Education Sector Program (Subprograms I-III): Program Completion Report
sector: Education | country: Nepal
Three salient lessons emerged from the Education Sector Program (ESP). First, program design needs to strike a balance between strategic selection of key policy and a holistic approach. Transformation of the education system needs a wide range of reforms and while the ESP included broad policy actions, initial policy dialogue suffered from lack of depth to induce critical policy changes. Sequenced strategic priorities need to be identified through the guidance of the highest ministerial committee, such as the Education Policy Committee (EPC). Similarly, a comprehensive design and monitoring framework (DMF) is necessary, but it needs to be aligned with the program objective rather than the entire government program. The indicators require consistency among the subprograms, at least at outcome level, and be within reach through the concerted efforts of the government and donors with midcourse corrections.
Second, prioritized policy actions in the sector-wide approach (SWAp) need to be supported by sound public financial management and supervision, under the decentralized education system. The education quality outcomes hardly improved and fiduciary risk remains substantial. Numerous policies and guidelines were revised at the central level and disseminated at the local level, but they were not enforced in the field due to weak capacity and local politics. Slow progress in public financial management might undermine the continued engagement of development partners, and inadequate supervision could nurture political favoritism and nepotism.
Third, capacity development requires coordinated institutional and funding mechanisms. The weak local enforcement can be addressed through a good mix of international best practice and contextual understanding. However, the program faced difficulties in the timely recruitment of experts using the country system. The Education Program Support Office (EPSO) partly addressed this issue but was eventually dissolved as a result of discontinued funding, and ad-hoc technical assistance (TA) from development partners increased transaction costs, which is against the spirit of the SWAp. Reinvigorating capacity development mechanisms, by sustainable institutions and funding, is key to making a difference.