An effort to provide universal schooling for all Haitian children has exceeded goals set for its first year and is on track for even further growth in the coming school year.
Originally, the joint Haitian Government-World Bank program sought to enroll 15,000 new first graders in 2007, but, thanks to co-financing received from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), managed to enroll more than twice the number of new students, according to Peter Holland, the World Bank task team leader of Education for All—Haiti.
An education sector characterized by high fees and poor quality
Public education in Haiti has consistently proved problematic: 50 percent of children do not attend school, and 80 percent of those who do attend private schools. Without qualified teachers or adequate textbooks, the quality of education is generally poor. This has resulted in poor test scores, grade repetition and high dropout rates. Since there are very few schools, particularly in rural areas, parents often wait until a child is old enough to make the long journey to the nearest school. In addition to all these barriers, school fees are also prohibitively expensive—an estimated US$70 to US$80 per child each year in a country with a per capita GDP of US$480. In many cases, parents simply cannot afford to send their children to school.
A 2004 household vulnerability study conducted by the Bank determined that in addition to initial enrollment and quality-related problems, families often pulled children out of school in the face of economic distress. “As a result, kids end up cycling in and out of school with the result that today, three-fourths of children in primary school are on average two years too old for their grade level,” Holland said.
Responding to Client Demand
Shortly after his election in 2006, Haitian President René Préval requested the World Bank’s technical assistance and financing for projects in the education sector. In response to that request, the Bank approved a US$25 million grant from the International Development Association in April, 2007, to fund Haiti’s Education for All Strategy. The strategy seeks to provide primary education for all Haitian children and the necessary qualified teachers to do so.
The project is part of the global Education for All campaign, which calls for primary education for all children, eliminating the gender gap in secondary education and cutting adult illiteracy rates in half by 2015. Launched in 1990, the campaign serves as a cornerstone of Millennium Development Goals Two and Three.
Paying school fees for thousands of poor families
In Haiti, Education for All works through the Haitian Ministry of Education, subsidizing nearly 100,000 poor children in 1,000 accredited private schools. To ensure effective monitoring of the project, the schools report the allocation of funds to the Ministry of Education, and are monitored by an independent third party.
And feeding 45,000 students
Meanwhile, school feeding programs, which successfully guarantee many Haitian children a proper meal each day, have remained active over the summer break. The program which covered some 30,000 children increased coverage to a total of 45,000 in the new school year, beginning in September 2008. Such program has increased school attendance and the students’ ability to concentrate in class. For many of these children, the food they receive at school is the only meal of the day.
The Bank is partnering with the Caribbean Development Bank and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), which have contributed an additional US$10 million and US$1.2 million, respectively thus far. In the spirit of the Paris Declaration for donor coordination, the three partners have agreed to adopt harmonized policies and procedures for implementation, and are executing the project directly through the Ministry of Education. The World Bank is also establishing a multi-donor trust fund to channel future contributions to the initiative.
Training teachers to enhance quality and access
Haiti also faces a severe teacher shortage: the country needs more than 2,000 new teachers per year to reach the goal of universal education, but only 350 are certified each year. Government spending in the education sector is low, as Haiti spends less than 2 percent of GDP annually on education, and only half of that on primary education. To address this gap in certified teachers, a separate US$6 million IDA grant is funding an accelerated three-year training program, which will address problems of poor facilities, outdated curricula and resources for teachers training.
The new program, the Formation Initial Accelerée, selects recent high school graduates for the accelerated program, with ten months at a teacher training institute and two years of full-time student teaching. The 2,500 teachers who will graduate each year will begin working after only one year of instruction, instead of the traditional three. Graduates of the program will become full-time teachers supported by mentor teachers and school supervisors.
The plan hopes to place 70 percent of new graduates in underserved rural areas. To promote this goal, student-teachers will complete their classroom training in approved schools in regions where the need is greatest.
“We are hoping that with the money they get for the new students, they will use better-trained teachers” said Michael Drabble, a World Bank senior education specialist. “We are hoping to get a net gain in kids enrolled in school,” he added.
Drabble said previous experience in other countries has demonstrated that full-time, intensive teacher training can produce a better educator, but that training is only the first step in building a professional, quality education system. “The government needs to support them,” he said. “For example, they must be paid on-time. Pre-service training is not everything, but it could be a very effective tool.”
Despite impressive progress in the first year, the education sector still faces major obstacles. For example, building new schools for the estimated 250,000 to 500,000 children who are not yet enrolled in school presents a major challenge. Although lots must be done to solve Haiti’s problems in the sector, the Education for All project is already helping to solve many of these problems and bringing the country a few steps closer toward meeting the goal of universal primary education by 2015.
The EFA Project At-A-Glance
Component 1. Increase access to primary education
Component 2. Enhance the quality of education
Component 3. Institutional strengthening of the
Ministry of Education
Component 4. Monitoring and evaluation
Total Funding: US$ 36.2 Million