The latest report of a most resourceful, authentic educational initiative of the country is out again. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 was released on February 21, 2019, showing a little improvement on the educational scene of the country. Two per cent more children in the age group of 6 to 16 years were enrolled in schools in year 2018, compared with year 2016.
The 229-page report offers lots of data about various fields of the sector, which will be discussed in the following lines. But before that, it would be interesting to know how much the data is authentic, and how it is collected all across the country.
ASER is an educational study, conducted by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) through various organisations and individuals every year under the established research methodologies by scientific rules. ITA Chief Operating Officer Baela Raza Jamil says this year’s (2018) study was conducted by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi in joint cooperation of civil society and partner bodies, including Democratic Commission for Human Development, Community Research and Development Organisation, Community Motivation and Development Organisation, Development Alternatives, Hamza Development Foundation, Society for Human Development and Ehed Foundation.
In a talk with the Cutting Edge at the launch of the report in the federal capital last month, she said that 11,000 volunteers visited 154 districts of the country including new districts in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan in 4,527 villages. ASER gathered information from 89,966 households and assessed 260,069 children aged between 3 and 16 years.
Baela Raza says the rural survey took into account 196,253 children between 5 and 16 years of age and assessed their competence in local languages (Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto), English, and Arithmetic. She says the main purpose of the study was to see progress or, lack thereof, with respect to the Article 25A of the Constitution, making education a fundamental right for children between 5 and 16 years of age since 2010, and tracking advancement towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, assessing learning at the lower primary level.
The ASER-2018 data showed that 83% children aged between 6 and 16 years were enrolled in schools, compared with 81% in 2016, thus showing a decrease in the proportion of out-of-school children to 17% compared 19% two years back, in 2016. Of them, 77% were enrolled with government schools and 23% went to private schools – 20% in formal education and 3% in madrasas. Azad Jammu and Kashmir stood at the top with a 95% enrolment rate for children, followed by Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad with an enrolment rate of 91% each. In the Punjab, 89% students are enrolled in schools, 86% in Sindh, 87% in KP, 28% in Balochistan and 72% in tribal areas.
Pakistan is the second worst country in the world in terms of gender parity, ranking 148 out of 149 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2018 the report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) says. ASER-2018 also regretted that the authorities concerned failed to bridge the gender gap, as nationally there had been a constant gender gap in out-of-school children: More girls than boys have either not been enrolled or have dropped out of school.
However, it must be good to note that from a low base, South Asia has made the fastest progress on closing its gender gap of any world region over the past decade. In terms of year-on-year progress, out of the seven countries from the region covered by the index four countries increased their overall scores compared to the last year, while three had decreased their overall scores.
In some sectors, the department failed to show consistency. Early childhood education was assessed in the report 2018. It stated that from 2014, the enrolment recorded at 39% declined to 37% in 2015, 36% in 2016 and rose to 37% in 2018 again in rural areas of the country.
Poor learning outcomes have been known for a long time. All of the tests/examinations conducted in Pakistan have indicated low learning outcomes. However, the current report gave good news to the people concerned that the quality of education improved compared with the past years. The statistics show that 56% of class five children could read a class two-level story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto compared to 52% in 2016. In English, 52% of class five children could read sentences of class two-level compared to 46% in 2016. For Arithmetic, 53% of class five children could do two-digit division as compared to 48% in 2016.
For language (Urdu), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) with 78%, Information and Communication Technologies-Islamabad 75%, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) 58% and the Punjab with 69% took the lead. For English, AJK with 92%, Gilgit-Baltistan 63%, the Punjab 65%, and KP 55% were found to be the best in terms of assessment results, whereas in Arithmetic too, AJK secured 73%, GB 63%, the Punjab 60% and KP with 69% were on the top. The survey also explained that boys were outperforming girls in educational and numerical skills with 47% able to read at least sentences in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto compared with 43% of the latter.
The ASER rural figures also showed that teachers’ overall attendance in government schools stood at 87% as compared to 89% in private schools on the day of the survey. The private school teachers were reported to have better qualifications. As many as 42% teachers in private schools are graduates compared to 36% in government schools.
The report also points out lack of basic facilities in educational institutions. It said that 32% of government schools and 11% of private schools do not have useable water facilities and that 42% of government schools do not have toilet facilities. It says 13% of surveyed private schools also do not have toilet facilities. Also, 30% of public schools and 20% private schools do not have boundary walls. Only 28% of government schools have computer labs and 22% have smart boards.
Shafqat Mehmood Mirza, Minister for Education and Professional Training, is, however, upbeat about bringing about a revolution in the field of education in the next four years. At the launching ceremony of the report, he tells Cutting Edge, the government has taken various steps to bring a visible improvement in the education sector, such as launching of a uniform education system in the country. He believes that a uniform curriculum and education system is imperative for providing equal opportunities to all students. He regrets that some elite schools are putting up resistance, but the education ministry is optimistic it will manage to bring all stakeholders on board for launching a uniform education system.
The minister says that a campaign has been launched in the country for bringing out-of-school children to schools, appointing more and qualified teachers to educational institutions, and providing all missing facilities there to get desired results in the coming years. He promised that the upcoming Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi reports would prove that education and health are top priorities of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government.