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February 15, 2015

Dramatic rise in press coverage of education since 2012: study


February 15, 2015

Even without Malala’s Nobel Prize and the attack on Army Public School Peshawar, education has become a part of the larger national debate over the past two years, according to the preliminary findings of an ongoing study released by Alif Ailaan.
The evaluations, conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s media lab, highlight the changes and the level of coverage of education-related subjects in Pakistani newspapers since 2013.
According to the findings, the average number of stories in 13 newspapers — seven English and six Urdu — on education per week was 29 before 2013. By the end of 2013 the number had increased to 41 while by the end of 2014 there was a four-fold increase with the number of stories rising to 117.
This dramatic increase could be attributed to the heavy press coverage of the Peshawar attack but even if it is removed from the aggregated calculations, the number of stories per week was 98, which is still a two-fold increase in the average.
The trends in the report indicate that the education conversation manifests itself differently at regional and national levels. While the national conversation about education appears to be focused on issues with a broad, global appeal and accessibility, the regional newspapers highlighted issues relevant to specific communities.
Most of the coverage received by education-related subjects was by English newspapers with 54 percent stories, followed by the Urdu press with 28 percent and then the Sindhi press with 18 percent. However, the study highlights, the priority of coverage for education-related topics varied from language to language and region to region.
In Sindhi newspapers, terms such as “village” and “ghost” dominated the linguistic discourse, reflecting rural problems such as schools which were not functioning or had no teachers.
The educational discourse in the Urdu press was dominated by security of educational

institutions in the wake of terrorism incidents while the English newspapers focused on national policies.
Of the education-related stories that were analysed for this study, the report shows that 33 percent were based on national issues, 30 percent on Punjab, 18 percent on Sindh, 8 percent on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan each, and 3 percent on Azad Jammu Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
Terms such as the Higher Education Commission, science, research and federal were found in most of the news stories of national interest.
In Punjab, terms such as board, examination and policy indicated an active institutional apparatus while in Sindh the term “court” was linked to a myriad of education-related stories due to the ongoing controversy pertaining to the illegal hiring of teachers in the province.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the Peshawar attack was seen to have completely offset the ongoing discourse, which included terms such as textbook, committee and system. In Balochistan, coverage of Panjgur incident in which schools were closed by militants seemed to reflect the provincial issues along with education budget.
Coverage from Fata revolved around militants and security, indicating the notorious law and order situation of the area.
Ali Hashmi, a research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who conducted the analysis, said the research could act as a baseline to understand which issues dominated education reporting. “Though it is difficult to establish concrete and specific correlations between media discourse and ground realities on the state of education in Pakistan, it is nevertheless important to view as an indicator of the existing problems.”
Alif Ailaan’s Saman Naz, who co-authored the report, said the lack of quality was at the heart of Pakistan’s educational crisis. “There is also a large vacuum in the discourse on quality which is overshadowed by other issues and this has far-reaching and worrying implications for the future of education.”

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