ISLAMABAD: An independent evaluation by the World Bank has declared the outcome of $66-million Sindh Global Partnership for Education (SGPE) project as moderately satisfactory – a notch below the rating that the Washington-based lender assigned in self-evaluation.
The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) has also lowered the World Bank’s performance rating to moderately satisfactory, which the self-evaluation had rated as satisfactory. The Implementation Completion Review (ICR) had declared the outcome of the SGPE project satisfactory.
But the IEG report puts a question mark over the development effectiveness. The Global Partnership for Education – an international organisation focused on getting all children enrolled in schools – had picked the World Bank’s $66-million loan and converted it into a grant for the project.
The purpose of the $66-million project was to support implementation of the Sindh Education Sector Support Programme (SESP). It was aimed at strengthening the institutional capacity to generate, disseminate and use information to support the implementation of key reforms under SESP.
The independent evaluation report noted that in 2014 the education sector in Sindh was weak, as measured by the primary enrolment ratio, gender parity index and student learning outcomes. Poor education outcomes were linked to the underperformance of public school system.
To reform the education sector, the government of Sindh launched the Sindh Education Sector Reform Programme (SERP) in fiscal year 2007-08, which was integrated into the Sindh Education Sector Plan in 2014.
The World Bank has continuously provided financial support for the Sindh education sector reforms through various programme and project loans.
There were three main objectives of the project. The IEG noted that two of them were achieved but shortcomings remained. The third objective could not be achieved. The first objective was achieved substantially, although two planned activities experienced delay and were not implemented, according to the IEG report.
The achievement of the second objective was also rated substantial as the development indicator was fully achieved and exceeded, though one intermediate result indicator was not tracked as planned, it added. As for the third objective, the PDO indicator was not constructed well to measure the outcome and the data provided for the related DLI indicator was partial and not adequate.
The third objective was aimed at strengthening institutional capacity to use information to support the implementation of key reforms under SESP. “This indicator is problematic,” noted the IEG. The IEG rated the efficiency of the project as “modest” due to ICR’s lack of focus on how reasonable the costs were in achieving the project’s objective.
The independent evaluation team underlined that the Internal Rate of Return analysis in the ICR confused the efficiency of the project with efficiency of the education sector. Together, these ratings are consistent with moderate shortcomings in the project’s design and implementation, and consequently the outcome is rated “moderately satisfactory”, according to the findings.
The independent evaluation has also rated the World Bank’s performance “moderately satisfactory” due to its inability to fully take into account the Education and Literacy Department’s organisational structure at the time of project implementation.
The IEG noted shortcomings in the ICR quality. It said the efficiency analysis confused project-specific efficiency with efficiency of the education sector.
The theory of change outlined in the ICR only listed activities, outputs and outcomes without showing the linkages among them. “There were inconsistencies and gaps in reporting of project costs and achievement of disbursement-linked indicators,” according to the IEG.
On fiduciary issues, the ICR did not provide specific information on external audits. The lessons learnt in the ICR mostly focused on specific facts, risks and recommendations, rather than lessons that could be applicable beyond this project, it added.
The ICR listed several improvements in the education sector as a result of the project, including “approximately 6,000 ‘ghost’ or absconding teachers were removed from the education department’s payroll,” according to the IEG.
The ICR also mentioned that teacher attendance rates improved from 57% to 61% in monitored districts but it did not provide further information such as trends of these indicators before, during and after the project, or comparison between regions with and without human resource management systems, which the IEG said limited the extent to which these improvements can be attributed to the project.
Furthermore, the project is only part of the efforts made under the SESP and SESP-II projects funded by the World Bank and implemented at the same time, addressing teacher management.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2019.