Intervention scale-ups as a torch to highlight state capacity constraints

Gulzar Natarajan is skeptical about intervention scale ups. He has a point especially when he says
interpretation of most positive results are complicated by very low baseline and overall marginal (yet statistically significant) effects.
The important point however is that —
to what extent can the interventions tested on a small scale be successful when they are scaled up and overlaid on structures of weak state capacity?
I have a contrarian take on this. I argue that
if done properly, scaling up interventions can enhance state capacity.
Consider this argument: What if implementing interventions, which are sound in the ‘technical-know-how’, results in enhancing state capacity?
The state capacity constraints at lower level bureaucracy in education are
  • absence of support structures (CRCs and BRCs that act as academic support to teachers)
  • incoherence in monitoring norms 
  • lack of proper duty allocation norms and so on.

In the business as usual scenario, there is nothing at stake for the bureaucratic structure to disrupt the front line setup.
Now, the fact that one has to implement TaRL makes the bureaucracy feel the necessity to adjust some of the working norms and structures, thus enhancing the state capacity.
For instance, consider the case of Andhra Pradesh. Before TaRL was taken up for scale up last year, there was no proper structure of CRCs and most reporting activity of monitoring was regarding administrative aspects.
With the compulsion to implement TaRL, government felt the difficulties in the present set up. It setup a new cadre of CRCs, reorganized the roles and functions of some of the profiles in education bureaucracy etc. This to me, contributes to enhancing state capacity.
In a nutshell, the current state setup is like a foundation, on which the intervention is being laid out. If the process of overlaying the intervention on this weak foundation, highlights the weaknesses of the foundation and results towards correction, such scale-ups are a potential tool to enhance state capacity. They act as a torch light to highlight the constrictions.
Understandably, on the contrary, the danger is that if the government doesn’t recognize the weaknesses of the foundation and tries to gloss them over and force fits the intervention, it is bound to fail resulting in loss of money, energy, resources, time and contributes to the growing skepticism that government schools can’t be reformed!

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