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Building Better Schools in Pakistan

Good basic education is a critical stepping stone for a country, such as Pakistan, working to build a modern, market-based economy and to improve its people's lives. Education-especially for girls-means more choices and more skills, higher wages and higher living standards, and without it countries cannot compete in the global economy. But education in Pakistan, despite recent economic progress, lags behind other countries in the region, and the national literacy rate is only 30 percent.

Pakistan's government has now fixed better primary education as a national priority, and a new $150 million credit from the International Development Association will help improve schools in one of the areas that needs the most help, the diverse and heavily rural North-West Frontier Province. With this program, all four of Pakistan's provinces will now have an IDA-backed primary education system in place. Literacy in the province is below 22 percent, 40 percent of kindergartners don't go on to finish the fifth grade and only 22 percent of schools are girls schools. And severe inequities exist in education between districts, rural and urban areas and between males and females.

The credit will help Pakistan to get more children in-and through-primary schools and to improve the overall quality of their education. The five-year program is expected to increase primary enrollment by about 886,000 new students, more than 40 percent of whom will be girls. Educating girls is a key focus of the project-as it is in most of the Bank's education work-because worldwide research has shown it to have broad side benefits. It promotes child health and reduced fertility, for example, particularly important given Pakistan's high population growth rate. Sixty percent of the program's 23,000 new classrooms will be for girls.

"Girls with more education grow up to be women who have fewer and healthier babies, make more informed choices about caring for their families and environment, and become more skilled workers," said World Bank Managing Director and Acting President Sven Sandstrom at last week's World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen. "That is why getting more girls into school is the most effective investment in the world today.

" The program will also promote the placement of local teachers and involve local parents in school affairs, which will encourage students to continue their education at the same time it provides more resources for the schools.

The new project will boost education access, equity and efficiency in the province by:

  • locating schools where there is a community demand for enrollment;
  • consolidating schools with low enrollment;- promoting coeducation schools in receptive communities;
  • increasing the supply of female teachers by training and recruiting women;- subsidizing private schools catering to low-income areas and rural girls.

The project will also improve the learning environment by:

  • strengthening textbook development and subsidizing production so that all students have access to high-quality, affordable books;- providing all classrooms with a standard set of instructional materials;
  • improving teacher education and providing them with academic support.

For More Information on the Pakistan education program, contact Paul Mitchell at (202) 4581423.

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