KARACHI: The provincial launch of the Annual Status of Education Report (Aser) Pakistan 2019 under the aegis of the Idara-i-Taleem-o-Agahi (ITA) was held at a local hotel here on Wednesday.
According to ITA CEO Baela Raza Jamil, there has been a record shift of students from private schools to government schools. “Enrolment choices at public and private facilities as recorded by Aser in the rural areas, from 2014 to 2019, present a clear shift in households opting for public-sector schools,” she said, while explaining that enrolment had increased from 70 per cent in 2014 to 77pc in 2019 with a commensurate decrease from 30pc to 23pc in private-sector share.
“This trend speaks volumes for persistent government efforts over the past few years to improve public-sector facilities, ensuring teachers’ presence and merit-based recruitment. This focus must remain front and centre to the education enterprise in Pakistan,” she said.
That said, she added that the learning levels at schools still break hearts. “Some 41 per cent children in grade five cannot read simple stories in Urdu or Sindhi,” she said. “More importantly, if we look at learning at grade eight or lower secondary, 14 per cent children are still unable to read a grade two level story in Urdu or Sindhi,” she said.
“This is unacceptable, amplifying the call for action to the fundamental challenge that enrolment or schooling does not mean learning,” she pointed out.
Responding to a question about his call for action, singer Shehzad Roy of Zindagi Trust said that it was also alarming to find in the report that 44pc children lacked comprehension.
“Why can’t they understand their lessons? Is it due to a lack of good schoolbooks?” He asked. He also said that the education department here needed to take basic baby steps instead of jumping into firefighting.
Khalid Haider, secretary, school education and literacy department, said that he had only just taken charge but Aser had provided him much data to help him plan his next steps. “The Sindh government is investing so much in education here which is not showing in the learning outcomes,” he said. “We will use Aser’s data to make our decisions,” he said.
Sindh’s Minister for Education Saeed Ghani, meanwhile, said that what was really needed was good intentions than money to fix education in the province therefore after getting the education portfolio he had decided to activate the staff at schools.
“I make surprise visits at schools during assembly time and because of that the staff has started showing up at schools. We also have a WhatsApp group of schools where I leave a message early to let everyone know I am watching them and then they, too, start posting their school pictures to show that they are all there. When the teachers come to school, the students will also come,” he pointed out.
A panel discussion regarding what was needed to improve the standards of education followed.
Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2020