Despite the recent focus of the federal and provincial governments on enrollment drives to honour Article 25 A, 19% children aged 6-16 still remain out of school, according to the Annual Status of Education Report –ASER 2016 National survey. The remaining 81% that are enrolled in the 6-16 age bracket are not learning much either.
These findings were made public in the report of Pakistan’s largest-annual citizen-led household based ASER Survey 2016 – the seventh ASER Survey report in a row – launched in Islamabad on Wednesday, 2nd August 2017. ASER is managed by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in partnership with many key civil society and semi-autonomous bodies including the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), DCHD, HANDS, HDF, Hamza Development Foundation, Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA), EHED Foundation etc.
10,000 volunteer citizens, visited 144 districts in 4,205 villages have based the ASER survey findings on the information gathered from 83,324 households and 255,269 children of age 3-16 years. For the year 2016, the ASER rural survey assessed 216, 365 children of 5-16 year age cohort in Language (Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto), English, and Arithmetic competencies.
The report aims to inform the progress or lack thereof with respect to Article 25 A of the constitution making education a fundamental right for 5-16 year old children since 2010 and also for tracking progress towards SDG 4 measuring learning at the lower primary level.
Proportion of out-of-school children is still the same as compared to 2015. In 2016, 19% of children were reported to be out-of-school. This is unfortunate as the SDG 4 goal and targets have been fully endorsed by the Government of Pakistan and its provinces/areas are engaged in aligning their sector plans to the promise made both for SDG 4 (12 years of schooling) and Article 25 A (the right to education of 5-16 year olds). AJK, Punjab, Sindh, GB and FATA all recorded increases in enrolment ranging between 1.4% to 4.5%! ASER 2016 rural results illustrate a considerable number of children going to non-state schools; 26% children of age 6-16 are enrolled in private sector in 2016 while last year the percentage was 24%. Only Punjab and ICT registered a positive shift in enrolment into public sector schools while in KP and Sindh, the share remains the same as 2015.
Early Childhood Education has also been historically tracked by ASER. From 2014 when ECE enrolment was recorded at 39%, it declined to 37% in 2015 and in 2016 it is 36% in rural Pakistan. Overall, government schools have witnessed a reduction of 7.5% (63%) in enrolment for ECE, whereas private sector holds 37% of total enrolment.
ASER is a citizen led learning accountability movement. According to the report, student competencies in learning English, Arithmetic, and Language have dipped. 48% of the children from Class V cannot read Class II level story text in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto. In English, only 46% of the surveyed Class V students could read sentences, which should ideally be read by students from the second grade. Arithmetic learning levels also have gone down where only 48% of class V children could do a two-digit division, something that is expected in second grade curriculum. ASER 2016 reveals that only in AJK there was a substantial improvement in English and Arithmetic of 17% and 29% respectively from 2015 results! Punjab too registered a slight increase of 1% in Arithmetic over 2015 scores.
The ASER Survey 2016 highlights as per past trends that children enrolled in private schools are performing better compared to those studying in government schools; 66% children enrolled in Class-V in private schools were able to read a story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto compared to 48% Class V students studying at government schools. The difference in learning levels is starker for English, where 65% Grade V could read English Class II level sentences compared to 40% public sector students! For arithmetic 64% children enrolled in class V and going to private school can do 2-digit division as compared to 44% government school children enrolled in class V! In some provinces this gap may be getting narrower; however the private sector edge is a consistent feature. This is corroborated by other studies too in Pakistan.
ASER 2016 for the first time also collected information on some important civic, social support and 21st century indicators such as voter registration, social safety nets, mobile and computer literacy, presence of solar panels etc. The data reveals that households are making practical, logical and progressive decisions: they are enabled towards high voter registration (89% females and 93% males) accessing social safety nets (18% BISP[i], Akhuwat, and PSPA[ii]), they use cell phones (69%), SMS (56%) and WhatsApp (26%) to communicate pragmatically, and have resorted to alternative energy sources (20% overall with FATA at 52%, KP at 29% and Balochistan at 23%) to improve the quality of their lives. The evidence from ASER 2016 reveals that citizens have benefitted from the state’s deeper penetration through NADRA and BISP in terms of access to political space (voter registration), and social safety net as options for offsetting poverty, gender empowerment and voice opportunities. Of significant importance are market-driven facilities such as the availability of cell phones, cheap alternative energy sources to become efficacious for livelihoods and social inclusion. In rural Pakistan coverage through cell phones is in 69% of households, whereas 17% of households have computers or laptops and 18% of the households are covered by social safety nets, highest coverage being 26% in Sindh, 23% in KP and 19% in FATA and 18% in Gilgit Baltistan. BISP can support the out of school children through Waseela -e-Taleem in households reached by ASER 2016.
[i] Benazir Income Support Program
[ii] Punjab Social Protection Authority
More details can be found here