ISLAMABAD     -    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $75 million loan for a project that will help improve the quality, accessibility, and gender responsiveness of the secondary education system and infrastructure in the province of Sindh.

Pakistan has 22.8 million out-of-school children, 28% of whom are in Sindh. The province also has the second-lowest gross enrollment ratios and net enrollment 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 The secondary education sector faces challenges ranging from outdated and dilapidated infrastructure, lack of access to schooling—particularly for girls—and poor teaching and learning quality, especially for core subjects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.

The ADB had already approved lending for Pakistan. The ADB had recently approved Country Operations Business Plan (COBP) 2020-22 that would increase the average lending to Pakistan to $2.4 billion per year from earlier $1.4 billion a year. Meanwhile, the ADB would provide $2.5 billion in approved financing to Pakistan in calendar year 2019. According to the COBP, the indicative resources available for commitment during 2020-2022 for sovereign operations total at $5.7 billion, comprising $4.3 billion for regular ordinary capital resources (OCR) lending and $1.4 billion for concessional OCR lending (COL).

In a latest development, ADB approved $75 million for Sindh. “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 ADB Principal Education Specialist for Central and West Asia Norman LaRocque. “Efforts to improve the education system and infrastructure in the province are 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 organizations program. 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 program 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 the completed by the end of 2025. 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.