Expanding to Say “Yes”: The Ongoing Work of The Citizens Foundation in Pakistan (Part 2 of 2)

**Last week, we shared the first part of a post on the organization TCF. This week, we share the conclusion**

New Directions

In 2014, TCF hit its goal of opening 1000 schools. They now had well over 100,000 students enrolled in their schools. With their initial goal achieved, TCF began exploring what new goals they would articulate and pursue. These explorations led TCF to set up a research team to investigate different ways to expand and scale.


For 20 years, TCF had maintained a clear vision for creating and implementing schools through private funders. They had remained almost entirely separate from government schools. Yet, in 2016, TCF adopted 250 government schools in Punjab, including some of the lowest performing schools in the region. At the time, Punjab had the largest outsourcing of schools in the world, outsourcing 5000 schools to NGOs, private school operators, and individuals. This moment marked the first major turning point in TCF’s model, but they aimed to operate these government schools in the same manner as the private ones they had been building since 1996. Within only a couple of months, TCF rolled out its model in these schools. Beginning its pilot experience with school labeled as failing, they sent out assessment teams, rehabilitated the school buildings, hired and trained an entirely new staff of over 1700 of teachers and staff members, and reopened the schools. Soon after, enrollment tripled, from an average of about 30 to about 100. Today, these schools have gone from 10,000 to 30,000 children in total. These schools also offered a remedial literacy program over two months, which saw dramatic increases in literacy scores. Specifically, 2nd grade literacy (based on the ability to read a paragraph) went from 4% to 46% in the first year.

Throughout their development, a number of other organizations had approached TCF, to invite them to become partners in a variety of ventures. TCF had grown accustomed to saying “no,” Naviwala said, “they would always say no no no, we’re focused,” as they worked toward the goal of 1000 schools. Suddenly, though, they found themselves saying yes.

Crossing the threshold of 1000 schools certainly compelled this shift. TCF still viewed the purpose-built schools at the center of their culture and identity. But, it is now becoming only one, albeit central, part of what TCF does. Saying yes forced TCF to both shift their goals and structure.

The next big goal is to serve 2 million agents of positive change by 2030. At the moment, TCF is providing quality education to more than 250,000 children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Currently, TCF’s work is sustained by private donors and foundations as well as bilateral donors. Their reputation, built by international recognition UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy, propels these donations and awards. But to achieve this new goal, TCF has de-linked growth from a reliance on private fundraising. Through a new plan of private-public partnerships, similar to their approach in Punjab, however, TCF will be able to expand in new ways. Agreements have already been reached to receive subsidies for establishing low per-child costs for operating schools in new areas. Private money will still be needed to build the schools, but the government will provide this additional support.

At the invitation of the government, TCF is also exploring taking over more government schools. With the government in Sindh, the province where Karachi is located, deciding whether to close 31% of their primary schools, there is certainly an opportunity to pursue this goal. At the same time, issues of government corruption and school buildings in poor condition place limitations on TCF’s ability to work with the government. However, TCF decided to take the challenge and adopted 15 government schools in Sindh.

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Another new strategy builds on an analysis TCF conducted which found that the main problems in Pakistan have shifted since the 1990s. They have always faced the problem of out-of-school children. Yet, this problem has always been framed as a primary school issue. When TCF looked at the data, they found that of the 22.5 million out-of-school children, the majority – 17 million – are between 10 and 16. Given this situation, TCF wants to develop a scalable solution for youth. Specifically, they hope to develop a grade 5 literacy program for boys and girls, which will help students move on to 6th grade. Simultaneously, they hope to develop programs such as apprenticeships for those who do not want to continue in schools.

Finally, TCF plans to seed social enterprises that will improve qualities at a low cost in the private sector. 40% of students attend private school in Pakistan. 100 affordable private schools already buy TCF’s textbooks, but TCF hopes to set up a proper publishing house that will market books and sell them to the low-cost private sector. TCF has done market research and testing and is ready to implement this initiative. Relatedly, they would like to start a teacher certification program outside of the government. Based on TCF’s experience offering a similar service directly to school owners, TCF plans to market this service directly to individual teachers, mostly women, who want to augment their skills and command higher salaries. Developing this program will require a phase for research and piloting.

“TCF school model has grown tremendously in its depth and breadth. It makes us more mindful of our responsibility and the need to continue the positive impact on children, their parents and the communities we operate in. In making this promise to our common future, we recognize that the road ahead remains daunting and demands belief, creativity and concerted action from all of us – citizens, enterprises, institutions and the State,” said Zia Abbas, Executive Vice President at TCF.

The organization also wishes to share a call to action: You can help change a life by educating the less privileged children in Pakistan and give them a chance to become moderate, enlightened and productive members of the society. Please follow this link to donate:  https://link.tcf.org.pk/2vtwngN

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