While important improvements have been made in Timor-Leste's education sector, since it achieved independence from Indonesia in 2002, most notably increasing the primary school net enrollment rate from 51 percent in 2000-2001 to 80 percent in 2004-2005, serious challenges remain. Over 40 percent of adults are illiterate; the basic mathematic ability of students is low with girls performing worse than boys; schools have few textbooks and other instructional materials; school drop-out rates are high, particularly during the first three years of schooling and in the final grades of pre-secondary school. Timorese society is also young with more than 50 percent of its population under 15 and with one of the highest fertility rates in the world, this is placing further stress on an already challenged education system.
The new funds will be used to:
. Strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Education and Culture to develop and carry out policy in the primary, secondary and tertiary education sectors.
Ã‚Â· Support the Ministry of Education and Culture's outsourcing of the production of learning materials and text books for primary and pre-secondary students as well as financing the development and distribution of high quality learning materials.
Ã‚Â· Assist the Ministry of Education and Culture in its construction and rehabilitation of an estimated 2,100 new classrooms. This is expected to add approximately 65,000 new student places.
Ã‚Â· Support the Ministry of Education and Culture as it develops work skills and attributes in pre-secondary students via curriculum reform and community development activities.
"This program demonstrates the Government's commitment to Timorese youth," said Nigel Roberts, World Bank Country Director for Timor-Leste. "A sound education is essential if young people are to succeed in today's increasingly competitive world. The Bank is delighted to sponsor this effort and to have the opportunity to work alongside the Government, AusAid and other development partners in support of this initiative".
AusAID, the Australian Government's aid program, is planning to match the World Bank's commitment, providing a further $US 6 million as part of initiatives of the White Paper on Australian Aid. The Government of Timor-Leste will be contributing nearly $US 3 million. In all, $US 15 million will be available to strengthen Timor-Leste's education program. The project will run from September 2007 until 2012. -The World Bank