Learning levels in rural areas tumbling

Published January 19, 2014
The educationists say students’ low learning levels bring into question the competence of teachers as well as the examination systems that are promoting incompetent students to next grades.  — Photo by Shameen Khan
The educationists say students’ low learning levels bring into question the competence of teachers as well as the examination systems that are promoting incompetent students to next grades. — Photo by Shameen Khan

LAHORE: Learning levels of students across rural Pakistan are tumbling despite rhetoric and massive investment and interventions in school education system by respective provincial governments as almost 57 per cent Grade 5 students cannot read Grade 2 English sentences and cannot do two-digit division. More alarmingly almost half of such students have been found unable to read simple Class-II level story text in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto.

Since last year, the competency of reading English sentences by Class-V students has gone down by 5 per cent and in arithmetic skills have fallen by 1 per cent. The students’ ability to read Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto story text remained static at around 50 per cent.

The educationists say students’ low learning levels bring into question the competence of teachers as well as the examination systems that are promoting incompetent students to next grades.

Sindh has shown worst students’ learning outcomes, enrolment as well as school facilities, while Punjab tops among the provinces followed by Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan in terms of students’ learning outcomes, enrolment and school infrastructure, reveals Pakistan’s largest citizen-led and household-based Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Survey 2013.

The ASER survey findings, based on the testing of 249,832 students (including 41 per cent girls) in rural parts of 138 districts and 13 urban districts, has been conducted by Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in collaboration with its partner organisations for the fifth consecutive year. The ASER survey was pioneered by India in 2005 and is now being conducted in eight countries to assess their school students learning levels and school facilities.

In Sindh, the survey has revealed that almost 75 per cent Class-V students are unable to read Class-II English sentences and do two-digit subtraction, while 71 per cent students failed the test of doing two-digit division and 58 per cent remained unable to read a story text in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto.

The learning indicators of students in Sindh are even low than their counterparts in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), which shows that its 27.9 per cent students can read English sentences and 29.3 per cent and 37.4 per cent children are able to solve two-digit subtraction and division questions.

Besides appalling learning levels, some 29.1 per cent 6-16 years of age children in Sindh are also out-of-school including 6.6 per cent dropped out – showing a little improvement from last year’s 32 per cent out-of-school children.

Enrolment low

The ASER survey about the incidence of 6-16 years of age out-of-school children shows that despite public demand with respect to Article 25-A of the Constitution making education a fundamental right since 2010, the state has not shown any overwhelming response as a large number of 5-16 years of age children are still out of schools.

The Balochistan and Sindh provinces have shown most appalling out-of-school students’ ratio at 33.8 per cent and 29.1 per cent, respectively. In Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan, the ratio of out-of-school children stands as high as 15.7 per cent each, and 14 per cent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Reading results

The survey has assessed 5-16 years and 3-5 years age children’s learning levels through specifically designed Class-II level story text in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto languages.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Grade 5 students have shown poorest competence in reading Urdu or Pashto as 61 per cent of them cannot read Class-II level story text that grows to almost 89 per cent when the same test was given to Grade-III students. In Balochistan, 51.2 per cent Class-V students could not read story text, while 94.4 per cent Class-III students failed in story reading text. In GB, as many as 49 per cent Class-V and 84 per cent Class-III students cannot read Urdu/Pashto story text.

In Punjab, 34 per cent Class-V and 73 per cent Class-III students cannot read Urdu story text.

In the reading test of Class-II level English sentences, Balochistan’s 96.1 per cent Class-III and 71 per cent Class-V students failed. In Sindh, Class-III and V’s 91 per cent and 75 per cent children, respectively, failed to read English sentences.

In Punjab, where many interventions have been made through the assistance of foreign donors agencies, has shown far better results as its 62.1 per cent Class-V and 25.2 per cent Class-III students qualified the English sentences reading test.

As high as 60.4 per cent Grade 5 students in GB and 39.3 per cent students in KP showed their competence in reading English sentences.

Mathematical problem

The mathematics assessment test covering two-digit subtraction and division questions put to Class-V students revealed that 75 per cent and 71 per cent students in Sindh could not correctly attempt the two types of questions, respectively.

In KP, 65.8 per cent and 62.4 per cent students could not solve the subtraction and division questions correctly. This ratio in Balochistan stood at 66.5 per cent and 61.4 per cent, respectively. In GB, 69.3 per cent and almost half of the total surveyed students correctly attempted subtraction and division questions, respectively.

The Punjab students topped among all provinces’ students with only 27.5 per cent students found able to do subtraction and 56.3 per cent students doing division questions correctly.


The Punjab province is ahead of KP, Sindh, GB and Balochistan in terms of infrastructure facilities in schools – classrooms, useable drinking water and toilets, boundary walls, library and computer labs in public schools.

Though a primary school should have six classrooms ideally, GB and Punjab have 3.4 and 3.0 classrooms on an average. KP, Sindh and Balochistan have 3.3, 2.3 and 2.0 classrooms on an average.

The less number of classrooms in schools is leading to multi-grade teaching and the survey data shows that across Pakistan, 48 per cent of the surveyed government schools and 30 per cent private schools had Class-II students sitting with other classes. Similarly, 15 per cent government and 37 per cent private schools had Class-VIII students sitting with other classes.

Punjab has useable drinking water in its 95 per cent primary schools, KP in 74.1 per cent schools, Sindh 67.7 per cent, GB 55.9 per cent and Balochistan have water facility in 28.8 per cent schools.

The functional toilets are available in 86.4 per cent primary schools in Punjab, 56.7 per cent in KP, 49.6 per cent in Sindh, 40.7 per cent in GB and 16.6 per cent schools in Balochistan.

As high as 80.5 per cent primary schools in Punjab have boundary-walls, as compared to 65.9 per cent in KP, 63.2 per cent in Sindh, 50.8 per cent in GB and 24.7 per cent primary schools in Balochistan.

With regard to the availability of libraries in primary schools and functional computer labs in high schools, Punjab’s 13.8 per cent and 82.1 per cent schools have these facilities, respectively.

KP, GB, Sindh and Balochistan’s 23.3, 11.9, 2.2 and 0.6 per cent primary schools have libraries, while 71.9, 38.9, 37.5 and 23.3 per cent high schools have functional computer labs, respectively.


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