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LAHORE: As high as 15pc children including eight per cent girls (6-16 years) are still out of school in Punjab and those enrolled are not learning well as 49pc Grade-5 children cannot do two-digit division, 43pc children cannot read Grade-2 level English sentences and 37pc cannot read Urdu text.

These findings were presented at the launch of the Punjab’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey 2014 at Punjab Civil Officers Mess auditorium on Tuesday.

The survey was conducted by 10,000 volunteers managed by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) along with different civil society/semi-autonomous organisations including the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD).

Giving briefing about the grassroots level research findings, ITA Director Programmes Dr Baela Raza Jamil said some eight per cent government primary schools still did not have useable toilets and 12pc were without the usable water facility, while 14pc schools were without boundary walls.

She also said there was a huge gap between primary, middle and secondary education facilities for students as only four per cent children reach Class-10 out of 16pc children enrolled in Class-I.

“Even those children, who want to continue their education, cannot do so in the absence of access limitation,” Dr Jamil lamented. She also regretted that the challenge of imparting quality education was huge too.

Referring to the enactment of Right To Education Act, Dr Jamil said its implementation would remain a dream as the Punjab government had yet to frame rules and regulations to implement the law and become accountable. She said the provision of Right To Education in the Constitution of Pakistan would mark its fifth anniversary in April.

Punjab Higher Education Commission chairman Dr Nizamuddin said ASER had presented an eye-opening data for the policy-makers to use it and make substantial interventions. He stressed that the researches must be brought in action by the policy-makers for the benefit of the masses.

Usually, he said, the reports released by the public sector organisations spoke about activities instead of research outcomes. “After this report launch seminar, the ITA should organise a roundtable discussion to develop strategies for improvement in education sector on the basis of ASER data,” he stressed.

The PHEC chairman also suggested that the Punjab government should also establish a Commission on the lines of the PHEC for bringing turnaround in the school education sector.

Beaconhouse National University’s School of Education Dean Dr Tariq Rehman said the data was usually locked but the ITA had unlocked the data and now it needed to be brought in action.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Secretary-General I.A. Rehman said some 21pc public and 91pc private-sector schools were offering co-education and regretted that the country’s environment was no more encouraging this factor.

Referring to one per cent increase in enrolment compared to last year’s, Mr Rehman said the government at this pace would be requiring some 15 years more to achieve cent per cent enrolment in Punjab. He said the ASER data about the growing incidence of paid tuition even among the government schools’ students, clearly reflected students and their parents’ lack of confidence in education being imparted in public schools.

The government must give sufficient funds for education sector to implement the Article 25-A of the Constitution, he said.

Punjab School Education Department Additional Secretary Ahmed Ali Kamboh said the ASER data would be used by the school education policymakers for re-designing policies and their implementation. He said the education department would consult the ASER team for making interventions that would really turnaround the scene of education at grassroots level.

Concluding the discussion, Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan said the government was working on curricula to promote tolerance among children. He said the prevailing intolerance in society was taking its toll as young 22 to 24 years age boys were being found as suicide bombers.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2015

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