Upgrading Mongolia's Education Sector

Mongolia's remarkable progress in education achieved with support from the Asian Development Bank is set to continue in areas such as governance, management, financing and vocational training.

Tangible results

In the two decades since the breakup of the Soviet Union, during which Mongolia went through a period of arduous transition from a central planning system to a market economy, the East Asian country managed to upgrade its education sector with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other partners. Mongolia has invested substantial resources in education, with annual expenditure rising from 6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during 2002–2008, to 6.9% in 2010 and 7.5% in 2011.

The progress made has been remarkable. In 2010, Mongolia’s gross enrolment ratio for primary education reached 98.6%, while the gross enrolment ratio for secondary education hit 94.7% and the adult literacy rate 98.3%. With these achievements, Mongolia is well on track to meet its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) commitments of universal primary education and 100% adult literacy by 2015.

Figure 1: Progress in Education Sector Outcomes in Mongolia, 1995–2010

Source: Government of Mongolia, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Mongolia’s effort in safeguarding and upgrading its education sector seems to have paid off. The country’s GDP has grown by 7%–10% yearly since 2003, with GDP per capita increasing from $576 in 2004 to $787 in 2010 (in constant 2000 US dollars).

ADB's contribution

Key outputs of ADB-financed projects over the period 1996-2010 include:

  • 1,630 classrooms rehabilitated (around 44% of the country’s total);
  • 20,635 teachers in primary and secondary schools trained (90% of the country’s total); and
  • 533,000 text books provided to almost 200,000 primary school and secondary school students.

These projects, which benefited 48% of the country’s primary and secondary school students, also supported major sector reforms, including the shift from an 11-year to a 12-year school system, the revision of the national education standards and curriculum, and the development of the Education Sector Master Plan 2006–2015.

During 1996–2010, ADB financed $79.4 million for three loans and two grant projects funded by the Asian Development Fund (ADF), 11 technical assistance operations, and four other grant projects. This accounts for about 34% of external assistance provided to Mongolia’s education sector during the same period.

Figure 2: ADB's Contribution to Financing Commitments and Outputs Delivered in the Education Sector in Mongolia, 1996–2010

ADB = Asian Development Bank.
a Classrooms built or rehabilitated by ADB-funded projects as a percentage of all classrooms in the country in 2007. Projects may include financing from the government and other development partners.
Source: ADB and Government of Mongolia, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science estimates.

Under the Education Sector Development Program (completed in 2002), ADB supported reforms to consolidate schools, reducing unit costs of education services while maintaining access. The program also supported private sector participation including privatization, enhanced management capabilities, and upgraded education content. It contributed to increasing enrolment rates from 81% in 1996 to 91% in 2002 and decreasing dropout rates from 3.5% to 2.3% over the same period. The number of private higher education institutions increased significantly from 41 in 1995 to 137 in 2002, while the number of private schools increased from none in 1996 to 90 in 2002. A post-project performance evaluation in 2007 rated the program highly successful.

The Second Education Development Project (completed in 2009) improved the quality and access to preschool and basic education. The project helped construct schools, train teachers, and provide textbooks to students. In 2007, primary school enrolment reached 92.7% and secondary education enrolment 86.8%. The dropout rate in primary and secondary education decreased from 2.2% in 2002 to 1.7% in 2007. The proportion of students reaching the upper grades also improved significantly from 62% in 2003 to 73% in 2007. The project also helped the government increase the access of children with disabilities to mainstream education and led to formal cooperative approaches to the education sector—ADB and Japan now jointly chair the education sector coordination mechanism.

ADB remains committed to the sector and is supporting three ongoing projects for a total of $40 million to sustain earlier results on education quality and access.