World Bank President Jim Yong Kim says that Pakistan's economic growth depends greatly on improvement in the standards of education.—Photo by Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Most of the 36 districts in Punjab have made significant progress in education and 31 districts now have 90 per cent attendance, says a report prepared by Sir Michael Barber, a global expert on education reforms.

In his report entitled “The Good News from Pakistan”, Sir Barber has explained the story of the Punjab education sector reform programme, calling it “Punjab Schools Reforms Roadmap”.

He says teacher presence has risen steadily since the blip of October 2011 which was partly a result of the dengue fever outbreak. This level of teacher presence is far higher than elsewhere in Pakistan. In fact, it is now higher in Punjab than in any of the other 22 countries supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). These improvements are largely because of much-improved management and particularly due to squeezing unauthorised absence to below 1 per cent, the report says.

The report, however, says much remains to be done, especially in the south-western districts such as Rajanpur. Even so, it is worth pointing out that even Rajanpur now exceeds the province-wide average of two years ago.

World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, in his foreword to the report writes that Pakistan is an important country for the World Bank and the global community. Its success, whether in generating economic growth or strengthening its security, depends significantly on improving its education system.

The World Bank president paid tribute to the Punjab government for undertaking the education reform project, and said it was great to see the leadership and commitment of the provincial government in improving education results.

Former British Foreign Minister David Miliband, writing the preface of the publication, said that education could be more crucial to the future of Pakistan as well as the whole of South Asia. He said after visiting Pakistan he was convinced that Western engagement with Pakistan was unbalanced.

“Our aid programme would be rising fast — never mind that the country’s interdependence with neighbouring and war-torn Afghanistan — only added to my sense of urgency,” he writes.

British Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening stated that the Punjab Education Reform Roadmap has begun to achieve notable results in a short time through a combination of ambitious goal-setting, structured collaboration, international experience, use of evidence and sheer persistence.

Sir Barber, who is among the world’s leading education reformers, commented that “there is no reason why, in the very different context of the 21st century, Pakistan should not be famed once again for its beauty and richness. That depends above all on the education of its people.”