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Project Case Study

Improving Access to Education in Punjab

Improving education access and quality for over 20 million children in Punjab

The Punjab Education Sector Programme II (PESP 2) is DFID’s largest education investment in the world, both in terms of its scale and its aspirations. In just three years, it aims to improve education access and quality for over 20 million children in Punjab, and simultaneously show substantial improvements in their learning outcomes.

The programme aspires to have more children in school, staying longer, and learning more. This is a highly ambitious agenda: millions of children are out of school, with the number increasing annually. Government schools under-serve children from marginalized communities, student teacher ratios are unbalanced, and poor quality of education and school infrastructure prompts hundreds of thousands of children, especially girls, to annually drop out of school.

Project info

Punjab Education Sector Programme


  • 3 years



  • DFID

Project Aims

  • supporting a better managed, more accountable education system
  • improving teaching and teacher performance management
  • improving the learning environment
  • improving access to schools
  • enhancing demand for education

Basic literacy and numeracy levels are at 26%, rote learning and cheating are common, assessments and examinations do not credibly measure student performance, and public trust in government schools is weak. Punjab is a large and diverse province, and the political economy of reform is complicated: teachers’ unions are a strong force opposing reform, bureaucracy and lengthy decision making processes delay implementation, and frequent transfers and postings of education officials disrupt momentum. The Government of Punjab (GoPb) has a large public education infrastructure, with provincial teacher training, examination and monitoring institutions, but they all work independently, with limited coordination.

Our approach

Addressing these challenges requires significant transformation in education delivery in the province, impacting access, equity, quality and governance.

How have we done it?

We have aligned the priorities and integrated the strengths of all key stakeholders:

PESP 2’s technical assistance team has been the force that has helped create synergies between all government and development partners working on education reform in Punjab. To create alignment, we helped the Government of Punjab to introduce a set of mutually determined and reinforcing goals to transform the quality of education by 2018 and a Parho Punjab, Barho Punjab (Learn Punjab, Prosper Punjab) campaign to achieve these goals. For the first time, the government is driving the reform agenda. Over twenty government institutions, development partners, and civil society organizations, provincial leaders and school staff are all working as one team in a single direction to help the government deliver the agenda. All are using the same metrics to track progress, and are constantly evaluating and improving their service delivery.

We have embedded the use of credible, real time, actionable intelligence to drive reform:

We have helped introduce instruments and routines for constant data collection on access, quality, equity and governance indicators, and introduced their use in decision-making and performance management at the school, district, and provincial level. At any given time, decision makers know how many children are coming to school, whether teachers are available to teach them, how well they are teaching, how well students are learning and performing, how adequate their schools are. They can also learn where and why children are out of school, and how we can bring them into school.

We have established delivery routines and strict performance management and accountability measures:

At the sub-district and district level, our field coordinators support education managers to review the performance of their teams, and our budget execution reports track transparent and efficient use of funds. At the provincial level, our team leaders work closely with provincial leadership to review the performance of all 36 districts, and address challenges that are affecting delivery.

We are leveraging innovative partnerships with the private and civil society sectors:

To enroll and retain children who are the most unlikely to go to school because of supply side constraints, demand side barriers, or disabilities. Innovative public-private partnerships and public-community partnerships are targeting tens of thousands of children who were previously marginalized, and are helping these students stay in school.

A focus on access and equity

We are diving deep into quality improvements so that the tens of millions of students in school can graduate with the skills and knowledge to contribute meaningfully to society and to generate income:

  • We have helped distill the curriculum so that it focuses on core areas required for students to master their subjects
  • We have prioritized student learning outcomes as a unit of measure of student performance against expected standards
  • We have helped create simpler, easier to understand textbooks to encourage self learning and minimize dependence on teachers; and developed complementary, scripted lesson plans to help teachers deliver their lessons.
  • We have re-designed teacher coaching and professional development so that it is informed by credible assessments and is responsive to teacher weaknesses and needs
  • To monitor the quality of teaching and learning, we are deploying a single bank of test items that test understanding and application, and are used both for formative assessments to inform quality improvement, and summative examinations to select students for higher education.

Our philosophy

Our team consists of generalists experienced in performance management and problem solving and deep experts with technical knowledge of access, quality, equity and governance in education; all of who are all available to government counterparts around the clock, to design, develop and iterate interventions, to trouble shoot problems as they arise, to evaluate successes and lessons, and to ensure harmony and synergy between interventions and delivery partners.

We take into consider political economy implications of new interventions, pre-empt and manage risk, diversify our activities and delivery approach according to local realities, and give special attention to Punjab’s eleven low performing districts. Most significantly, we work as a technical assistance team, providing technical input and filling capacity gaps, but we let the government drive and deliver the reform agenda.

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