LAHORE: The growth of private schools in Pakistan and the government’s inability to close the achievement gap between affluent and poorer children were both stated as causes for worry in the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report released by Unesco and Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi on Wednesday.

The new report, titled “Who Loses, Who Chooses” states that in order to present a thorough overview of the part non-state actors play in education in Pakistan and throughout South Asia. The report was launched at a private institution.

It showed that the quick spread of for-profit educational institutions will necessitate tighter regulation to protect equity and quality.

In Pakistan in 2019, the proportion of urban students in private schools who received tutoring increased from 23 per cent in grade 5 to 39 perc ent in grade 8 and 59 per cent in grade 10.

It also points out that, in contrast to other countries, Pakistan uses a franchise system for tutoring, with businesses or academies managing schools and tutoring facilities and creating their curricula and texts. Up to 288 EdTech companies have been founded since 2015, and this market has seen a 15-fold increase in investment.

The report highlights the significant differences in learning results between pupils who attend private schools and those who attend public schools. Students participating in private colleges routinely perform substantially better academically than those attending public schools, where student-teacher ratios can reach 92:1.

However, it points out that the proportional advantage that private schools enjoy in terms of learning results is diminished or gone after controlling socioeconomic status.

It highlights how the growth of private education has created segregation and perhaps even stigma against public education.

According to a review of 2014 data on 2,500 schools in Pakistan, children’s performance and levels of poverty were strongly correlated.

Covid-19 has both brought attention to and aggravated the problems now plaguing Pakistan’s educational system. Privately funded colleges with students from more affluent families were frequently better equipped to handle the effects of school closures and the cessation of in-person instruction.

However, with only 14.3pc of families across the country having access to a laptop or desktop, and just 4pc of the population knowing basic ICT skills, remote learning was much harder to organise for low-budget state schools.

Additionally, as Covid-19 dealt a blow to global economies, income levels suffered, and state schools were overwhelmed with an influx of pupils who could no longer afford private schools. Enrolment in private schools decreased from 23pc in 2019 to 19pc in 2021.

The report urged the government to increase its involvement in education systems and it devised five policy recommendations to enhance the quality and equity of education across all schools in South Asia.

The first recommendation includes that the government fulfill the commitment to make one year of pre-primary and 12 years of primary and secondary education free.

Secondly, the government should set quality standards for state and non-state education institutions and improve state capacity to ensure their implementation.

Thirdly, the government should establish common monitoring and support processes for both state and non-state institutions. Fourthly, the government should facilitate the spread of innovation through the education system for the common good, and finally, the government should maintain the transparency, inclusivity and integrity of public education policy processes.

Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2022

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