Friday, March 2, 2018

Balochistan has prepared reforms roadmap, implementation remains a challenge

Arsalan Haider

MARCH 2, 2018

LAHORE: The education sector in Balochistan has been focused on planning of reforms without much attention to implementation, notes Alif Ailan, an education advocacy initiative, in its ‘Five Years of Education Reforms in Balochistan: Wins, Losses and Challenges for 2018-2023 report.

The report highlighted that though Balochistan was far behind other provinces in policies, infrastructure, and other educational issues five years ago, the province had made some improvements during this time.

The report highlighted out of school children, school infrastructure, poor retention rates, low rate of girls enrolment, outdated secondary and intermediate boards, and teaching standards as some of the key challenges faced by the education sector of the province.

Between 2010-11 and 2017-18, Balochistan increased its education budget substantially, nearly tripling it from Rs19.4 billion to Rs55.3 billion.

The percentage share of education in the total provincial budget also increased, from 14 percent in 2012-13 to 18 percent in 2013-14, and reaching 20 percent mark in 2015-16.

The development budget for education followed the same pattern, increasing from 6 percent in 2012-13 to 24 percent in 2013-14, coming down at 23 percent in 2014-15 and 18.38 percent in the year 2015-16, subsequently. In 2016-17, however, the share of development budget for education got slashed substantially to come down to 9 percent.

Meanwhile, the overall size of development budget increased over the past five years – as Rs48 billion were allocated to development between 2013-14 and 2017-18 compared to Rs12 billion allocated between 2008-09 and 2012-13.

Talking about the condition of education in the province in 2013, the report observed that when the current tenure of the assemblies began in June 2013, Balochistan’s education landscape was defined by extreme inequality. Half of all schools were single-room schools, and concurrently, but not proportionally, half of all schools were single teacher schools.

The report revealed that Balochistan government, despite its limited resources, was able to initiate reforms like horizontal expansion of schooling opportunities by building new schools in communities without schools, vertical expansion through upgrades of primary schools into middle- and middle- into high- schools, infrastructural improvement and provision of missing facilities, declaration of all government primary schools across the province as ‘gender free’ schools, giving preference to female teachers in recruitments for primary schools.

To improve learning outcomes, the government worked in two sectors separately, including merit-based recruitments of teachers and standardised testing of learning levels. Under the revised system, the government recruited 5,000 new teachers through the National Testing Service (NTS) and 1,200 Subject Specialist Teachers through tests conducted by the Balochistan Public Service Commission (BPSC). In addition, 1,209 teachers were recruited through a competitive process under the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) funded project, and 200 female teachers were recruited specifically for mathematics and science.

In order to improve learning assessments, the government established the Balochistan Assessment and Examination Commission (BAEC) to conduct standardised examinations for 5th and 8th grades.

While discussing challenges for 2018, the report mentioned as the biggest challenge out of school children and the crises of retention and girls’ education. The report said the number of children enrolled in primary schools was almost 2.5 times more than the number in middle- and high-schools. Only a third of all children enrolled in government schools were girls, it said.

In the country-wide ranking of districts for primary school infrastructure in 2017, none of Balochistan districts had been able to secure a spot in the top 100 positions.

On top of the list from Balochistan was Nasirabad district. It was on 104 number with a score of 34.86. The result for secondary schools infrastructure was no different as the top Balochistan district – Quetta – stood 89th in the national ranking.

Alif Ailan has also presented an eight point agenda for education reforms in the province. It seeks additional high schools for girls, and upgrades of existing middle and primary schools.

To address the imbalance between enrolments at primary and post primary levels, the report suggests measures to fix long distances between schools and settlements. It also seeks residential facilities at high schools, which should have middle school classes held at their premises as well, for students and teachers. It seeks that free and compulsory education policy should be extended to the Balochistan Residential Colleges (BRC), besides introduction of accelerated learning programmes. It stressed on the implementation of decisions pertaining to devolution of powers through the cluster management system. Increased education budgets must be complemented with measures to make effective financial management system to ensure adequate absorption.

Published in Daily Times, March 2nd2018.

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