The project has embarked on a number of pioneering initiatives and innovative solutions since its inception. Some of the key innovative approaches adopted by the project are as under:
a. Adoption & Conversion of Abandoned Buildings into New/Upgraded Schools
The identification of abandoned buildings and its conversion into valuable assets by establishing schools is a remarkable achievement of the project. Large-scale surveys yielded geo-spatial data across the province and abandoned buildings were identified in various districts. These were mostly government buildings that were constructed under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) funds but were left unutilized.
Advocating for the cause, meetings were held with officials in the district administration, provincial administration and line departments including Food department, Local Government, judiciaries etc. The Project Management Unit in collaboration with Education Department has identified 708 buildings, out of which 200 buildings have been shortlisted after technical assessment and eligibility criteria. Three examples are noteworthy to mention here:
i. Old Session Court building in Loralai is a spacious building of 15,000 square feet in the heart of the city. Honorable High Court of Balochistan has allotted this valuable building for this noble cause. The building has been adopted for establishment of Model Girls High School by merging the feeding schools.
ii. Zahra Public School is located near the densely-inhabited area on main Brewery Road Quetta. This abandoned school covers an area of two acres with building having ten rooms. This is another example of adopting abandoned government buildings for establishment of a model high school. The school will be upgraded to inter college in future and linked to Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University to facilitate quality higher education for girls.
iii. Government Girls Model High School Apozai Zhob is another abandoned building covering 05 acres land with 14 classrooms and no boundary wall. All these model High schools will excel by having Science lab, Learning Resource Center, library, ICT facilities, play area, ECE classes etc.
b. Merit-based Recruitment of Teachers Through Third Party Testing Service
As per commitment made under Balochistan Education Sector Plan, the hiring of teachers in project focused schools is made through third party testing entities. National Testing Service (NTS) has been selected through a competitive process. PMU received thousands of applications against advertisements for the teaching posts advertised and this large number of applications show trust of aspiring young female graduates and their communities in the process. Female teachers have always been less in number given the cultural limitations in the province but things are changing with time and the change in strategy by the project. The appointment of 1700 female teachers will in turn help in the economic empowerment of women in remote areas of the province. It will also contribute in promoting girls participation in education and help retain them in schools after reaching the age of puberty when they usually drop out.
To cover the gap and deficiency of Mathematics, Science and IT teachers in public schools, 240 EST Teachers in Mathematics and Science are hired in addition to 25 IT teachers in Middle and High Schools respectively.
c. Pre-defined Schools Selection Criteria
A pre-defined school selection criteria has been notified by Secondary Education Department. The selection of schools is based on community driven approach by inviting applications from communities and its validation through third party i.e. UNICEF. Open advertisement is given in public newspapers to invite applications for new schools. GPS coordinates of each school with nearby feeding and next level schools are obtained. The number of school-going children and distance from the next primary school determines selection of the school. Strict adherence to the criteria has brought positive trend in the rational, merit and need based distribution of schools in the province. The large number of applications received against the advertisement for new schools is indicative of the community’s interest in the establishment of new schools.
d. Institutionalization of ECE in 845 Focused Schools
Early Childhood Education (ECE) is an essential part of public education across the globe as a wide array of research has underscored the importance of ECE for child development and future learning outcomes. Through this initiative, ECE has been integrated into the mainstream public education with the provision of child friendly spaces, essential material and teacher training on ECE concepts. The project team developed partnership with Teacher Resource Center and Provincial Institute for Teacher Education for capacity building of newly recruited and existing teachers of focused schools.
e. Building Partnerships, Discovering Avenues To Quality Education & Learning
Linkages with research institutions, development partners, public and private sector institutions have been developed to facilitate quality education for the children of the province especially girls. BEP is adding value to education by developing linkages with various development partners and institutions to facilitate quality higher education. Some of these linkages include:
i. Balochistan Education Project facilitated European Union’s Erasmus Mundus program (tinyurl.com/352djzu) as a focal point to develop and promote higher education for students. The program aims to enhance quality in higher education through scholarships and academic cooperation between the EU and developing countries. Erasmus Mundus comprises of three actions: Joint program, Partnerships, Attractiveness projects. The Scholarships, funded by the EU are awarded to students coming from both EU and non-EU countries after selection for Masters or Doctorate programs.
ii. "Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University (www.sbkwu.edu.pk) is Balochistan’s first and only Women University in the entire province. The varsity is near Zahra Public School which is a ‘model’ school selected under BEP Project for up-gradation from a spacious abandoned building. The future plan for Zahra Public School is to upgrade it Inter College that will work as a feeder college to the university. BEP is building partnership with SBKWU to make it convenient for girls to get higher education in the university with an aim of facilitating higher education for girls.
iii. Partnership with Balochistan University of Information Technology (BUITEMS) for conducting destructive and non-destructive tests of schools buildings selected for upgradation and adoption.
iv. Other partnerships include collaboration with PCRWR for water quality testing, Teacher Resource Center Karachi, Reform Support Unit of Education Government of Sindh among various others.
f. Real Time School Monitoring System (RTSM)
Real Time School Monitoring System is an initiative by the Secondary Education Department, Government of Balochistan with the technical and financial support by UNICEF, Global Partnership for Education and World Bank under the umbrella of Balochistan Education Project. It replaces paper-based monitoring with Android-based applications used to collect data for quantitative indicators such as presence of teachers, enrolment of children, provision of basic facilities, physical infrastructure, classroom learning environment, cluster-based procurement/funds and visits to schools through internal/external monitors. RTSM is linked with Education Management Information System and is an integral part of performance management system and very effective instrument to improve governance in education system.
The purpose of real time monitoring is to ensure timely and accurate information at school level. Monitors collect data through Android Tablets against the aforementioned indicators. Furthermore, the implementation of RTSM enables the education officials to quickly take informed decisions on the basis of real time monitoring data by addressing its key findings. Following tiers in the Education Department have access to online dashboard to check RTSM Reports:
• Education Department at provincial Secretariat
• Directorate of Education (Schools)
• Divisional Directors
• District Education Officers – DEOs
The introduction of innovative android-based software applications for proper data collection and monitoring of the schools has changed the overall scenario of monitoring schools, curtailing teacher absenteeism and identifying ghost schools.
g. Mobilizing Resources Worth Millions through Community & Gov't Support
The project has mobilized resources worth millions in terms of free land from the community for establishment of schools, voluntarily through innovative community model adopted by the project. A number of high level meetings were conducted with various departments like Food department, Local Government, Judiciary etc. to identify resources in terms of land and buildings for schools establishment. The purpose of these meetings was to create mass appeal for supporting the cause of education, identification of un-utilized government buildings and to mobilize resources i.e. land, buildings for school establishment.
As a follow up, an exhaustive province-wide survey was carried out to collect geo-spatial data and around 700 abandoned buildings were identified across the province. These buildings were mostly government buildings that were built under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) funds but were later left unutilized due to a number of reasons. As a result, huge amount of cost has been saved for additional investment in the Project Development Objectives. A few examples are:
i) Allotment of abandoned District Court building in the heart of Loralai city by the Honorable High Court of Balochistan where Girls Model High School is being established
ii) Acquisition of defunct building in Brewery Road Quetta for establishment of model school
iii) Donation of 10,000 square feet of land in Bashirabad, Nawa Killi Quetta
iv) Earmarking of 15,000 square feet land in the Irrigation Colony Jaffarabad
v) 18,000 square feet of land for Government Girls Primary School Kulanchi Bazar, New Town Gwadar
h. Use of ICT to Ensure Transparency And Accountability
Balochistan Education Project has embraced the latest Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to develop processes for procurement, school selection and development of MIS system accessible from a dashboard to streamline data collection, help facilitate informed and transparent decision making.
The project team has developed MIS system for monitoring of project indicators, data collection and decision making. To meet targets of the Result Framework, a comprehensive Monitoring and Evaluation Framework has been devised and linked with MIS system. Payment by Result (PBR) system is developed for payment to the contractors and Design and Quality Assurance Firms.
Project Management Unit has developed system for remote monitoring of bids opening process through live streaming and video recording of important activities and information-sharing. IP address is shared with the World Bank to monitor procurement activities live and in real time. All relevant stakeholders can monitor bid opening or participate in a meeting from any location. Furthermore, as a pro-active approach, vendor cheques are intimated through emails and disbursed on-camera. These initiatives have been appreciated by the World Bank as pioneering systems developed which contribute to good governance and transparency.
i. ‘Whole School Package’:
The schools established under the project will stand out from other government schools as they will have a ‘Whole School Package' of Teaching-Learning Material, ECE classrooms, Learning Resource Centers, Teacher Development Program, provision of solar energy panels, parent-teacher committees and washroom facilities. The schools will have two female teachers recruited from the same Union Council appointed on merit via National Testing Service. All focused schools are provided with furniture, Teaching Learning Material, science & sports equipment and books in the Learning Resource Centers. Environment Clubs are being established in each school. Parent Teacher School Management Committee (PTSMCs) are formed with Larger Community meetings (LCMs) held in 845 focused schools. PTSMC members are being trained to build their capacity in proper school management.
A comprehensive monitoring regime has been developed for effective management and monitoring of the schools. Real Time School Monitoring Systems through Android-based applications is introduced and successfully launched throughout the province. Technical support is provided to EMIS so that comprehensive data is collected and informed decisions made for the improvement of the schools based on the findings of data collected.