Pakistan Institute of Development Economics

Parallel Education Streams In The Public Sector
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Parallel Education Streams In The Public Sector

Publication Year : 2022


The provision of effective public education is one of the most challenging tasks in the public good provision domain. Since 1947, more than twenty-three education policies and five-year plans have been presented by successive governments in Pakistan. However, our education system is still facing multifold issues such as ineffective management and supervision protocols, poor examination systems, etc.

Without any doubt, the public education provision is one of the core investments that a state can make to enhance human capital and wellbeing. But the aspect that makes public education provision tricky is the associated cost and benefits to the public of competing investment programmes in the public sector. When we look at Pakistan’s public education funding from elementary to intermediate levels, we can notice that, in a broader sense, public education funding follows two streams. The first and major stream is general public schools and colleges. The second and relatively smaller stream is Cadet Colleges, PAF colleges, etc. Investing in public education is a necessary but not sufficient condition to gain desirable education outcomes. Policymakers are usually interested in how educational expenditures are targeted and what outcomes (benefits) can be realistically linked with that funding. With this idea in mind, in this research, we conducted a comparative Cost-Benefit Analysis of the aforementioned two mainstreams of education to assess the cost associated with each stream and the benefits they provide to the public. We also assessed the delivery approach of both streams for lesson learning and system strengthening. To address these questions, this study adopted a mix-method approach (both quantitative and qualitative methods).

By delivery approach (DA), we mean the process of getting things done or the chain process beginning from goal setting to implementation and effects on student learning. We have tried to assess the working mechanisms of both streams, particularly in the context of 21st-century skills. Research shows that our education system is plagued with various issues such as discontinuity in government policies, weak supervisory and monitoring mechanisms, poor examination systems, political intervention, higher dropout rates, etc. (Ahmad & Rauf, 2012; Rizvi, 2016). All these issues somehow are linked with the delivery mechanisms of public education provision.

All over the world, countries adhere to ambitious goals and reforms to enhance the quality of service delivery, including education. These ambitious goals and reforms require actionable strategies and effective transmission through a complex and multisided bureaucratic system to get delivered on the ground but this delivery process can be challenging in the presence of the potential bureaucratic inertia, as well as the complexity, coordination, discretion, and innovation required to achieve systemic change (Williams et al., 2020). Therefore, the question that “how to enhance mechanisms of bureaucratic functioning and policy delivery?” has become one of the key challenges for governments around the globe. Therefore, a general understanding of the delivery mechanisms of both education streams is important to see the efficiency of each stream in achieving their respective goals.

Our findings show that the per-student cost to the government, from FY2018-19 to FY 2020-21,in the Islamabad Model Colleges (IMCs) was higher by 1963.90 PKR than Cadet Colleges (CCs). Likewise, on an annual basis, a student in IMCs was getting 654.63 PKR more than a student in the CCs. Contrary to the common narrative that CCs get more funding from the government, our analysis showed that funding to the IMCs was higher than the CCs.

We undertook the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) of both education streams from three different perspectives, i.e., CBA based on the cost to the government, CBA based on the cost to government and private cost, and CBA based on cost to the government, private cost, and opportunity cost.

The CBA based on the cost to the government for IMCs shows that the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) was equal to 3.33, which implies that per unit of PKR that had been invested by the government over 2018-21will generate 3.33 PKR for the economy. The CBA based on the government cost plus private cost reduced the BCR to 3.26, which implies that IMCs will generate net benefits equal to
3.26 in the future. Finally, the CBA based on government, private, and opportunity costs reduced the BCR to 1.40, which implies that the IMCs still produce positive net benefits considering all three types of costs.

The CBA of Cadet Colleges, considering government funds only, shows that the BCR was 7.92, which indicates that each PKR that had been invested by the government over 2018-21 is expected to produce 7.92 rupees for the economy in the long run. The CBA of the CCs considering government plus private costs shows that the BCR decreased to 2.26. Nevertheless, the investment remained profitable as the value of CBR was greater than 2 units against each unit invested.

Lastly, the CBA based on government, private, and opportunity costs shows that the BCR reduced to 1.27 of the CCs. However, the investment was still profitable as BCR was still greater than 1. Here, it is important to note that in this particular CBA we relied on private benefits instead of social benefits, which implies that the benefits reported here might be understated. From a fiscal point of view, without considering private and opportunity costs, the return on investment in the CCs was considerably higher as compared to the IMCs.

In a simple pooled regression analysis, the results indicate that in Cadet Colleges the GPA was 1.75 higher compared to the IMCs. This implies that the performance of the CCs was better in terms of producing good academic scores as compared to IMCs. In the literature, good academic performance is significantly associated with various positive life outcomes such as an increase in tertiary education prospects, health, happiness, civic involvement, higher self-concept, reduction in crime rate, etc. (Chen & Lu, 2009; Bradley & Greene, 2013; Kumari & Chamundeswari, 2013; Regier, 2015; Tentama & Abdillah, 2019). Therefore, it could be argued that CCs contribute more to social well-being compared to I MCs.

When it comes to the delivery approach, IMCs are linked with a relatively long administrative and supervisory chain that involves multiple departments along with a large number of agents. This larger chain makes the system prone to delivery inertia and bureaucratic pathology. For instance, the inadequacy of enablers or ambiguity in roles and the ownership of responsibility makes things more complicated. On the other hand, the administrative hierarchy of CCs is relatively shorter as it starts with the board of governors and goes straight down to the principal, vice-principal levels, etc.

In terms of goal setting, both streams set their goals in alignment with the national education policy/plan. For I MC, the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) is responsible for narrowing down national education goals to formulate strategic goals and coordinate them with Area Education offices (AEOs). The AEOs then define tactical goals for IMCs. In the case of CCs, the board of governors decides strategic goals in light of national policy. During the board meetings, they also decide on tactical goals according to the institutional mission. Finally, their execution rests with the principal and other school-level officials.

Our findings show that the delivery approach of CCs is relatively better than the delivery approach of IMCs. The CCs are prototypical examples of institutional autonomy and decentralised governance in the education sector. The ordinance passed in 1960 gives an ample amount of autonomy to CCs to work under a governing body within specified constitutional boundaries. Hence, they are more adaptive, flexible, experimental, innovative, and think out of the box. Despite getting lower funds from the government in comparison with the IMCs, CCs are accumulating higher resources by shifting the cost burden to alumni, students, and other trustees. The CCs do relatively better in terms of twenty-first-century learning/kills delivery, engage and utilise its alumni to gain tangible and intangible support in terms of mentoring, etc., possess better enablers, have better teacher training, and are more oriented toward the holistic development of students.

Despite being better on many fronts, the delivery approach of Cadet Colleges manifests some weaknesses as well. These include higher private costs, heavily-enforced control, and punishment mechanisms. Moreover, their delivery approach is relatively opaque data-wise and has a tendency to create cultural shocks for students due to weaknesses in transition mechanisms. Finally, all Cadet Colleges are working for the same goals but independently without any formal horizontal integration mechanisms and a unifying central body.

In addition, the major weaknesses in the delivery approach of IMCs include higher costs to the government, comparatively lagging in twenty-first-century learning/skills, poor teacher training mechanisms, and bureaucratic pathology affecting their smooth functioning and educational outcomes. Lower living standards and deficiency of staff at several institutes are some of the other weaknesses of the system.

There are some positive aspects of the delivery approach of the IMCs as well. For instance, most recently the FOE has taken some admirable steps to strengthen its delivery approach, such as the transformation of its data and monitoring system via initiatives which include the Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS). The HRMIS is relatively better in data transparency, offers minimal private cost to the public, offers better accessibility, and is socially inclusive. In addition, the FOE is currently focusing on launching new steps like STEM and blended learning initiatives. This shows their resolve to improve the delivery approach of the general stream of public education through these most warranted initiatives.

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