December 19, 2013
Last week, Women Thrive was at the United Nations for the release of a new report on the quality of education for girls and boys around the world. For context, Women Thrive’s Erin Kelly spoke with Dr. Baela Raza Jamil.
1) What are some of the major barriers girls in Pakistan face in getting a quality education?
Insufficient schools, few opportunities beyond primary schooling, lack of safe and conducive environment for learning, many missing facilities, and inadequate teachers, especially those who have the appropriate skills and experience to ensure quality learning outcomes.
All of the above contribute to parents’ or household decisions to send girls – and sometimes even boys – to school or not.
2) Why is education so important to the boys and girls of Pakistan?
Education is the only chance any society has for sustainable development in rapidly changing societies during the 21st century. In Pakistan, there are many challenges, including economic growth, security/peace, governance, and discrimination at different levels (gender, geography and class).
3) Can you tell us more about some of the initiatives that have worked to improve education in Pakistan?
- Sector-wide approaches that look at transitions in education holistically, as well as more balanced budgets across sectors that include more resources (including expenditures) for development work beyond the recurrent costs in salaries;
- Public sector initiatives to upgrade schools, improve facilities, improve packages of teachers and enhance recruitment with higher qualifications and in-service continuous professional development opportunities, school mentors programs in cluster based approaches, better monitoring of key indicators, and the strengthening of school management committees (SMCs) with more funds/autonomy for school improvement reflected through annual School Development Plans
- Public Private Partnerships often quoted as best practices to support state initiatives across the education spectrum, where the public sector is an enabler and sometimes a financier to help meet national targets. Many of the PPPs have been initiated by the government and sometimes the innovations including those for girls education and for the vulnerable have been designed by the private sectors and CSOs
- Citizen accountability initiatives for tracking learning (such as the Annual Status of Education Reports- ASER) and in financing of education.
What about initiatives specifically targeted at girls?
Stipends for girls are in place for those studying only in government schools from grades 6-12; these must be available across the board to all children in government and private schools (below the fee level of US$12 per month). In some cases, school feeding programs to improve nutrition are necessary as well.
[There must be] conducive schools with enabling learning facilities, secure environment for girls with enrichment programs on leadership, reading, health/life skills, [along with] a rights-based approach and summer school “catch up programs” for students who were never enrolled or dropped out.
[These could be accomplished] through accelerated learning programs combined with life skills lessons [and] reading clubs that encourage kids to read beyond textbooks.
[We should] further have mobile schools in some instances [and promote] children’s Literature Festivals as a social movement [that] can increase learning outcomes.
4) What are you looking forward to telling United Nations representatives about education in Pakistan?
- That quality education is big on the agenda of the country leaders;
- While education is a big priority, the funds and practical steps of policy-makers don’t match the policy announcements being finalized;
- For education to be conceived holistically it must be able to work efficiently and create a new culture for sustainable approaches for social and economic development;
- Education must begin at birth— across homes, communities, and care givers and schools to address education, health, nutrition, maternal/child health key indicators.
- Governments should ensure a smooth transition from pre-primary school, to primary school to secondary, and tertiary education. In Pakistan, for every 75 primary schools only 25 middle schools exist and in some provinces, for every 91 primary schools only 5 middle schools exist!
- Activists need space for innovations in education and learning in order to reach the unreached and marginalized and to ensure deeper investments in quality learning and outcomes.
- Citizen-based accountability initiatives for learning aligned to government and country learning outcomes should be widely disseminated to influence parents/communities, parliamentarians media, teachers unions, and civil servants so they can be mobilized into action.
- Continued partnerships with industry and private sector is key in a country where private provision is almost 40%;
- Sharing global /regional best practices, alliance building and advocacy are all critical to improving outcomes.
- Platforms to influence the global post-2015 agendas are necessary.