Play for the Advancement of Quality Education in Pakistan

Project location: PAKISTAN, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Project start date: September 2016 - Project end date: September 2016
Project number: 2016-025
Beneficiary: Right to Play Switzerland


Play for Advancement of Quality Education program was implemented in Pakistan to introduce and create best practices for a child-centered, gender sensitive and play-based learning approaches in government primary schools. In the country context it was a significant program that reached to over 320 schools (200 in Sindh) in 8 districts (5 in Sindh).

Pakistan has one of lowest education achievements in the world. More than 23 million children are out of school (Pakistan Education Statistic Report 2016, by the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS)), of which 55.6% are girls. This is to say that 40% boys of school-going age are out of school, while the same proportion is 49% for the girls (NEMIS). It is not the availability of schools which is among significant drivers to keep them out of school. Among major factors are poor school environment, poor skills among teachers to engage and meaningfully create a learning environment, and parental disengagement from school systems. Of those who attend schools, they do not receive much from their schooling experience. Around half of Grade 5 students lack Grade 2 competencies of being able to do a 2-digit division or reading or writing a sentence in English or a local language (ASER 2016). This is because the school experience is not conducive to learning. Additionally, prevalent corporal punishment and lack of teacher attention on children makes school a dull or scary proposition for many children.

To address some of these challenges, the goals of the program were to create positive learning environments, train teachers in a continuum for use of play-based child centered gender-sensitive approaches in learning, engage communities, create their linkages with schools, and advocate to government for taking ownership and scale such approaches. Under the program a strong school-based programming was undertaken. It was complemented with active community engagement to break education barriers, especially for girls.

The most pivotal component was the Continuum of Teacher Training (COTT), under which 250 (125 f) government primary teachers from Sindh were trained. In the period of Apr-Sep 2017, teachers were trained in the Positive Learning Environment, and also a need-based Refresher training was arranged. Teachers' needs were identified through surveys. Much of the focus was on classroom management, positive disciplining and use of gender-sensitive and child protection approaches in teachers' management of classrooms. To ensure sustainability, teachers were encouraged to form Teacher Networks. As this methodology was new and unique for them, such networks provided opportunities for teachers to share their experiences and get support and encouragement from each other.
135 (6% f) Coaches were also engaged to schools to undertake life-skills based play activities with children in schools as well as in communities. Regular coach meetings were facilitated and in-service support provided. Field teams identified coach needs during field visits, and provided coaching during such meetings. The work with children was crucial in making schools a fun place for children. In many cases, coaches have become counselors for children, where vulnerable and marginalized children share their problems with them. Coaches work with all children to foster life skills like empathy, collaboration, team work, confidence, sharing, and leadership development to support their peers. Coaches also work to support teachers in holding play-based learning activities in classrooms and with community members, parents and teachers to bring out of school or irregularly-attending children to schools.

In addition to regular activities and training in schools, events such as play days and thematic tournaments were held to bring communities and schools administration together, and create positive associations for children with schools. Particularly, gender focused tournaments were held in April and September 2017 to focus on gender and girls' right to education. Junior Leaders were mentored to work in their respective communities to identify problems and discuss solutions with teachers and coaches. Moreover, 4 play spaces in each of 5 districts (total 20) in Sindh were created. These spaces provide a colorful look to otherwise dull government schools and opportunities for children in school as well as from surrounding communities to play. These create positive connections with school. More than 13,000 (56% f) community members and children participated in the events during Apr-Sept 2017.

A very significant component of the program was to make efforts to integrate this model of play-based child centered and gender sensitive approach to education in the government education systems. For this purpose, teacher educator from Provincial Institute of Teacher Education (PITE) and Teacher Training Institutes (TTIs) were trained in Play-Based Learning Methodologies. A refresher was held for representatives of 30 such teacher education colleges in Aug-Sep 2017. Also, workshops were held with heads of PITE, TTIs, Sindh Teacher Education & Development Authority, and Curriculum Wing in Sindh to share our program learnings. The buy-in by these senior government officials is very valuable. In the final dissemination workshop of the program, senior government officials participated and emphasized the need to upscale such a program.

The program, which received a grant from the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, was effective in creating positive environments in school, secure government support, and giving the poor and marginalized children of government schools opportunities to have fun. More than 116,000 (51% f) children benefited from the program in its entire duration, while over 46,000 (45% f) during Apr-Sep 2017 in Sindh benefited from the program. The participating teachers have learned to form better relationships with children, introduce fun ways of teaching, and techniques to engage children in their learning process. In an environment where teacher trainings are rare, disconnected, and mostly un-mentored (and thus eventually ineffective), Play for the Advancement of Quality Education programming and regular mentoring has brought excitement and fun in schools. Children have forged positive association with schools and learning has become a fun proposition. With support and appreciation for the program in government, Pakistan program is in a good position to advance its play-based child-centered and gender-sensitive methodology to improve learning environments at a larger scale.

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