Dhaka, Bangladesh
Why haven't past education reforms had more effect?

Education reforms

Why haven't past education reforms had more effect?

By Tahir Andrabi/Isabel Harbaugh Macdonald

The National Education Policy Framework launched under the government's 100-day plan calls for a number of changes to Pakistan's educational system, such as a tech-based Smart Schools System, an Educational Volunteer Programme and an increase in the number of non-formal schools. While the proposed reforms would be a major change to the current education landscape, they are but a new chapter in a long and active history of education reforms. If we can understand why those past programmes haven't led to better outcomes for Pakistan's children, we may be able to do better in the future. Over the past two decades, Pakistan has been remarkably prolific in passing education reforms. In every key area of policy, from teachers to accountability to basic inputs, the government has pushed through a major reform almost every five years. The table below visually represents research we have done in collaboration with our colleague Jishnu Das at the World Bank on the reform experience of Punjab over a 15-year period; other provinces have shown similar levels of activity. This pace is especially remarkable when compared to peer countries, where reforms are often subject to years of debate or blocked by powerful opposition groups like teachers' unions or political opponents. Indeed, Pakistan has gained international attention as "perhaps the world's largest laboratory for education reform." Vigorous activity in the policy arena has also been accompanied by a striking rise in education spending. National spending on education rose 160 per cent from 2011-2017, which fueled improvements in key educational resources like school infrastructure and teacher salaries. Given the magnitude of changes to both policy and funding, improvements to educational outcomes seemed inevitable, but surprisingly, growth in enrollment and test scores - the two best measures of education success - has been disappointing. (To be continued)

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