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Pakistan: Increasing Access and Quality through Education Reforms in Punjab

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Pakistan: Increasing Access and Quality through Education Reforms in Punjab


The World Bank is working with the Government of Punjab in Pakistan to improve education for school children through a range of initiatives, from cash stipends, low-cost private schools to more effective school councils. The Bank’s Punjab Education Sector Project helps provide stipends to 380,000 female students in grades 6-8, free textbooks to all students in public schools, improved access to quality education for over 857,096 students – more than half of them are girls – in 1,768 low cost private schools, as well as capacity support to 54,000 school councils.


Pakistan is ranked 145 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index. The country’s performance in education has generally been poor in absolute terms, relative to other countries in South Asia, and relative to other developing countries at its level of per capita income. Given the present trend, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reports that the country is unlikely to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of universal primary education by 2015. Standard education indicators in Punjab tend to be comparable or slightly higher than those of other provinces, the edge for Punjab largely appearing with respect to girls. Weaknesses in planning, budgeting and expenditure management within the sector have seriously undermined the government of Punjab’s ability to make significant progress towards the MDGs.



The Punjab Education Sector Project promoted and supported government actions to introduce, strengthen, and ensure the running of institutions and systems. The project has laid the foundations for one of the most robust, streamlined, and effective monitoring systems in the country, with data coming from an annual school census as well as a third-party monitoring system outside of the education department. Coupled with systematic evaluation of student achievement through universal assessments for grades 5 and 8 by the Punjab Examination Commission, these integrated databases provide significant insights for targeting interventions to address school-level gaps in participation and achievement.

The project’s innovative, results-based design, specifically the use of Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs) and covenants, has aided the provincial government in focusing on and satisfactorily achieving the majority of agreed implementation progress and performance targets.


The Punjab Education Sector Project, which is focused on strengthening institutional capacity and governance in the sector, has helped to support improvements in key performance indicators.

  • The ratio of female-male primary net enrollment in rural areas has increased from 89 percent to 92 percent from 2006-07 to 2010-11.
  • Foundation-Assisted Schools of Punjab Education Foundation have expanded from 18 to 29 program districts in the province, reaching 857,096 children in 2011 from 576,669 children in 2008.
  • Impact evaluation results for Foundation-Assisted Schools show that the program has raised enrollment by 40 percent and student achievement by 0.3-0.5 standard deviations within two years, roughly contributing to one-to-two additional years of learning at school.
  • 54,000 School councils have received annual grants and capacity building support, since 2009, to improve and monitor school performance.


Since studying at this school, the school building has improved remarkably. The teachers now come to school regularly and so do we. 

— Akbar, Primary School Student in Rural Punjab


Click to see project locations mapped:

Pakistan Geomap

Bank Contribution

The Bank provides financial and technical support to Punjab’s Education Sector Reform Program through a US$350-million credit from the International Development Association (IDA), with disbursements linked to fulfillment of at least eight of the 10 agreed disbursement linked indicators (DLIs). A US$10-million technical assistance component was included in the project that financed the project’s essential capacity-building needs. IDA also provided an additional US$50 million in 2011 in response to financial requirements in the aftermath of the floods in 2010.


World Bank support to the Government of Punjab was supplemented by parallel financing by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID). Of the approximately US$3.35 billion total program cost, the Punjab government contributed around US$3.0 billion, IDA about US$350 million, and DfID about US$67 million equivalent.

Toward the Future

With a target school-aged population of over 12 million children, of who 30 percent remain out of school and with seemingly low levels of learning in school, continuation of support to the government’s reform program is critical. Coordinated support from the Bank, DfID and Canadian International Development Agency worth US$350 million, US$200 million, and US$20 million respectively, is anticipated over the next phase of reforms that will target school-specific interventions to increase participation and quality of learning.