The interventions of the Foundation are backed by research. Our research team has also carried out non-programme based research.
Our initiatives need to be understood in terms of what works and what does not, identifying the factors that have influenced them and focusing on the insights which they throw up. Therefore, the objective of research has been – one, to understand whether our efforts on the ground are bringing about the desired change or not, and why, and two, how the efforts of others have made a difference.
We embed documentation resource in every intervention, engage field resources as required on project basis, outsource research as felt necessary and partner with other organizations for research.
The researches carried out by the Foundation include:
The Andhra Pradesh Randomized Evaluation Study (APRESt) is a partnership between the government of Andhra Pradesh and the Azim Premji Foundation to pilot and study the effectiveness of various policy options to improve the quality of primary education in rural government schools in Andhra Pradesh. The financial support for the project is being provided by the Department of International Development of the United Kingdom (DFID) through the World Bank which is also providing technical support for the research as also some other donors. In addition, the Government of Andhra Pradesh is also providing financial support to the research projects to the tune of Rs 20 million. It is perhaps for the first time that the state government is also providing financial support to such projects. All research activities are being carried out with high technical and ethical standards. The state government is an active partner in the overall research effort to understand which programs have the highest impact in improving quality of schooling for children in Andhra Pradesh.
All the research studies under the project use Randomised Evaluation research design which is considered to be the best methodology for measuring impact of social intervention projects.This is perhaps the largest such scientific and systematic research effort in India.
Randomized evaluations and its use in evaluating social programs is relatively new, having been introduced in studies of welfare and labor market programs in the United States during the 1970s and it is becoming more common in the evaluation of education outcomes resulting from policy or program interventions. The basic idea is to establish a control group and a treatment group, with random assignment of units to each group. Such researches overcome many of the statistical problems inherent in the usual econometric studies.
The research projects are being conducted in five districts of Andhra Pradesh. These districts have been selected to represent the different regions of the state viz Vishakhapatnam and East Godavari in coastal AP, Medak and Nizamabad in Telangana and Kadapa in Rayalseema. To improve the learning levels, the government of Andhra Pradesh has been experimenting with various policy options by setting up new schools, upgrading the existing ones, recruiting new teachers etc. There is a need to re-examine the effectiveness of various policy measures impacting the learning levels.
Several projects are under way or proposed under this research program. These are described below in brief.
Incentive and Inputs Project: This project aims to understand the impact on learning achievement levels of providing various inputs and incentives to schools. These are not new but have not been studied scientifically so far on a large scale. Under the first phase of this project (launched after a pilot in the Chittoor district in 2004-05), 800 schools have been taken up for study in the 5 districts of the state starting in the academic year 2005-06. Four different schemes are being provided to each set of 100 schools, with the other schools serving as a comparison group. The selection of schools for the study and for receiving specific schemes has been done by a computer-generated random process in order to be completely fair and to ensure scientific validity of the research study.
The schemes, each of which provided to 100 randomly selected schools are:
These sub - studies are currently underway and have been in place since 2005-06. An additional study to measure the impact of providing all the interventions (incentives, block grant and extra Vidya Volunteer) together has been started in the current academic year (2008-09):
School Choice Project: This study attempts to understand the effect of family background and schooling choices on the learning levels of children in low incomes groups who may obtain a chance to attend a private school if the provisions of the Right to Education Bill are implemented in practice. The methodology used in this study is to randomly offer a few government school students an option to attend private schools of their choice (by means of a scholarship) for a certain period and tracking their learning levels and comparing them with those in government schools of comparable socio-economic backgrounds. The study thus hopes to provide evidence on its implications based on data of the project to be used as a tool for policy makers.
A pilot study was carried out during 2007-08 in West Godavari district to understand the processes involved and the logistics of such an experiment. The full fledged project covering about 1400 children in villages has been launched since June 2008.
School Preparedness Project: This project is aimed at understanding the impact of providing a formal system of preparing children in Class 1 for the structured school environment. It is hypothesized that this can significantly impact learning outcomes in later school years. The level of preparedness of the children when they enter formal schooling is one of the aspects that has emerged as a possible area of intervention. In the rural government school context, children do not have the opportunity of attending any formal KinderGarten schools. Though some modicum of ‘Aanganwadi’ system exists, it is not very formal or structured. It is felt that a formal system of ‘getting the child prepared for the formal, structured school environment’ can significantly impact the learning outcome of the children not only in class1 but in the years to come.
A preparatory project has been launched in a limited number of schools in Medak district in October 2008. This will be scaled up to cover a large sample of schools from the academic year 2009-10.
School Health Project: Following the mandating of the mid-day meal program by the Supreme Court in all government schools in India, this research project aims to study the impact on student health and learning outcomes of introducing a school-based health program that provides children with iron fortification, vitamin supplements, de-worming treatment, hygiene instruction for hand-washing, etc. In addition to studying the impact of improved school health on learning outcomes, the study will also consider the effectiveness of different delivery mechanisms for school health.
School Work Book Project: Providing well designed work books for children can significantly enhance the learning levels of the children, especially when these are well integrated into the class room processes as well. This is the hypotheses which would be tested through this project. This is on the drawing board at present and a pilot project is proposed to be started in July 2009.