BESP executive summary

BESP executive summary

Balochistan has a large number of out of school children, high dropout rates, wide gender disparities in education indicators and poor quality of teaching (and learning) in the classroom. These challenges require an organized response and the Balochistan Education Sector Plan (BESP) has been prepared as the instrument to manage the prioritization, planning, execution, monitoring and review of education policies and strategies. The document covers a five-year period with provisions for periodic (annual) revision based on monitoring of the implementation process. Provision for a midterm evaluation has also been included.

Monitoring of the sector plan has been placed under a high profile oversight body led by the Chief Secretary of the province. Technical level committees have also been envisaged. A set of indicators for monitoring have been developed and included in the Performance Assessment Framework. Ongoing review and prioritization has been envisaged in the document. Matrices with timelines, indicators and responsibilities have been developed for each area. All actions have been costed. These costs include the financial expenditure expected on greater access; improve quality and strengthened governance and management. Costs have been bifurcated into those that are linked to enrolment (scale) and those that are independent of enrolment. The latter include activities like standards development, capacity assessment and research studies. Total outlay for the five year plan comes to Rs. 61.359 billion PKR, with lower requirements in initial period and a gradual rise in the last three years of the plan.

Like all plans the BESP also faces a number of risks, these have been identified at the macro-level through a risk matrix. At the micro-level these have been included in the results matrix at the strategic objective and strategy level wherever a clear risk appeared. Risk mitigation strategies have been identified against all levels of risks-micro and macro.

A critical next step of decentralized units for implementation has been suggested which would require a local level prioritization. The latter will depend on the level of development of the area, the education endowments and needs. This prioritization will be undertaken by district level committees formed for implementation and oversight of the sector plan in each districts. These committees will be led by the district education officer and will include local non-government organizations. At the school level the task will be assigned to the Parents Teachers Schools Management Committees (PTSMCs).

The BESP derives its vision from the recently inserted Article 25A in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which has made education for children between ages 5 and 16 a fundamental right. The Article allows provinces to legislate for implementation of the provisions as per their own circumstances. A draft law has already been prepared by the government and submitted to the Provincial Assembly.

The BESP is an important step towards achievement of the requirements of Article 25A. The Plan, in its targets, falls short of the requirements because of the huge challenges, which would require time and resources that go beyond the five year period of the current BESP.

Strategies developed for the sector plan target increased in take, reduced gender gaps and retention in the education sector. Additionally, to accelerate the achievement of the targets of Article 25A, the BESP also targets recovery of school age going out of school child through an ‘alternate learning path’ programme and literacy improvements. Higher education to the extent of undergraduate classes has also been included in the Plan with the primary focus of quality improvement.

Low access of children to school emerges as the biggest challenge in the province. It faces the most unique situation in Pakistan as a large number of settlements (approximately 10,000 out of a total of 22,000) are without schools. The situation has resulted from a number of factors which include poor communication infrastructure. More relevant, in case of education, has been the criterion for establishment of schools wherein a certain population density in a given radius permits setting up a school. In a low population density in area that covers 44% of Pakistan and contains only 5% of the population, large number of smaller settlements fails to qualify for a school.

The BESP strategies on access have three dimensions. These include horizontal expansion through building schools in settlements that have none, upgradation of a number of primary school to middle and middle to higher secondary, to allow, improved enrolment in existing schools with access capacity and reduction in drop outs. On the horizontal expansion requirements of teacher qualifications will be relaxed as many of these settlements may not have qualified teachers. Community based schools model has been recommended which also have minimal construction requirements of two to three rooms. Additionally, up-gradation of 800 primary and 100 middle schools has been recommended. Strengthening of community involvement in education has been proposed to assist with enrolment and retention.

The above strategies are supplemented with the development of a programme to bring out of school children back into the classrooms through an alternate learning path programme. This will take dropped out or left out children and fast track them through a level, primary or middle, and mainstream them into regular schools. Without an effective ALP the vision of achieving targets of Article 25A will remain elusive.

Low quality of education poses a threat to sustainability of all reform efforts as continued low faith in the sector will induce drop outs. The sector plan reviews and provides strategies for improvement of the teaching learning process in the classroom. At present all quality inputs (teachers, textbooks, examinations) used in the classroom induce rote learning. The education process is uninteresting and does not focus on cognitive development. Use of corporal punishment and discouragement of inquiry in schools, which function in hierarchies with the student being at the lowest rung, define the classroom culture. Missing facilities in schools and buildings that do not cater to weather conditions further dampen the child’s enthusiasm.

Strategies for quality improvement have been built around the inputs, processes and outputs of the various quality related factors. These include teachers, curriculum, textbooks, examinations, school environment and school language policy. The main, common strategy, across all has been standardization, and benchmarking, of the outputs required, the processes used and also the inputs. A holistic review of the current standards have been recommended with a view to shift away from the rote learning in the classroom towards development of critical analytical ability. Review of the current school language policy at all levels has also been included.

The BESP considers teaching in mother tongue at the primary level as critical to cognitive development of the child. It also looks at language related problems of higher classes where Urdu and English courses have been designed on unrealistic assumptions about children capacity. To undertake the changes the BESP recommends a comprehensive study that would help in preparation of a new language policy and plan for schools.

The strategies include a curriculum implementation framework, which will shift teaching and assessment from singular textbook focused to curriculum based over the long run. The CIF includes greater awareness on curriculum and its objectives among the education managers, teachers and community. Historically the document has remained confined to the curriculum developing authority and the textbook boards.

Three themes previously either not covered in the education sector, or only partially included, have been added in the BESP: Early Childhood Education and Care, Inclusive Education and Disaster Risk Reduction. As new areas the main thrust of the strategies has been on creation of awareness on these issues among implementers and the community. The path of teacher training has been suggested as the main conduit for spread of these concepts. For ECE an expansion programme has also been included which adds ECE classrooms and teachers to 3600 primary schools.

A cross cutting threat highlighted in the BESP is the dearth of quality education professionals. Pre-Service teacher education is the weakest link in the sector. The traditional courses run for nine months hardly prepare a teacher for the responsibilities in a classroom. Even within these nine months the training process has a number of weaknesses which include low focus on practicums and the poor quality of the instructors. The establishment of private universities that award degrees in education has further damaged quality as most of these have been accused of not enforcing attendance in classes and malpractices in the examinations.

A near absence of courses on textbooks, curriculum and assessments means teachers have little or no idea of these important inputs. Resultantly trained professionals to work on these areas are an exception who may normally have got a degree from abroad or some good university in other parts of the country. The sector plan has recommended a complete revamping the pre-service teacher education structure in line with international benchmarks. It supports the work already started in the Pre-Step Teacher Education Project which is working on longer, two year and four year, programmes with a revised curriculum.

The BESP recommends a shift from the current model of in service teacher training also. A comprehensive continuous professional development programme has been proposed. Key features of include a comprehensive needs assessment through teachers competencies baseline study and development of CPD on the basis of its findings. The CPD would ensure periodic training for all teachers over the course of a career and a feedback and follow up mechanism hitherto missing in the training processes.

Capacity limitations also emerge as a cross cutting theme in the BESP and capacity development has been recommended for all organisations involved in education. These include the Directorate of Education, the Balochistan Textbook Board, the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, the Bureau of Curriculum and Extension Services and the Provincial Institute of Teachers Education.

A particular challenge will be the BOC. It has been entrusted the responsibility for curriculum review. Before 2009 the function lay with the Federal government. The shift has seen the provincial government unprepared for the task. For now, it has adopted the extant curriculum 2006 prepared by the erstwhile Federal Ministry of Education. The BESP recommends the capacity review of BOC with a view to prepare it for the next revision which may be due by 2018.

The final, and most difficult, challenge is of governance. Teacher absenteeism, failure to monitor learning and reduce dropouts result from a weak management system. Political interference in routine management decisions like transfers, posting and disciplinary proceedings has eroded the grasp of senior education managers. Teachers associations have also not evolved into professional organisations. They function as conduits of harmful political intervention in the sector. The sector plan, in deviation from traditional government plans, recommends engagement of the political leadership into a dialogue on education to shift their interference in administrative matters to support of critical reforms.

Management, as a subset of governance, suffers from methods employed as well as quality of the managers. The BESP considers both problems. Firstly, the decision making process does not adequately take into account data based information, generally most decision are about inputs: teachers’ attendance, transfers and postings, textbooks etc. Output and impact are neither measured adequately nor used in decision making. Important indicators like learning outcomes, gross enrolment ratio and net enrolment ratio do not drive the management of the education sector. In response the lack of demand the Balochistan Education Management Information System does not collect data for, and consequently generate, these indicators. Data based decision making, and planning, lacks in the system.

The Balochistan Education Management Information System (BEMIS) has been functional for more than twenty years but its data is not used in routine. Partially the non-usage is due to absence of training of data use but to an extent the low credibility of BEMIS data also plays a role. The BESP makes recommendations for both improvements on the demand side by increasing awareness and understanding of users, and supply side. For the latter the scope of BEMIS has to be expanded to include all education institutions like private schools and madrassas, qualitative data on learning outcomes and personnel information on teacher deployment. Strategies also include approaches to ensure data quality. A critical shift has been recommended for decision making and planning based on output level indicators. This will require revival of the diagnostic assessment mechanism of the Provincial Education Assessment Centre (PEAC) that has become dysfunctional since 2008. The learning outcome and related data generated by PEAC will have to be added to BEMIS reports. The sector plan also recommends a tracer study to develop a baseline for outcomes of education for those who either get dropped out from or complete their school education.

Another critical shortcoming is the lack of linkages across organisations. Currently the Directorate of Schools considers only access issues as part of its mandate. It is indifferent to quality inputs from the supply side organisations like the textbook board, the examination board, the BOC and PITE. Each organisation works almost as a standalone function. The BESP makes two recommendations in this context: the need for the Directorate of Schools to take a central position for all educational matters access, equity and quality and a structured coordination across all organisations. The demand and feedback must come from the Directorate and responded to by the supply side organisations.

At an individual level management capacities also suffer. Teachers posted as managers overnight do not necessarily have the capacity. Without specialized training the deficits will continue. The BESP recommends specialized management cadre and trainings as part of professional development for these managers. The DOC has been included as one of the organisations that need capacity review and development.

The areas of literacy and college education have also been added. In literacy the main focus has been on youth. Functional literacy recommendations have been made. In higher education only the undergraduate level has been focused with a singular strategy: shift from the two year undergraduate programme to the 4 year programme now recommended by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). At present only one college has been suggested for upgradation as a pilot. Eventually it will shift to the remaining undergraduate programmes.

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