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LAHORE, Jan 17: The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Pakistan 2010, a survey to assess the learning outcomes of school going (3-16 years) children in 32 districts (rural areas) across Pakistan, has exposed the education system, be it public or private, by identifying that more than half of the children surveyed cannot read even a sentence in Urdu or in their local language. Arithmetic scores were even poorer as around 56 per cent of the children could not do two-digit subtraction sums. The ability to read English text was a nightmare for many as 68 of 100 could not read even Class-I level sentences.

The ASER Pakistan (Rural) 2010 sample survey was conducted by the South Asia Forum for Education Development (SAFED) managed by Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in collaboration with the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), UNESCO, Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI) and Sindh Education Foundation (SEF).

The survey was conducted in 19,006 households and 1,267 schools, including 445 private schools in 960 villages across 32 districts (rural) in all five provinces as well as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). As many as 13 districts were selected from Punjab, five from Balochistan, four from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, six from Sindh, two from the AJK, one from Gilgit-Baltistan and the ICT (rural). Some 2,000 surveyors employed three simple instruments to test the learning levels of 54,062 children (58 per cent of boys and 42 per cent girls) and 19,915 mothers during September-November 2010. In each district, 60 volunteers were mobilised to survey 30 villages in pairs, while 200 households were surveyed in each district.

The survey reveals that about 20 per cent of the children in these households are out-of-school. Of those attending schools, some 71 per cent are attending government schools, 27 per cent go to private schools and less than one per cent attend madrassah or other education facilities.

The explanation of school enrolment data reveals that students’ enrolment ratio falls sharply as they progress from class-I to class-X. The survey identified that 16.7 per cent of the total enrolled children were in class-I, while it dropped to 15.2 per cent in class-II, 14 per cent in class-III and enrolment dropped to just 3.3 per cent as the students could reach class-X.

Of all the mothers contacted under this citizen-led survey, only 54 per cent agreed to be tested. Only 32 per cent of mothers were able to read a simple paragraph from level-I text, while the remaining 68 per cent fell in the illiterate category.

The learning assessment of students’ class-wise ability to read Urdu and their own language showed that only 44.4 per cent of class-III students were able to read sentences from level-I text, while nearly 80 per cent could not read a simple class-II level story. More serious was the finding that a whopping 48 per cent of class-V students could not read a story text of level-II.

In sharp contrast to the enrolled students’ learning level, the survey’s most startling finding was that 24 per cent of out-of-school children were able to read story text, while 34 per cent were proficient at sentence level.

“All concerned, including the government, must not ignore the dropouts but help them avail a second chance of formal schooling, attain their right to education and become productive members of society,” advocates SAFED coordinator Baela Raza Jamil.

The survey also found out that of 10,246 children falling in 3-5 years age bracket, 44.7 per cent in rural areas were enrolled in some kind of pre-school education facility. Girls’ enrolment rate stood at 43.4 per cent. Whilst access is mostly available to government schools, learning conditions are far from adequate.

Assessing public and private school profiles, the ASER 2010 survey found that overall students’ attendance in government and private schools is 85 per cent and 89 per cent. With regard to teachers’ attendance, it came out as a pleasant surprise that public sector schoolteachers’ attendance rate was 87 per cent amidst perceptions that government schoolteachers did not attend schools regularly.

However, it was recorded that 44.8 per cent of sanctioned teaching positions in government schools, surveyed by the volunteer citizens, were lying vacant. In private schools, the attendance of teachers was slightly higher at 90 per cent.

Assessment of physical facilities in selected government primary schools illustrated that 57.5 per cent had useable water facility and 45.3 per cent of the schools had functional toilet against 80 per cent and 69 per cent in private primary schools.

Ms Jamil calls the findings as a wake-up call for heavy investment in the education and wellbeing of the younger generation.

The ASER team says the baseline created by this survey would be measured and tracked every year until 2015 to see whether learning levels are improving and challenges of access to education for both girls and boys in every settlement of Pakistan are met or not.