24 percent of children in Sindh remained out of school in 2015

24 percent of children in Sindh remained out of school in 2015

KARACHI: Despite many recent initiatives taken by both the federal and provincial governments to promote school enrolment as a rhetoric on Article 25 A, 24 percent of Sindh's children aged six to sixteen are still found to be out of school, according to a survey conducted in Sindh by the Annual Status of Education Report -(ASER) 2015. Even the remaining 76 percent enroled in the six-to-sixteen age bracket were not found to learn much either.

These findings were made public in a report conducted by Pakistan's largest-annual citizen-led household-based ASER Survey 2015, the sixth ASER Survey Report - launched in Karachi on Thursday. 1800 volunteers from Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) helped collect the data under the supervision of Baela Raza Jamil, the organisation's trustee and advisor. In addition to ITA, many key civil society /semi-autonomous organisations, which include National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), Sindh Education Foundation (SEF), and HANDS helped conduct the ASER 2015 survey.

The volunteer citizens personally visited 14668 households in 737 villages/residential blocks and then based the ASER survey findings on the information collected from 44713 children of age 3-16 years (which included 42 percent girls). For the year 2015, the ASER rural survey has been conducted in 25 rural districts, wherein 30128 children in the 5-16 year age cohort were tested for English, Urdu, and Arithmetic competencies.

The report aims to track the progress or lack with respect to Article 25 A of the constitution, which has demarcated education as a fundamental right for children aged 5-16 years since 2010. However, its implementation has not yet taken place to date as both laws and rules remain in abeyance! In spite of an overwhelming public demand, the state response, at best, continues to remain neutral towards establishing education as a basic need. Parliamentarians and ministers have often made commitments to be held accountable as duty bearers, but they have yet to walk the talk. Dr Fazlullah Pechuho, alongside eminent parliamentarians across political parties, including Fouzia Hameed, Shehla Din, Qamar Shahid, Khurram Sher Zaman, and educationists, including Shafeeq Piracha, and Faisal Ahmed Uqaili from Reform Support Unit, all seem to have agreed that they must now prioritise a future based on an educated Pakistan. It is now time to put a stop to marginalised learning and undervalued social capital. The current democratic dispensation should dramatically change the narrative on education.

However, the proportion of out-of-school children has still decreased, when compared to 2014. In 2015, 24 percent of children were reported to be out-of-school, a statistic, which has decreased as, compared to the previous year (27 percent). 18 percent of the children were found to never have been enroled in any school and another six percent have dropped out of school for various reasons. The ASER findings have also observed an interesting trend this year. In 2015, a considerable number of children were found enroled in public schools as compared to non-state schools. 88 percent children of age six-to-16 are enroled in public schools in 2015 while last year, the percentage was 83percent.

According to the report, student competencies in learning English, arithmetic, and Urdu language also need a significant improvement. 55 percent of the children in Class V could not read Class II level text in Urdu. In English, only 24 percent of the surveyed Class V students could read sentences, which should ideally be read by students from the second grade. Arithmetic learning levels show improvement capabilities of children where only 35 percent of class V children could do a two-digit division; something expected to be covered in the second-grade curriculum.

The ASER Survey has also identified that many children enroled in private schools are performing better when compared to those studying in government schools; 53 percent of children enroled in Class V in private schools were able to read a story in Urdu. However, only 45 percent of Class V students studying at government schools could complete the task. The difference in learning levels is even starker for English, where 48 percent Grade V could read English Class II level sentences in private schools, and only 22 percent in public schools! For arithmetic, 45 percent of children enrolled in class V in private schools could do two-digit division, as compared to 35 percent of government school children enrolled in class V.

Furthermore, the survey also explains that boys are still outperforming girls in literacy and numeracy skills in rural Sindh. As many as 40 percent of boys were found to be able to read sentences in Urdu, whereas only 33 percent of girls could perform the task. In the arithmetic assessment, 37 percent of Class V boys were able to do Class II level subtraction, as compared to only 31 percent Class V girls.

In addition to assessing children, the report also highlights functioning of schools across Sindh. The ASER rural survey informs that teachers' attendance in government schools stood at 88 percent as compared to 89 percent in private schools on the day the survey was collected. Government teachers were reported to have better qualifications at graduate levels; for example, 41 percent teachers in private schools were graduates in comparison to the 46 percent graduates found in government schools. A similar trend was also found for post-graduation qualifications, whereby a larger percentage of public sector teachers were found to have a higher qualification than their private sector counterparts.

The trends in multi-grade teaching across the schools were found to be mixed. ASER 2015 Sindh rural findings found 71 percent of government and 30 percent of private schools, imparting multi-grade teaching at Class II level. Similarly, at the Class VIII level, multi-grade teaching was more prevalent in the government sector about 33percent than the private schools having 12 percent.