Syndicate content

Pakistan Education Reform Programs: Ambitions and Innovations

Ben Safran's picture

These days, that title alone is probably enough to have most of you continue reading.

Pakistan's leap into international news headlines has mostly been a result of a series of unfortunate events. The global spotlight has also extended to Pakistan's education system, and the tone of that coverage has mirrored that of Pakistan’s other problems. A recent New York Times article described the growth of madrassas in southern Punjab, claiming that lack of access compelled citizens to turn to these schools as a last resort to educate their children.

Rather than contributing to this debate, I wanted to discuss education in Pakistan from a different angle by talking about the problem solvers. It seems like an appropriate time to write on these issues considering the recent World Bank approval of the Sindh and Punjab Education Sector Projects, two credits totaling over $650M to support the wide-scale education reform programs in these two major provinces.

Pakistan has embarked on some of the most ambitious and innovative education reforms across the globe. For example, initiatives to improve teacher quality, such as appointment of only teachers who pass an entrance exam in Sindh, would be an ambitious agenda for many countries globally, let alone in one with a history of patronage based appointments in exchange for political allegiance, favors or cash. And in Punjab, the government is committed to developing a teacher incentive program to reward the public school system’s top performers. This commitment is a sharp contrast with the reaction towards a performance based incentives system proposed by Michelle Rhee for the Washington DC school system.

In addition, both Punjab and Sindh have implemented cutting edge public private partnerships in education. Leveraging the private sector to provide high quality services to underserved rural areas, the government is providing a per-child subsidy to existing (in Punjab), and newly created (in Sindh) private schools, provided the schools continue to provide education free of cost and maintain a minimum level of quality, as measured by student learning. What will be the outcome of these reforms? Changing the quality of the stock of teachers and extending the reach of the education system to the underserved areas ultimately will affect the quality and supply of education in the country, bringing promising potential to improve child learning.

These programs don't simply build on previous reforms in the hope of continuing the progress achieved over the last five years (increase in net primary school enrollment from 42% to 56% nationally), but aggressively push them further. The above examples are just a few of the many innovative and ambitious initiatives that are being undertaken to increase school participation, reduce gender and rural-urban disparities in participation, increase progression and improve student learning in the country.

It would be naive of me to suggest that the solutions are close at hand or even that the progress made can definitively be projected to continue at the same pace. The focus now has turned to implementing these programs. The framework is in place, but without vigilance to adapt to challenges as they are uncovered, sustained championship, and determination, the progress can stagnate or even regress. But I hope that I can be afforded continued naiveté and get to work with the problem solvers to fight one of the most important challenges Pakistan faces.

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on
It's interesting to see that Pakistan is out ahead of America on performance-based pay for teachers.

Submitted by Patrick on
Interesting and thought provoking entry. Two questions, how does one prevent cheating by teachers and students on the standardized tests to evaluate performance and is there a concrete goal in net enrollment after the project is completed?

Submitted by Ben on
Patrick - thanks for the interest. To answer your question on assessment: In each of the reform programs an independent assessment agency ("Punjab Examination Commission" in Punjab and "Provincial Education Assessment Center" in Sindh) has been set up to administer provincal representative assessments. Part of their change is to ensure the integrity of the examinations via proper security of testing materials, invigilation, etc. These data will be extremely valuable to evaluate performance and learning quality. As for the enrollment goals: The bank projects and government refrom programs objectives relating to primary net enrollment rates are the same: to increase from a baseline of 62% to 66% by the completion in Punjab and from 50.3% to 55.6% in Sindh.

Submitted by anis mansoori on
its not true . education sector is not developing in Pakistan. there is wide space between people , government and donors. government figures for increasing in education ratio is eye wash . with respect to population ratio is not increase just example where in 100 children 40 were going schools now in 150 children 56 are joining. so by percentage of children its decrees but with respect to previous 40 its raises 56. on other side madaress(religious eduction institute) registration shows alarming threat .government has no data and comparison of registration between government /private schools ad madaress.

Submitted by Ali on
I appreciate these efforts of the World Bank and I am sure it would improve the quality of education. According to my understanding much more needs to be done and we can't feel contented at this step. World Bank can press the government of Pakistan to pass the no child left behind act to ensure universal enrolement of children. Secondly, we can nationalize all the Madessa and change them to schools. The focus needs to be shifted to the troubled regins of Baluchinstan and NWFP too as these two provinces are center of attention of media and world.

Submitted by Melissa on
I applaud the education reform in Pakistan. As an American teaching in the Middle East, I meet many Pakistanis who have explained the problems they have encountered with education in their country. While having proper teachers is one of the key links, so is motivating students to not only stay in school and complete their educations through at least what we consider the secondary level, but to work with students, parents and the government to pursue college educations. I would like to know if there are any organizations that I can contact to help some of the young Pakistanis that I have met to complete or further their educations.

Submitted by uzma on
Hi. Your comment on Educational Reform in Pakistan was interesting to read. We are a charity (currently undergoing registeration) but already into many charitable projects. If you would like to help the children in Pakistan there are many ways you could help. We value your thoughtfulness and would appreciate any help you would like to offer. Please email me if you would like more information.

Submitted by Mulazi Ali Khokhar on
It is very appreciable that education reforms in Pakistan are widely talked and supported worldover but alas! not by typical Pakistaniz and that is the biggest dilemma of my times. Being a Pakistani I can not ignore this gutt feeling and I am very thankful to you all. My request to world bank: Please please n please supervise the reform programs more strictly as the funds are more likely to be ....... if in hands of Pakistaniz especially the politicians. USAID is managing the education programs very well and one can learn from them. To Ali: I agree, all the provinces need equal attention and thus the program for only Sindh n Punjab is not justifiable. To Melissa: Although supporting a child for studies is a continuous job, I would suggest be active by your self to participate for this good deed. Most of the NGOs are not working honestly here and the probabilities of funds being manipulated for their own needs is higher. Sorry for my uneven english writing and for my directive tone. But I have told u the realities. God bless us all.

Submitted by e okul on
I appreciate these efforts of the World Bank and I am sure it would improve the quality of education. According to my understanding much more needs to be done and we can't feel contented at this step. World Bank can press the government of Pakistan to pass the no child left behind act to ensure universal enrolement of children. Secondly, we can nationalize all the Madessa and change them to schools.

Submitted by Dir on
Your Article on Educational Reform in Pakistan was interesting to read. It is very appreciable that education reforms in Pakistan are widely talked and supported. All the provinces need equal attention.

Submitted by SEO on
Hi, First of all, it was a really good read, outlanders speaking about poverty in South East Asia somehow outlines they care us, I personally on all my Pakistani brothers and sisters behalf Thank World Bank for helping us further grow, I hope continues efforts will get us there Thanks a lot

Add new comment