The establishment of Reform Support Unit was conceptualized as a means to build the institutional capability of the Department of Education. The very rationale of this program is to streamline existing edifice of education delivery and provide policy inputs for future advancement of education growth both in terms of access and quality.
The institutional structure of RSU comprises of three wings; policy wing; monitoring and evaluation wing; and EMIS wing. The policy wing is envisaged to provide inputs for policy formulation and develop institutional memory of the department. The monitoring &evaluation is there to develop reporting mechanisms as well as do evaluation of different interventions of department of education. The results of this evaluation will be ploughed back into policy. The existing structure of Sindh Education Management System (SEMIS) has been made an integral part of the RSU as a first step to have a reliable and timely data for further policy formulation.
The RSU is also envisioned as a forum to provide a platform for donor coordination as a measure to synchronize different donor’s resources and efforts in a consolidated vision of educational excellence.
I: Sector-Wide Approach to Education Management:
* The RSU intends to steer forward the reform agenda in a systematic manner by clearly articulating its vision of reform in a synchronized document providing for a medium-term action plan delineating strategy for each reform area.
* The sector framework strategy paper focuses on the elementary education and provides for a medium-term vision disaggregated in action plans for three years. It is built upon the Government of Sindh ongoing program, intends to address to implementation bottlenecks, attend to infrastructural gaps, review policy and institutional dimension and develop Information systems to better monitor physical, financial and human resources. It also aims to develop horizontal linkages among different components to bring efficiency and effectiveness in the overall performance of the system.
* This strategy paper provides the overall direction of the reform agenda of the government and it is felt that alignment of education related interventions and investments with the framework are highly needed.
II: Data Management:
* RSU has been able to bring some very positive improvements in the EMIS of the province. The school census 2005-06 has been completed. The census activity was a result of exhaustive deliberations in respect of contents and scope of census form; awareness and training workshop of the data collecting officers; and field visits of department of Education and RSU officers to all the districts to sensitize and inform the education mangers about the significance of the exercise.
* The hallmark of present school census was the scientific manner in which it was conceptualized and implemented. The questionnaire was developed in such a way that it provides built-in checks for data reporting errors. It is also for the first time ever that profiles of teacher have been captured, so it would provide a readily available data bank for `Human Resource` available with Department of Education and would also help in tracking of teacher postings and any potential rationalization exercise.
* It has been decided that the data be posted to both SQL and Access as the first step, which would be gradually shifted and processed on SQL ultimately.
* Web Page for RSU has been finalized.
* In order to enable department of Education to develop a system of financial tracking of its different intervention as well provide for required financial and budgetary information for education expenditure in districts, Reform Support Unit has instituted a cell for Financial Management Information System(FMIS) to track education related expenditures and provide sound base for financial management and monitoring.
III: Contracts (Partnership Agreements) with District Government:
* Reform Support Unit has entered `Partnership Agreements’ with all the districts of Sindh to broaden the ownership and bring effective implementation of the reform agenda. This agreement provides for the transfer of a conditional tied grant to all the districts for infrastructural rehabilitation. It clearly delineates the roles and responsibilities of both sets of government for achieving the agreed performance indicators dealing with both outcome and process targets.
* It is proposed that for the first year of this partnership, the conditional grant is provided across the board to all the districts; however the amount of grant will be made contingent with achievement in realizing the agreed targets in enrolment and participation rates.
* It has also been decided in principle that the rehabilitation exercise will be based on a ‘Functional School Concept’ by making each school a basic unit to be completed using a holistic approach. It is believed that in order to make this exercise useful we need to part from disaggregated construction activities and embark on a holistic approach.
* An amount of Rs. 2.3 billion has been earmarked in the Department of Education budget 2006-07 to cater for this program.
* Baseline information on the district profile has been extracted from the Census 2005-06 on the basic indicators as well as gaps in physical and human resources using the planning ESRA sponsored EMIS toolkit.
IV: Revamping of the Text book distribution System:
* Text books were delivered through a mechanism where the STBB, District Government and RSU synchronized their efforts to ensure safe and timely delivery of these books to each school before the start of academic year. The distribution of text books started before the commencement of academic session to provide the books to around 4.2 million children studying in government schools.
V: Revamping of Stipend Distribution System:
* Reform Support Unit in the first meeting of RSU Steering Committee proposed and got approval for a very fundamental policy and procedural change from earlier practice in distribution of girl’s scholarship. It was decided that in order to bring in transparency and reliability, these stipends will be distributed through money orders at the residential address of each girl. A comprehensive profile of all the girls including their names; fathers names along with I.D. card numbers; and class was collected through EDO`s of all the districts and then was verified through third party.
* The third Party verification of names of eligible girls was done and the Post Office was provided with lists of girls in all the twenty three districts and money orders are being distributed.
* A simultaneous media campaign was started to create awareness among the public in general and beneficiaries in specific. Effort has been made to announce the full scope of incentive to preempt any misunderstanding.
VI: Improving Recruitment and Management of Teachers:
* The role of teachers and their performance in ensuring quality of education is beyond controversy. In order to deal with governance issue in teacher management and also in a move to ensure their presence in schools, a new contract policy has been drafted. This policy envisages a school specific contractual recruitment where the grading of eligible candidates will be made on the basis of scores assigned on the weightage of residence and academic qualification with no weight assigned to interviews.
VII: Initiating Policy Reviews:
* Education systems are complex wherein interactions among various variables produce results. Any meaningful analysis of the situation, thus requires a continuous appraisal of different components of the system to appraise and asses the rationale and continuity with respect to the overall policy objectives.
* Reform Support Unit has initiated policy reviews in the areas where it is felt either policy needs complete revisit or some minor fine-tuning to bring it in consonance with the agreed objectives of government.
* The policy reviews have been made inclusive by involving stakeholders from the private and NGOP sectors involved in education services delivery.
* At present two Working Groups have been notified by the Department of Education to attend to major areas, in need of appraisal. One such group is dealing with the discipline of teacher training while other is deliberating on roles and responsibilities of Education Management.
* The findings of these groups will be recommended for requisite institutional, procedural and administrative changes.
VIII: Research Studies:
* Cognizant of the fact that any meaningful input to the policy dimension needs empirical and substantive foundation,RSU has tended to develop an built-in mechanism where every issue be researched and its finding are incorporated in the system.
* RSU has taken up the issues of closed and branch schools in Sindh on a scientific manner. Building upon the data available with SEMIS, RSU has embarked on research studies to understand, analyse and take effective measures in both these areas.
RSU has also embarked on Third Party assessments to ascertain the efficacy of the government interventions and use the results in improvement of the service delivery mechanism