The Advancing Quality Alternative Learning (AQAL) Project, Pakistan

  • Date published:
    18 April 2018

Programme Overview

Programme Title The Advancing Quality Alternative Learning (AQAL) Project
Implementing Organizations Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, Pakistan; Literacy & Non Formal Basic Education Department, Punjab province; School Education and Literacy Department, Sindh province; Social Welfare, Special Education, Non Formal, Literacy and Human Rights Department, Balochistan province
Languages of Instruction Urdu and English. Teachers may also use provincial languages such as Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi and Balochi to support learners.
Funding Government of Japan; Government of Pakistan, provincial governments
Programme Partners National Commission for Human Development (NCHD); Academy of Educational Planning and Management (AEPAM); Sindh Education Foundation (SEF); Basic Education Community Schools (BECS); National Education Foundation (NEF); United States Agency for International Development(USAID); UNICEF and UNESCO.
Date of Inception September 2015


Country Context and Background


With nearly 189 million inhabitants (UIS, 2015), Pakistan is the sixth most populated country in the world. It was ranked 106th of 113 countries in the Education for All (EFA) Development Index (UNESCO, 2012) and 147th of 188 countries in the Human Development Report (UNDP, 2016).

Although its economy has shown some positive signs of recovery since the turn of the millennium, Pakistan faces multiple challenges concerning poverty, education and gender equality. Despite a significant decline in the headcount poverty rate, which went from 64.3 per cent in 2001–2002 to 29.5 per cent in 2013–2014 (World Bank, 2017), more than 85 million Pakistani citizens – 45 per cent of the total population – live on less than US $3.10 a day (UIS, 2015).

Adult literacy rates in Pakistan are among the lowest in the world: 53,483,715 people aged 15 and above have low or no literacy skills, which represents 43.5 per cent of the country’s adult population. In addition, nearly 10 million people aged between 15 and 24 lack basic literacy skills, of which 6 million (61.3 per cent) are young women (UIS, 2015).

Large disparities remain regarding young and adult women’s access to education. Of the total number of adults who lack literacy skills, more than 34 million (64.3 per cent) are women. Significant gender gaps persist in formal school enrolment, with the male net enrolment rate surpassing that of females by nearly 12 percentage points in primary education and by more than 10 points in secondary education (UIS, 2015).

Besides education, young and adult women in Pakistan suffer discrimination at each stage of their lifespans. For example, they struggle with restricted opportunities for socio-political participation, deficient female health care, inadequate nutrition and sex-selective abortions. It is estimated that a girl between her first and fifth birthdays in Pakistan has a 30 to 50 per cent greater chance of dying than a boy of the same age (UNDP, 2016).

To support Pakistan in overcoming these challenges, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been providing assistance to improve the health, safety and security of individuals in Pakistan since 1990. Its ultimate goal is to help build a stable society while also promoting private sector-led economic growth through grants, developmental aid and technical cooperation in key areas such as education, health, voluntary work, public participation, infrastructure, and disaster relief (JICA, 2012).

The AQAL Project

The Advancing Quality Alternative Learning (AQAL) Project is a non-formal learning programme that aims to provide alternative education opportunities for socially vulnerable and disadvantaged people in Pakistan, especially women. It does so by promoting and utilizing the connections between literacy, life skills and vocational education, and by linking together JICA’s broader developmental projects in Pakistan to promote cooperation between them, for instance, those designed to improve livestock and agricultural practices.

The AQAL Project offers children, young people and adults with low or no literacy skills an opportunity to acquire basic reading and writing skills as well as life skills by participating in non-formal basic education and literacy classes. The programme’s curriculum is designed to improve their knowledge of Urdu and English as well as to enhance their maths and daily life skills.

The AQAL Project was launched in September 2015 and has been implemented in the provinces of Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh, and in Pakistan’s federal areas. It is run jointly by JICA, Pakistan’s Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, and the relevant provincial governmental agencies in charge of non-formal education and literacy. The implementing organizations also rely on the support of the United States Agency for International Development(USAID), UNICEF, UNESCO, and the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), among others. These organizations’ roles are further explained in the following sections.

A total of 12,919 learners have so far enrolled in the AQAL Project, of whom nearly 66.5 per cent are female. Since its inception, the project has been free for all participants.

Aims and Objectives

The AQAL Project aims to provide learning opportunities for children, young people and adults so they can improve their livelihoods, with the ultimate goal of fostering inclusive and peaceful societies in Pakistan. This programme’s specific objectives are:

  • To develop the literacy, language, maths and life skills of socially vulnerable and disadvantaged people, especially women, to enable them to contribute to socio-economic development in Pakistan.
  • o strengthen the non-formal education system in Pakistan by developing the institutional capacity of public and private providers, supporting them in the promotion of non-formal education policies and the delivery of quality programmes.
  • To ensure learning continuity between ascending levels of education (from pre-primary to higher education), and promote cross-sector alliances between non-formal education initiatives and the formal school system.

Programme Implementation

Responsibility for the implemenation of the AQAL Project is shared by JICA, Pakistan’s Ministry of Federal Education, and the provincial governmental agencies in charge of non-formal education and literacy:

  • Through JICA, the Government of Japan provides technical assistance to develop educational policies, learning standards, the programme’s curricula, teaching and learning materials, data assessment and management systems, and staff management in the target areas and provinces.
  • The provincial governments as well as the programme’s partners assist in providing funds to establish non-formal basic education and literacy centres in their respective geographical areas. The specific roles of the provincial governments and the development partners may vary according to the needs of each area.

The AQAL Project offers two learning modules, each designed to fit learners’ different ages and educational needs:

  • A non-formal basic education (NFBE) module for out-of-school children and young people aged between five and 14 years, with a duration of two years and eight months.
  • An adult literacy module for learners aged between 15 and 45 years, with a duration of six months.

The adult literacy module includes lessons in Urdu, English, numeracy and everyday life skills. Learners who successfully complete this module can continue to improve their literacy skills with extra coaching sessions. Once they are ready, they can either transfer to the more comprehensive NFBE module to achieve their primary education certificate, or prepare for the job market by taking part in a three-month pre-vocational training course. This course comprises skill-based trade-specific learning modules on income generation and saving activities as well as career guidance sessions, which enable learners to access more advanced vocational skill programmes offered by the local Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) authorities. 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.

Teaching and Learning: Approaches and Methodologies

The AQAL Project uses an integrated, learner-centred and multi-grade teaching and learning approach:

  • Students acquire and improve their basic skills in an integrated way, learning various subjects simultaneously; the time frame is shorter than that of the formal school system.
  • Curriculum design and session organization are learner-oriented, focusing on participants’ needs, interests and prior knowledge.
  • The chosen multi-grade teaching approach allows learners from different levels and skills to attend lessons together in one classroom.

As one teacher leads lessons for groups with varying levels of ability, the curriculum is designed to help the teacher manage sessions in a dynamic and interactive way, with content and approaches that are relevant to students’ day-to-day lives and socio-economic background. In the following section, the programme’s contents are further explained.

Literacy classes are based on a phonetic method that teaches students to associate letters and words with their respective sounds and pronunciation. This method encourages students to grow aware of vowels and consonants, so they are gradually able to read words and phrases in Urdu and English. Although the main language of instruction is Urdu, the programme also includes English lessons in which participants learn basic words and phrases and improve their English communication skills.

In both Urdu and English, the learning of everyday language skills is highlighted to enable learners to perform daily tasks such as using their mobile phones, using ATM machines, understanding utility bills and reading medication prescriptions. Teachers may also use some words or phrases in provincial languages such as Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi and Balochi to enable all participants to better understand the lessons.

During a typical session, the teachers will explain the content orally and on the blackboard. A green board is also available for both the teacher and the students to display notices and important information. To promote an enabling and interactive learning environment, printed and hand-written charts developed during sessions are displayed in the classrooms, highlighting important content and showing diagrams or pictures that help participants during their learning process.

The curriculum of the NFBE module:

As Figure 1 shows, the NFBE curriculum comprises three learning packages, which are equivalent to the first five grades of the Pakistani formal education system: Package A (nursery and Grade 1), Package B (Grades 2 and 3), and Package C (Grades 4 and 5). To build links between various subjects, the content for Urdu, English, social studies, maths and general science are integrated into one textbook for each package. This way, learners improve their language and literacy skills while studying different subjects, achieving multiple competencies and skills.

The textbook used in Package A has many pictures and practical activities to encourage students’ imagination and thought, and less written content. In Package B, the textbook serves as a workbook: learners are presented with exercises that require them to read and write. Once learners reach the third phase of the NFBE programme, they start learning with a more standardised subject-based approach, with content organised according to the field of study. In Package C, a textbook used in Grade 5 of the formal education system is used, together with supplementary materials especially designed for the NFBE module.

The curriculum of the adult literacy module:

This curriculum is based on the 2007 Adult Literacy Curriculum developed by the federal government of Pakistan. As Figure 2 shows, it contains three main areas: basic literacy, life skills and income generation skills.

Figure 2. Adult literacy module curriculum. Source: JICA.

The basic literacy curriculum includes three textbooks covering Urdu, numeracy and English. The implementing organizations are currently developing a revised version of the basic literacy materials to further customize their content to learners’ daily lives.

Textbooks for Urdu, numeracy and English

The life skills curriculum includes a teacher’s manual and various posters, booklets and games that deal with the following subjects:

  • Ethics and morals: notions such as honesty, mutual respect, tolerance, equality, discipline, perseverance, courtesy, appreciation, and the importance of community service are covered.
  • Home management: comprises subjects such as household management and budgeting, optimal use of available resources, home safety, family responsibilities and the education of children at home.
  • Access to basic facilities and public services: participants learn about different facilities available in their local area and how to access them, for instance, medical services, vaccinations, education, and personal certificates such as ID cards, passports or voting registration forms. Students receive guidance on how to apply for scholarships and loans, approach municipal authorities or ask for legal counselling.
  • Disaster management: learners raise their awareness of precautionary measures and post-disaster management and rehabilitation. They learn about potential forms of disaster (earthquakes, fires, floods, land slides, etc.) and about first aid, evacuation routes and post-disaster information sources.
  • Health and nutrition: participants are taught about organic food and household goods that can be obtained locally to improve their health, hygiene and nutrition. They also learn about childcare and issues related to maternity and pregnancy.

The income generation curriculum covers activities that can help participants improve their daily financial management skills, either by increasing their savings or generating more income by developing a new project or commercial activity. Learning materials for this module include one book on income savings and several trade-specific guides for income-generation activities. In this module, participants improve their vocational skills and learn the guiding principles for engaging in trade, best practices, main tools, occupational safety and health issues, and basic trade measurements, among other work-related content.

The adult literacy module also relies on the following supplementary materials:

  • A notebook that encourages female learners from rural areas to record their daily life by writing about important events and personal plans for the future. This activity’s objective is to raise girls and women’s interest in writing and make them aware of the importance of record keeping and future planning.
  • Posters that display important information about adult literacy, health, nutrition, rights, first aid, and environmental protection, among other subjects.

A poster on numeracy (measurements)

A poster on peace and tolerance

Programme Content and Teaching Materials

JICA developed the programme’s content in cooperation with Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments. The curricula were developed jointly with the respective bureaus of curriculum (BoCs), while the teaching and learning materials were designed in cooperation with the provincial textbook boards. The teachers’ training manuals were developed jointly with the Provincial Institutes for Teacher Education.

The partner entities NCHD and BECS, among others, were engaged in consultations during the curriculum design phase and production of learning materials. Teaching and learning materials were developed through a participatory process in which local experts and subject specialists in the field of pedagogy were also engaged. In addition, national book development standards were used as guidelines, along with other international standards and practices in non-formal education and literacy.

The AQAL Project uses teaching and learning materials that are relevant to daily life. For example, maths exercises are based on stories and real life situations, and health and nutrition are related to hygiene and personal care. The textbooks used also include local stories and references to folk traditions as well as images that resemble local rural life. Another important feature is that the learning material developed for this project is gender-balanced: men and women are equally represented in the pictures and activities, and female characters are often portrayed in lead roles.

Teachers are provided with a guidebook that gives comprehensive advice on the activities and methods that should be applied while delivering learning sessions. The guidebook assists facilitators in the achievement of participants’ learning outcomes, and links the content and skills with the curriculum’s learning objectives.

Recruitment of Facilitators

Facilitators working for the AQAL Project are paid and employed on a part-time basis, being required to teach from three to four hours a day, five days a week. Although minimum qualifications vary among the provinces, facilitators are required to have passed their secondary school diploma, which corresponds to 10 years of formal education. They must also be at least 18 years old and, though there is no maximum age limit, they should be physically fit and able to manage diverse groups of students. Usually, preference is given to candidates who reside in or near the location in which they will teach.

Most facilitators do not have a specific teaching qualification, as there is no mandatory requirement for university studies or professional training in education. However, candidates with professional training or a higher education degree are usually given priority over candidates without such qualifications. It is also desirable, but not mandatory, that facilitators have some experience of non-formal education. Candidates with experience in teaching are preferred over those without, and experience in any other profession related to education, marketing or management is also considered. For example, retired public school facilitators are eligible to apply.

As their engagement is project-based, facilitators cannot apply for a permanent position or ask for teacher regularization. There are no grades or scale levels among facilitators working for the AQAL Project. A waiting list of candidates who were considered for the post is kept on record, so the next available applicant can be easily engaged if a position becomes vacant. If the next candidate on the waiting list is not available to teach in a specific centre or location, the local implementing organization will begin an ad hoc recruitment process at the local level.

Training of Facilitators

After recruitment, facilitators take part in a mandatory capacity-building programme that comprises pre- and in-service training sessions. Pre-service training lasts a minimum of six days, although the duration varies from region to region. For this project, JICA has supported the provincial authorities in developing teacher training modules and teachers’ manuals. At the federal level, the NCHD organizes teacher training for the learning centres under its geographical coverage. In turn, provincial directorates and local non-formal education providers such as NGOs organize their own pre- and in-service training for their learning centres. The content areas of the pre-service training are:

  • Mastery of content: facilitators receive training on the curriculum and teaching-learning materials, for instance, they learn how to use the programme’s textbooks and guidebooks as well as master their content and subjects.
  • Pedagogical and andragogical skills: facilitators are taught to lead interactive, student-centred and instructive teaching approaches in the classroom, with a focus on effective strategies for adult education.
  • Classroom management: facilitators are trained in session organization and maintaining an appropriate learning environment.
  • Child and adult psychology: facilitators’ soft skills such as confidence-building and empathy vis-à-vis learners of varying abilities and age are strengthened.
  • Assessment: facilitators are trained to conduct classroom-based and teacher-led assessments.

At least one month after pre-service training, follow-up sessions are conducted with facilitators to assess their development and decide upon the need for in-service training. The follow-up sessions are classroom-based, using one specific classroom as an observation unit for training-need assessment. Based on the results of these sessions, additional training and refresher courses are organized, which usually take place over two or three days. In addition to refresher courses, facilitators take part in professional development training for one day per month. This allows facilitators to get together to share their experiences and challenges, and discuss possible solutions to common problems.

Enrolment of Learners

Potential learners are recruited through campaigns and community mobilization activities carried out by village education committees, non-formal education provincial officers, facilitators and school teachers. As most facilitators are community members, they can easily identify local needs and recruit new participants.

The programme is also publicized through word-of-mouth. Former students often serve as spokespeople and help raise local awareness of the programme. In addition, speakers from local mosques are asked to give out information about new learning centres and start dates. Participants enrol directly at the learning centres and their registration is managed by facilitators in cooperation with village education committees.

Assessment of Learning Outcomes

For both the NFBE and adult literacy modules, an entry-level assessment tool is used to evaluate learners’ skills and abilities before sessions begin. New participants undergo an initial learning assessment to ascertain their reading, writing and numeracy skills. During this written placement test, learners are asked to answer questions or tackle basic exercises.

The assessment tools used in the AQAL Project also vary according to the module:

  • In the NFBE module, learning outcomes are evaluated through continual observation and a final-stage assessment tool developed by the provincial staff, using the standards and learning objectives defined during the curriculum development phase.
  • In the adult literacy module, teachers conduct structured observations, individual interviews and group discussions to assess learners’ skills in reading, writing and numeracy. Learners are also required to answer questions and do written exercises weekly and monthly, and to take part in mid- and final-term evaluations.

The AQAL Project’s curriculum has been developed within an equivalence framework that links the standards and learning objectives of the NFBE and adult literacy modules to those of the formal education curricula, in terms of both learning outcomes and the curriculum development standards required by governmental authorities. The modules are certified and accredited by the relevant assessment and examination bodies, and the adult literacy and NFBE certificates are therefore valid and accepted in public and private schools for continuing education and mainstreaming purposes.

As Figure 1 shows, once participants successfully complete the six-month adult literacy module or the first two phases of the NFBE module – each lasting eight months – they achieve a Literacy Certificate that attests to their basic reading, writing and numeracy skills. The completion certificates are provided by the provincial assessment bodies, which are officially mandated to assess learning levels and award the appropriate certificate. For instance, the Balochistan Assessment and Examination Commission (BEAC) conducts assessments on the adult literacy and NFBE programmes on their completion and awards the certificates in the Balochistan province.

Successful completion of the first two NFBE phases allows learners to enter the third phase, which is designed to prepare them for the Primary Education Completion Examination. Upon successful completion of the third NFBE phase, participants achieve a Primary Certificate, equivalent to the completion of primary education in the formal school system.

After the successful completion of the six-month adult literacy module, learners can further their studies with extra coaching sessions. Once they have acquired the necessary skills, they can transfer to the NFBE module and work towards a Primary Certificate, or continue with the adult literacy module and further enhance their language, maths and life skills as well as participate in pre-vocational training and career guidance to help them find a job.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring and evaluation activities are carried out to ensure the programme’s quality remains up to standard, and to enhance the effectiveness of its teaching and learning approach. Frequent monitoring and formative evaluation are conducted to improve implementation at all levels of intervention, from the provincial to the village and centre levels.

To evaluate the delivery of non-formal education and literacy learning sessions, quality standards are set in the following areas:

  • Development of customized standards and curricula
  • Development of contextualized teaching and learning materials
  • Programme assessment by provincial and national assessment and examination authorities
  • A standardized mechanism for facilitators’ recruitment, management and capacity building
  • Programme equivalence, certification and accreditation

For monitoring and evaluation purposes, JICA has developed and implemented an information system that allows valuable data on the project’s realization and learning outcomes to be gathered. The Non-Formal Education Management Information System (NF-EMIS) is used to collect and manage data in the relevant target areas throughout the programme’s implementation cycle. This monitoring and evaluation system helps the implementing organization and its partners with tasks such as data collection, updates and analysis, quality assurance, the monitoring of facilitator performance, and future planning. It also includes a data-driven management tool that offers guidelines and keeps procurement records, which are essential for setting up new learning centres. For example, the NF-EMIS gathers data on school census information.

Under the NF-EMIS system, local providers are required to provide information on the programme’s implementation by using the following monitoring and evaluation tools:

  • Centre profile tool: on an annual basis, local providers are required to provide basic details about their location, facilities and contact information.
  • Regular monitoring tool: on a monthly basis, providers tell the main implementing organization about the available facilities (for example, the number of classrooms and their physical maintenance), learners’ enrolment and attendance. Attendance is specifically monitored by field officers and social mobilizers who fill out monthly attendance monitoring checklists.
  • Evaluation and assessment tool: when learning assessments are carried out, information about learners’ performance is provided.

To this end, the respective provincial governments and development partners train and deploy field monitors and mobilizers, who regularly visit the centres, collect data, and enter it into the NF-EMIS system. JICA provides technical support to provincial governments and other local providers for the training of trainers (TOTs) in using the NF-EMIS system. These master trainers are then put in charge of training field officers. Field monitors and mobilizers are instructed to interact with local communities, so they are able to provide customized information and plan the appropriate implementation of the programme for a specific location.

Once the collected data is uploaded, the system analyses it and generates reports on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. These reports are used by the implementing organizations to inform planning and decision-making, and to improve the programme’s execution in each centre according to their needs and performance.

A screenshot of the NF-EMIS system


Programme Impact and Challenges


Impact and Achievements

As of June 2017, the AQAL Project has had:

  • 12,919 enrolled learners improving their literacy, numeracy and life skills at different levels;
  • 11,199 out-of-school boys and girls enrolled in the NFBE module, out of which nearly 65.5 per cent are girls;
  • 1,720 young people and adults enrolled in the literacy module, of which nearly 72 per cent are young and adult women.

The AQAL Project enables learners to improve their reading, writing and numeracy skills by using content and materials that refer to local life and traditions, encouraging them to think about their learning in the context of their daily lives. By providing young girls and women with access to literacy opportunities, the programme fosters the development of a positive attitude towards learning and education within their families and communities.

As the certification obtained by successful participants is officially recognised by national and provincial authorities, the AQAL Project has made considerable progress towards integrating the non-formal and formal education systems. It has also contributed to the promotion and institutionalization of the non-formal education sector by encouraging governmental authorities and other stakeholders to invest in the provision of non-formal education and literacy programmes. In addition, it has developed institutional capacities and understanding of specialized governmental directorates, and has motivated other donors and providers such as USAID and UNICEF to make use of the channels of collaboration between JICA and governmental agencies.

Moreover, strategic links have been established between the AQAL Project and other development initiatives currently being implemented by JICA in Pakistan, whose target beneficiaries coincide with those of the AQAL Project. For instance, JICA has promoted cross-sector coordination with a project for home-based female workers and with a development project carried out in the rural areas of the Sindh province. This coordination has allowed more people with restricted educational and development opportunities to be reached, and has helped maximize collaboration in project implementation.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

During the AQAL Project’s initial implementation phase, various challenges arose and many lessons were learned. These included:

  • Providing non-formal education and literacy learning opportunities for a highly diverse group of participants, many of whom had never gone to school, or belonged to socially and economically disadvantaged groups. This challenge called for the development of a curriculum that focused on learners’ needs and could be adapted to their differing backgrounds.
  • The multi-grading teaching approach requires learners with differing levels of skill and knowledge to take part in learning sessions in the same classroom. Their reading, writing and numeracy skills are not exclusively determined by the number of years spent in formal education, so specific entry and exit level assessments had to be designed. The teaching approach and learning materials also needed to be adaptable and useful for different competency levels.
  • Physical space, basic facilities and adequate learning equipment were not always available. On occasions, there were not enough teaching and learning kits for every learner.
  • There has been irregular attendance and some non-completion of modules due to seasonal migration, when learners migrate temporarily with their families in search of paid work. Irregular attendance and non-completion were also due to the repatriation of refugees who had been enrolled in the programme. Drop-out rates are particularly high in the case of learners over 12 years of age who are enrolled in the NFBE programme, since the learning schedule and the programme requirements are more demanding.
  • Non-formal education and literacy had not previously been considered high-priority by either local government or the private sector. Funding allocation is insufficient and opportunities for ongoing projects to grow remain restricted. Efforts to encourage local governmental departments and private stakeholders to invest in non-formal education and literacy programmes need to be strengthened.
  • Practitioners who are qualified and trained in non-formal education and literacy are scarce. Facilitators often have little experience in the field.
  • Formal education drop-out rates remain high or continue to rise in many regions where the AQAL Project is being implemented. In some cases, the offer fails to meet the high demand for non-formal and literacy learning opportunities.

The following challenges were specific to the implementation of the NF-EMIS:

  • Limited or no availability of qualified IT technicians in most learning centres.
  • Lack of computers, outdated computers or computers that were not compatible with the SQL server installation requirements.
  • Continual technical support for all local providers was required on a regular basis.
  • Staff turnover or transfer caused additional training needs. New training sessions had to be planned for newly hired staff.
  • Developing a data-driven management culture has proved challenging in most local implementing organizations.

Next steps and sustainability

Since the AQAL Project was launched, JICA has built up partnerships with governmental and non-governmental organizations, aid donors and non-formal education providers in Pakistan, such as USAID and UNICEF. This programme has also promoted alliances with other development initiatives implemented by JICA in Pakistan. As a result, the non-formal education and literacy sector has gained more attention and increased fund allocation.

To ensure the sustainability of the programme’s financial resources, JICA relies on the support of the federal and provincial governments, particularly in curriculum development, the production of learning materials, and facilitators’ training. The planned duration of the first project cycle is fifty months, from September 2015 to November 2019. Although the AQAL Project is still in its initial implementation phase, JICA and its partner organizations plan to keep strengthening the non-formal education sector in Pakistan during the coming years by expanding the AQAL Project’s geographical coverage and increasing outreach to more learners.

In the future, JICA plans to:

  • Improve the curriculum and learning materials by improving content quality, putting emphasis on subjects, exercises and approaches that worked well during the pilot phase.
  • Increase the implementing organizations’ cooperation with partner agencies, especially with assessment and examination authorities and teacher training departments, to set an example of collaborative work that helps promote the project’s sustainability and the non-formal education sector’s institutionalization.
  • Continue developing the directorates’ capacities on literacy by engaging their staff in capacity-building activities and strategic planning exercises.
  • Conduct research studies to gauge the project’s impact, to ensure its sustainability and advocate for its development.
  • Intensify efforts to persuade the federal and provincial governments to allocate funds for the specialized directorates, to continue implementing non-formal education and literacy programmes.


  • JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). 2012. Country Assistance Policy for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. http://www.pk.emb-japan.go.jp/Economic%20Relations/140107_Country-Assistance-Policy-Eng-Translation-EoJ-HP-Version.pdf (Accessed 2 May 2017.)
  • UIS (UNESCO Institute for Statistics). 2017. Pakistan country profile. http://uis.unesco.org/en/country/pk (Accessed 2 May 2017.)
  • UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). 2016. Human Development Report 2016. http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/2016_human_development_report.pdf (Accessed 2 May 2017.)
  • UNESCO. 2012. The EFA Development Index (EDI) and its components, 2012. http://en.unesco.org/gem-report/education-all-development-index (Accessed 2 May 2017.)
  • World Bank. 2017. Pakistan Overview. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/pakistan/overview (Accessed 2 May 2017.)


Ms. Chiho Ohashi
Chief Advisor
JICA Advancing Quality Alternative Learning Project
Plot No. 20, Sector No. 14, Korangi Industrial Area
Tel: +92 42 35861910
Email: chihoohashi@jica-aqal.org
Official website: https://www.jica.go.jp/pakistan/english/index.html

For citation please use

Qiongzhuoma, Chung (ed.). Last update: 18 April 2018. The Advancing Quality Alternative Learning (AQAL) Project, Pakistan. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Accessed on: 4 June 2023, 18:44 CEST)

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