LAHORE: Fourteen per cent children of school age are not attending schools in rural districts of Punjab – a five per cent increase from nine per cent out-of-school children recorded in 2019.
For the first time, the number of out-of-school boys (8pc) has surpassed the girls (6pc) by two per cent in the rural areas.
“About six per cent girls and eight per cent boys are out of school in the rural districts of Punjab,” says Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Punjab Rural 2021.
However, the learning level of children, mostly fifth graders, improved in public schools.
The report titled, ASER Punjab Rural- 2021, the largest annual citizen-led household survey, was launched on Tuesday. It calls for urgent action to be taken for an educated Punjab to halt the protracted devaluing of its social capital.
ASER Pakistan is a flagship program of Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA). In Punjab, it collected data from 35 districts, 20,062 households, 1,018 villages, 51,067 children (54pc males, 46oc females) belonging to the age group of three to 16 years. Out of these, 44,670 children aged 5-16 years were assessed in grade-2 level language and arithmetic skills.
At least 910 government schools and 446 private schools were surveyed. ASER Pakistan tracks children’s enrollment covering age group of 3-16 and learning outcomes for 5-16 years old, aligned to Article 25 –as a fundamental constitution right and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.
In 2021, 14pc of children in Punjab were reported to be out of school with an increase of five per cent compared to 2019 (nine PC); there is an increase in out-of-school children (OOSC) across Pakistan during the Covid-19.
In Punjab, the OOSC, 6pc were never enrolled in a school and 8pc dropped out of school. This calls for the urgency to address the issue through second chance accelerated and bridge programmes through both non-formal education and mainstreamed SED schools in afternoon/morning shifts on a fast track.
Eighty-six per cent of all school-age children (6-16 years) were enrolled in schools, including 77pc in government schools, 23pc were in the non-state institutions (22 pc private schools and one per cent madrasa). Private schools enrollment dropped by 5pc, which can be improved by supporting low-cost NSPs/private schools in the rural areas through the Punjab Education Foundation.
For early childhood education (ECE) (3-5 years), the proportion of enrolled children has decreased in 2021 (43pc) as compared to 2019 (52pc). Fifty-seven children of age 3-5 are currently not enrolled in any ECE program in Punjab. Hence, a campaign for ECE in Punjab, foundational learning and holistic ECE health/nutrition is urgently needed.
The report said that the learning losses are a trend across Pakistan, including Punjab as 68pc of class 5 children could read a class 2 level story in Urdu, compared to 75 pc in 2019. English learning levels (in class 5) improved marginally with 73pc of children being able to read English sentences (class 2 level) compared to 71 pc in 2019. Sixty-nine per cent class 5 children could do two-digit division as compared to 82pc in 2019. This requires continuity of learning with outcomes programmes – built on hybrid/ICT efforts.
Children enrolled in private schools are performing better compared to their government counterparts in Urdu (7pc gap) and arithmetic (5pc gap).
However, learning levels of class 5 children have improved in government schools as 65pc class 5 children in government schools can read English sentences, compared to 63pc private school children.
Gender gap in learning continues as the boys outperform girls (age 5-16) in literacy and numeracy skills. Fifty-four per cent of boys and 51pc of girls can read at least sentences in Urdu. 58 pc boys could read at least English words while 56pc of girls could do the same. Similarly, 53pc of boys are able to do at least subtraction whereas only 52 pc girls could do it. Twenty-two per cent teachers of the surveyed government schools have done graduation as compared to 37pc teachers of the surveyed private schools. However, 31pc in government schools have done M.Ed compared to 16pc in private schools.
Private tuition incidence is greater in private school students. Overall paid tuition for students in private schools is 38 pc compared to 30 pc in government schools.
Regarding the learning support received during the Covid-19 by children, the report says that 63pc got support from PTV Tele School sessions, 63pc availed support from family members, 45pc had access to smartphones, 31pc had computers, 35pc paid tuition, 12pc used digital learning resources and 11pc accessed radio programmes for learning support.
In Punjab, 77pc of households have mobile phones and 71pc smart phones. Amongst mobile users, 92pc use WhatsApp whilst 68pc use SMS facility, 29pc have internet and 24pc have computer/laptops, 81pc households have TV and 18pc have radio.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2022