The latest report on status of education in Pakistan highlights some commendable improvements in educational outcomes, but we are still far away from safely saying we have education in the country covered. Ammar Sheikh reports.

espite various enrolment drives, digitization and hiring and training of teachers, Pakistan is still unable to get all of the out-of-school children back to classrooms, with the proportion of enrolled children aged between 6 and 16 years remaining the same over the past one year.In 2019, 17 percent of all Pakistani children were out-of-school, a number that has remained the same when compared to the previous year, according to the latest Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2019.

The annual report gauges the on-ground realities in the education sector of Pakistan, showcasing how education in the country is faring when considered sid by side the claims made by successive regimes.Per this year’s findings, 10 percent of Pakistani children have never been enrolled in a school, while seven percent have dropped out of school they once went to.The report says that the proportion of enrolled children has increased slightly, by 2 percent, for children between 3 and 5 years of age. But the proportion of children in school in the 6-16-year bracket has remained the same, meaning most children are not moving beyond primary.

 

Gender Gap

A similar situation persists with regards to gender gap, with the overall gap remaining the same over the past two years for children between 6 and 16 years of age. Per the report, seven percent of male children and 10 percent of female children were found to be out of schools.It also reported that the link between enrolment and income disparity was very prominent, especially for girls. The report found that 40 percent of girls from the poorest households were out of schools, compared to 24 percent from the richest segments of the society.

Enrollment of children in 3 to 5-year has gone up, but the proportion of children in school in 6 to 16-year bracket has remained the same, meaning most children are not moving beyond primary.

For boys, the statistics were not as bad, but still call for concern. A total of 27 percent of the poorest boys were found to be out of schools, whereas the number came down to 18 percent for the richest sgements.There was also a disparity between girls and boys when it came to learning. The report said that 46 percent boys, but only 38 percent girls, could read at least a sentence in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto. A total of 48 percent boys could read English words, while only 39 percent of girls could do the same. Similarly, 43 percent of boys were able to do at least subtraction, whereas only 36 percent of girls could do the same.

Public vs Private

Though there is a positive trend in shift from private schools to government schools, there is much to be desired in this area as well. As compared to 2014, a seven percent shift was recorded from private schools to government schools in 2019.The report found that within the total, 77 percent children were enrolled in government schools, whereas 23 percent were going to non-state institutions –21 percent to private schools and 2 percent to madrassas.

Children in private schools are still showing better comprehension skills

Out of the enrolled students in government schools, 39 percent were girls and 61 percent were boys, whereas in private schools, 59 percent of enrolled children were boys and the remaining girls. Despite the shift from private to government schools, children in private schools are showing better comprehension skills. This means that government schools need to improve a lot. According to the report, 68 percent of children enrolled in class 5 at a private school were able to read at least a story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto. The number dropped to 58 percent when similar students were considered at government-run schools.Furthermore, 73 percent of private school children could read at least a sentence in class 5, whereas only 53 percent of students in government schools could do the same. For basic arithmetic, 69 percent of children enrolled in class 5 at private schools were able to do division, compared to only 55 percent of class 5 children enrolled in government schools.The report also found that private tuition was more prevalent among children attending private schools. Overall, 22 percent of students in private schools were getting paid tuition, compared to 6 percent in government schools.

 

Learning In Schools

One positive development that the report highlighted was that learning among children had improved. It said 59 percent of class 5 students could read a class 2 level story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto, compared to only 56 percent in 2018. Among 59 percent children of class 5 who could read a story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto, more than 85 percent could answer questions related to the story orally.Similarly, 18 percent of class 3 children could read a story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto compared to only 17 percent who could do it in 2018. Among the 18 percent children of class 3 who could read a story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto, more than 85 percent could answer questions related to the story orally.

Compared to 2014, a seven percent shift was recorded from private schools to government schools in 2019.

For English, 55 percent class 5 children could read sentences (class 2 level), compared to 52 percent in 2018. Among the 55 percent of class 5 children who could read sentences in English, 84 percent could tell the meanings orally in local languages. A total of 16 percent of class 3 children could read a class 2 level sentence, compared to only 5 percent in 2018. Among those 16 percent, 87 percent could tell the meanings orally in local languages.In arithmetic, class 5 children showed improvements, while there was a negative trend in class 3 children when compared to the previous year. The report said 57 percent class 5 children could do two-digit division, compared to 53 percent in 2018. Whereas, 21 percent children enrolled in class 3 could do two-digit division in 2019, compared to 28 percent in 2018.

 

Regional Disparity

The report also looked at regional factors and found that all parts of Pakistan were not doing equally well. Almost all the western part of the country – Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and its newly-merged districts, were the worst off. The parts that had the best outcomes in terms of children between 3 and 5 years going to school were Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). Sindh and Gilgit-Baltistan did better than western parts, while Punjab’s performance fell between that of AJK and ICT. The overall situation has improved when compared with the previous year, as almost all regions making some headway.

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