Learning and Educational Achievement in Punjab Schools (LEAPS)
An extensive study covering over a 100 villages in rural Punjab examines the schooling environment in these villages to gain insights for informing education policy debate in a changing educational landscape.
The Learning and Educational Achievement in Punjab Schools (LEAPS) Project investigates the changing educational landscape in Pakistan to synthesize findings and inform policy debates on education in the country. Over the last decade, there have been dramatic changes in the educational sphere in Pakistan with enrollments looking up with a 10 percentage point jump between 2001 and 2005. Moreover, mainstream, coeducational and for-profit private schools have become a widespread presence in both urban and rural areas, expanding their share from 12 percent in 1991 to 27 percent in 2004. In contrast, the share of madrassa enrollment has remained stagnant at one to three percent whereas the total number of private schools in the four provinces has gone up from 3,300 in 1983 to 47,000 in 2004.
These changes represent an opportunity and a challenge for educational policy in the country. A large fraction of rural Pakistani households no longer lives in a village with one or two government schools—half the population of rural Punjab, for instance, lives in villages where parents routinely have 7-8 schools to choose from. This new educational landscape is best described as an active educational marketplace with multiple schools vying for students whose parents are actively making educational decisions. From evaluating policy reform to understanding how the private sector can help educate the poor, the rise of such schools represents a significant opportunity and challenge, not only in Pakistan but also in the wider South-Asian context.
The LEAPS project was a four year longitudinal study that covered a total of 112 villages in rural Punjab, conducting extensive surveys in 823 government and private schools and 1850 households. The province was stratified into 3 spatial regions; North, Center and South with districts of Attock, Faisalabad and Rahim Yar Khan chosen as sample regions. To measure the learning outcomes in both public and private schools, researchers employed the following interventions.
Apart from this, extensive school, teacher and household surveys were also conducted to gauge the educational landscape in the country. Although findings from this report are based on 3 regions in rural Punjab, the analysis and policy ideas are relevant for a wider population. Both Punjab and NWFP have seen dramatic increases in private schooling since the mid nineties. While Sindh and Balochistan are currently different and need to be treated as such, many Pakistani households live in the kinds of villages studied in this sample.
1. Learning Gain reported as a result of the report card intervention
A 0.10-0.15 sd increase (1/3rd) year of gain was reported as a result of distribution of report cards.
2. Average learning is poor
Children perform significantly below curricular standards for common subjects and concepts at their grade-level, yet there are high and low performing schools in the same village. By the time children in private schools are in class three, they are 1.5-2.5 years ahead of government school students.
3. Private schools achieve better results at a lower cost
The cost adjusted for quality (the cost per percentage correct in a test) of educating children is 3 times higher in government than in private schools.
4. Private schools achieve better outcomes with lower teaching inputs
Government school teachers are more educated and better trained. Yet, test scores are higher in private schools, suggesting that greater effort among private school teachers trumps the higher competence of their government sector counterparts.
5. Private schools are not accessible to all
Private schools are not evenly distributed geographically. Government schools are. For many poor children, especially girls, the only geographically accessible option is a government school.
Parents make well informed decisions about their children’s education
They can gauge the abilities of their children and their children’s teachers, know about the quality of schools in the village, and spend a relatively large amount on their children’s educations.
Government should provide information for better decision making and accountability.
The government should act as a provider of information on learning for all government and private schools in the country. This will enable households to make informed decisions and increase beneficial competition between schools. Information also empowers households to hold schools accountable for their performance.
Increasing access to schooling.
The government has a large role to play in correcting the imbalances arising from unequal geographical access to private schools. Part of this requires investing in secondary education to create a pool of educated teachers. Furthermore, the government should experiment with policies aimed at reducing the ‘distance penalty’ for girls.
Reform failing government schools.
Not all government schools are poorly performing. Average quality in government schools is dragged down by a large number of failing schools. Reforming failing government schools is a top policy priority. Furthermore, the government sector should enter into a complimentary rather than a competitive relation with the private sector.
Reform teacher compensation.
Improving the quality of instruction in government schools requires teacher reform. The current government compensation system is anti-teacher. Many government teachers try hard under difficult conditions, but earn the same amount as their less deserving counterparts. Any system must ensure that good teachers are appropriately rewarded for their greater effort, and that only the good teachers are retained.
Free teachers to teach.
Teachers are primarily in villages to teach, and should not be burdened with additional duties and requirements. Unlike in the private sector, work-related absences are quite common in government schools.
Government should act as an innovator.
The government is uniquely positioned to act as an innovator willing to experiment with and evaluate “out-of-the-box” reforms such as government-private partnerships where financial support is given to children regardless of the school chosen
The LEAPS study shows that the private sector is more affordable, and produces results of a relatively higher quality than the public sector. However, significant market failures are limiting the growth and performance of private schools. This includes among other things, a lack of access to finance and services for improving the quality of learning.
In view of these findings the Education Financing Project was envisaged in order to develop a new strategic area for support for the private schools. Using a RCT design, researchers aim to cross-randomize different combinations of financial support and access to education services to determine the optimal package of services to schools and disentangle the effects of each program.
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