ISLAMABAD: The World Bank has initiated preparation of a programme to strengthen federal and provincial governments’ institutions, policies and coordination for reducing the impact of external shocks on the education system, and increasing access to quality education in disadvantaged districts of the country, according to reliable sources. It is likely that the bank will provide financing of $200 million for the programme. It will focus on response, recovery and resilience for better coordination and innovative alternatives for out-of-school children. A World Bank team has started working with the government to adjust national priorities as they currently do not account for the medium and long-term effects the Covid-19 virus will have on its ability to provide an equitable quality education. Pandemic has badly affected a system that faced challenges even before the outbreak of coronavirus A World Bank document on the project says the current government education strategies will require adjustments to respond to the pandemic, corrective measures to reduce the socio-economic impact on education, and increased preparedness for future emergencies. The potential economic effects of Covid-19 will likely reduce available resources for the most disadvantaged districts in the country, exacerbating even further regional disparities in education expenditure and, hence, educational outcomes. The document says that even before the pandemic, the education system in Pakistan faced substantial challenges in access, quality, and management. Before the pandemic, the country had the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world, estimated at 22.8 million children (or 44 per cent of all 51.5 million children) who are not receiving primary or secondary education. Learning poverty was high: 75 per cent of 10-year-olds cannot read and comprehend an age-appropriate text. In addition, the education system is highly inefficient with high repetition and retention rates. Under the programme, a federal-to-province performance grant programme would be initiated to offer financial support and on-demand technical assistance to provinces to focus on the most disadvantaged areas in the country. The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training will provide equal per-pupil financial and technical assistance to participating provinces who undertake to work with individual rural and remote areas to further the programme objectives. The proposed programme will respond to the current Covid-19 crisis, building on the activities under the education component in pandemic response effectiveness in Pakistan project to set up distance learning and create platforms for collaboration with provinces and private sector. It is expected to help with the recovery by supporting activities to get children, teachers, and administrators, back to school in a safe way, including initiatives to bring back to school those children who are likely to drop out from school given the socio-economic effects of Covid-19. The programme will disrupt the pre-Covid-19 status quo by setting up a new system of incentives for provinces to invest in the most disadvantaged geographical areas for the country.