Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) - AQAL Project
The Advancing Quality Alternative Learning (AQAL) Project is a significant initiative that addresses the educational needs of socially vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals in Pakistan, with a particular focus on women. The project aims to provide alternative education opportunities by recognizing the interconnectedness of literacy, life skills, and vocational education. It leverages the collaboration between JICA's developmental projects in Pakistan, including those related to livestock and agricultural practices, to promote cooperation and synergy.
The AQAL Project primarily targets children, young people, and adults who possess limited or no literacy skills. It offers them a chance to acquire basic reading and writing abilities and essential life skills through participation in non-formal basic education and literacy classes. The carefully designed curriculum of the program focuses on improving their proficiency in Urdu and English, as well as enhancing their mathematical knowledge and daily life skills.
Launched in September 2015, the AQAL Project has been implemented across the provinces of Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh, as well as in Pakistan's federal areas. It operates through a collaborative effort involving JICA, Pakistan's Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, and the respective provincial governmental agencies responsible for non-formal education and literacy. The successful implementation of the project is further supported by key organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UNICEF, UNESCO, and the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), among others. Each of these organizations plays a crucial role in providing necessary resources and expertise to drive the project's objectives forward.
Through the AQAL Project, individuals who have been marginalized or face educational disadvantages are given an opportunity to acquire fundamental literacy skills and essential life skills. By combining education with practical vocational training and linking it to broader developmental initiatives, the project aims to empower individuals and enhance their prospects for a better future. The collaborative efforts of multiple organizations ensure a comprehensive approach to addressing educational disparities and promoting inclusive learning opportunities throughout Pakistan.
Aims and Objectives
The AQAL Project is driven by a clear set of objectives that aim to improve the livelihoods of children, young people, and adults while fostering inclusive and peaceful societies in Pakistan. These objectives are instrumental in creating a positive impact on individuals and society as a whole:
Enhancing Literacy and Life Skills: The project seeks to develop the literacy, language, mathematics, and life skills of socially vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals, particularly women. By equipping them with these essential skills, the project empowers them to actively contribute to the socio-economic development of Pakistan. This focus on education and skills development enables individuals to improve their livelihoods and pursue greater opportunities.
Strengthening the Non-Formal Education System: The AQAL Project is committed to enhancing the non-formal education system in Pakistan. It aims to build the institutional capacity of both public and private providers involved in non-formal education. By supporting these providers, the project facilitates the promotion of non-formal education policies and the delivery of quality programs. Strengthening the non-formal education system ensures a sustainable and effective framework for providing education opportunities to those who may have limited access to formal schooling.
Ensuring Learning Continuity and Cross-Sector Alliances: The AQAL Project recognizes the importance of seamless learning progression across different levels of education. It emphasizes the need for learning continuity, starting from pre-primary education and extending to higher education. By promoting cross-sector alliances between non-formal education initiatives and the formal school system, the project aims to bridge gaps and create synergies between different educational sectors. This collaboration ensures a smooth educational journey for learners and promotes holistic development.
Through these objectives, the AQAL Project aims to create a transformative impact on individuals and communities. By providing essential skills, strengthening the non-formal education system, and promoting learning continuity, the project contributes to the development of inclusive and peaceful societies in Pakistan. By empowering individuals with education and skills, the project paves the way for social and economic progress, fostering a more equitable and prosperous future for all.
JICA collaborates with Pakistan's Ministry of Federal Education and provincial governmental agencies to implement the AQAL Project. JICA provides technical assistance, supporting the development of educational policies, standards, curricula, and teaching materials. The ministry ensures coordination with national educational policies, while provincial agencies offer financial support for establishing non-formal education centers.
The different modules and the stages of the programme implementation cycle are shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Modules, contents and implementation cycle of the AQAL Project. Source: JICA.
For both modules, learning sessions are held for three to four hours a day, five days a week. On average, the teacher/student ratio is 1:30-35.
Learning sessions take place in school classrooms after school hours, or during school hours in facilities provided by the local community where the learning schedule can be defined according to participants’ needs and preferences. The classrooms are equipped with one table and chair for the teacher, one cupboard and one blackboard. Students usually sit on mats during lessons. Since 2016 the programme has been implemented in a total of 429 locations throughout the provinces of Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh, and the federal areas.
The AQAL Project offers two modules: Non-Formal Basic Education (NFBE) and Adult Literacy. The NFBE module targets out-of-school children aged 5-14, providing them with basic education and literacy skills. The Adult Literacy module focuses on learners aged 15-45, teaching Urdu, English, numeracy, and everyday life skills.
Teaching and Learning Approach
The AQAL Project follows an integrated, learner-centered approach. Students learn multiple subjects simultaneously, with a focus on their needs and interests. Multi-grade teaching allows for peer learning, while relevant and dynamic content reflects practical life skills. Phonetic methods are used for literacy, incorporating provincial languages. The learning environment is interactive, utilizing visual aids and printed materials.
Curriculum and Teaching Materials
The AQAL Project's content was developed collaboratively, incorporating local stories and traditions. Textbooks cover various subjects, and the life skills curriculum includes ethics, home management, access to services, disaster management, and health and nutrition. The income generation curriculum enhances financial management and vocational skills.
AQAL Project facilitators teach part-time and undergo pre-service and in-service training. While specific teaching qualifications are not required, preference is given to candidates with higher education or relevant experience. Facilitators receive training in content mastery, teaching approaches, classroom management, and assessment.
Enrolment of Learners
Recruitment methods include community mobilization and word-of-mouth. Village education committees and facilitators play a vital role in enrollment. Learners register directly at the learning centers, ensuring accessibility and convenience.
Assessment of Learning Outcomes
Learners' skills are assessed using entry-level tools. The curriculum aligns with formal education standards, and certificates are awarded upon completion. The certificates are recognized for continuing education and mainstreaming. Learners can further their education, participate in vocational training, or enhance their employability.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Continuous monitoring and evaluation processes are in place to assess the effectiveness and impact of the AQAL Project. Regular assessments ensure the quality of education and inform improvements in the implementation process.
A screenshot of the NF-EMIS system (http://www.nfemis.net/)