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May 27, 2016

In a shambles is what education is in Sindh


The sixth edition of the Annual State of Education Report (Aser), released on Thursday, makes for a damning indictment of Sindh’s education sector as it proffers statistics that would – in an ideally developed society – leave governments red-faced and with no option but to quit or face the sack for abject performance.

This is how it goes: Even in the year 2015-16, almost a quarter (24pc) of Sindh’s children aged between 6 and 16 are out of school; of the remaining 76 percent, 55 percent of Class-V students can’t read Class-II level Urdu text and only 24 percent can comprehend written English. 

While that pretty much sums up the ‘quality of education’ aspect, the infrastructural side remains similarly bleak; 52 percent public and 40 percent private primary schools of rural Sindh still do not have functional washrooms; also 33 percent of private primary schools do not have boundary walls, as don’t 41 percent of government primary schools.

The report seems to expose as mere rhetoric the recent focus of federal and provincial governments on enrolment drives, as the figures show that the prevalent situation is nowhere close to the government-set targets. 

However, the Aser report also shows that the proportion of out-of-school children has decreased minimally as compared to 2014, when the figure stood at 27 percent as compared to 2015’s 24 percent. It explains that of these 24 percent, 18 percent children have never been enrolled in schools while six percent have dropped out for various reasons. 

Another area where there was almost negligible improvement was the number of children going to public schools as, in 2015, 88 percent children aged between 6 to 16 years were enrolled in public schools, while last year the percentage was 83 percent.  

From there on, there remain little signs of improvement as an analysis of infrastructural facilities showed that 67 percent private primary schools have boundary walls, as compared to 59 percent government primary schools. 

With regards to availability of functional toilets, the report’s findings show that proper facilities were not available in 52 percent public and 40 percent private primary schools throughout rural Sindh.

As for learning outcomes, the report indicates that student competency in English, Arithmetic, and language have improved, but still 55 percent of the children in Class-V cannot read Class-II level Urdu text.

In English, only 24 percent of the surveyed Class-V students could read sentences that should ideally be comprehensible for students from the second grade. Arithmetic learning levels show only 35 percent of Class-V children could complete two-digit division problems, tasks that are expected to be mastered in the second grade.  


Private vs govt

The survey also identified that children enrolled in private schools were performing better compared to those studying in government schools. The report finds that 53 percent Class-V students in private schools were able to read a story in Urdu, as compared to 45 percent of Class-V students studying at government schools.

The difference in learning levels is greater when it comes to English as 48 percent Class-V could read Class-II level English sentences, as compared to 22 percent public sector students. In arithmetic, 45 percent of Class-V private school students were capable of solving two-digit division problems, as compared to 35 percent Class-V government school children. 

The survey also indicates that boys have been faring better in literacy and numeracy skills in rural Sindh. As many as 40 percent of boys were found to be able to read sentences in Urdu, as compared to 33 percent girls. In arithmetic, 37 percent of Class-V boys were able to do Class-II level subtraction, as compared to only 31 percent Class-V girls.


Teachers’ assessment

In addition to students’ assessment, the report also looks into the functioning of schools and shows that, overall, teachers’ attendance in government schools stood at 88 percent as compared to 89 percent in private schools on the day of the survey.

The survey report states 41 percent teachers in private schools were graduates in comparison to 46 percent in government schools, and a similar trend was seen with MA/MSc or postgraduate qualifications whereby a larger percentage of public sector teachers possess higher qualification than their private sector counterparts.

The trends in multi-grade teaching across schools were also mixed. The report findings show that 71 percent of government and 30 percent of private schools were imparting multi-grade teaching at the Class-II level. 

Similarly, at Class-VIII level, multi-grade teaching was more prevalent in the government sector, 33 percent, against 12 percent in private schools.  

It also showed that despite the fact that only seven percent private primary schools receive funds from the government – as compared to 23 percent public primary schools – the private sector can be considered better when it comes to school facilities. For the report, 1,800 volunteers managed by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) under the supervision of Baela Raza Jamil – ITA Trustee and Advisor, along with many key civil society and semi-autonomous bodies including the National Commission for Human Development, Sindh Education Foundation, HANDS and several other civil society organisations across Pakistan, helped conduct the survey.

The volunteers, who personally visited 14,668 households’ in 737 villages/blocks, have based the survey findings on information about 44,713 children of ages three to 16, including 42 percent girls. For the year 2015, the Aser rural survey was conducted in 25 rural districts, where 30,128 children aged between five to 16 years were tested for English, Urdu, and arithmetic competency.