to 30 teachers that meet each month and gain exposure to evidence-based ideas for improving their teaching practice. Through these networks, teachers gain autonomy by adapting ideas to their own contexts, mastery through pushing each other to improve, and purpose via regular discussion of the ‘why.’ Practice, feedback and consolidation ensures that this leads to both improved teacher effort and improved general teaching practice.
For teacher change to be sustainable, we need to develop the intrinsic motivation of the officials who support them. So we engage them deeply in the delivery and management of our approach. The teacher networks are run and managed by district officials from the outset. One STiR employee in each district provides training, coaching and data to support these officials to run and manage the programme with increasing levels of intrinsic motivation, confidence and quality. And state governments cover all programme costs. Working through existing system officials and leaders helps STiR achieve significant scale with a small and efficient team – at a cost of less than $0.50 per child per year (30 rupees) – and ensures that the practices are embedded in how the government operates.
Until now, the only tools to measure intrinsic motivation have been complex, expensive and non-scalable. But at STiR, we’ve been developing simple tools and measures collected through a mobile app. We’re measuring whether children are excited to come to school and stay in school; feel emotionally and physically safe; deeply engage in their studies; are curious and think critically; develop a growth mindset; or develop positive and trusting relationships with their teachers. Our team gather field data based on this learning framework at large scale to understand behaviour changes at the school and district levels, and identify trends. We’re now building a new custom mobile app for large-scale data collection directly from officials and teachers.
We have also completed 12 separate research studies (both internal and external) since our first project in 2012, to understand the impact of our intervention. Our most recent research study was released in July 2019 by our partner Education Development Trust. In partnership with DFID, they acted as a ‘learning partner’ to our scaling to work with every government secondary school in Delhi (from 100 to 1,024 schools in just a few months), providing meaningful support and challenge to STiR while also capturing wider lessons on scaling for other NGOs interested in scaling education interventions. This report showed that after just two years of our system learning partnership, our approach has become deeply embedded in the Delhi education system. Two of the main reasons for this are a much more advanced understanding among headteachers about the roles and responsibilities of system officials so that they know who to approach for different types of report; and an increased growth mindset among these head teachers that they can improve their schools with the support of these officials. More details can be found here.
We’ve seen an exciting sign of success from the board exam results in Delhi in both 2018 and 2019, where government secondary schools twice achieved best ever learning results, and children in government schools surpassed their peers in private schools. We work in every government secondary schools as one of the four main pillars of the state government’s education reform, and we’re proud to have made a meaningful contribution to this progress alongside the efforts of a small number of key partners.
A final research study was a World Bank-funded randomised control trial, which ran from 2014 to 2016. Although it tested a previous version of our model, it identified significant improvements in teacher motivation and effort, and in student learning outcomes in mathematics. The RCT also demonstrated a strong ‘business case’ to government: every dollar into the approach gave the government $7 in additional teaching time within a year. It also gave us the confidence to change our model to work with every child and every teacher in our selected districts, and to strengthen classroom behaviour change by incorporating observation and feedback.
The 2019/20 school year is currently underway in India. The table below shows our scale during this academic year, as well as the length of time we have been engaged in our system-led approach:
|Delhi||Uttar Pradesh||Karnataka||Tamil Nadu|
|Partnership Year||Year 3||Year 2||Year 2||Year 1|
|Number of Districts||9||7||7||3|
|Number of teachers||180,000 (across India)|
|Number of children||4.7 million (across India)|
We’ve seen early progress at child-level, with anecdotal evidence from our work in Delhi showing that from a small sample of schools observed, more than 50% of children were found to be interacting freely with their teachers, asking questions and showing an eagerness to learn.
The quality of key teacher-facing activities – such as network meetings and classroom observations – is at or ahead of where we expect to be at this point. At least 80% of expected network meetings took place in the last school year, and we’ve seen improvements in the quality of facilitation and teacher engagement. Data collected by our teams shows that more than 66% of teachers observed by our team have shown practices from the current learning improvement cycle in their teaching – although based on a small sample, this is ahead of our expectations for this stage of the programme.