In July 2020, India’s National Education Policy (NEP) recognised Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) as an urgent and necessary pre-requisite to learning. The policy was revised after over three decades. To address aspects of quality of learning and achieve the goal of attaining foundational literacy, the Ministry of Education (MoE) launched a national mission on FLN, called NIPUN (National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy) Bharat in July 2021. The mission lays down priorities and actionable agendas for states/union territories to achieve the goal of proficiency in foundational literacy and numeracy by 2026-27 for every child by the end of Grade 3.
Bihar has been implementing Mission NIPUN Bihar since July 2021, which was then officially launched by Prof. Chandra Shekhar (Education Minister, Bihar) on 5 September 2022.
Mission NIPUN Bihar outlines four key areas of focus for FLN:
- Empowering teachers in Grades 1 to 3 by providing them with essential classroom resources and establishing clear accountability measures.
- Ensuring that students in Grades 1 to 3 attain foundational literacy and numeracy competencies.
- Promoting activity-based and joyful learning approaches to engage students and enhance their comprehension and application of knowledge both inside and outside the classroom.
- Implementing continuous evaluation methods to track student progress and reinforce what has been learned.
Operating as the Project Management Unit (PMU) in the Directorate of Primary Education, Central Square Foundation (CSF) focuses on expediting implementation of Mission NIPUN Bihar at the state level, targeting the Jehanabad, Sheohar and West Champaran districts. CSF’s work across districts was initiated in January 2023 with an ambitious goal of making 600 government schools ‘NIPUN’ within 16 to 18 months. Achieving the ‘NIPUN’ status for a school entails comprehensive work to be done in alignment with key priorities of Mission NIPUN Bihar. CSF is working on developing these 600 schools as NIPUN exemplars who in turn may support the peripheral schools to achieve NIPUN goals by 2026-27.
Some of the key highlights of Mission NIPUN Bihar include:
- Classroom Observation Tool (COT)
Bihar developed its Classroom Observation Tool (COT) with support from CSF in August 2023. The tool can be accessed through the online platform ‘Tangerine’ and simplifies the process of data collection and analysis, facilitating data-driven decision making for classroom transactions.
The COT was also launched and recognised by UNICEF, among other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), ensuring standardised data collection practices across more than 30 districts of Bihar. Additionally, it plays a vital role in the commitment to elevate 600 government schools to the ‘NIPUN’ status in three districts of Jehanabad, Sheohar and West Champaran.
With COT streamlining data, it promises to make classroom transactions more reliable, enabling the development of tailored materials, training programmes and on-site support to enhance teaching and learning experiences.
As the COT streamlines data flow, it promises to make classroom transaction scenarios more reliable, enabling the development of tailored materials, training programs, and on-site support to enhance the teaching and learning experience.
- Setting of Targets by Districts to Achieve FLN
Bihar stands out as one of the few states in India that conducted a Baseline Assessment of Learners for foundational grades in March 2022. Following this significant step, the state went on to distribute these assessment reports to relevant stakeholders, reaching all 38 districts. They collaborated to establish annual targets for the next five years and formulated detailed strategies aimed at achieving NIPUN goals by 2026-27.
This collaborative effort involved the active participation of District Programme Officers (SSA), DIET faculty members, FLN Quality Coordinators (SSA), and two teachers from each of the 38 districts. The outcomes of these collective discussions, including targets and plans, are now readily accessible to all districts. This information equips them with the necessary guidance to tailor their forthcoming activities within the framework of the NIPUN Bharat Mission.
- Monthly Magazine NIPUN Samvaad
The Education Department of Bihar proactively advanced stakeholder engagement and drove momentum for Mission NIPUN Bihar through the publication of a monthly e-magazine called ‘NIPUN Samvad’. The inaugural issue of this magazine was unveiled by the former Additional Chief Secretary of the Department of Education, Government of Bihar, Sh. Dipak Kumar Singh (IAS) in May 2023. Five editions of the monthly magazine have already been published.
NIPUN Samvad highlights facets of foundational literacy and numeracy in its content in the form of featured articles. It is distributed among all headmasters and teachers across the state, serving as a channel for knowledge sharing. Teachers and educators are encouraged to contribute by sharing their experiences, actionable research findings and innovative FLN ideas, creating a collaborative space for the betterment of FLN in Bihar.
- Community Engagement
The discourse surrounding community participation has long been a subject of deliberation among policymakers in the state and districts. However, tangible action materialised when the district magistrate recognised the need to orient Mukhiyas (PRI member) on the importance of FLN and their roles and responsibilities in mobilizing the community at the grassroots level. This orientation led to the inception of the NIPUN Gram Sabha, with Ratni panchayat (Jehanabad district) becoming the pioneer in organising a NIPUN Gram Sabha in June 2023. It was attended by 100+ community members and focused on the role of community members in developing enabling conditions in the village for children to acquire FLN skills. The core focus of the NIPUN Gram Sabha is to position the Mukhiya as a bridge between the community and the school, thus crafting an optimal learning environment for children within and beyond the school premises. Envisioned as a means to instill a sense of ownership among the community, including parents, regarding their children’s education, this initiative is composed to fortify the sustainability of Mission NIPUN Bihar.