ISLAMABAD: In Pakistan, at least one in five children of primary school age is out of school, but the country has improved its net enrollment ratio by 16 percentage points in recent years, says an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.
In a special chapter of Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2015, the flagship annual statistical publication of the ADB, released on Tuesday, discussed online education by stating in its footnotes without mentioning any institution that for example in Pakistan a recent “university” was exposed as a fictitious and simply a diploma mill developing very few student skills.
The report uses a unique data set of education indicators across 67 economies globally, including 23 from developing Asia and the Pacific, to capture key features of basic educational systems.
In most economies, the report states that the enrollment ratios are generally gender neutral, the largest gap is in Pakistan, where the net enrollment ratio in primary education for boys is 9.9 percentage points higher than that for girls, but this gender gap has narrowed significantly from 21.1 percentage points in 2002.
In other economies where enrollment ratios have been in favour of boys in earlier years, the gender gaps have also narrowed, with the advantages slightly reversing in favour of girls in latest years for Bangladesh, Bhutan, Georgia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Developing economies with youth literacy rates below 80% include Afghanistan (47.0%), Bangladesh (79.9%), Bhutan (74.4%), Pakistan (70.8%), and Papua New Guinea (71.2%).
Among the 23 economies that fell short of the 95% mark for completion of last grade of primary school, five economies with the lowest ratios (below 70%) are Nepal (60.4%), India (61.4%), Pakistan (62.2%), Cambodia (64.2%), and Bangladesh (66.2%). However, more economies have improved their expected primary school completion rates, with significant increases of at least 20 percentage points (pp) in Bhutan (48 pp), Cook Islands (30 pp), Cambodia (30 pp), the Lao PDR (41 pp), Mongolia (23 pp), Nepal (25 pp) and Tajikistan (27 pp). Armenia’s latest rate (94.2%) is slightly below 95% and has just fallen slightly from its 1997 baseline rate (96.5%).
As of 2015 (or latest year), all economies in the Asia and Pacific region have under-5 mortality rates of less than 100 deaths per 1,000 live births, with the highest rates in Afghanistan (91), Pakistan (81), and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (67).
Other developing economies with at most 75% of their 1-year-old children immunized against measles are Afghanistan (75%), India (74%), the Marshall Islands (70%), Pakistan (61%), Papua New Guinea (70%), and Timor-Leste (70%).
The prevalence of moderately and severely underweight children under 5 years of age has decreased in 26 of the 31 economies with data for earliest and latest years. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and Vietnam have remarkable average annual reductions (of more than 1 percentage point per year) in the prevalence of underweight children since 1990. However, malnutrition remained high in 11 economies of the Asia and Pacific region (at more than 20%), which include the heavily populated economies of India (29.4%), Bangladesh (32.6%), and Pakistan (31.6%).
Indonesia, Lao PDR, Philippines and Vietnam in Southeast Asia and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, and Tajikistan have seen rise in HIV prevalence rates since 2001.
Prior to that, economies with a relatively young age structure, such as India and Pakistan, should benefit from a rising share of the working-age population in their total population.
About half the regional economies were in the category of “medium human development,” including India and Indonesia. Bangladesh, the region’s fifth most populous economy, was a new addition to the medium group, while the fourth most populous economy, Pakistan, remained in the “low human development” group, along with five other smaller economies.
In Pakistan, a randomized experiment that provided information on school performance to families in markets with public and private education raised student achievement by 0.11, while reducing private school tuition costs by 17%.
“Private school tuition likely declined because better schools were forced to spend more with little real return to learning outcomes, simply to differentiate themselves enough from competing schools,” the report stated.
It requires government commitment to evaluation that imposes private sector accountability. Such mechanisms have been used for students to attend low-cost private schools in Pakistan with significant increases in student enrollment and school inputs.
These programmes required private providers to provide students with free schooling and mandated that schools achieve a minimum pass rate on a standardized exam administered twice a year. Attending a private school was estimated to have significant value added, improving student achievement by 0.25 SD for each additional year of schooling.
In Asia, DIB-financed projects are being used in India and Pakistan to fund expansion of low-cost private schools in rural areas, improve educational enrollment, and help reduce gender inequalities in education. The DIB in rural Pakistan was aimed at adding 5,000 school classes. Private entrepreneurs were recruited and tasked with establishing and operating primary schools in randomly selected rural areas for which children were eligible for free enrollment.
These entrepreneurs were given a per-child subsidy with some schools receiving a higher subsidy for girls than boys. Recent evidence suggests that while this programme did not succeed in inducing greater female enrollment, it did lead to large gains in overall enrollment.
However, developing Asian economies are more recent to the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) trend, including Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines, contributing to initial evaluations that have found more moderate success. This could be driven by a combination of factors including smaller volume of funding earmarked for the transfers, older ages at which transfers have taken place, or less effective institutions.
In Pakistan, a female secondary school stipend increased girls’ enrollment rates by 9% relative to those that did not receive CCTs.
This programme costs only $1 per month, in contrast to a CCT programme targeted at secondary school age girls in Pakistan which increased enrollment only by 9% and costs $3 per month, the report concluded.