The Annual Status of Education Report 2018 (ASER) for Punjab was launched in Lahore on Monday, with figures quoted by researchers showing promising improvements in education sector of the country’s most populous province.

In its eighth iteration now, the ASER Punjab report is Pakistan’s largest citizen-led effort to take stock of the education sector and one based on large-scale household surveys. ASER is managed by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in partnership with nine civil society and partner bodies including the DCHD, CRDO, CMDO, Development Alternatives, Hamza Development Foundation, Society for Human Development and EHED Foundation etc.

The Punjab report for 2018 revealed that as many as 89% children aged 6-16 were enrolled in schools per latest estimates, up from 86% in 2016.

In terms of access to education, the number of out-of-school children was found to have decreased. In 2016, an estimated 14% children were thought to be out of schools, while the number has dropped to 11% in 2018 – an overall 3% increase in enrolment across Punjab.

ASER has also continuously monitored early childhood education over the years. In 2014, ECE enrolment was recorded at 55%, declined to 52% in 2015 and 51% in 2016. However, the enrolment has risen to 52% in 2018 across rural Punjab.

There has also been positive development in terms of quality of education and learning. The annual status of education report 2018 found improved student competencies in Language, English and Arithmetic. Pleasantly, 69% of class 5 children could read a class 2 story in Urdu, compared to 65% in 2016. In English, 65% of class 5 children could read sentences of class 2 compared to 57% in 2016. For Arithmetic, 60% class 5 children could do two-digit division in 2018.

But as before, ASER 2018 found children enrolled in private schools faring far better than their peers in public schools. Per results, 72% of children enrolled in Class 5 in a private school could read a story in Urdu compared to only 68% studying in government schools. And the trend of private school’s children performing better continued in English and Arithmetic as well.

But a really pleasant finding in the annual status of education report 2018 was one of gender parity in terms of learning. ASER found girls in Punjab at par with boys in term of literacy and numeracy skills. The results for girls’ competency in Urdu, English and Arithmetic were in most cases equal to that of boys

The ASER report is the result of data gathered by 3,000 educated volunteer/citizens trained as enumerators. The surveyors visited 36 districts, 1,070 villages and gathered information from 21,370 households and 57,349 children of age 3-16 years. For the year 2018, the ASER rural survey assessed 45,498 children of ages 5-16 years cohort in Language (Urdu), English, and Arithmetic competencies.

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