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Case Study

Strengthening the provision of education in northwest Pakistan

Improving the quality of, and access to, education in northwest Pakistan

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education Sector Programme (KESP), funded by the FCDO, focuses on improving access and quality of education for children in one of the most challenging regions in the world, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the northwest of Pakistan. Challenges are exacerbated by terrorism and insecurity in the region which has been a site of conflict for the last four decades. Conservative cultural norms and the diverse topography of the province make provision of education services particularly challenging. Against this backdrop, KESP has delivered exceptional results with more children coming to school, staying longer, and learning more. Reforms have improved teaching and learning processes, and governance and management in the public education sector.

Some of KESP’s most notable achievements are detailed in each of the case studies below:

Inclusion through Education for a Minority Community

Improving Education Opportunities for Girls

Providing Continuous Professional Development for Teachers

Supporting KP’s Education Department with its COVID-19 Response

Inclusion through Education for a Minority Community
KESP supports students and teachers from the minority Kalash community in the Kalash valley, located in the Hindukush Mountains in the province’s northern district of Chitral. The project has helped the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa improve access to education for Kalash children through the provision of basic facilities to schools in the valley.

Hidayatullah Khan, the head teacher at a primary school here notes: “My school now has a boundary wall, water supply, electricity and toilets. The improved condition of the school has motivated our community… you will not see any out-of-school children here.”

Kalash community

Hidayatullah Khan with students and members of staff of the primary school that he heads in the Kalash Valley.

KESP has also supported identification of areas where new schools were needed, especially at the middle and high levels, to reduce student dropout in the valley. 60% of students enrolled in a newly constructed government girls’ high school, for example, are from the Kalash tribe. The head teacher notes that the dropout rate in the area has reduced since the establishment of the school.

Furthermore, Kalash teachers are being supported and trained through a tablet- and video-based teacher induction programme at the time of recruitment, as well as through the Continuous Professional Development programme – which was scaled up to Chitral and the Kalash valley, in 2020 to help improve the quality of teaching.

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Improving Education Opportunities for Girls
KESP has helped the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to improve education access and quality for girls to ensure that they attend school, stay in school longer, and learn more. KESP has supported conditional cash grants for girls to incentivise enrolment, attendance, and retention, which were disbursed to 460,000 girls studying in middle and high school last year.

KESP also helped to design a variation of the conditional cash grant in 2019 to reduce girls’ dropout between pre-primary and Grade 1, where this issue was particularly pronounced. This is being piloted in two districts of the province and benefiting close to 24,000 girls. Anecdotal evidence already suggests that more girls are transitioning from pre-primary to Grade 1.

Girls education
Girls attending government school in Karak district.

In addition to providing cash grants, KESP has helped to improve learning environments by using data to identify girls’ schools that lacked basic facilities: today 642,756 more girls are studying in schools with toilets, electricity, drinking water and boundary walls as a result of the programme’s interventions. At present, over a million girls enrolled in primary grades, across the province’s 28 settled districts, are benefiting from improved instruction by teachers trained through the KESP-supported Continuous Professional Development programme for primary teachers.

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Providing Continuous Professional Development for Teachers
KESP helped design and introduce a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme for government primary teachers to help them master both content knowledge and instructional practice to improve student learning in the classroom. The CPD programme brings teachers together for a Professional Development Day (PDD) each month of the academic year where they are trained in English, Maths and Science. Topics for training are selected on the basis of student performance in annual assessments, with the topics with poorest results forming the focus of the PDD.

The CPD programme was rolled out in three phases, beginning in 2018, and as of 2020, the programme has been scaled up to all 28 settled districts of the province. This means that close to 73,000 primary teachers (roughly a third of whom are female teachers) are being trained every month at professional development centers across the province. CPD has resulted in tangible improvement in student learning outcomes, as evidenced by a comparison of student test scores in districts where CPD had been introduced versus districts in which it had not.  The scale-up of CPD will help ensure continuous improvement in learning across all districts.

Primary teachers receiving training on a Professional Development Day in Swabi district.

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Supporting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Education Department with its COVID-19 Response
KESP is supporting the provincial government to respond to the challenge of student learning losses following prolonged school closures due to COVID-19. Remote, online learning is not an option in the province due to lack of internet connectivity of most of the households to which government school children belong. In response to the pandemic, KESP therefore helped develop and distribute several teaching and learning materials for teachers and students to use when schools reopened in October 2020. This included a Revised Academic Calendar to guide primary and middle teachers on select critical learning objectives that are essential for them to cover, and foundational to learning in the next grades, in what is effectively a reduced academic year. KESP helped design and administer a diagnostic assessment to measure learning losses and to identify weak areas for teachers to focus on while schools are in session.

A young student comes to school to have her homework checked by her teacher during the second school closure in 2020, Mansehra district.

Following a second school closure at the end of November 2020, KESP helped the government design homework assignments for students to be distributed by teachers to students by calling them in one grade at a time, once a week. These were designed in a way that students could complete them at home with minimal supervision from parents or caregivers to ensure some learning continuity.

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