Many schools lack basic facilities in Pakistan’s rural Sindh province. Students cram half-a-dozen to a bench, or sit on the floor. There’s no electricity or running water. Teachers often don’t show up. Children can’t always afford books, pencils and notebooks. The Government of Sindh has tried to help by revitalizing a program that gives annual grants to school management committees to use to improve education.
The problem with the program has been that many of the school management committees, made up of community members and teachers, haven’t been effective. Many committees don’t hold regular meetings, while others are dominated by a few people who don’t use the grant money in an open and transparent way.
“Engagement with the community is key and that’s what’s often missing,” said Faisal Ahmad, the Chief Program Manager of the Reform and Support Unit in Sindh province. “The funds are there, the school committees are there, but the people aren’t getting information about the grants, so they aren’t able to keep an eye on the funds.”
A World Bank pilot, part of the Sindh Education Sector Project aimed to make a difference by helping community members get more involved. Many educators believe that community involvement in school management is critical for improving education. The pilot gives community members new channels for getting involved in education and taking an active role in school improvement. An impact evaluation, funded by the Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund, is measuring the effect and will give policymakers information they can use to improve community involvement in school management.
“The impact evaluation is being done at the right time,” said Dr. Fazlullah Pechuho, Secretary of the Education and Literacy Department in Sindh province. “We are planning to review our existing policy on school management committees and the evaluation findings will be important.”
In rural Sindh, three different approaches to improving community involvement are being tested, both separately and together. The first promotes community involvement through a text messaging service to keep community members and teachers up to date on issues surrounding school management and the grant. The anonymous platform allows people to discuss concerns and exchange information on schools and school committees using text messages. The second promotes community involvement through facilitated village meetings to give people information about their rights, responsibilities and resources for school management. The third tries to revitalize the school committees by holding new elections and training committee members.
“In our country, one of the biggest problems is no one monitors the education system, the system has been left in the lurch by the leadership,” said Hamzo Khan Tagar, a senior program manager in the government's Reform Support Unit. “Communities need to be able to manage and monitor their own schools. Most importantly, they can monitor how government funds can be better utilized and reduce the rate of corruption in public education.”
Even before final results are in from the impact evaluation, the Government of Sindh is using what it has learned to improve other programs. The text messaging platform used to get community members involved in discussions about the schools was so popular that the education ministry has created similar systems for people to register complaints, among other things.
“There are many children in Pakistan whose talents will never see the light of day because the system continues to fail them,” says Salman Asim, the project’s lead researcher and an economist at the World Bank. “To save those millions of dreams, it is important to invest in innovative interventions. The pilot project is one such example of creating pressure points at the community level to offset a weak and underperforming education system.”
For more information, read “A Note from the Field” – the first in what is a new series about SIEF-supported impact evaluation.
You can find a report about the impact evaluation’s implementation here.
Read more about education impact evaluations here.
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