Pakistani Rural Education Improving, But Too Little, Too Slow

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) is a citizen-led household based survey that gauges literacy and numeracy levels of children aged 5-16 years all over Pakistan. This year’s report found that education in rural Pakistan was improving on all accounts, but the rate of improvement is far from ideal, Ammar Sheikh describes in his detailed report.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 that studied 154 rural districts of Pakistan to assess the levels of literacy in children across Pakistan has revealed some encouraging results. The results showed an improvement in almost every aspect of schooling in rural Pakistan, however, there is a caveat. Children in Pakistan are learning too little and too slow, with the country falling way behind other regional neighbors and comparable only to Afghanistan in actual average learning.This year’s report is a result of a household survey conducted across 154 rural districts, covering 89,966 households in 4,527 villages across the span of the county. Data of 260,069 children, 56% males and 44% females, of ages between 5 and 16 years was collected, while a total of 196,253 children aged 5-16 years were tested for language and arithmetic competencies. The survey gathered data from 4,284 government schools and 1,171 private schools.

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The survey noted that 17 percent children in the age bracket studied were out of school, which was a 2 percent decrease from the stats in 2016 (19%). It reported that 10 percent children had never been enrolled in a school and 7 percent were recorded to have dropped out of a school. ASER revealed that 83 percent of all school-aged children between 6 and 16 years were enrolled in schools. Of these, 77 percent were enrolled in government schools, while 23 percent were enrolled in non-state institutions: 20 percent in private schools and 3 percent in madrassas. The report found that provision of facilities in both public and private schools had also slightly improved compared to 2016. It said 42 percent of government primary schools were without toilets in 2018 as compared to 46 percent in 2016. Similarly, 13 percent private primary schools were without toilet facility in 2018, compared to 16 percent in 2016. In term of drinking water, 32 percent of the public primary schools lacked this facility in 2018, compared to 40 percent in 2016. On the other hand, only 11 percent private primary schools did not have drinking water in 2018 compared to 15 percent in 2016. The survey also found that 30 percent government primary schools were without complete boundary walls and 64 percent were without playgrounds.

ASER noted improvement in learning of children, however, the survey used grade 2 level competence for literacy and grader 3 level competence for arithmetic. It found that 44 percent class 5 children could not read a class 2 level story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto, compared to 48 percent in 2016. Whereas, 83 percent class 3 children could not read a story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto, same as in 2016. For English, a total of 48 percent class 5 children could not read sentences designed for class 2, compared to the 54 percent in 2016. Besides, 95 percent class 3 children could not read class 2 level sentences compared, to the 85 percent in 2016, showing a sharp drop in comprehensive abilities. Children in private schools were found performing much better than their peers in public schools, according to the survey, which found that 67 percent children in private schools were able to read at least a story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto, compared to 54 percent children in government schools. English learning levels were also better in private schools, where 68 percent were able to read sentences compared to 49 percent in government schools. Arithmetic skills of 63 percent children in private schools were better as they were able to do division, compared to the 51 percent children in government schools.

Ammar sheikh is correspondent of academia magazine.He has covered education sector as reporter in leading English dailies. He can be reached at ammar.sheikh@academiamag.com and on twitter @ammarshek