The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government intends to outsource the operation and management of its low-performing schools to commercial groups, claiming that the effort will improve educational quality, enrollment rates, and governance in those institutions.
According to official records, the elementary and secondary education department has chosen 180 government schools in nine districts for the trial project, comprising 145 primary and 35 high and higher secondary schools.
It has organised those schools into 35 clusters, each with a high or higher secondary school and four or five ‘feeder’ primary schools.
The project is expected to be launched in the upcoming academic year, which begins in September. The government has already set aside Rs1 billion for it in the current fiscal year.
The initiative will be executed on the basis of public-private partnerships in the selected areas of Abbottabad, Buner, Haripur, Karak, Kohat, Mansehra, Nowshera, Swabi, and Swat districts.
“The low-performing schools are those, where literacy and numeracy rate is below 50 percent compared to the international standard of 80 percent and which do not give optimal results,” adviser to the education department on public-private partnership Ubaidullah told Dawn.
He said the government would pay the selected private organizations Rs1,000 for enrolling each student in 145 primary schools and Rs2,000 for students in 45 high and higher secondary schools.
The adviser said the data showed that the government’s average spending on every student in government schools was Rs3,900.
He said an advertisement would be floated in both regional and national newspapers for the selection of private organizations with experience in managing educational institutions.
“The government is keen about partnering with the most proficient private institutions, which have a strong footprint in the education sector and are financially sound to facilitate it in carrying out this activity seamlessly as a public-private partnership. It is willing to support private partners in the rehabilitation of schools as per their needs and expectations,” he said.
The documents reveal that the private partners will be required to enroll at least 120 students in each school handed over to them suggesting at least 20 students in a class.
Out of the total amount, the government will pay 65 percent to the private partner in advance, while the remaining will be paid after the examination of key performance indicators.
Different surveys show millions of children out of school in the province.
According to the BISP’s National Socio-Economic Registry Census conducted with the help of elementary and secondary school teachers, the children, who don’t go to school in the province, total 4.7 million.
The Pakistan Social and Living Standard Measurement Survey put the number at 3.6 million.
“To enroll out-of-school children, the government needs over 15,000 primary schools, with the same ratio middle, high and higher secondary schools,” an official of the education department told Dawn.
He insisted that only the construction of required primary schools with the current budget allocations would need the government more than 57 years to materialize the ambitious plan of enrolling currently out-of-school children.
The official said in the current dynamic environment, the population of the province was growing exponentially and so were the challenges for the provision of education to the people in line with Article 25A of the Constitution therefore, policymakers were in dire need of innovative, sustainable, pragmatic and financially viable solutions to address them.
“To enroll all out-of-school children, the public-private partnerships are the viable solution as per the industry’s best practices even in advanced economies. Our project has been designed in a sustainable and scalable way so that this pilot can be up-scaled across the province in the next phase,” he said.
(Source: National print and online media with input from social media and local sources).