Pakistan’s progress in improving its human development indicators has been uneven. Despite efforts to strengthen education service delivery in recent years, the country is unlikely to meet the education Millennium Development Goals for 2015. Consistent with the national picture, the province of Sindh performs poorly on a range of socioeconomic indicators, including education indicators related to access, equity, and achievement. Poor governance and weak accountability systems hamper efficient and effective public spending and service delivery in education.
The Sindh Education Sector Reform Program (SERP), a comprehensive medium-term program, focuses on improving governance and accountability to increase school participation, reduce gender and urban-rural disparities in school participation, increase grade progression, and improve the measurement of student learning. The Sindh Education Sector Project (SEP), a results-based investment operation, has supported the SERP since 2009.
The SEP has four defining design features. First, it is performance based: disbursements are tied to pre-specified annual implementation progress and performance targets that are considered central to the SERP objectives. Second, the project is underpinned by reform initiatives in education sector governance. Third, it supports strengthened budget, fiscal, financial, and procurement management, as well as environmental safeguard principles and practices. Fourth, it improves monitoring and evaluation systems in several ways, including via third party validation exercises and rigorous impact evaluations.
From 2009 to 2011, primary net enrollment increased from to 53 percent from 50 percent, bringing 450,000 more children to school. The ratio of female-male primary net enrollment in rural areas has increased from 61 to 72 percent.
In terms of facilities, 1,526 schools have been fully rehabilitated and were found (through a sample-based survey) to have suffered less damage from the 2010 floods than other schools. The government plans to permanently adopt the quality standards and the monitoring role of an independent third party.
Approximately 13,000 new teachers have been hired based on test scores and other objective criteria and placed in local schools under fixed-term, school-specific contracts. Evidence suggests that the newly-recruited teachers have less absenteeism on average than other teachers.
Additionally, 295 primary schools have been created through public-private partnership in disadvantaged rural communities. Entrepreneurs receive per-student subsidies conditional on free schooling provision and student test scores. School enrolment in these communities is 92 percent, compared to 63 percent in other communities. A one percent increase in community enrolment costs 275 Rupees (US$3) per year per program student. On average, students in this program were able to provide over 50 percent more correct answers on the math and local-language tests than other students.
The European Union (EU) cofinances SERP through a commitment of €39 million, of which €6 million is for technical assistance, and its disbursement targets are directly aligned with those of the SEP. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been in discussions with the Sindh Government to support SERP, and has also consulted the EU and World Bank for knowledge exchange and coordination possibilities.
Toward the Future
The Government of Sindh is developing its next sector-wide medium-term reform program that aims to build upon the SERP experience, intensifying reforms at the school level to improve school performance. The World Bank and EU plan to continue financial support and technical assistance for this next phase of the program. SERP’s merit-based teacher recruitment initiative is now being considered for the next education sector reform program in Punjab province.