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ASER 2019 Gender Analysis
Posted By Hatau Mozayen

Kashmir to Karachi are Girls learning?

ASER 2019 gender analysis

One of the key challenges faced by many countries in the world and Pakistan in particular is addressing gender inequality, and while there are many areas in which gender inequality is a serious issue to be tackled, this can especially be seen, as in ASER, when analyzing the state of education in Pakistan.

ASER 2019 identified several trends concerning gender in education including:

There remain significant differences between rural and urban districts when it comes to the number of out of school children in general and girls in particular. Nationally, 16% of rural children are out of school compared with 6% in urban centers. And while the proportion of boys to girls out of school appears to be fairly even in urban areas (3%) each, there is a small gender gap in urban areas (9%-7%) with more girls out of schools than boys. What seems to be concerning is the fact that since 2016, progress in this area has been marginal with only very small gains being made in the number of children out of school.

However, one of the big strengths of ASER is its evaluation of education doesn't lie just in enrolment figures but also in its analysis of the quality of education that children receive. Here the research shows there also remains a consistent gap in learning levels between students in rural and urban areas with significant gender disparities as well. At the national level, only 38% of girls can read sentences in their Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto, 39% of girls can read words in English and 36% of girls can do at least subtraction compared with 46%, 48% and 43% respectively when it comes to boys. In urban areas, learning levels are significantly higher and the gender gap is smaller but still present; 61% of girls can read sentences in their local language, 68% of girls can read English words and 62% of girls can do subtraction compared with 63%, 71% and 65% respectively for boys. Overall, these figures, presented in the graph below show trends that need to be addressed.

The educational shortfall and gender gap appears to be a generational problem. In the report, ASER also compiled data on the number of parents who had at least had some primary schooling and this research has shown there to be a consistently high gap in the percentages of mothers with at least a primary education compared to fathers, as well a significant difference between rural and urban areas with 63% of urban mothers having had some primary schooling compared to 75% of urban fathers and only 35% of rural mothers compared to 56% of rural fathers. This is an important factor when explaining the gender gap and shows the importance of ensuring girls receive an education. ASER’s findings on a separate study found that parents who had even very basic schooling spent more time on educational activities with their children than parents with no education, promising findings that show parents are likely to take an active involvement in their children’s education, setting them up for better lives in the future This highlights the need to give more girls a quality education, not just to improve their lives, but to improve the lives of girls for generations to come.

Another trend that ASER showed was the geographic variations in enrolment and learning levels of girls. Rurally, Azad Jammu and Kashmir reported the highest enrolment rate with only 3% of children out of school and in fact more boys than girls out of school. AJK also posted by far the best learning levels albeit with a small gender gap with 69% of girls able to read English words, significantly higher than the national level. At the other end of the spectrum is Balochistan where 29% of children were out of school with a significant gender gap and the figures on learning levels paint a similarly dire picture with only 23% of girls able to understand English words. The same wide variations can be seen in urban centers; Islamabad reported excellent results, with almost no out of school children and high learning levels with a very low gender gap, in a stark contrast with Khuzdar which reported an out of school population of almost five times the national average, and comparatively much lower learning levels as well. These reports highlight big regional gaps in Pakistan's education system and the education of girls in particular and, while on one level, it is promising to see certain areas doing so well, the research places an even greater emphasis on the need to bolster girl's education across Pakistan.

Another trend to come out of ASER   2019 is that progress in improving girl's education remains inconsistent. Rurally, Gilgit-Baltistan reported steady progress in enrolment figures but still retained a significant gender gap in learning levels, Balochistan had more mixed progress, enrollment figures being better overall than in 2016 but worse than 2018 and in the newly merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, figures across the board were significantly lower than in 2016. Urban areas were similarly inconsistent and this can be seen in just one city, Karachi, which was separated into three districts. Karachi Central performed strongly on enrolment and learning levels with a narrowing gender gap, yet reported a regression in the percentage of parents and especially mothers who had had a primary education. Meanwhile, Karachi East had a low rate of out of school children with no discernible gender gap yet significantly lower learning levels than Karachi Central. Lastly, Karachi South reported similar levels of enrollment and slightly higher learning levels than Karachi East although, interestingly, girls outperformed boys across the board. In fact, there are several examples of a reverse gender gap such as urban Quetta and rural Islamabad, although these are very much the exception. That said, there are some examples of positive progress, Faisalabad and Korangi reported high levels of enrolment and learning levels with very low gender gaps as well as clear progress in the percentage of parents and especially mothers who had had some schooling. Despite these signs of undoubted progress, the overall trends of progression are frustrating.

Overall, these trends show that enrollment is on the rise and the percentage of parents and especially mothers having at least a primary education is increasing. However, progress in addressing the gender gap prevalent in Pakistan’s education system is still inconsistent and there is a significant gap in the levels of girl’s education between rural and urban areas. More needs to be done in order to improve the state of education across the whole of Pakistan.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of ASER Pakistan.
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