Analysis without Borders: Punjab Education Policy

By Kriti

In the early 2000s, Pakistan was facing severe challenges in terms of access and quality of education. Pakistan Education Act II was passed in 2004 with increased focus on promotion of education, especially in terms of encouraging and supporting the efforts of the private sector in providing education to the poor, through public private partnership (PPP) since the gigantic task of providing quality education and meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for All (EFA) could not be accomplished alone by the government. The PEF has undertaken a number of PPP initiatives, including the Foundation-Assisted Schools (FAS) program, the Continuous Professional Development Program (CPDP), the Teaching in Clusters by Subject Specialists (TICSS) program, and the Education Voucher Scheme (EVS).

FOUNDATION ASSISTED SCHOOLS

It is a public subsidy program introduced in 2005 for the purpose of providing financial assistance to low cost private schools with special focus on female education. The PEF has laid down certain qualifications that schools need to possess in order to be able to participate in FAS program which is mainly contingent on the Quality Assurance Test (QAT) result, whose passing mark is 40%. This program was a huge success and helped 1337 schools (529,210 students and 86,027 teachers) by the end of 2009. It provides incentives to teachers to put their efforts in the most efficient way by making their increment in salaries contingent upon the pass rate of their students, and has also made the program transparent by inviting third party evaluation by innovative development strategies to preclude any hidden biases. The program conducts QAT and interviews for all the participant and non- participant schools every year which has a large and positive impact on the number of students, schooling inputs and expansion of schools. However, it does lack human and material resources required to accommodate its rapid expansion, involvement of parents and the community to increase accountability and sustainability in terms of finance and social effectiveness.

CONTINUOUS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

It was established to enhance quality of education by training teachers of FAS partner and non-partner school teachers since quality education requires upgrading of the subject area knowledge and pedagogical skills of teachers. Universities, NGOs and subject specialists are involved as mentors of the Cluster Based Training (CBT) which has certain prerequisites, preparation process and tests before and after the workshop to check its effectiveness. This program was also a huge success with a vast increase in the number of teachers trained from 568 in 2005 to 15,626 in 2009. It also includes School Leadership Development Program to prevent rote learning and cramming.

TEACHING IN CLUSTERS BY SUBJECT SPECIALISTS PROGRAM

It aims at hiring teachers at market level salaries to work with FAS partner schools since they cannot afford it on their own due to low revenue. Subject specialists are hired on a 2- year contract basis but after a testing period of first 3-6 months with certain pre-requisites. Their job is also contingent upon the performance of their students in QAT, and on reports by the monitoring and evaluation teams. It has made a huge contribution towards improving learning outcome by increasing average grade point from 33% to 55% in 3 years since its establishment.

EDUCATION VOUCHER SCHEME

It was established in 2006 with the aim to promote equal access to quality education. Under this scheme, PEF pays PKR 300 to each child belonging to low income households per month in terms of voucher which is redeemable only in EVS partner schools, recognition of which requires certain prerequisites. PEF spreads information about the EVS and makes door to door visits to see which areas are most in need. By the end of year 2009, EVS supported 31,053 students and proved that children of low income households perform as good as or better than that of middle income households, which is a great achievement.

COMPARISON WITH INDIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM

Comparing the educational statistics of Pakistan in 2004 and that of India in 2016, India stands in a far better position with remarkably high enrollment rate. However, India lags behind in terms of quality of education, equity, governance, management and finance. According to ASER 2014, private schools have kept pace with the required quality of education but it is the public schools that fall behind. Dropout rate is higher in public schools and new enrollment rate is higher in private schools which shows that parents are more inclined towards sending their children to private schools. Despite a reasonable amount of budget allocation to the education sector of India, its utilization has not been effective mainly because of corruption and non-transparency. Since all the policies of Punjab education system centered around public private partnership has been a huge success, incorporating it in Indian education system with a little improvisation could make India achieve the foremost position in terms of educational achievements. It is evidenced that Azim Premji Foundation conducted a school voucher program for 180 villages in Andhra Pradesh and witnessed an overall increase in scores after 2-4 years of the program.

IMPROVEMENTS OVER EXISTING SYSTEMS

• Define specific quantifiable goals and targets with monitoring of process from time to time.

• QAT database should include variables that affect the physical learning environment as it is one of the major drawbacks of Indian education system. It should also reflect the reason for performance so that the gap could be effectively addressed.

•Allocation of finance and technology should be on the basis of needs and performance.

• Involvement of parents and the community to ensure maximum social benefits and values.

• Implementation of effective health programs to encourage the poorest parents to send their children to schools.

•Support of NGOs for greater sustainability.

•Program awareness on district-level through public service announcements.

• Decentralisation of administrative and technology control because with the expansion in FAS, it becomes detrimental to the program’s efficiency.

• Introduction of compulsory skill development courses for teachers and higher education students.

• Class size should be decided keeping in view not only its private costs but also its social costs.

REFERENCES

1. Policy analysis of education in Punjab province, compilation and analysis by Dr. Allah Bakhsh Malik for UNESCO Islamabad.

2. Public private partnerships in education, lessons learned from Punjab Education Foundation, Asian Development Bank.

3. http://pef.edu.pk.pefsis.edu.pk

4. http://www.asercentre.org/Keywords/p/218.html

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