Customized training to strengthen educational planning and management in Pakistan

06 May 2024


Students in a classroom together with a teacher in Sindh, Pakistan.

IIEP-UNESCO has organized a tailor-made professional development training in Pakistan for more than 40 Ministry of Education staff, providing practical knowledge and skills in micro-planning and school mapping.

The week-long training, which took place in Islamabad in January 2024, is just one example of short, intensive customized courses created at the request of governments, in close collaboration with their development partners, to address specific local and regional education challenges.

The course focused on supporting education officers from different administrative levels to take an active role in the planning process, maximizing their potential as middle-tier professionals working at district and provincial levels.

“One cannot pretend to understand community dynamics when it comes to schooling while sitting in an office in the capital. Conversely, local leaders are not necessarily aware of the institutional complexities of allocating human, financial, and material resources – not to mention political pressures,” said Amélie Gagnon, the IIEP Senior Programme Specialist who led the training.

“The more the central and the local levels work together to design and implement policies, the better transformation there will be in the school system, resulting in greater learning outcomes for children.”

The course was organized around four learning modules: micro-planning and school mapping; diagnosing the education system at the local level; projection and simulation methods and techniques; and strategies for reorganizing the school system to improve not only its cost-effectiveness but also equity and the quality of learning.

Participants also examined constraints in gender-segregated education, and how to make schools more inclusive, for example, to transgender people. “Making sure that all students find their place in the school system, and that they feel welcome and safe in their learning environments is crucial,” said Gagnon.

“We had rich discussions about making sure that all marginalized populations could be accounted for – on gender, also for children with disabilities, and from different cultural backgrounds.”

Gagnon points out that to make education equitable, planners need to rely on data representative of the context: “It is about generating information that allows planners to examine the current situation, project an outcome target, and monitor results in parallel to the implementation of policies through interventions."

“This is why the binary recording of gender in official statistics and school censuses is a practice that should be questioned: my rough estimates show that more than a third of all people on the planet live in a context where there are at least three recognized genders –culturally and/or legally.”

The training also touched on the importance of micro-planning in ensuring that infrastructure such as school buildings are adapted to the local communities and environmental context, so that children not only go to school but stay in school. Building materials may vary, for example, for structures in city centres versus those in more complex terrains.

Other local factors can be taken into account. Student test scores are lower in schools exposed to more rainy days during the academic year. Therefore, rather than setting a school calendar uniformly throughout a country, areas exposed to seasonal climatic risks like heavy rainfall, high temperatures, and droughts could see their calendars shifted to improve school attendance.

“Because of the diversity of any country, but specifically perhaps in Pakistan – a country so diverse in terms of local cultures, languages – it makes it very difficult for a single policy designed at the national level to be relevant everywhere, and also to be implemented the same way everywhere,” said Gagnon.

“And so this kind of customization of policies to local context allows resources to be sent to the right place but also ensures that policies can be co-designed with local communities or local officers. It helps with meeting community expectations, which is the sense that the policy is really responding to an actual issue, in the village, the district, the province.”

The training relied on an interactive and practice-oriented approach, and participants were asked to prepare practical exercises that allowed them to apply the acquired skills directly.  

“I learned a lot and feel confident to implement it for future planning in my district,” one participant said in feedback for the course.