Funded by a grant from ADB's Japan Special Fund, financed by the Government of Japan, the TA will ensure that the project, in the pipeline for 2004, supports the Government's efforts to meet Millennium Development Goals on education.
The TA will focus on three main areas:
Improving sustainability of school facilities, developing proposals for improved operation and maintenance of the school network, with focus on areas with the lowest enrollment and attendance rates.
Improving quality and provision of learning materials, assessing current and anticipated needs for textbooks.
Enhancing learning assessment systems for objectively measuring pupils' attainment at primary and secondary schools.
The TA team will also analyze current education expenditure and recommend ways to improve efficiency and help establish priorities for financing in the medium term.
"One of the lessons learned from previous programs, both by ADB and other funding agencies, is that without an appropriate policy environment, it is difficult to carry out projects," says Brajesh Panth, an ADB Education Specialist.
The Kyrgyz Republic's education system has been under increasing pressure since independence in 1991.
Official enrollment rates stand at 98% for primary and 62% for secondary education, with the number much higher for girls than boys.
But these figures do not take into account seasonal factors, withdrawals during the school year, or many children with disabilities who may constitute up to 5% of the school-age population.
Poor families often struggle to meet the costs of schooling, while declining standards and relevance of education act as a disincentive when measured against the perceived benefits of putting children out to work.
Meanwhile, budget shortages have squeezed the sector, leading to a deteriorating infrastructure, lack of facilities, and an inability to accommodate growing pupil numbers.
The Kyrgyz Republic's teachers are now among the lowest paid in the world, with wages starting at about $7 equivalent per month. This poses problems in attracting and retaining quality staff.
Thus, many schools are unable to provide all compulsory subjects in the highly complex curricula, with shortfalls particularly serious in foreign languages and computer sciences. Further, lack of funds for quality materials, particularly textbooks, has affected the learning environment.
A recent government survey revealed that more than 40% of respondent pupils had failed literacy tests. There is also a gulf in achievement between ethnic groups and sharp regional differences, with conflict-affected areas falling far behind other regions.
However, the lack of a national testing system makes it difficult to verify the impact of education.
TA activities will be closely coordinated with USAID and the World Bank, which are addressing other key reform issues including education financing, teacher pay and training, and fostering community participation in education.
The TA will also work with these agencies to examine the feasibility of raising awareness among girls on the critical issue of the dangers of human trafficking.
As education of women, in particular, can be expected to contribute to improved infant and child health, it will also examine the promotion of health issues in school such as nutrition and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
To ensure the direct participation of stakeholders, the TA will select communities around the country for in-depth analysis and focus groups. Feedback on principal issues and policy recommendations will be obtained from parents, pupils, staff, and community leaders.
"A strong participatory approach is needed in designing the project," says Mr. Panth. "There must be participation at the community and regional levels as well as from the Government, which remains the key player in policy development."
The total cost of the TA is estimated at $720,000, of which the Government will contribute $120,000 equivalent. Work will take about 10 months to October 2004.
Big News Network.com, October 10, 2003