Working in development is often difficult, as even the best-planned projects can have different outcomes than expected. In this IEG Project Lessons series, we take a close look back at the World Bank Group’s projects to assess what has worked, what didn’t, and why, to better inform future projects and investments.
This brief captures the lessons learned from evaluating the World Bank’s contributions to educational achievements made in Nepal as part of the World Bank’s Education for All Project. To read the full evaluation,
About the Education for All Project
Nepal’s Education for All project began in 2004 and was completed in 2009. The World Bank in coordination with other donors, supported the government in reforms focusing on three primary objectives: building institutional capacity in education at all levels of decision-making (e.g., central, district, and school); improving the efficiency and quality of education services; and improving equity in access to education, especially for girls and students from disadvantaged communities.
The project supported the Government of Nepal’s overall strategy to achieve broad based economic growth, improvement of social services delivery, social inclusion of historically excluded social groups, and good governance.
The three development objectives of the Education for All Project were to:
- Ensure access and equity in primary education;
- Improve the efficiency and institutional capacity of primary education; and
- Enhance the quality and relevance of basic primary education for children and illiterate adults.
The Education for All project continued and expanded the processes and systems put in place under previous Bank and donor support through the Basic and Primary School Project II and the Community School Support Project.
At project closing, the project had achieved its access and equity targets, obtaining gender parity and representative shares of historically disadvantaged students enrolling in primary education. A combination of new and improved learning environments, scholarships, increased parental awareness, and community involvement likely contributed to achieving improved access to education.
However, student attendance remains an issue, especially for poorer students. There is little evidence of improved learning outcomes, which points to the need for more focused attention on the determinants of learning and improving the quality of education. Gains were made in repetition rates and drop-out rates in primary education. A number of factors have contributed to the improvement of the efficiency of the primary education system. Increased awareness, community participation, remittances, and a liberal promotion policy were all contributing factors. Other systemic inefficiencies such as the misallocation of teachers persisted.
Evidence to show that institutional capacity has improved is scant. Capacity building activities were undertaken, but overall the project paid insufficient attention to systematically strengthening capacity, particularly at local levels. Capacity constraints continue to be a substantial concern.
Based on high relevance of objectives, modest relevance of design, modest achievement on project objectives, and modest efficiency, the project’s outcome is rated moderately unsatisfactory. Read the full report for more outcome assessments.
Based on the experience of this project, lessons for future education projects in Nepal and elsewhere can be drawn:
To improve the quality of education, in particular learning outcomes, it is important to emphasize the quality of learning inputs such as teachers and instructional and learning materials. There is little evidence to suggest inputs to the teaching learning process improved due to the project: the quality of early childhood development suffered from limited Government support; teachers received limited in-service training; and children still received textbooks after the start of the school year.
In a low capacity environment, a strategy to build local level capacity is critical in a decentralized service provision model. Low capacity limits the potential of various instruments under communities’ control to improve the efficiency and quality of schools. Under this project, distribution of grants was often delayed due to overly complex rules and procedures which were not well understood at the school-level. Low capacity limited the impact of School Improvement Plans which were meant to focus on teaching and learning activities.
It is important that central, district, and local level roles and responsibilities are clearly defined when education provision has been decentralized. In Nepal, ambiguities existed as to where ultimate responsibilities for education decision making lie. These ambiguities contributed to the failure of decentralization to bring about increases expected in the quality of public education.
Quality assurance in monitoring and evaluation data is essential when funding is linked to school-level data. Verification of the current system suggests irregularities in reporting data: scholarship distribution has not followed guidelines and the incentive to over-report enrollment data has increased with the introduction of per capita financing.