THE UNCERTAIN FUTURE OF ADOPT A SCHOOL
The IDEAS team has been conducting research on public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the education sector, in particular the Adopt A School (AAS) Programme in Punjab. The AAS model, embedded in the PPP theoretical framework, is a response to the realization by the Government of Pakistan that it is failing in its role of providing education to all its citizens, and needs private sector resources.
The basic AAS model involves the government surrendering an underserved public school for adoption by the private sector for a specific duration. This model involves a spectrum of responsibilities, with some partner organisations building upon existing infrastructure of the schools, taking over management and administration, and others focusing on necessary academic, pedagogical and environmental changes with the objective of improving student learning and enrolment. The level of cooperation between the partner and school varies from contract to contract, along with exit strategies of relevant parties.
The primary sources of research are interviews conducted with various organisation heads including CARE, Progressive Education Network (PEN) and Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), along with government education representatives at the district and secretarial levels. Upon conducting these interviews, interesting excerpts of information were gained. We heard rumours in the education circles regarding the abandonment of the AAS programme. In fact, according to some officials in the Punjab Education Department, the programme has already been wrapped up, with very few government schools presently under private management, a lack of renewal of any future AAS contracts and no issuance of any new contracts altogether. At a more senior policy level, there seems to be no knowledge of this policy change, but rather a denial of the existence of any formal AAS contractual arrangements. AAS programmes are treated as ad hoc, with secretarial level representatives stating that they would never discourage the informal adoption of public schools by private providers.
The ambivalence at the policy level is, at the very least, dumbfounding. It stems, possibly, from a failure of knowledge/serious lapse in information provision to the relevant secretarial levels dealing with education policies, or a strange lack of ownership of the programme, a need to deny operations that are being conducted on ground, or a lack of importance extended to this programme as it caters to a very few number of schools (approximately 450).
According to officials, the rumoured abandonment of the AAS programme has been done on the grounds that the Punjab Education Department is no longer reliant on private sector resources as it was in the past. This policy change does not make sense as, in the light of the millions of dollars worth of foreign aid being invested, the government clearly needs support in the education sector. Further, the fact that no school under adoption has ever been returned to the public sector after the 10-year expiry of the adoption contract shows the lack of capacity of the government to resume responsibilities of these schools. Hence, does this policy change reflect the failure of the AAS model? Or does it exhibit a reluctance of the public sector to allow private sector involvement in the administration of state schools, as many private partners during interviews expressed how the government staff was inherently suspiciousness and disapproving of private involvement in matters of state schools? Or does this reflect a shift in education strategies away from the AAS model towards voucher disbursement, cash stipends, Punjab Education Foundation- Foundation Assisted Schools and the New School Programme?
In any scenario, such uncertainty is unacceptable. Due to this confusion at the policy level, there is also no comprehensive list/record of schools that have been surrendered for adoption or any possible schools that are in the pipeline for adoption. There is a serious need for greater clarity regarding this programme and the direction of education policy in Punjab.
Each of the adopters in Punjab has considerable standing in bureaucratic circles. Whether they can be coerced into abandoning their operations is doubtful. So what the future of prominent organisations such as CARE would be as a result of these policy changes is still a mystery.
Number of schools adopted by different providers in Pakistan:
|SCHOOLS ADOPTED BY PRIVATE SECTOR|
|Progressive Education Network||39|
|Idara Taleem o Aaghi||10|
|National Prog Society||8|
|Baba Azam Society||2|
Source: Jamil, 2005; CARE Foundation, 2013; (Idara e Taleem o Aagahi, 2002); (Progressive Education Network, 2013); (Sindh Education Foundation, 2012b)
CARE Foundation. (2013). Milestones. Retrieved January 15, 2014, from CARE Foundation: http://www.carepakistan.org/student-performance.html
Idara e Taleem o Aagahi. (2002). Whole School Improvement Programme- WSIP. Retrieved December 22, 2013, from Idara e Taleem o Aagahi: http://wsip.itacec.org/
Jamil, B. R. (2005, June 21). From Policy to Practice: Trends and Evidence on Adopt A School Programme . Retrieved March 3, 2014, from Idara e Taleem o Aagahi
Progressive Education Network. (2013). Milestones. Retrieved January 22, 2014, from Progressive Education Network: www.pen.prg.pk/milestones/
Sindh Education Foundation. (2012, March). Adopt a School Programme. Retrieved January 2014, from Sindh Education Foundation: http://www.sef.org.pk/aasp.php
Ms. Elaiha Kardar is a Research Associate at IDEAS. She has completed her MSc, with distinction, in Social Anthropology and BSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics. Previously she has worked on a World Bank report on the fiscal and governance implications of the 18th Amendment on the Social Protection sector in Pakistan. Her interests include education sector reform.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives