The Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has made improvements in coverage of physical facilities across schools, recruiting teachers, increasing attendance and instituting new development programs. However, the province still needs to tackle significant challenges in the form of improved learning outcomes, retention, girls’ access to education, enrolment and increased and effective education spending. This was highlighted in “2013-2018 Five years of education reform: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wins, losses and challenges for the future 2018-2023”, a report published by education campaign Alif Ailaan on Tuesday.

Panelists at the report launch included Muhammad Atif Khan (Minister, KP Elementary and Secondary Education), Dr Irum Mumtaz (Remedial Therapist, IDEAS), Mohsin Dawar (Central President, National Youth Organisation), Taimur Khan Jhagra (Head of Election Policy Unit, PTI), and Mosharraf Zaidi (Campaign Director, Alif Ailaan).

The event was also attended by prominent lawmakers and senior government officials from across the country, including Sardar Hussain Babak, Barrister Syed Masroor Shah, Senator Usman Khan Kakar, Waleed Bizenjo, Sanaullah Baloch, Shagufta Malik, Ahmad Iqbal Chaudhry, Amna Sardar, Malik Noor Saleem Khan, Raza Haroon, Faisal Subzwari, and Dr Meraj ul Huda.

Based on the Education Sector Plan from 2015-16 and 2019-20, the focus of reform of KP government has largely remained on improving the existing school infrastructure and school facilities, in addition to increasing IT labs under science and technology initiatives in schools. In an effort to provide quality instruction in classrooms, the Education Department also took significant steps to refine the recruitment and training process of teachers through NTS and multiple partners respectively, and introduced tests for 5th and 8th graders to assess learning outcomes. These efforts were largely guided by strengthening the data monitoring mechanism through Independent Monitoring Unit (IMU), and putting new management and evaluation systems in place to track progress.

During the last five years, KP is the only province that has regularly allocated budgets higher than 20% of its total budget to education, which is consistent with the guidelines given by UNESCO Global Monitoring Report. Increased allocation of education budget to districts is also a commendable step to make the education system more responsive. To increase retention of girls at secondary school level, stipends are also being given to girls under a Rs. 1.72 billion initiative, and community schools were set up in remote districts to drive primary enrolment of girls.

However, certain challenges still persist which require urgent attention of KP lawmakers. There are persistent crises of out-of-school children and high levels of student attrition beyond primary schools due to lack of schools and facilities. The province also faces wide intra-provincial disparities, especially in primary school infrastructure, where Kohistan, Torghar, and Shangla require special focus of the government.

Alif Ailaan’s detailed analysis of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s education reform program recommends the following:

1.    Government must focus on all means that will help dramatically increase enrolment in middle and high schools. The reform push must also include an expansion of accelerated literacy programmes and community based schools.

2.    Particular emphasis needs to be on schools for girls, as well as transportation facilities and other measures to enable girls’ access to middle and high schools.

3.    Budgeting and expense tracking for both salary and non-salary at the primary and middle school level needs to expand.

4.    Learning outcomes in maths and science need to be given due importance. Science fairs, development of local content and sustained fiscal support for maths and science needs to be institutionalized across the province.

5.    Out-of-School census conducted by KP government needs to be made public as soon as possible with a commitment of periodic regularization of the same.

6.    Create a specialized body with a mandate, board, budgets and ambitious targets to put in place a teachers training model that can address the needs of KP’s future.

7.    Quality teaching needs to be further strengthened in a fashion that sifts the worst of the teaching force that compromise child learning.

8.    Merit-based recruitment needs to be followed up with lifelong career planning and management.

9.    Government needs to examine how the management structures at the provincial level can service the 21st century educational needs of the province.

10.  There needs to be a much broader push for the inclusion of children with disabilities into regular schools and incorporate special needs education.