ICMD, Oct 29, 2019:

The Asian Develop­ment Bank (ADB) on Monday announced that it has approved a $75 million loan for a project in the education sector of Sindh.

In a statement issued here, the Manila-based lending agency said the project was aimed at improving the quality, accessibility, and gender responsiveness of the secondary education system and infrastructure in Sindh.

Pakistan has 22.8 million out-of-school children, 28 per cent are in Sindh. The province also has the second lowest gross enrolment ratio and net enrolment rates at all education levels in the country.

The secondary education sector faces challenges ranging from outdated and dilapidated infrastructure, lack of access to schooling — particularly for girls — and poor teaching and learning quality, especially for core subjects, including language, mathematics and science.

“Given the province’s strategic location, economic importance, and young workforce, Sindh has the potential to transform itself into a key driver of economic growth and development in Pakistan,” said Norman LaRocque, ADB Principal Education Specialist for Central and West Asia.

He said efforts to improve the education system and infrastructure in the province were important to ensuring that graduates have the necessary knowledge and skills to contribute productively to the country’s growth and development.

The Sindh Secondary Education Improvement Project will finance the construction of about 160 new secondary school blocks within existing government school compounds, largely in 10 districts in southern Sindh. The new blocks will feature gender responsive features such as separate sanitation facilities and separate prayer rooms for females. They will also be fitted with solar power.

Secondary school blocks will be managed by private partners under the government’s education management organisation programme. The project will also improve teaching capacity in five key subjects, namely English, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics, through the introduction of a teacher training and mentoring programme using information and communication technology and state of the art laboratory equipment in selected schools.

The province’s secondary education examination system will be improved by increasing its emphasis on critical thinking, by the provision of new technology, and by capacity development for examination board assessors and staff.

Total cost of the project is $82.5 million, with the government of Pakistan contributing $7.5 million. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

The ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. In 2018, it made commitments of new loans and grants amounting to $21.6 billion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members — 49 from the region.