Over the course of the two years of its implementation, Ilm Ideas 2 has gone back and forth on how to work with the public sector in the education innovation space. Can the government innovate? There are examples of dynamic civil servants and politicians pioneering innovative new approaches to improve public service delivery. However, the Ilm Ideas 2 programme cannot fund public sector innovations directly. Can the government adopt innovations from outside the public sector? Theoretically yes, but the mechanism for deliberate adoption remains ambiguous.
The role of the public sector lies at the intersection of all this. As the largest provider of education services, the government is not only a potential buyer, but drives and shapes the demand for education products and services. This makes the public sector, its priorities, and gaps in delivery, even more relevant.
Earlier this year, Ilm 2 convened a meeting with representatives from Government of Punjab’s (GoPb) education sector and the DFID-funded Punjab Education Support Programme (PESP II) team.
The objective of the meeting was simple; to share the innovations Ilm 2 was funding with representatives from the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF), Directorate of Staff Development (DSD), Programme Monitoring and Implementation Unit, and the PESP II team. The grantees invited were those specifically working on interventions that are currently relevant to the GoPb. These included ITU’s e-Learn Punjab programme, CGN-P’s Parwaan pre-school programme, Multinet’s MeraSABAQ platform, and AZCorp’s Jasoosun Sheeba comic series.
Each grantee pitched their product to the GoPb representatives present. Multinet offered to scale SABAQ across PEF schools. They shared snippets of their video content and discussed the multiple mechanisms for delivery and implementation, including the full range of features for engaging students and teachers, to the ‘lite’ low-cost version requiring minimal hardware that can be used for teacher training.
Children’s Global Network Pakistan (CGN-P) pitched Parwaan, their early childhood education (ECE) model, for adoption in PEF schools, at a minimal increase in the PEF voucher. The ECE training and learning materials were also offered to DSD, who are interested in developing an ECE teacher training module.
ITU built on their experience of piloting e-Learn Punjab for a year. They shared feedback from project beneficiaries and made a compelling case for scaling it across Punjab through the support of DSD and PMIU networks.
Finally, AZCorp, made a stunning showcase of their graphics and content for the Jasoosun Sheeba comic series. This intervention, which cleverly marries the most exciting elements of a detective novel series with development of critical maths and science concepts, offers real learning gains. It can potentially reinvigorate student interest in science and math; a cause that has recently gained traction in government.
The meeting culminated in networking and, hopefully, the start of many conversations between these innovators and their potential adopters. The role of the government in this space will evolve. They may be buyers of these services or creators of an enabling environment for new players to work and thrive in. Even if the government does not directly participate, the availability of these innovative, low cost, high quality education products in the market, will give people choices; choices that will create competition and will push the government to innovate and collaborate.