In December 2006, the Law on Education for Mongolia was amended to extend the education system from 11 to 12 years, and lower the school-entry age from 7 to 6 years in line with international standards. This fundamental change, effective from school year (SY) 2008/09, required updating the curricula, textbooks, teaching–learning materials, and teachers’ skills and knowledge. As it was expected to increase the total student enrollment in primary and secondary education, a greater capacity to plan and manage additional demands for classrooms and other school facilities, teachers, textbooks, and teaching–learning materials was necessary. To help manage these transitional requirements, the government requested the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to finance the Education Sector Reform Project, for which ADB approved a $10 million grant in December 2008.
The project’s overall goal/anticipated impact was improved quality, access, efficiency, and effectiveness of the new education system. Its expected outcome was an effective 12-year education system. It had four components: (i) improving education planning, management, and budgeting; (ii) strengthening pre-service teacher training (PSTT); (iii) enhancing the quality, affordability, and levels of provision of textbooks and other teaching and learning materials, including more innovative use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the classroom; and (iv) providing better learning conditions by upgrading the physical infrastructure of teacher training institutes (TTIs). Three of these four components involved policy reform activities that, because of the change of government in 2012, delayed the achievement of 11 of the 17 project targets.
Despite the delays, the project was able to successfully deliver all its appraisal targets. It supported the design and installation of an education sector information system (ESIS), consisting of eight subsystems, that enabled the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (MECS) to plan, manage, and deliver education services more efficiently. Education finance policies were improved, and a midterm national information and communication technology (ICT) strategy in education was developed.
The pre-service teacher training (PSTT) and teaching practice policy were reformed; a comprehensive quality assurance system for teacher training institutes (TTIs) and a new continuous professional development (CPD) program for teacher educators were put in place; and new teaching–learning materials for TTIs were developed ─ all in line with the requirements of the 12-year education system.
To enhance the quality of textbooks and teachers’ guides in primary schools, trainings were provided to MECS staff, authors, and publishers. Improved textbook submission, evaluation and approval procedures, and technical specifications resulted in cost reduction, and better quality and more durable textbooks. A textbook rental scheme (TRS) and textbook revolving fund (TRF), designed and piloted in four districts of Ulaanbaatar in 2010 and subsequently nationwide from 2011 onwards, improved the availability as well as reduced the cost of textbooks by 40%, as compared to market prices.
22 ICT centers of excellence and 22 teacher development ICT centers were established; a teacher development web portal was developed to encourage collaboration and exchange of ideas and experiences among Mongolian teachers. The use of ICT as a teaching–learning tool was also promoted in poor schools in rural areas. Buildings in three TTIs were rehabilitated, and all six target TTIs were equipped with new library and ICT equipment, and teaching–learning materials.
Successful delivery of all the output targets, with overachievement in some, enabled the project to significantly support Mongolia’s complete transition to the 12-year education system in SY2014/15 and achieve three of its four outcome targets, also overachieving in some. Enrollment of 6-year-olds increased to 98% for both boys and girls, surpassing the target 95%. Student transition rate from grade 11 to 12 was 99%, exceeding the target 60%.
Student transition rate from lower (grade 9) to upper (grade 10) secondary education, however, decreased from 81% in SY2003/04 to 79% in SY2013/14, missing the target of 85%. A possible explanation was the increased enrollment in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programs, which may have been encouraged by the provision of monthly stipends to TVET students. Taking TVET enrollment into account, the student transition rate from lower to upper secondary reached 99%. The completion rates of boys in secondary education jumped from 45% in 2007 to 97% in 2013. Moreover, the gender parity index at the secondary level improved from 1.11 in SY2007/08 to 1.02 in SY2014/15.
Apart from achieving most of the outcome targets, the project also contributed to improving the internal efficiency of the grades 1–9 education system during the transition to the 12-year education system. For both boys and girls, the average promotion rate by grade consequently increased and conversely, the average repetition and dropout rates by grade significantly decreased from their SY2006/07 to SY 2013/14 levels.
MECS acted as executing agency for this project, rated highly successful by ADB’s East Asia Department. A project implementation unit was responsible for day-to-day management and implementation and coordination of all project activities.