Client name: US Agency for International Development (USAID)

Location: Pakistan

Situation

The global education community has focused primarily on getting children into school.  Although progress is being made against the Millennial Development Goal of primary school enrolment, development practitioners are also focused on the quality of that education.

While regular testing occurs in the U.S. to measure progress in learning, the challenges of assessing learning are even more compounded in a country like Pakistan, with insurgency and infrastructure.

Despite these hurdles, USAID/Pakistan embarked recently on an ambitious reading baseline using the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), a tool developed by the USAID and the World Bank. The EGRA ran up against major natural and other obstacles -- an earthquake, a worker’s strike, a flood and schools in distant areas. These obstacles required our team to be nimble so as to react and adjust to whatever problems arose.

Solution

The findings will be used by USAID to help counterparts in Pakistan, including the Ministry of Education, determine how best to meet reading needs and what investments need to be made.

We were responsible for all aspects of this assessment, from design to field work to analysis.  Our approach was built on the foundation of partnership, flexibility and local buy-in. The assessment team was comprised of a strong partnership with School-to-School International and five local research organizations.

From the beginning, we involved each provincial and district government in the process. We took at least one local official from each school district with us for a day of data collection so they would be familiar with the process. As a result, when we presented our findings, officials were familiar with the process and were vested in the results.

Result

We completed the baseline assessment, the largest ever conducted. Our team tested 31,472 students in grades three and five from 1120 schools in 40 districts, which spread across all eight provinces, areas and territories of Pakistan.

Our team trained 512 Pakistani test administrators in an intense week-long training program. Some of those trained graduated to becoming quality control officers for the EGRA.  We also coached local partner organisations through developing the best systems to deal with setbacks and problems from data collection. As a result, each of these organizations now has a greater capacity to handle data collection assignments. 

The EGRA assessment was part of the Pakistan M&E program, which covers a $4 billion portfolio spanning 100 projects. This project used monitoring and evaluation to improve effectiveness and sustainability of development efforts in Pakistan, as well as to increase the efficiency and performance of all USAID partners.