NGOs and traditional voluntary organisations in Pakistan’s education sector

NGOs and traditional voluntary organisations in Pakistan’s education sector

Non-profit organisations in Pakistan's voluntary sector

International development institutions encourage non-profit organisations to provide education in developing countries. They argue these organisations deliver education more efficiently than the state and more equitably than the private sector. But non-profit organisations may be driven by different concerns, and cannot replace the state. Research from the University of Oxford, in the UK, distinguishes between the education provided by two kinds of non-profit organisations: non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Traditional Voluntary Organisations (TVOs). The study considers whether they can provide meaningful education for large numbers of poor people and if they are distinct from the state and the market. Pakistan, with an adult literacy rate of just 50 percent, is an interesting case study: around half of its 45,000 registered non-profit organisations provide education. Pakistan's current Education Sector Reform plan emphasises the role of education provision by NGOs, to address the problems of equity caused by private education that poor people cannot afford.The study argues that rather than addressing the needs of poor people, NGOs cultivate education markets for the private sector. Drawing on a survey of 20 prominent non-profit education providers in Pakistan during 2003 and 2004, the study compares NGOs and TVOs, and finds that:•TVOs emphasise formal education, matriculation and certification. They help academic students enter higher or vocational education. •NGOs focus on non-formal education as a process, whereby a project targets a village and engages the community to provide locally appropriate education.•TVO schools use buildings with separate classrooms, tables and chairs for students. NGO schools use donated one-room buildings, with children often sitting on the floor. •All TVO teachers have university degrees and most have government teaching certificates. NGO teachers are more intensely trained and monitored. •NGOs experiment with innovative teaching methods, child-centred learning and audio-visual aids. •TVOs claim post-secondary education is crucial to move out of poverty. NGOs consider non-formal education as the only way to reach poor children in remote communities. The findings reveal that NGO and TVO education programmes differ more in structure than in teaching practice. TVOs aim to promote better livelihoods through education and work with a philosophy of social responsibility. NGOs are tied to the donor funding cycle and refer to education as a Millennium Development Goal. Both emphasise participation but TVOs mobilise the middle and upper classes, whereas NGOs focus on community participation and are totally reliant upon donor money. Policymakers should be aware that: •Non-profit organisations do not mitigate the negative effects of privatisation and cannot replace the state in serving poor people.•NGOs should be seen as part of the private sector as they create willingness amongst parents to pay for education and desire amongst children to attend school.•TVOs cannot reach all poor people, but NGOs create a market for the private sector rather than meet the needs of poor people.