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Non-state actors influencing education sector: Unesco report

By Our Correspondent
November 10, 2022

LAHORE: A report launched on Wednesday provides a comprehensive analysis of the role of non-state actors in education in Pakistan and across South Asia.

Produced by Unesco’s Global Education Monitoring Report and Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), the study entitled Who Loses, Who Chooses, shows that a rapid proliferation of private education institutions requires stronger oversight to ensure that quality and equity are not put at risk. Baela Raza Jamil, CEO ITA, shares, “In Pakistan private sector fills up critical gaps in education service provision in both urban and rural areas not just through pre-schools, schools, colleges and universities, but also in the vital areas of disability services, teacher preparation, EdTech, textbooks and assessments. Given the huge challenges of the sector and multiple emergencies, there is an urgency to have enabling standards along with predictable regulatory regimes and support systems by the state to work as ONE for improving key metrics on access with quality, inclusion and equity; Pakistan must accelerate actions with all actors to catch up on foundational learning and SDG 4 targets in South Asia”. With the Pakistani government spending less than 2.5pc of annual GDP on education throughout the 2010s, state schools are insufficient in both supply and quality. Private education has grown to fill the gaps. The report finds that one third of students in Pakistan attend privately funded schools, with 45pc of those in private education, and 25pc in state education in urban areas paying for additional private tutoring. Overall, 8pc of students are enrolled in religious schools.

Dr Manos Antoninis, Director Global Education Monitoring (GEM), Unesco while presenting the reports’ findings shared, “South Asia has the highest share of private institutions in total enrollment in the world. Fifty per cent of secondary school students study in private institutions compared to 27pc around the world. Non-state actors are influential across all education levels in the region. The Annual Status Report (ASER) has come in handy for gathering important data between the public and private sectors.” Ms Kulsoom Saqib, Special Secretary for the School Education Department Punjab, in her address stressed the importance of partnership of all stakeholders to ensure equity in education. Unregistered schools are also common. An assessment of low-cost private schools in Pakistan in 2015 found that 18pc of primary, 14pc of lower secondary and 4pc of upper secondary schools were unregistered.

The majority of programmes operated as unregulated entities, without government supervision and oversight. The report highlights the exponential growth of private tutoring and educational technology companies in Pakistan, predominantly due to rapid growth in the labour market and the resultant competitiveness in the education system. In Pakistan in 2019, tutoring’s prevalence among children in urban areas attending a private school rose from 23pc in grade 5 to 39pc in grade 8 and 59pc in grade 10. It also notes that, in comparison to other countries, a franchise model of tutoring is prevalent in Pakistan, with companies or academies running schools and tuition centres, and developing their own curriculum and textbooks.

Since 2015, 288 EdTech companies have been established, with investment in this market increasing fifteen-fold. The report notes the stark disparities in learning outcomes between privately educated and state educated students. Those attending private institutions consistently score significantly higher than those enrolled in state schools, where the student-teacher ratios are as high as 92:1. Privately funded institutions, with pupils of more financially stable backgrounds, were often better prepared to cope with the implications of school closures and suspension of in-person teaching.