EducationVolume 13 Issue # 05

Attending schools, but not learning much

Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) launched the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Pakistan-2016 in the last week of September 2017, reminding all concerned once again that Pakistani children may be attending school, but they are not learning much.


Baela Raza Jamil, ITA’s chief executive officer (CEO), believes that the data collected by the educational initiative is most authentic. In a telephonic talk with Cutting Edge, she says that data for the latest report was collected from 144 rural districts of Sindh, where the volunteers visited 4,205 villages. ASER volunteers visited some 83,324 households to see how 255,269 children were being educated. They also visited 5,540 schools in these areas.


As far as Punjab is concerned, the ASER rural survey was conducted in 35 districts of Punjab for the year 2016, wherein 15,866 children between five and 16 years of age were tested for English, Urdu and arithmetic competencies. As many as 2,100 volunteer citizens, who personally visited 20,610 households in 1,035 villages/blocks, have based the ASER survey findings on the information of 59,311 children between three and 16 years of age. Around 45% of them were girls.


The volunteers surveyed a total of 1,020 government schools, 48% primary, 22% elementary, 28% high, and 3% others. From private schools, 681 were surveyed of which 23% were primary, 52% elementary, 24% high and 1% others. Of the total, 44% of government schools were boys only, 21% were girls only, and 35% were coeducational schools. In case of private schools, 7% were boys only, 3% were girls only, and 90% were coeducational.


The survey findings showed that the Punjab rural districts saw a slight decrease in overall out-of-school children, but learning outcomes and early childhood education deteriorated drastically, though the province is the most developed and population-wise biggest province of the country.


The report shows that the proportion of the out-of-school children in the province has decreased as compared to 2015. In 2016, 14% of children were reported to be out-of-school, compared to 15% in the previous year. A total of 7% children have never been enrolled in a school and 7% have dropped out of school for various reasons.


In the province, where the PML-N has been in power for at least nine consecutive years, a total of 86% of all school-aged children between the ages of six and 16 years were enrolled in schools. Among these, 67% were enrolled in public schools, whereas 33% were going to non-state institutions. Around 30% went to private schools, 1% to madrasas and 1% to other institutes. Among the enrolled students in both government schools as well as private, 43% were girls and 57% were boys.


However, the report showed that the proportion of enrolled children has decreased in the early childhood programmes as compared to 2015. A total of 51% of all school-aged children within the age bracket of three to five years were enrolled in schools as compared to 53% in 2015. Around 49% of children aged between three and five were currently not enrolled in any early childhood programmes.


The situation in Sindh, the second biggest province of the country, was not found much different. Findings there showed that 36% of all school-aged children within the age bracket of three to five years were enrolled in schools as compared to 37% in 2015. Of these 63% attended government schools and 37% private schools.


Also, 81% of all school-aged children within the age bracket of six to 16 years were enrolled in schools, of which 74% happened to be government schools and 26 private.


And now the findings about learning outcomes, which must set alarm bells ringing in the quarters concerned. The report findings showed that 52% of class five students could read Urdu, Sindhi and Pushto, 46% could read sentences in English while 48% could do two digit-division in arithmetic.


The report showed that learning levels of children in Punjab had deteriorated. It found that 35% of class 5 children could not read a class 2 story in Urdu compared to 30% in 2015. Similarly, 72% of class 3 children could not read a story in Urdu, an improvement from 73% in the previous year.


English learning levels have also deteriorated with 43% of class 5 children not being able to read sentences of class 2, compared to 40% in 2015. The report revealed that 77% of class 3 children could not read class 2 level sentences as compared to 80% in the previous year. Arithmetic learning levels have shown slight improvement as 40% of class 5 children could not do two-digit division as compared to 41% in 2015. At the same time, 77% children enrolled in class 3 could not do two-digit division in 2016 as compared to 82% in 2015.


The report found that children enrolled in private schools were performing better than their government school counterparts in terms of language. A total of 68% children enrolled in class 5 in a private school were able to read at least one story in Urdu as compared to 65% of class 5 children enrolled in government schools.


This is very interesting to note that the public sector schools have better qualified teachers, they mostly have infrastructure, better buildings and better playgrounds, but the learning outcomes in these schools are far behind the findings at the private schools.


In terms of English learning levels, 62% of private school children were able to read sentences in class 5, whereas only 55% of government school children could do the same. Similarly, in arithmetic, 60% children enrolled in private schools (class 5) were able to do division compared to 60% class 5 children at government schools.


Regarding the facilities at primary schools, teacher attendance in government schools remained 87% and in private schools it was 92%. Again a finding showing lack of interest in their duties in the government schools. The children’s attendance was 83% in government schools and 84% in private schools.


As far as facilities at schools are concerned, some 60% of government schools had usable water, whereas in private schools it was 85%. There were 54% toilets which could be called usable in government schools and in the private schools 84% were in working order. Then 65% of government schools had boundary walls while 81% of private schools had them.


Other indicators showed that 68% households had smartphones, computers, solar panels. Baela Raza Jamil wonders if there were progressive innovations at home then why not in schools.


However, the political leaders and government authorities are least interested in taking any significant measures which could bring about a change in the field of education. Listening to some of the findings of the report, Sindh Minister for Education and Literacy Jan Metab Hussain Dahar says that it has and will influence learning outcomes, which will make a difference to human development and the right to education.


Talking to Cutting Edge by telephone, he reiterates his stance that efforts were under way to put every child in school in the next five years. He says that Sindh government’s school education programme is progressive and forward-looking and has an open-door policy for partnerships.


The report also showed that the gender gap continues in rural Punjab with boys outperforming girls in literacy and numeracy skills. The report found that 51% of boys and 48% of girls could read sentences in Urdu.