Australia

Vietnamese children equipped with life skills through rugby

The programme is developed by the ChildFund Australia, a non-profit organisation working for poverty alleviation for children in developing countries, …

by · Wednesday, 16 August 2017 · Australia, Vietnam
Education user committee improves teacher service performance in a remote Indonesian village

Education user committee improves teacher service performance in a remote Indonesian village

Chair and members of the Education User Committee announce the teachers’ performance scores in a meeting attended by the representatives from the Ministry of Education and Culture, the sub-district education department, the village government staff, the school staff, and community members.

Alfiana Pamut was standing in front of an overwhelmingly male audience at SD Inpres Golo Popa, an elementary school in Manggarai Timur District in East Nusa Tenggara, one of the poorest regions in Indonesia. The young woman, who heads the school’s Education User Committee, with a loud and clear voice, read the scores given to each teacher in the school for their service performance that month.
 
As I sat at the back of the room, observing how the meeting went, I could not help being impressed by the scene.
 
In a different context, citizens making demands on teachers to provide better services may be a normalcy. But SD Inpres Golo Popa is located in Compang Necak, a very remote village some three hours of grueling drive from the nearest town. In isolated villages like Compang Necak, teachers tend to be very well respected. But precisely because of the remoteness of the areas, supervisions over the teachers by government officials are at a bare minimum, if any. A UNICEF study in 2012 revealed that the lack of supervision resulted in higher teacher absenteeism. An unannounced survey by the Analytical and Capacity Development Partnership in 2014 found that one in five teachers was absent from remote schools, or double the national rate.
 
At SD Inpres Golo Popa, a World Bank unannounced survey in 2016 found that one in seven teachers was absent from the school. None of the 51 students tested (of 61 registered students) achieved their grade-level competencies in either Indonesian language or mathematics. Such was the disheartening situation before KIAT Guru pilot started.
 
The pilot is a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and Culture, the National Team for Acceleration of Poverty Reduction and the District Government of Manggarai Timur. Implemented by Yayasan BaKTI, with technical support from the World Bank and funding from the Government of Australia, the pilot aims to improve teacher presence and service performance.
 
KIAT Guru empowers communities to hold teachers accountable by agreeing to prioritize five to eight bottom-up service indicators to improve student learning environment. In some pilot schools, the community empowerment is combined with pay for performance as part of a teacher’s income, based either on the Education User Committee’s verification of teacher’s presence, or the Committee’s score on teacher’s service performance. Comprised of nine members – six parents of students and three community leaders – the Education User Committee members are elected by the parents and community members. The Committee in Golo Popa comprise of five women.
 
In SD Inpres Golo Popa, the teacher service performance scores evaluated by the Committee determined the amount of remote area allowance that teachers receive. For example, as the principal received a score of 91, she would receive 91 percent of her remote area allowance for the respective month. Since the total amount of the remote area allowance is the same as their base salary, the Education User Committee’s score is a high-stake for teachers.
 
After Alfiana completed reading the service performance scores for all seven school teachers, the principal and parents were asked to respond. The school principal Ester Esem questioned her score. She had carried out her job well by supervising teaching and learning activities and teacher presence every day.
 
Confidently, Alfiana responded that the Education User Committee had checked the document, conducted observations, and interviewed students before scoring. The Committee found that Ester’s supervision was not optimal. In the teacher presence form, two teachers marked themselves as being present, although they were supervising tests at other schools that day.  
 
When I asked the Committee members during lunch break on how they could be so brave, they said it was the responsibility of their heart. They had to be fair to teachers, but also be accountable to the wider community. In a separate talk, Ester, the school principal, confided that the Education User Committee had done a good job in holding teachers accountable. As a female principal, she said, male teachers would not listen to her. But now she has all the Committee members conducting the monitoring on her behalf.
 

At the end of the meeting, Alfiana hands over the Service Performance Scoring Form to the school principal and signs the minutes of meeting.

While what I witnessed in Golo Popa may be one of the best-case scenarios, it is still very encouraging to see that after only three months of community facilitation, the Education User Committee could already hold the principal and teachers accountable to the service indicators that they had agreed upon. It may take longer for other communities to achieve a similar level of social accountability, but Golo Popa shows that it is definitely possible. The KIAT Guru pilot is currently implemented in 203 very remote primary schools in five districts. Results from the pilot aims to provide the Ministry of Education and Culture with policy recommendations.

by · Tuesday, 15 August 2017 · Australia, Indonesia, Oman
Kelompok Pengguna Layanan tingkatkan kinerja layanan guru di desa terpencil di NTT

Kelompok Pengguna Layanan tingkatkan kinerja layanan guru di desa terpencil di NTT

Ketua dan anggota Kelompok Pengguna Layanan mengumumkan nilai kinerja guru dalam pertemuan yang dihadiri perwakilan dari Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, dinas pendidikan tingkat kabupaten, perangkat desa dan pihak sekolah, serta anggota masyarakat.

Alfiana Pamut berdiri di hadapan sekelompok orang yang didominasi oleh laki-laki di SD Inpres Golo Popa, di Kabupaten Manggarai Timur, Nusa Tenggara Timur, salah satu daerah tertinggal di Indonesia. Perempuan muda yang juga menjadi ketua Kelompok Pengguna Layanan tersebut membacakan nilai kinerja layanan tiap guru selama satu bulan di sekolah ini dengan suara lantang dan jelas.

 

Mengikuti jalannya pertemuan tersebut dari tempat duduk di belakang ruang kelas, saya amat terkesan dengan apa yang saya saksikan.

 

Dalam konteks yang berbeda, adalah sesuatu yang lumrah bagi warga untuk menuntut guru memberikan layanan pendidikan yang lebih baik. Namun SD Inpres Golo Popa terletak di Desa Compang Necak, yang berjarak tiga jam berkendara dari kota terdekat melalui jalan berbatu, menanjak dan berkelok-kelok. Di desa terpencil seperti Compang Necak, masyarakat cenderung menghormati para guru. Namun lokasi sekolah yang amat jauh membuat pemerintah kesulitan mengawasi guru. Studi yang dilakukan UNICEF pada 2012 menunjukkan bahwa minimnya pengawasan terhadap sekolah berakibat pada tingginya tingkat mangkir para guru. Sebuah survei yang tidak diumumkan yang dilakukan oleh Kemitraan Pendidikan Australia dengan Indonesia pada 2014 memperlihatkan bahwa satu dari lima guru mangkir dari sekolah-sekolah terpencil, atau dua kali lipat dari angka di tingkat nasional.

 

Sementara itu, survei yang dilakukan World Bank pada akhir 2016 di SD Inpres Golo Popa menunjukkan bahwa satu dari tujuh guru mangkir dari sekolah. Tidak satu pun dari 51 murid yang dievaluasi (dari 61 murid terdaftar) mencapai standar kompetensi yang ditentukan untuk Bahasa Indonesia dan Matematika. Inilah gambaran atas apa yang terjadi sebelum program rintisan KIAT Guru dimulai.

 

Program ini merupakan kolaborasi antara Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan (Kemdikbud), Tim Nasional Percepatan Penanggulangan Kemiskinan (TNP2K) dan Pemerintah Kabupaten Manggarai Timur. Diimplementasikan oleh Yayasan BaKTI, dengan dukungan World Bank dan pendanaan dari Pemerintah Australia, proyek percontohan ini bertujuan untuk meningkatkan kehadiran serta kinerja layanan guru.

 

KIAT Guru memberdayakan masyarakat untuk meningkatkan akuntabilitas guru dengan menyepakati lima hingga delapan indikator layanan untuk meningkatkan lingkungan belajar yang menyenangkan bagi anak. Di beberapa sekolah rintisan, pemberdayaan masyarakat ini dikaitkan dengan pembayaran tunjangan guru, yang jumlahnya dihitung berdasarkan verifikasi Kelompok Pengguna Layanan atas kehadiran guru atau penilaian atas kinerja layanan guru. Terdiri dari sembilan anggota – enam orang tua murid dan tiga tokoh masyarakat – anggota kelompok dipilih oleh para orangtua dan anggota masyarakat. Ada lima anggota perempuan dalam kelompok di Golo Popa.

 

Di SD Inpres Golo Popa, kinerja layanan guru yang dinilai oleh Kelompok Pengguna Layanan akan menentukan jumlah tunjungan daerah terpencil yang diterima guru. Kepala sekolah yang mendapat skor 91, misalnya, akan menerima 91 persen dari tunjangan daerah terpencil bulanan yang dialokasikan. Dengan jumlah tunjangan daerah terpencil sama besarnya dengan gaji pokok, skor yang diterima guru menjadi amat penting.

 

Setelah Alfiana selesai membaca skor kinerja layanan ketujuh guru di SD tersebut, tiba giliran kepala sekolah dan orangtua memberikan tanggapan. Sang kepala sekolah, Ester Esem, mempertanyakan skornya. Ia merasa telah melakukan tugasnya dengan baik dalam mengecek kegiatan belajar mengajar dan kehadiran guru setiap hari.

 

Dengan percaya diri, Alfiana menjawab bahwa Kelompok Pengguna Layanan telah mengecek dokumen, melakukan pengamatan dan mewawancarai beberapa murid sebelum menentukan nilai. Kelompok tersebut menemukan bahwa pengecekan yang dilakukan Ester tidak optimal. Di daftar hadir ada dua guru yang menandatangani buku absen, namun pada hari tersebut, mereka mengawasi ujian di sekolah lain.

 

Saat istirahat makan siang, saya mencari kesempatan untuk mengobrol dengan anggota Kelompok Pengguna Layanan dan bertanya bagaimana mereka bisa begitu berani. Mereka mengatakan bahwa itu adalah tanggung jawab dari hati. Mereka harus memberikan penilaian yang adil terhadap guru, namun juga harus bertanggung jawab kepada masyarakat. Dalam obrolan lainnya, sang kepala sekolah, Ester, bercerita bahwa Kelompok Pengguna Layanan telah bekerja sangat baik menjaga akuntabilitas guru. Ia menyebutkan bahwa guru-guru laki-laki terkadang tidak mendengarkannya karena Ia seorang perempuan. Namun kini ada anggota kelompok yang membantunya melakukan pengawasan. 

Di akhir pertemuan, Alfiana memberikan laporan Penilaian Kinerja Guru kepada kepala sekolah dan menandatangani berita acara.

Apa yang saya saksikan di Golo Popa mungkin salah satu contoh terbaik, namun tetap sangat membesarkan hati melihat bahwa hanya dalam tiga bulan setelah proses pendampingan masyarakat berjalan, Kelompok Pengguna Layanan telah mampu menjaga akuntabilitas kepala sekolah dan guru terhadap indikator layanan yang disepakati bersama. Mungkin kelompok masyarakat lain akan membutuhkan waktu yang lebih lama untuk sampai pada kondisi akuntabilitas sosial yang serupa, namun Golo Popa menunjukkan bahwa hal ini sangat mungkin terjadi. Proyek percontohan KIAT Guru saat ini diimplementasikan di 203 sekolah dasar di area tertinggal di lima kabupaten. Hasil proyek ini akan dimasukkan ke dalam rekomendasi kebijakan untuk Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan.

by · Tuesday, 15 August 2017 · Australia, Indonesia, Iran
Membangun potensi UU Desa Indonesia untuk meningkatkan mutu Pendidikan Anak Usia Dini

Membangun potensi UU Desa Indonesia untuk meningkatkan mutu Pendidikan Anak Usia Dini

Indonesia terus membuat langkah maju dalam memperluas akses pendidikan anak usia dini (PAUD) di seluruh nusantara yang sekarang mencapai sekitar  70.1% dari anak usia 3-6 tahun.  Meskipun ketersediaannya meningkat, mutu layanan masih rendah, terutama di daerah pedesaan dan daerah dengan pendapatan rendah.  Selain itu, masih ada ketergantungan pada guru yang kurang memenuhi kualifikasi yang dipersyaratkan, serta banyaknya  guru yang memperoleh pelatihan formal yang tidak memadai, atau bahkan sama sekali tidak mendapat pelatihan.

Manfaat yang besar dari PAUD hanya dapat direalisasikan jika layanan yang diterima anak-anak memiliki kualitas yang memadai. Kurangnya guru yang terampil di pedesaan memberi risiko menambah ketimpangan peluang di Indonesia. Dengan demikian, yang perlu dipercepat adalah memberi pelatihan memadai bagi tenaga pendidik di tingkat pendidikan anak usia dini yang terus bertambah jumlahnya untuk memenuhi kebutuhan anak di seluruh nusantara. 
 
Pendekatan baru diperlukan untuk mencapai skala ini, karena pengeluaran pemerintah untuk PAUD terbatas dan pendekatan top-down yang sekarang berjalan untuk pelatihan guru tinggi biayanya. Model yang ada saat ini juga memberi hambatan besar bagi guru di pedesaan, karena melibatkan perjalanan yang jauh atau relokasi ke pusat perkotaan di daerah untuk jangka waktu yang panjang untuk mendapatkan kualifikasi mereka.
 
UU Desa yang diperkenalkan baru-baru ini melibatkan jumlah dana hingga US$140,000 yang diberi langsung ke setiap desa di Indonesia, untuk membiayai program pembangunan berdasarkan kebutuhan dan prioritas mereka sendiri. Saat ini ada 196,378  pusat PAUD di seluruh Indonesia dan hampir semua dikelola sendiri, seringkali oleh komunitas sendiri.
 
Memasukkan anak-anak ke Layanan PAUD (Pendidkan Anak Usia Dini) yang bermutu sering merupakan prioritas tinggi bagi masyarakat, dan UU Desa memberikan kesempatan bagi desa-desa untuk melakukan investasi di pusat PAUD dan guru-guru mereka sendiri mengingat investasi publik yang terbatas.
 
Tahun lalu Bank Dunia dan Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan meluncurkan program percontohan Garis Depan PAUD / Generasi ECED Frontline di Indonesia.  Dengan pendanaan dari Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), program tersebut bertujuan memanfaatkan dana dari UU Desa untuk meningkatkan ketersediaan pengembangan profesional yang berkualitas tinggi, dan dengan harga yang dapat terjangkau untuk guru PAUD di 25 pedesaan di kabupaten. Program ini memberi pelatihan yang bermutu di tingkat kecamatan, sehingga menjadi lebih dekat bagi para guru yang melayani komunitasnya. Hal ini dilakukan dengan meningkatkan jumlah tenaga pelatih kabupaten setempat untuk memberikan pelatihan, serta mempekerjakan LSM PAUD setempat yang menangani logistik.
 
Program percontohan ini juga memperkenalkan partisipasi masyarakat dalam proses pemberian layanan. Pemerintah desa dapat menominasi guru di daerah untuk mendapat pelatihan, dan kelompok komunitas mengadakan pengaturan kontrak dengan LSM, dan bertanggungjawab untuk memonitor kinerja serta mengelola dan mendistribusikan dana.
 
Pada tahun 2016, 203 kelas pelatihan diberikan kepada guru komunitas dari lebih 2,500 desa. Bagi sebagian besar guru tersebut ini adalah kesempatan pertama mereka mengikuti pelatihan formal.
 

Dini Ruhiyatun adalah satu-satunya guru untuk sekitar 20 anak di Pusat Pendidikan Anak Usia Dini Seroja Indah (PAUD) di Desa Barabali, Lombok Tengah. Menyadari bahwa dia tidak memiliki latar belakang formal sebagai guru, pemerintah desa mendukung partisipasinya dalam pelatihan guru PAUD sebagai bagian dari proyek Frontage ECED pada tahun 2016.

Dengan semangat, para pelatih ahli bersedia melalui medan yang sulit, dengan sepeda motor atau bahkan kapal kecil untuk mencapai wilayah terpencil, dan juga tinggal bersama keluarga setempat di mana tidak ada pilihan akomodasi yang tersedia.  Dengan adanya komitmen ini, pelatihan diberikan di tingkat kecamatan, sehingga para guru tidak perlu melakukan perjalanan jauh, dapat kembali ke rumah mereka pada malam hari, dan dapat membawa anak-anak mereka ke sesi pelatihan.
 
Program percontohan dua tahun beroperasi dengan mengalokasikan dana yang dikhususkan bagi masyarakat untuk membiayai pelatihan untuk tiga guru dari desa mereka setiap tahun (kurang lebih Rp. 1,500,000 (USD 110) per guru). Ketika komunitas menjadi lebih mengenalnya melalui keterlibatan dalam proses penyerahan layanan, diharapkan mereka akan mulai menggunakan Dana Desa untuk membeli paket pelatihan untuk guru-guru mereka, mengingat biaya unit yang rendah.
 
Sistem pelatihan yang berbasis kabupaten, berfokus pada komunitas menunjukkan model yang lebih berbasis pasar untuk penyediaan jasa dengan menghubungkan pasokan dan permintaan untuk PAUD yang bermutu di tingkat daerah.  Pendekatan ini memiliki potensi untuk mempercepat peningkatan keterampilan guru komunitas di wilayah pedesaan dan wilayah terpencil di Indonesia, untuk memastikan bahwa generasi yang akan datang memiliki awal yang setara, di manapun mereka dilahirkan.

by · Tuesday, 1 August 2017 · Australia, Indonesia
Tapping the potential of Indonesia’s Village Law to increase quality of Early Childhood Education

Tapping the potential of Indonesia’s Village Law to increase quality of Early Childhood Education

Indonesia continues to make strides in expanding access to early childhood education (ECE) across its vast archipelago, now reaching some 70.1% of 3-6 year olds. Yet despite this increased availability, quality of services continue to be poor, especially in rural and low-income areas. In particular, there continues to be reliance on under-qualified teachers, with many having received inadequate formal training, or none at all.


The vast benefits of ECE can only be realized if the services that children receive are of sufficient quality, and the lack of skilled teachers in rural areas risks reinforcing inequality of opportunity in Indonesia. As such, the race is on to provide adequate training to the ever-expanding force of early childhood educators to meet the needs of children across the country.
 
Fresh approaches are needed to achieve this scale, since government spending on ECE is limited and the current top-down approach to teacher training can be expensive. The existing model also presents major barriers for rural teachers, since it involves extended travel or relocation to regional urban centers for extended periods of time to attain their qualifications.
 
The recently introduced Village Law involves the transfer of up to US$140,000 in funds directly to each village in Indonesia, to finance development programs based on their own needs and priorities. There are currently 196,378 ECE centers in the country and almost all are privately managed, often by communities themselves.
 
Getting their children into quality pre-schools is often a high priority for community members, and the Village Law presents an opportunity for villages to invest in their own ECE centers and teachers in light of limitations in public investments.
 
Last year the World Bank, the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Villages launched the Generasi ECED Frontline pilot program in Indonesia. With funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the program aims to leverage the Village Law transfers to increase the availability of high quality, affordable professional development for ECE teachers in 25 rural districts. The program delivers quality training at the sub-district level, bringing it much closer to the teachers who serve their communities. This is done by expanding the force of local district trainers to provide training, as well as engaging local ECE NGO’s who handle the logistics.
 
The pilot also introduces community participation into the service delivery process. Village governments can nominate local teachers to receive training, and community groups enter into contract arrangements with the NGOs, and are responsible for monitoring performance as well as managing and dispersing funds.
 
In 2016, 203 training classes were delivered to community teachers from over 2,500 villages. For many of these teachers it was their first opportunity to attend formal training.

Dini Ruhiyatun is the sole teacher for some 20 children at the Seroja Indah Early Childhood Education Center (PAUD) in the Barabali Village of Central Lombok. Recognizing that she had no formal background as a teacher, the village government supported her participation in PAUD teacher training as part of the ECED Frontline project in 2016.

Encouragingly, master trainers were willing to navigate tough terrain, by motorbike or even small boats to reach remote areas, and also boarded with local families where no accommodation options were available. As a result of this commitment, training was delivered at the sub-district level, meaning teachers only had to travel short distances, could return to their homes at night, and were able to bring their own children to the training sessions.
 
The two-year pilot program operates by allocating earmarked funds for communities to purchase training for three teachers from their village each year (approximately Rp. 1,500,000 (USD 110) per teacher). As communities become more familiar with being involved in the service delivery process, it is hoped they will begin to use their own Village Funds to purchase the training package for their teachers, given it’s low unit cost.
 
This district-based, community focused training system puts forward a more market-based model for service provision by connecting supply and demand for quality ECE at the local level. This approach has the potential to accelerate the up-skilling of community teachers in rural and remote areas of Indonesia, to ensure that the future generation has an equal start, no matter where they are born.

by · Tuesday, 1 August 2017 · Australia, Indonesia
The future of Thai railways: 5 fundamental questions

The future of Thai railways: 5 fundamental questions

Train at Hualumphong station in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: Seksan Pipattanatikanunt

Good public transportation can fundamentally improve people’s lives. It can give people more access to economic opportunities, increase productivity, and boost growth. Every day, people use public transportation to go to work, send children to schools, or visit families and relatives in the provinces. Many of these trips happen by rail.
 
Although Thailand’s rails are small compared to other modes of transport, almost 40 million people make trips on intercity railways and 200 million trips on urban railways each year.
 
How are Thailand’s railways doing? Recent analysis by the World Bank’s Thailand Systematic Country Diagnostic report identify gaps in infrastructure, including railways, as an important factor undermining competitiveness especially in the greater Bangkok region, the heart of Thai manufacturing and exports. Old, single tracks with locomotives from the 1960s, and some of the latest ones from the 1990s, have gone past their efficient life and may result in safety issues. There are over 100 derailment accidents and more than 150 railway/personal vehicle accidents each year.
 
Still, Thailand remains an attractive investment destination, and good public infrastructure reforms are beginning to help improve the logistics systems for businesses. One of these reforms is to improve and modernize the railway sector so that freight transportation costs are reduced, levels of service are better, and overall transportation costs are low. These investments have the potential to address key transport bottlenecks that currently impede investment and economic growth.
 
The experiences in many countries show that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to successful railway reform. International experience, including from countries such as India and Poland, suggests a common framework that can help identify customized solutions for a particular country. We found that asking these five questions work all over the world when one thinks about railway reform.
 
The starting question is always what or whom will the railway carry, and how will it add service to people and value to the economy? Trains could be carrying intercity passengers, tourists, minerals, agricultural products or other containers. Railways, with their high, initial fixed investment and low incremental cost for any one additional passenger or ton of freight, can be highlight efficient when there is a steady flow of passengers or goods, and when congestion costs are high. A World Bank study in 2014 estimated that the cost of traffic congestion in Kuala Lumpur can be as high as 1.1-2.2% of GDP. For Thailand, improving urban transportation can help save money and time for more productive activities.
 
Secondly, what needs to change for the railway to be competitive? It might mean improving services so that it’s faster, more reliable, cleaner and comfortable. Maybe the price needs to be lower, which is only possible if the cost structure of the railway is reduced. Many of Thailand’s poor and elderly people, especially in rural areas, rely on mini-vans and cars to travel as they cover a much wider route and is more reliable than trains which doesn’t always come on time or often gets delayed. Improving train services and speed can help make travelling by rail the option of choice for Thailand.
 
The third question is what are the technical solutions that would make the railway market competitive and financially viable? Factors to consider could be changing a scheduled train operation to improve reliability, downsizing the labor force to reduce costs, focusing on urban and rural areas that need it most and reducing coverage area if needed, or getting public or private investors to subsidize costs. In Australia, a tourist overnight train was introduced to capture the tourism market. Similarly, the State Railway of Thailand, may consider enhancing intercity lines with schedules to serve people better.
 
As railway reform programs take shape, another question to ask is whether and how it will be financially sustainable. If it’s not financially sustainable, how best to make it so. While some of the intercity rail routes in Thailand are sustainable, many are making losses. The intention to make transport affordable for people is laudable, railways can only offer good services in the long run with clear agreements on routes, timetables, pricing, and the level of subsidy. In Poland, while the railway sector has been privatized, a clear agreement has helped to clarify how much support from the government is needed to keep rates affordable. 
 
The last question and probably the most important one is how to implement railway reform? Or asked a different way, what stands in the way of reform now, and how to change that? Some possible options for Thailand may include improving the railway sector governance by clarifying the relationship between the government and the railway companies. Strengthening state-owned enterprises can also help as they account for 30-40 percent of total public investments in Thailand. Introducing competition and engaging the private sector more can mobilize long-term private capital needed for funding well-structured infrastructure projects.
 
Thailand is already taking promising initial steps in railway reforms and public infrastructure investments with dual tracking of existing rail system and modernizing the signaling systems. These public investments can help crowd in further private investment and lift Thailand’s potential growth. Continuing efforts to modernize Thailand’s railway sector will be critical to improving people’s lives and connecting lagging regions to more and better opportunities.
 
A version of this blog appeared in the Bangkok Post.

by · Tuesday, 11 July 2017 · Australia, India, Thailand
New Zealand has much to offer the world

New Zealand has much to offer the world

 

New Zealand World Maps online Photo Credit: Academia maps GeoAtlas


When people think about New Zealand’s most famous son, Sir Edmund Hillary, they mostly think about the quiet Auckland bee-keeper who conquered Everest in 1953.

Of course, there’s much more to the man. He raised money for the Sherpa communities in Nepal that built schools, hospitals and much more. His commitment to the people of South Asia was also reflected in his successful term in the 1980s as New Zealand’s High Commissioner to India.

As the most senior New Zealander in the management of the World Bank, I have come to appreciate Sir Edmund’s commitment to the people of South Asia and believe it shows how much New Zealand can offer the world.  This will not only make the world a better place but can also help New Zealand too.

by · Wednesday, 31 May 2017 · Australia, India, Nepal, New Zealand
Cows and Television: Rolling out a New System for Financial Management Information in Cambodia

Cows and Television: Rolling out a New System for Financial Management Information in Cambodia

On a recent visit to provincial treasury offices to learn about the Financial Management Information Systems, or FMIS, that our Governance teams helped introduce, the conversation became about cows.

The learning curve for an institution accustomed to managing public finances the manual way – that is, with papers and pens – to switch to an automated state-of-the-art system was, some treasury staff said, comparable to bringing a cow to watch television. Cows, they explained, are as unfamiliar with television as some treasury staff are with computers, the internet, and FMIS.

Fortunately, the relevance of the analogy was short-lived. It was soon clear that treasury staff can overcome the learning curve and that the new system has been helpful. I consistently heard praise about the system’s usefulness, because it provides useful financial information, reduces the amount of repetitive work, and generates timely reports. That is a big change.

“I’m so proud to have this system,” said Sivon Khemarun, the director of Battambang’s provincial treasury. “We want to use a system that is up to the standards of those used by developed countries.”

 “We tried our best to make sure we make full use of the system, despite these difficulties,” said Touch Kunthea, the head of the Oddar Meanchey provincial treasury. “It is important for us, and for all people.”

There were other obstacles besides the learning process. The FMIS was installed at provincial treasuries in early 2016, yet it was not in full use until January this year. Some treasury offices chose to run the new system in parallel with the older, paper-based method until the end of last year – even though it led to twice as much work and delays in the processing of payment orders.

Today, the FMIS is working in all 25 capital and provincial treasury units, thanks to the Public Financial Management Modernization Project, an initiative co-financed by a trust fund from the European Union, Sweden, and Australia, and administered by the World Bank. The objective of the project is to improve the management of public finance by strengthening revenue mobilization and the processes of budget execution. The system is capable of generating a wealth of information on the management and deployment of the government’s financial resources across an array of programs and projects.

That is not to say everything is working perfectly. Certain issues still need to be addressed.  Additional training to refresh newly acquired skills would be helpful, as would additional equipment such as computers and printers. Better collaboration with commercial banks and clients would also help.

The second phase of the FMIS, which will be financed through budget support from the European Union, will help the Ministry of Economy and Finance to address these issues and to roll out the program to other government agencies. The analogy of cows and televisions may return, but not for long – a new era in the management of public finance in Cambodia has begun.

by · Wednesday, 24 May 2017 · Australia, Cambodia
Learning for all: shared principles for equitable and excellent basic education systems

Learning for all: shared principles for equitable and excellent basic education systems

More than 200 participants – including government officials, policymakers and education experts from over 20 countries gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the global conference Learning for All: Shared Principles for Equitable and Excellent Basic Education Systems.

The conference addressed themes related to improving learning outcomes for all students, including how to support effective teaching and early childhood development, balancing school autonomy and accountability, and how education systems can build the skills needed for the 21st century.   
 

For the host country, Indonesia, the forum provided a valuable chance to look more closely at issues facing its education system.

While Indonesia has made considerable progress on access and education funding (with a commitment to allocate 20% of its budget to education), it faces critical challenges including efficiently using resources in a highly decentralized context, investing in early childhood, and needing to boost teacher quality along with learning outcomes.

Senior officials from Indonesia’s government ministries shared insights into Indonesia’s current reforms including teacher policies, school operating grants, conditional cash transfer programs, and early childhood development strategies.

From the experiences shared as well as research presented, participants were able to draw many relevant lessons to help strengthen their education systems. An overview of education performance in the region from the World Bank’s forthcoming regional Education Flagship Report showed that EAP countries are among the top performers on PISA, and that they have invested heavily in creating excellent education systems. Among these lessons, the conference revealed that high performing systems:

  • carefully select, groom and value their teachers by attracting high performing students into the teaching profession and providing relevant pre-service and in-service training in pedagogy and subject content;
  • create a structure and culture that promotes collaboration between teachers;
  • strategically use targeted measurements to promote accountability and drive reform;
  • invest early in children’s development;
  • view schools and parents as partners in education;
  • and are innovating to connect with industry, in order to link education systems to employment.

Former and current ministry officials also shared relevant lessons from middle income countries including Peru – which embarked on ambitious system-wide changes to promote equity and quality after placing last on PISA in 2012—and Mexico, which has developed a program to give teachers tools to build the socioemotional skills of adolescents in school. These countries face many of the same challenges as Indonesia and other countries in the region and offered important practical lessons and strategies for participants. Harry Anthony Patrinos, Education Manager, World Bank also shared examples from five reforms across the globe.  

The role of measuring education systems was a key topic of discussion as well. Australia shared a critical framework for balancing autonomy and accountability using clearly defined and targeted measures that are transparent and fair.

Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General at the OECD presented an in-depth look at the latest PISA 2015 data. The analysis revealed a range of trends linked to education outcomes and areas with high impact on outcomes including commitment to universal achievement, resource provision where it matters most, and use of incentive structures and accountability systems that work.  

At the same time, a key message emerged from the countries and policymakers present: PISA is not about rankings—success on PISA means learning from PISA. PISA itself is evolving to capture broader aspects beyond math, science and reading (such as well-being and collaborative problem-solving).  These skills are ever more important as trends such as technology and automation continue to shape the labor market of the 21st century. High performing countries such as Singapore are looking to expand their education systems beyond cognitive skills to promote student well-being.

Citing the value of having achievement data to support education reform, India shared its roadmap to strengthen learning outcomes, and its intention to re-join PISA in 2021. A discussion theme, highlighted by India and others throughout the three days, was how many countries have been using IT to innovatively address gaps, such as through computer based testing, capturing and analyzing data, and creating portals to facilitate information sharing.

Participants noted that the conference helped them identify education priorities and policy change opportunities in their own countries, for example Vietnam highlighted that there is still much work to do in the country to link graduates with jobs, and its intention to use data to diagnose its system.   

A follow up conference is tentatively planned for 2018.
 

by · Wednesday, 3 May 2017 · Australia, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam
Cheers, NZ: How New Zealand and the World Bank are changing lives in the Pacific

Cheers, NZ: How New Zealand and the World Bank are changing lives in the Pacific

New Zealand has a long history of supporting its close neighbors in the Pacific, both in times of disaster and emergencies, and to help improve the lives of many thousands across the region.

On Waitangi Day, the national day of New Zealand, we take a look at three key World Bank projects in the Pacific, and how New Zealand’s support has been integral to making them happen.


Papua New Guinea – Business Coalition for Women
Papua New Guinea’s Business Coalition for Women works with 59 companies (and counting) across PNG to highlight the value women bring to the workplace and to demonstrate how empowering women is not only the right thing to do; it’s smart business.

Set up as a joint initiative between the Governments of New Zealand, Australia and the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank Group), the coalition is already making great strides, with working groups set up to address gender-based violence, promote women for leadership positions, expand opportunities for women and develop workplace policies and practices that are helping to break down many of the barriers preventing women from furthering their careers in PNG’s business sector.

Kiribati – Pacific Aviation Investment Project
With 33 islands spread across 3.5 million km2 of ocean, Kiribati is one of the most remote countries on earth. This means safe and reliable air travel is absolutely essential to connect Kiribati to other Pacific Island countries, as well as to larger markets such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Air transport also provides critical emergency response for medical needs or natural disasters.

The government of New Zealand, together with the Governments of Australia, Kiribati and Taiwan, China, is supporting the Kiribati Aviation Investment Project. This project is financing the installation of navigational aids and communications equipment at Kiribati’s two international airports. Work is also being done on airport terminals, runway repairs and other safety, security and sustainability improvements, including four new fire trucks.  

 

A hanger for servicing planes at the airport on South Tarawa island, Kiribati

Vanuatu – Rural Electrification Project
Three-quarters of Vanuatu’s population lives in rural and remote areas, and very few have access to electricity through a grid network. Without grid access, families often use expensive diesel generators to get their electricity, and the Vanuatu Rural Electrification Project is working alongside the government to provide better access to affordable, reliable and sustainable electricity for the people of Vanuatu.

Through the project more than 87,000 people, and more than 2,200 community buildings, such as aid posts, clinics and community halls, will gain access to electricity. As part of the project over 1,000 ‘plug-and-play’ solar kits have already been supplied to communities in many of Vanuatu’s most remote areas. The second phase of this project is now also under preparation with an additional NZD5 million committed by the Government of New Zealand.


 
To learn more about these and other World Bank projects in the Pacific supported by New Zealand, Australia and other countries, visit www.worldbank.org/pacificislands, or follow us on Facebook for more stories and insights from across the Pacific Islands.

by · Monday, 6 February 2017 · Australia, China, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Vanuatu