While Imran Khan has been staging dharnas in Islamabad and elsewhere, his education team has been hard at work in KP. Experts familiar with both governments describe KP’s approach as more patient, self-driven rather than donor-driven, and focused on strengthening the education bureaucracy rather than sidelining it.

Their reform programme started in earnest with PTI’s election in 2013. “We had an education programme before but it had atrophied by 2013,” said a senior DFID official who asked not to be named, “Since then, they’ve gone from strength to strength.”

According to Bushra Gohar, a leader of the ANP whose party led the last government, “The ANP was keen to lead the process and set its own priorities.” She said the ANP focused on reversing the tide of the Taliban, by rebuilding destroyed schools and curriculum reform.

KP saw unique gains in enrollment during this period, which has been sustained under the new government according to the latest data. The province started off near Sindh in the enrollment of 6 to 10 year olds in 2010/11 but grew by seven percentage points and surpassed Punjab by 2014/15.

Under the current PTI government, the vision comes from Imran Khan but it’s his under-stated education minister, Atif Khan, and education secretary who are leading reforms. The political party has stepped back. This is in contrast to Punjab where the chief minister leads reforms himself.

In Punjab, the nervousness and high-level pressure for results is tangible. While Sharif has centralized power and is autocratic, KP is decentralized.

KP also owns its education reform agenda. After the elections in 2013, KP refused DFID’s help for developing the plan, but invited it to support them once the plan was finalised. “KP doesn’t want foreign help,” says the official, “They’re much more ‘we can sort out our own problems.’ And they’re doing it.”

Punjab’s education plan runs from 2013 to 2017, coinciding with elections. KP’s vision looks beyond the next election. At the moment, they are developing their second five-yearplan.

Several World Bank and DFID employees who are working on Punjab reforms expressed more confidence in KP’s approach, saying the latter could end up with a stronger education system in ten years.

However, a DFID document calls the programme high risk but potentially high return. There are several potential risks.

“The education minister is trying to stop nepotism and corruption to the extent that he can but it’s not much,” says Faisal Bari, “Underneath him there is a huge bureaucracy that has been doing things a certain way for decades.” He adds that while Punjab and KP have had some success in cleaning up teacher recruitment, by making it merit- and test-based, stopping nepotism and corruption in the promotion, posting, and transfer of teacher’s will be harder.

KP is more decentralised than Punjab, so outcomes are harder to control. KP also faces challenges in the form of earthquakes, floods, militancy, and IDP crises. Many of KP’s schools are in hard-to-reach mountainous areas, which makes it difficult to manage teachers and hold them accountable on a daily basis.

In addition, there is concern about the PTI’s vision for education. According to Gohar, “PTI and its coalition partner JI are pro-Taliban and have spent the last three years in government reversing education reforms of the previous government.”

She says KP’s recent budget allocation of 300 million rupees to Darul Uloom Haqqania, the alma mater of Mullah Omar and other senior Afghan Taliban leaders, should have been used to improve infrastructure in government schools.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2016

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