Pakistan faces significant challenges; huge disparities in education opportunities – particularly for the rural poor and girls – poor quality education, low enrolment and completion rates, high drop-out rates and low levels of transition to secondary education.
It is important to improve governance in education sector in Pakistan. The basic rationale behind improving governance in the education sector is to improve service delivery. The objective is to ensure that people get good quality services through public sector education facilities. What is the basic minimum needed to ensure that people get good quality education services through government education facilities? It is the answer to this question that will determine which areas should be picked for improving governance.
While there may be many answers to this question, some of the basic prerequisites for good quality services are: teachers are present in schools; merit based recruitment; the staff are reasonably motivated; rationalization of staff in education facilities; and adequate quantity of quality inputs in schools. It is important to improve curriculum, textbooks, teacher education and examination system. It is also important to have effective community participation in the education sector. It is a reasonable assumption that if the above requisites are met, people are likely to have a better chance of getting good quality education.
The next question is what is needed to ensure these prerequisites? Presence of adequate systems, procedures and accountability mechanisms may ensure these prerequisites and result in better governance and improved quality of services. What is to be examined then is, whether there are adequate, efficient and effective systems and procedures within the Department of Education, to ensure that staff is present on duty. Whether these systems and procedures are being implemented? Whether adequate and objective performance evaluation and accountability is being carried out? And, how can various systems within the Department of Education be strengthened/improved?
It is important how citizens, leaders and public institutions relate to each other in order to achieve the goal “Quality Education for All”. It is important to focus on following:
Accountability: Accountability is essential for the evaluation of policies and budget as well as for budget tracking. Is government spending the money it allocated to education in the right areas, through right process. It is important to improve accountability of government and representatives towards strong financial management systems to achieve: (a) increased efficiency; (b) increased utilization; and (c) better targeting of resources to need areas.
Transparency: In a democracy, citizens have the right to information regarding the affairs of the elected government and transparency helps to create better decision making. In order for transparency to exist in all government matters, the right institutional arrangements are needed such as the publishing of and access to budget documents. Do parents and community have access to information about education sector reforms, plans and are they able to monitor students’ progress in relation to the plans.
Participation: Better participation promotes better budget outcomes, because it promotes: (a) public debate; (b) accountability; (c) the building of consensus around policy choices; and (d) needs-based budget allocation.
Management: Education Management Information System (EMIS) while providing statistics on schools, enrollments, and teachers, can play a vital role in inducing efficiency and improving quality by providing feedback to managers on quality and efficiency related variables such as dropout, repeater and transition rates, and under/over utilized schools. It is critical that links between EMIS and education planning and implementation are strengthened so that key decisions and actions of the education department are increasingly based on specific information from the field. However, to realize this, the data should be accurate, timely and presented in such form that managers are able to use it for policy and decision making. A credible education management information system that enumerates both public and private sector students, and which assembles and disseminates other relevant information that would enhance decision making and resource allocation. A strong EMIS would enable government to identify under-enrolled schools with accuracy, establish more rational targets, and to monitor the impact.
EMIS should be made user-friendly by introducing front/user interface to EMIS database (so that different types of queries and reports can be easily generated). The Education departments should institute a process of Annual Review of Education Sector Performance (using EMIS and other data sources) to link the planning of education sector with tangible targets. It includes following: (a) setting up benchmarks and annual targets for key output indicators on access, efficiency and quality by province, and by district and tehsil (e.g. setting up targets to increase enrollment, decrease dropout rate, reduce zero enrolled schools, etc.; (b) organize annual meeting/workshop of District Education Officers, chaired by the Secretary Education to review the performance of the sector against targets.
Overall, it is important to improve governance in education sector to achieve the goal “Quality Education for All”.