In 2017, officials in Hassan were puzzled to find that it was languishing at the 31st spot in the district-wise SSLC rankings in Karnataka with a pass percentage of just 69.58.
District officials led by then Deputy Commissioner (DC) Rohini Sindhuri and officials of the Education Department and Department of Public Instruction (DPI) decided to start a series of initiatives to revamp the schooling system in the district.
Within two years, Hassan has jumped to the top spot in the state with a pass percentage of 89.33. The district improved its ranking to seven in 2018 before topping the rankings in 2019 ahead of traditionally successful districts like Udupi.
The then DC Rohini Sindhuri attributes the remarkable rise in rankings to a holistic approach to improve the education system in the district, one that was not focused on just the student's academic life.
"We took steps to push the principals, teachers, parents as well as the students. It is not just down to the students to improve but it is also important to take a holistic view of a child's education," explains Rohini, who was transferred from Hassan in February.
Efforts to improve the district's education system began two years ago. Rohini, after several meetings with district officials, decided to take a test for teachers in order to prepare them to teach the syllabus. "We gave two months time. Initially the teachers did not take it too seriously but we kept insisting that there is an exam. Teachers actually did read and prepare for the exam and that was important," says Rohini. District officials also identified motivated principals and honoured them in the hope that teachers would be driven to do better.
Officials also identified students who needed to attend extra classes, as early as in class 9. Principals were encouraged to conduct exchange programmes among students in the district. In this respect, the students studying in schools that were faring well were paired with students studying in schools where they were not performing that well.
Rohini, however, believes that a dialogue held by principals of the schools with mothers of the students was more influential in reinforcing students with a sense of purpose. "We held a meeting with mothers at the school level after the first set of tests were conducted. This is the first time we have done something like this and identified that mothers are also important stakeholders in the lives of students,” Rohini adds.
Subtle changes were made to the education system in the district along with upgradation of the syllabus from state-board level to NCERT level. Further reinforcement measures were taken in the form of radio shows.
The strategy adopted by officials at Hassan appears to have worked. Not only has the district topped in the pass percentage category, it has also taken top spot in the quality-wise rankings, which give equal importance to pass percentage, average marks and students who secured first class. Two students from Hassan - Pragathi Gowda and Abhin B scored 624 out of 625 marks and stood second in the state, helping the district come out with flying colours.