Bringing Innovation to Education
Pakistan is one of the eight countries where spending on education comprises less than two percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on education. In addition to the low level of spending, the quality of expenditure is another issue as most of the resources are spent on staff salaries whereas minimal amount is used for improving quality of education.
Education is one of the priority areas for the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the MDG Framework. Under MDG 2, countries have committed to provide universal primary education to its people whereas MDG 3 asks for reducing gender disparities in education. As like most of the other MDGs, Pakistan will not be able to achieve MDG 2 and MDG 3 at the current pace of progress.
These major issues in education were highlighted by the UNDP Country Director, Marc-André Franche, during the discussion on Ideas for Disruptive Innovation in Education organized by Alif Ailaan, an alliance for education reform. The Minister of Planning, Development and Reform Professor Ahsan Iqbal stated that none of the major problems in education including low enrolment rates, poor quality and lack of accountability can be solved without a bold new approach towards education.
The net enrollment rate in primary education in Pakistan was a mere 57% in 2011 as compared to more than 98% in Bangladesh in the same year. Gender Parity Index (ratio of girls to boys in primary education) for Pakistan was 0.85 as compared to 1.02 for Bangladesh in 2011.
To address these issues, a UN committee has been constituted to apply the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) as a tool to gather inputs from and engage multiple stakeholders to prepare region specific action plans that enhances enrollment in primary education.
In partnership with the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform and Provincial Planning and Development Departments, UNDP has started a process to prepare the MDG Acceleration Framework for enhancing enrollment and retention in primary education. MAF identifies bottlenecks to achieve a particular MDG and then proposes solutions to address those bottlenecks through a multi stakeholders’ engagement process. It has been tested in more than 40 countries across different regions of the world. MAF advocates for multi-partner engagement and partnership to increase synergies and effectiveness.
In Pakistan, the MAF process focuses on primary education. UNDP already had undertaken a national consultation process where feedback and inputs from different stakeholders in the government and non government institutions have been gathered. The initial feedback gathered through MAF process points towards governance issues at the supply side and accessibility issues at the demand side.
One innovation that UNDP has piloted in Pakistan is the development of education specific MDG Acceleration Framework. Often when we talk of education issues, we tend to think of education sector alone. We seldom appreciate the cross sector issues which may enable and disable the functioning of the concerned sector – education in this case. With the objective to enhance universal primary education and to identify high impact and cost effective solutions, the provincial governments are following a multi-stakeholder process of consultations. They are engaging with the planning machineries, statistics, finance, health, local governments, civil society, academia, development partners etc to gather their inputs on the issues that the education system faces and recommendations to address those.
By selecting initiatives using different innovative approaches that are piloted across a range of different socio-economic, regional, and cultural environments in Pakistan, if meticulously evaluated, can generate enough evidence and data to support greater impact across the country.