Equitable access to school increased significantly in Nepal between 2006 and 2016. The gender gap in school enrollments reduced by 2.8% during this 10-year period. However, the government noticed that other disparities limited access to quality education for children.
The government created the Consolidated Equity Strategy for the School Education Sector in 2014 to strengthen equity in education, primarily through measuring existing disparities and taking action to address them. Nepal’s Equity Index was launched in 2017 to operationalize the equity strategy and target the most disadvantaged school districts.
An Innovative Financing Tool for the Education Sector
The Ministry of Education developed the Equity Index with support from UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), World Bank. It is an innovative tool that enables the Ministry to rank the prevalence of disparities in educational outcomes, access and participation in schools and allocate resources to schools based on data that calls out specific needs. It exists within the Education Management Information System (EMIS) in the Department of Education.
The Equity Index uses data on gender, geography, socio-economic status, ethnicity and caste, and disability to create an “equity score” for each district. The planners and policy-makers rank districts according to their respective index scores. The data and the index are shared at all levels in the education sector to ensure the inclusion of district-specific disparities. This data sharing helps the government allocate resources as part of budget planning activity and considers the outcomes for further planning.
Indicators of Education Outcomes
A few critical components or indicators were needed to measure the efficacy of the Equity Index in Nepal. These include the percentage of children not enrolled in schools, survival rates (children repeating levels and/or dropping out), learning outcomes and levels of education: Basic (Grades 1-8) and Secondary (Grades 9-12).
Nepal’s Equity Index Piloted in 2017
Nepal’s basic education sector encompasses over 30,000 schools and approximately 8 million students between Grades 1 and 10. In 2017, more than 700,000 children of school age were not in primary or secondary school across the country.
Schools are allocated a budget annually based on the number of students enrolled. However, the needs of these schools could be different. For example, a school that needs some sort of food scheme for students may be in a community that cannot afford school supplies. In such cases, the Equity Index could aid in helping decision-makers allocate the extra funds needed to procure school supplies.
Using the Equity Index, the government identified five districts as part of the initial scope for targeted interventions in 2017. The interventions are usually proposed by the district stakeholders (which could include parents and guardians), including communication campaigns and community mobilization for children who are out of school. The Equity Index observed that out of 109,500 children who were out of school in these five districts, approximately 22% enrolled due to these interventions.
Reaching the Disadvantaged Made Feasible
Nepal’s Equity Index resulted in remarkable progress, increasing coverage from 6% (5 out of 75 districts chosen in 2017) to 20% by 2019, enabling the government to allocate additional budget for targeted interventions in these districts.
In 2019, the U.N. verified that there was more than a 50% reduction in out-of-school children in these targeted districts.
Understanding the nature of barriers to access and learning is critical to ensuring inclusion and equity in the education sector. The Equity Index in Nepal enables its government to compare severities in disparities across districts and take the necessary actions to guarantee targeted interventions where they are most needed.
– Sudha Krishnaswami