Case study: E-Samwad
Case Study

E-Samwad

Organization:
Himachal Pradesh Department of Education Government
Location:
Himachal Pradesh, India
Goal(s):
Improve attendance and completion
Improve learning and development

Overview

In 2019 the government of Himachal Pradesh in India moved to close the gap in communication between teachers and parents in under-resourced school systems. The efforts were a response to worrisome systemwide reports of low parent attendance at School Management Committee (SMC) meetings and insufficient, inaccessible parent-teacher communication channels. The rift in communication was especially noticeable in the pervasive unexcused student absences in Himachal Pradesh government schools, which parents were generally unaware of. Following research that shows learning outcomes greatly improve when parents participate in and support their child’s learning, the government implemented a one-way text-based platform called e-Samwad (“samwad” means conversation in Hindi) (e-Samwad, n.d.). The Department of Education developed the application in partnership with private sector firm Samagra. Because a government body developed e-Samwad, the app could be implemented statewide.

Himachal Pradesh is a state in northern India. In 2011 it was home to around 6.8 million people (Census of India, 2011). The state has approximately 800,000 students in more than 15,000 primary and secondary schools (Winthrop et al., 2021). The adjusted net enrollment rate of students in classes 1-10 is 93 percent, while the average dropout rate of secondary school student is around 7 percent (Winthrop et al., 2021).

The state government of Himachal Pradesh has taken an active role in increasing learning within its borders, focusing most recently on educational innovation. The e-Samwad app is one such innovation. The government identified a barrier to parent-teacher communication: Busy parents lacked time for in-person meetings and phone conferences. To remove this obstacle, the government partnered with network providers to create the e-Samwad app and SMS portal. Working in the app is simple, and district-level trainers visit schools and train teachers and administrators on the app’s use. Once trained, teachers are able to use the e-Samwad app to easily send one-way text messages to parents, including information about vacation dates, absences, SMC meetings, assessment dates and results, and homework completion. Many of the messages are automatically sent to parents’ phones as the teacher enters information about students in the mobile application. For example, when a teacher marks a student absent from class that day, the app sends a message to the child’s parents. The parents are then expected to speak with their child about the absence. Messages often contain tips for parents, such as attending the next parent-teacher meeting if their child has been performing poorly in assessments. The pilot of e-Samwad, carried out in the district of Mandi, successfully reached 53 percent of parents and received positive feedback (e-Samwad, n.d.). The pilot ultimately included 38,224 parents and 2,240 schools registered (e-Samwad, n.d.).

Today, 99 percent of government schools in the state use the app to address their communication needs (S. Chaudry, personal communication, April 14, 2021). Furthermore, assessment data for all government schools is collected via the app. This streamlines the collection of information about attendance, assessments, and grades and informs academic and administrative decisionmaking bodies in the state on such issues as budget allocation and school monitoring visits (e-Samwad, n.d.; S. Varghese, personal communication, August 5, 2021). The e-Samwad intervention successfully bridges a major gap identified by parents, both in India and globally. The need for this intervention is further validated by CUE’s survey of 2,500 parents in Himachal Pradesh in October 2020, wherein 97 percent of parent respondents indicated they would like to receive regular text message updates about their child’s education (Winthrop et al., 2021).

Strategies

Goal: Improve attendance and completion, Improve learning and development
Student age: Primary, Lower Secondary, Upper Secondary
Tech level: Low-tech
Lever: Providing Information
Place: Home
Family role: Supporting
Text messages to parents on their child’s school performance: Teachers use e-Samwad to send parents regular updates on their child’s performance at school via text messages. As teachers fill in data about students in the application, e-Samwad sends parents daily absenteeism alerts, weekly homework noncompletion notifications, and the results of assessments. These messages follow a template and often include tips for parents, such as reminding them to attend upcoming parent-teacher conferences, especially if their child did not perform well on a test.

Goal: Improve attendance and completion
Student age: Primary, Lower Secondary, Upper Secondary
Tech level: Low-tech
Lever: Providing Information
Place: Home
Family role: Supporting
Text messages to parents on school logistics: Schools use e-Samwad to encourage parents to attend school and community events. For example, the app notifies parents about parent-teacher or SMC meetings. The app also keeps parents informed about school infrastructure projects and school holidays. Furthermore, schools can use the app to send guidance or alerts to parents during natural disasters like floods or cyclones.

Goal: Improve attendance and completion, Improve learning and development
Student age: Primary, Lower Secondary, Upper Secondary
Tech level: High-tech
Lever: Providing Information
Place: School System
Family role: Deciding, Supporting
Online school data portal for transparency and accountability: The data the government collects through e-Samwad also benefits communities. The government publishes the information in real time to online portals, allowing the community to see how their schools’ academic indicators compare to those of other schools across the state. This helps families make informed decisions about their child’s schooling and helps families and other community members hold education leaders accountable for providing quality education.

Roles

Staff

Family

Resources required

People

Financial

Technology

How do they do it?

The e-Samwad app works by lowering time and resource barriers to family engagement. It uses everyday technologies available at home and school and captures parents’ attention by meeting them where they are: on their mobile devices. The low-tech nature of the app helps improve communication, and parents’ availability is no longer a barrier to teachers sharing crucial information. Moreover, to support analysis and sharing of data, the app draws on a task that teachers are already doing—reporting student statistics. The technology frees up teacher time while increasing transparency for parents. It relies on insights from behavioral science, nudging parents to change their behavior. The app provides personalized information in a way that is easily accessible and is accompanied by bite-sized, actionable recommendations. For example, by learning about missed homework as well as the importance of homework completion for academic success, parents are primed to motivate their children to focus on learning while at home.

Much of the success of e-Samwad comes from its ease of use. Since piloting the program, e-Samwad’s creators have improved the app and have provided a technical support line to respond to parents’ and teachers’ questions. Furthermore, delivery timelines for text messages were established knowing that the speed of text message dispatch slows down during peak periods of information input. Lastly, proactive communication between technicians, government officials, and teachers is important to ensure smooth usage going forward. The e-Samwad app allows for regular engagement between teachers and parents by bridging the communication gap between schools and parents and adapting to parents’ needs, especially for parents with busy schedules or limited technical ability. Given the few resources required, these strategies can be used not only on a large-scale basis but also by smaller states and school districts.

Resources and testimonials

References

Census of India. (2011). Himachal Pradesh profile.
https://censusindia.gov.in/2011census/censusinfodashboard/stock/profiles/en/IND002_Himachal%20Pradesh.pdf

e-Samwad. (n.d.). About. https://sites.google.com/samagragovernance.in/esamwadhp/about

Samagra Technology. (n.d.). e-Samwad, Himachal Pradesh.
https://tech.samagragovernance.in/index.php/esamvad-himachal-pradesh/

Winthrop, R., Ershadi, M., & Ziegler, L. (2021). Perspectives from parents in Himachal Pradesh, India. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Perspectives-from-parents-in-Himachal-Pradesh-India.pdf