|Climbing the Ladder: A Case Study of the Women's Secondary Education Programme of Allama Iqbal Open University, Pakistan (IBE, 1999, 34 p.)|
The success and sustainability of the SSC programme after thirteen years are due to extensive planning throughout that period. In line with the President of Pakistans directive in 1984, a project proposal was made and forwarded to the Womens Division of the Government of Pakistan (now the Ministry of Women and Development, Youth Affairs and Social Welfare). It was also submitted to the Government of the Netherlands for funding.
In 1984, the Government of the Netherlands sent an appraisal mission to Pakistan to consider the proposal. In view of the AIOUs experience in distance education, its strong infrastructure at its central office in Islamabad and its regional network comprising thirty-four offices throughout Pakistan, the mission recommended the proposal for funding.
In February 1985, a detailed project proposal was submitted to the Government of Pakistan and was discussed and approved by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP). The consensus reached by these authorities was that the Government of the Netherlands should bear all expenses relating to the setting-up and running of the project, the social and physical infrastructure at the AIOUs central office and in field areas, development, printing, production, presentation of an agreed number of courses with multimedia support, monitoring and evaluation. It was agreed that the Government of Pakistan and the AIOU would bear the expenses for some courses and should facilitate the project through already established administrative and academic departments.
By September 1985, the implementation plan had been prepared on the basis of the approved project document, i.e. the Planning Commission-I (PC-I) document. The approved grant was Rs. 11,667 million, of which Rs. 8,742 million was from the Government of the Netherlands and Rs. 2,925 million from the Government of Pakistan to the AIOU for implementation of the project between 1985 and 1988. However, the Government of Pakistans allocation was never requested by the AIOU and therefore never released.
Owing to a delay in the release of funds, the implementation period for the first phase was rescheduled for 1986 to 1989. Phase I was divided into four sub-phases:
· Preparatory phase, January 1986-September 1986;
· Sub-phase I, October 1986-December 1987;
· Sub-phase II, January 1988-September 1988;
· Sub-phase III, January 1989-December 1989.
When Phase I ended, the success of the project was obvious, but it was too early to assess its institutionalization. During the first phase the project was fully accredited by the Inter-Board Committee of Chairmen. This recognition of the AIOUs Secondary School Certificate (SSC) through distance education put it on a par with certificates awarded by the twenty-two Boards of Secondary Education in Pakistans formal education system. This made it possible for those who had obtained the AIOUs SSC to join any stream of education or employment.
The overall positive external and internal evaluations recommended the extension of the project for further development and improvement in order to enhance its sustainability for eventual institutionalization as a regular AIOU programme.
At the end of Phase I, however, the external evaluation assessed the project as an overly ambitious endeavour, because the rapid growth in all areas (materials development, course launching, area expansion, increased enrolment, etc.) prevented it from adapting adequately to the AIOU infrastructure. Thanks to the motivation and dedication of the project team, all targets were met, but the project could not find its place as a part of the system within the AIOUs structure. Another setback at this stage was the change of Vice-Chancellor, as a result of which the project activities suffered. These setbacks resulted in delays in starting semesters, mailing, admission, examination and all other field activities. Consequently, publicity, motivation, supervision and counselling were curtailed for two years; but although the project team suffered, it did not lose heart. The funding agency appreciated this and agreed to begin Phase II. By the start of that phase, the AIOU was clearer about the status of the project, and was ready to institutionalize it as a regular programme.
Phase II was started with the objective of focusing on the following areas:
· better co-ordination of the student intake, so that the AIOUs management could cope adequately;
· improvement of the quality of courses and instructional materials;
· strengthening and improvement of the service delivery mechanism with the assistance of field co-ordinators.
With these specific objectives another PC-I, along the same lines as those used for the planning process for Phase I, was prepared. The budget allocation for Phase II from the Government of the Netherlands was Rs 14,164 million and Rs 2,552 million from the Government of Pakistan.
While Phase II was in its initial stages, the Ministry of Education recognized the importance of the project in reaching the rural population through non-for-mal methods. It was therefore included as a model project in the National Education Policy of 1992 for future adoption.
Overall administrative control of the project lay with the Vice-Chancellor of the AIOU in his role as chairman. The Project Director, a permanent employee of the AIOU, was responsible for its implementation. A Programme Manager was appointed to co-ordinate, from the AIOUs central office, all the activities of the project team with, among others, the regional offices, non-governmental organizations, the ministries concerned and the funding agency. In addition, the Project Manager trained the project team at the central office, i.e. the Students Affairs Co-ordinators, the Tutors Affairs Co-ordinator, the Materials Co-ordinator and the Evaluation Co-ordinator. Field Co-ordinators, who were appointed in the regional offices, were also trained at workshops held at the central office. A designer was appointed to prepare the course text and publicity. Eight support staff and one financial officer were also appointed.
The activities at regional offices were co-ordinated through biannual meetings of Regional Directors and Field Co-ordinators at the AIOUs central office and in the Local Advisory Committees, with the occasional exchange of back-up visits by the central office staff in the field. There was also a Central Advisory Committee through which WSEP activities were shared with national NGOs, government departments, the funding agency and so forth.
For effective implementation, an annual plan of activities and individual activity plans for central office and field staff were prepared. Frequent meetings were held for the internal co-ordination of the project team. Close co-ordination was maintained within the AIOUs academic and services departments.
A multi-pronged strategy, including national and regional newspapers, radio broadcasts and national television, was used. Special supplements introducing the project and the project team were included in leading newspapers. Publicity posters, pamphlets, leaflets, news briefings, video scripts, radio interviews and publicity documentaries were also prepared and used.
The staff of the AIOUs central office and regional offices, together with the field staff of the project, made door-to-door visits in villages and towns of the target areas. During these visits, meetings were held with district management officers, local male and female councillors, religious leaders and other influential local people, District Education Officers, Assistant Education Officers, parents, volunteers, local health departments, and so forth. Visits to local middle and high schools proved very useful, since information was obtained on rates of school completion and drop-out. The drop-outs and middle certificate holders were then contacted individually and encouraged to join the programme. Local school teachers also played an important role in this campaign.