Smart financing for education brings more resources to Uzbekistan

Through SmartEd, Uzbekistan is building and equipping schools, enhancing its education management information systems, and improving learning through curricula reforms, teacher professional development and provision of new teaching and learning materials.

January 16, 2024 by GPE Secretariat
4 minutes read
Children playing chess at the Early Learning Hub supported by GPE in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa
Children playing chess at the Early Learning Hub supported by GPE in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

The ACG Smart Education Financing Initiative (SmartEd) brings together the Arab Coordination Group (ACG), the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and GPE to channel greater levels of financing toward getting more children in school and learning.

This innovative approach scales education financing by leveraging US$4 in co-financing for every $1 mobilized from GPE, supporting partner countries to bridge financing gaps and address education challenges.

In 2023, US$160 million in blended co-financing through SmartEd allowed Uzbekistan to unlock a $40 million GPE Multiplier grant. The Multiplier also incentivized the government of Uzbekistan to allocate $20 million to complement the SmartEd financing, resulting in a financial package totaling $220 million to improve access and equity, boost education quality, and strengthen the efficiency of the education system.

Through SmartEd, Uzbekistan is constructing and equipping more than 80 schools as well as enhancing its education management information systems to improve data availability for monitoring and informed decision making.

Learning will be improved through curricula reforms, teacher professional development and provision of new teaching and learning materials.

We spoke with Shahnoz Valijonbekova, a staff consultant at the IsDB's Regional Hub of Almaty, about her experience partnering with ACG and GPE through the SmartEd Financing Initiative.

What do you consider to be the main value-add of the SmartEd Financing Initiative and why?

Compared to conventional modalities, ACG SmartEd offers significant benefits to Uzbekistan. It boosts education financing by injecting an additional external US$200 million into the national education system to support the government’s efforts and give impetus to addressing the challenges and bottlenecks to inclusive equitable access and quality of education for all children.

Blending the GPE Multiplier and ACG concessionary components significantly lowers the cost of government borrowing and eases access to funding for timely programming support and intervention for education reforms.

SmartEd will facilitate stakeholders’ ownership and sector-wide synergy for optimal results by adopting and ensuring government leadership, and an inclusive, participatory and evidence-based approach to programming. Aligning fully with the government agenda, the ACG SmartEd program is consistent with Uzbekistan's Partnership Compact, which defines a coordinated approach to determining and synchronizing development partners’ interventions to support national education reform objectives and target.

How can innovative financing instruments help ensure more children are in school and learning?

While Uzbekistan has had support from many development partners to address challenges related to access and quality of learning opportunities, SmartEd offers a unique opportunity to adopt a more holistic approach with investments both in inclusive school infrastructure and key elements of education quality.

These elements include a modern competency-based curriculum, an effective system of teacher preparation and professional development, as well as appraisal and assessment systems that allow to collect data on quality at different levels and inform decision making.

ACG SmartEd has pushed partners to fund education beyond their traditional interest and priority areas.

The GPE Multiplier requirements to include a strong emphasis on quality aspects of education, as well as to strengthen disability-accessible and gender-sensitive infrastructure, have incentivized the country and all partners to revisit school designs and link infrastructure to learning. This results in adopting a more comprehensive approach across the program components.

What were the reasons that propelled the IsDB to invest in the SmartEd Financing Initiative?

IsDB is a South-South cooperation, and two-thirds of its member countries are currently facing serious challenges with access to education financing. Many member countries are also lagging in achieving SDG 4: they still have low literacy rates, high rates of out-of-school children, limited access to preschool education and poor learning outcomes. Most are struggling to secure and mobilize adequate financial resources to resolve those challenges.

As the IsDB cannot offer full support to all countries with its limited resources, we are constantly looking for innovative financing solutions to support our member countries, and SmartEd is one of them. We strongly believe that these kinds of financing initiatives multiply chances to achieve transformative changes, which will allow member countries to achieve SDG 4.

What have been the most successful results up to now and what is in the pipeline in terms of the next program achievements?

With the best-practice approach, strategies and processes adopted in program development and design, Uzbekistan has established positive trends in the way reforms are planned and implemented. These include the development of a common vision for the education system through an evidence-based and participatory approach and commitment of government and its partners to achieving a transformational change in education service delivery for all children.

A robust program monitoring, evaluation and learning framework keeps a close eye on successes achieved and lessons learnt to help improve performance and results.

The Ministry of Preschool and School Education had a leading role in developing the Partnership Compact and in designing the SmartEd program, ensuring alignment, consistency and appropriate linkages with government objectives and plans.

The Partnership Compact brings together all partners around the same priority reform.

While it is often too difficult to talk about a transformational change in education through one project, this approach with involvement of all partners and sufficient funding has the potential to set strong foundations for transformative change, and SmartED is expected to play a key role in this process.

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