Improvements Seen, But Problems Remain In Primary Level Education


The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019,  published after a National Rural survey by Idara-e Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), revealed that language and arithmetic skill in grade five students have remarkably improved over the last couple of years.

However, children in early years of education continue to lag behind in basic-concept learning, and overall literacy.

Minister for Federal Education and Vocational Training Shafqat Mehmood and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan were both present at the launch of the Education Report.

Findings Worth Noting

It is interesting to note, that children in grade five were observed on the basis of whether they could read, and comprehend concepts aimed at second grade students. A keen observation of trends from 2014-2018 showed a rise of 4% from 13% to 17%, in linguistic and arithmetic skill of primary level students.

The report went on to state that 59% children enrolled in grade five can read text meant for second standard children, primarily in Urdu or other regional languages.

It further revealed, that only 55% of surveyed children could read English texts designed for grade two students.

Since 2018, the report showed that there has been an improvement in arithmetic learning levels, with 57% grade fivers able to successfully perform double-digit divisions.

And even more pleasant was to note that 60% of children can read time, and 53% can easily solve multiplication word problems.

Even though school children from rural areas have showed improved performance, yet the private sector schools, and schools in urban centers continue to outperform their rural-government counterparts.

The survey clearly shows that girls have consistently been outperforming boys however, it is important to note that urban areas are where the considerable high was observed across all indicators.

PTI government has constantly talked about overhauling the entire education sector since its induction in office. However, the continued dismal state of affairs at grass-root level keep breaking the facade of all is well narrative.

 According to estimates, 22.8 million children aged 5-16 are currently out-of-school. The major challenge for any government is to provide education to the underprivileged, disadvantaged children living in the remotest areas of the country.

In recent times, the focus has been enrollment as per Article 25-A of the constitution which emphasizes the provision of universal elementary education but with a staggering number of children out of school, the dream is impossible to realize.

On the other hand a survey of 20 urban centers across the country revealed that only 6% children of school going age are out-of-school. Considering 40% of the Pakistani population is living in the urban cities, there is an opportunity at grasp where accelerating access to education in urban sector, whilst simultaneously focusing on rural areas, reads a suggestion in the ASER report.

The report suggests that education targets can be met through the state resolve in providing a fundamental right.

Teachers In Focus

The ASER report revealed that teachers’ attendance in both government and private was almost the same at 89%. However, a disparity between educational qualifications of teachers in the two sectors was shockingly apparent.  40% of staff teachers in private schools had graduate level education compared to the 33% in government sector

Albeit, in case of MA, MSc and other post-graduate qualifications, a greater percentage of public sector teachers had higher qualification than their private school counterparts.

The report further showed that 46% of government and 26% of private schools impart multi-grade teaching at grade two. Whereas, in grade four, multi-grade teaching was at 18% in both government and private schools. And a teacher taking multiple grade classes in government middle schools has risen from 5% in 2018 to 18% in 2019.

Private Schools Are Losing Out

The ASER rural results over the years show a decline in the number of children admitted to private sector schools. A 7% decline was observed in enrollment, the number which was close 30% in 2014 had dropped to 23% in 2019. On the other hand there has also been a visible increase in enrollments at government schools, from 70% in 2014 to 77% in 2019.

The report stated that the increase in public school enrollment must be maintained. And this can only be done if state continues to make active efforts.

ASER Pakistan has been an authority in tracking Early Childhood Education (ECE). Since 2014, the ASER noted that there has been no significant improvement which remained stagnant at 39% from 2014-2019. Nonetheless, the report suggested that ECE was critical for foundational learning readiness in literacy and numeracy therefore, it is crucial to increase enrollment.

The survey showed that 87% of private primary schools had boundary-walls as compared to 75% of government primary schools.

Functional toilets were available in 59% public and 89% private primary schools, the report said adding that safe and conducive environments do affect learning positively across public and private schools. The government must make missing facilities an integral part of school-based budgets rather than as a separate budget head.

Working Toward Inclusivity

Health and disability was also included in the ASER survey report. As per reports the head-teachers and teachers were asked questions about differently-abled children and appropriate facilities to cater to special-needs children in their respective schools.

About22.2% of the surveyed government schools reported providing education to children with special-needs in their schools. Compared with the government sector only 16.6% of private schools admitted having enrolled differently-abled children. .

The report showed that children of the total number of specially-abled children enrolled in public and private school 41.4% suffered from physical disabilities, 12.1% from behavioral and 11.8% were dealing with multiple disabilities

The report revealed that only 2.1% of public and about 2% of private schools had ramps for wheelchairs, while 3.9% and 7% of public and private schools respectively had disability-friendly toilets. 

The ASER report has clearly shows that even though the education sector is moving in the right direction however, there are several areas in need of of dire improvement. The report can prove to be useful  when devising policies pertaining to the reformation of primary education in Pakistan.

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