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Did MNAs improve education in their constituencies? Barely, says new study

Published 13 Nov, 2015 07:36pm

An Alif Ailaan ‘report card’ highlights the subpar performance of MNAs in bringing demonstrable change to their constituencies during the two-and-a-half years that have elapsed since the 2013 elections.

The ‘report card’ awards grades to MNAs on the basis of their performance across four indicators developed and researched by Alif Ailaan, an organisation run by a team of media and strategic communications specialists.

State of school facilities: highest grades awarded for most progress in provision of boundary walls, electricity, drinking water, sanitation facilities

Retention rate between classes II and IV: highest grades given for most improvement in retention rate over past two years with the highest grades awarded to those constituencies with the highest improvement in the retention rate since 2013

State of gender parity: highest grades reserved for constituencies depicting the greatest movement towards gender parity

Student-teacher ratio: highest grades for greatest improvement in the ratio since 2013

The grade given to each MNA represents the change each has brought in their respective constituencies, not the overall state of education in their constituencies,

Prominent findings

The highest possible grade an MNA could have received is an A+ and the lowest an E. However, of the 326 MNAs considered in the report, a vast majority ─ about 181 ─ received Bs, while 138 received Cs.

The overall grade for the National Assembly is a C grade.

Only 7 MNAs received A grades and of these, 2 were Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) members and 3 were PML-N members.

Taking into account party representation in the list ─ which includes 181 PML-N MNAs and just 4 PkMAP MNAs ─ the results appear to favour the PkMAP. The PML-N also has the greatest number of MNAs with B grades (109) and C grades (69).

Most other parties appear to have a somewhat equitable distribution of B and C grades in their ranks.

School facilities

Only four South Punjab MNAs received A+ grades along this indicator, while 32 received As ─ of which 13 MNAs belonged to Punjab.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Khurram Dastagir Khan are among the cabinet members who performed well.

Of the 7 E grades awarded, none of the MNAs belonged to Punjab which, the report says, is indicative of higher investments in educational infrastructure in the province.

Former Chief Minister and JUI-F leader Akram Durrani and former Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan of the PML-N are among prominent cabinet members who received E grades.

Retention rates

None of the eight A+ grades awarded to MNAs belonged to either Punjab or Balochistan. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's Murad Saeed and Muttahida Qaumi Movement's Ali Raza Abidi are among prominent MNAs who received A+ grades.

Ironically, Murad Saeed was caught in a probe over the validity of his own university degree earlier this year.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Federal Minister for Education Balighur Rehman are both among the low performers who received D grades.

The report explains the complexity of this metric, saying that it tends to not just be a measure of school quality, but also signifies the impact of exogenous factors, including the availability of private schools and enrolment rates.

Gender parity

All four A+ grades awarded to MNAs on gender parity belonged to central Punjab, and a large percentage of the 33 As also belonged to Punjab MNAs. PkMAP's Mehmood Jan Achakzai, Qaumi Watan Party's Aftab Sherpao and Federal Minister for Health Saira Afzal Tarar are among prominent MNAs who received A grades.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the report says, also performs well in gender parity and received no entries among E grade recipients in contrast to Sindh, which fares poorly, with both Thatta and Tharparkar MNAs receiving E grades.

Student-teacher ratio

One of the trends revealed by the ratio, the report says, is that high population density areas perform poorly on this indicator while less densely populated areas perform well. The ratio appears to be a challenge in Punjab, the report says, where all 24 D grades and 11 E grades were awarded to MNAs.

Four Karachi MNAs, however, received A grades contrary to the observable trend.

Recommendations

Alif Ailaan highlights the importance of the MNA's role and influence in his or her own constituency. The report says that meaningful and sustained sectoral reform cannot come without MNAs being invested in improving the state of education in their constituencies.

The report calls for "timely and effective improvements in school facility provision", adding: "This will remain nearly impossible without a significant increase in both the total magnitude of government funding of education as well as the quality of government spending. The starting point for this is for government to meet its promise of spending at least 4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product on education."


The report says MNAs can improve their grades through the following means:

  • Timely and effective improvements in school facility provision
  • Insisting on rational allocations of teachers rather than postings and transfers that suit their patronage of political actors in their constituencies
  • Encouraging girls’ enrolment and ensuring that practices like corporal punishment are prevented
  • Finding ways to serve the education needs of young girls, rather than blaming the specific contexts in which > they live

The report claims that even MNAs who received A grades would not send their own children to government schools, which shows that there is scope for improvement in the state of the public school system as well as in the effort that MNAs expend to support better education outcomes.

The report also emphasises the need for better mechanisms for data collection, accessibility and reporting and says the onus is on the government to do so.

A final report card grading MNAs performance will be delivered in 2018 in time for the next General Elections, Alif Ailaan says.