After much debate on the post 2015 education agenda on various international forums (CIES 2014, SDG-OWG), it has been repeatedly highlighted that access plus learning should be the KEY post-2015 goal as access without learning is not sustainable.
The Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education in developing regions has reached about 90% - this means more kids (girls and boys) are attending schools than ever. However, post 2011 the progress on the goal has slowed down. There could be various reasons – one of them “could” be the ignorance of the “quality of education” being imparted to the children enrolled. No parent would like to keep sending their child to school if he/she is not learning. Reports such as “Towards Universal Learning: Recommendations from LMTF” and “Making Education a Priority in the Post 2015 Development Agenda” have also proved that in the long run, if the goal of universal primary education has to be achieved and sustained – it has to be linked to LEARNING! If the children are not learning despite being enrolled in schools – we stand nowhere; children are most likely to drop out sooner than later or graduate with no learning leading to not being able to find a job in the market.
Having highlighted the case of “Access plus Learning”, we must not forget that in order to give children quality education, they have to be enrolled in schools and schools than have to be imparting quality education. With less than 500 days left to the MDG deadline, it is now clear to the world that for majority of the developing countries, the education goal cannot be met. There are still about 57 million children of primary school age, including 31 million girls, who are not in school due to financial, social or physical challenges (GMR, 2012). In addition, wide disparities among regions and within countries remain to be addressed in the education agenda. It has been argued that the broader Education for All agenda has been
constrained by the narrower focus of MDG 2 – which is true for the case of Pakistan.
The results of Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Pakistan 2013 also coincide with the above mentioned claim and with the findings of the Learning Metrics Task Force i.e. highest number of out-of-school children and the learning crisis is affecting the most marginalized groups of the economy the hardest. The ASER 2013 Wealth Index results reveal that the poorest quartile has the lowest enrollment rate (59%) while the richest quartile has the highest percentage of children enrolled (83%). A strong correlation between wealth and enrollment is established as we move along the wealth index. Children falling in the ‘poorest’ quartile have the lowest learning levels in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto, English, and Arithmetic whereas the children in the ‘richest’ quartile have the highest learning levels (ASER, 2013). Furthermore, the learning levels of the poorest females are lower when compared to the learning levels of poorest males across all language and arithmetic competencies – 15% of the poorest females can read a story in their local language as compared to 21% poorest males. The data clearly indicates that access plus learning with a focus on inclusion and equity must be at the heart of the post-2015 education agenda. Goals and targets should take into account cross-cutting issues such as gender, wealth status leading to inequality, demographics, migration etc. The new goals should invest in citizenship and emphasize on human well-being.
Huma Zia Faran is working as the Assistant Manager ASER Pakistan. She has been engaged with large-scale household based assessment for three years now. She graduated from Lahore School of Economics in 2010 and has been working in the development sector ever since. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org