The Good News from Punjab & 10 Lessons for Leaders

A British think tank released a report by Sir Michael Barber about progress in Pakistan subtitled “How a revolutionary new approach to education reform in Punjab shows the way forward for Pakistan and development aid everywhere.”
In addition to being Chief Education Advisor at Pearson, Barber serves as an unpaid Special Representative on Education for Department for International Development (DfID) in Pakistan–where he has been spending big chunks of time since 2009.
The report is about reforms in Punjab, home to half of the 180 million Pakistanis and a province likely to influence the direction of the nation.  Barber notes, “What Punjab does, the other provinces tend to follow.”

In December 2010, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab, signed up for a bold plan, the Punjab Schools Reform Roadmap, based on the global evidence of what works in school system reform.  The report concludes, “It’s working,” and “This is only the beginning.”
“Sound ideas, gutsy policy, and dogged implementation add up to a remarkable and positive development in a place more often known for woe,” said Fordham’s review.   Rapid facilities improvement and ratcheted up administrator visits resulted in significant increases in teacher and student attendance.
Lessons for Leaders.  In a forward to Barbers report, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said, “…we must lay the groundwork for a new kind of knowledge, what some have called a ‘science of delivery’, that countries will use to meet the demands of their people.”  The science of delivery has really been Sir Michael’s life work.  As Blair’s aide on ‘deliverology’ he was behind improvements ranging from trains to trash to teaching.
Barber is obviously heavily invested in the work in Punjab and the pride he takes in the progress is matched by the enthusiasm he has for the framework.  The report concludes with ten lessons for leaders:

  1. Be ambitious
  2. Set clear goals
  3. Prepare and plan and get on with it; you can refine it as you go
  4. Establish routines that work
  5. The conversation must be honest
  6. Know what’s really happening
  7. Refine constantly but don’t compromise
  8. Create momentum
  9. Persist
  10. Build a guiding coalition and ever-widening circles of leadership – it beats “technical assistance” every time
Having written about the brutally hard work of urban education reform in 20 US cities, Barber’s hard-won  lessons certainly apply to domestic work as well as international development.
For donors, Barber adds, “Focus on the change that is needed and what it will take to deliver it; work back from there to the money.”
There appears to be a good chance this work will scale, “For the whole country, an Innovation Fund has been set up by DfID to support innovations that might have the potential to accelerate educational progress at scale in the future.”
Yesterday we ran a review of Barber’s last report, An Avalanche of Change is Coming in Higher Ed.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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