ISLAMABAD: The World Bank has approved a $300 million-loan for Punjab to improve school participation, completion, and teaching-learning practices over the next five years amid concerns over low outcomes, it was learnt on Saturday.
The board of directors of the lending agency approved the loan, under the third Punjab Education Sector Reforms programme, which will particularly focus on low-performing districts of the province. The World Bank has linked disbursements with results.
The loan was provided by relatively expensive arm of the WB – the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) – and is repayable in 18.5 years.
One-fifth of the loan will be spent on pre-primary education,while the remaining will be used for primary and secondary education.
The lender said a weak private sector environment, public sector management and implementation capacity will continue to hamper service delivery performance. As a result, human development indicators continue to lag.
“Despite over a decade of focused support to large-scale education programmes and … ‘cutting edge’ reforms, education outcomes, including enrollment rates and learning outcomes, in the province … are only marginally better than those in the rest of the country,” project documents stated.
“Despite the gains in student learning and enrollment in Punjab, a lot more needs to be done to improve the education indicators in Punjab,” said WB Country Director for Pakistan Illango Patchamuthu.
Access to schools, especially at the secondary level, is uneven and student transition and retention rate is also low.
A handout stated that significant shortfalls persisted in both school participation and student achievement, especially in the poorer districts of Punjab.
The 3rd Punjab Education Sector Project will support interventions to provide students from poorest households “financial resources and opportunities”, enabling them to attend primary and secondary schools, it added.
The WB said that the project will benefit nearly three million children. One million out-of-school children would also be brought into school through this project.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2016.