By Baela Raza Jamil, who currently serves as the Director of Programs Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi and the Institute for Professional Learning as well as Coordinator of the South Asian Forum for Education Development.
The 5th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 was released on 8 January 2015 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The Report highlights continued gaps in learning, access and equity for children aged 3-16, especially in the transition to post-primary education.
Under article 25-A of the Pakistani constitution, the government is obligated to provide free compulsory education to all children aged 5-16 as a fundamental right. However, there is a growing concern among households about where children will be educated beyond the five grades of primary school. And with 1 middle school for every 8 primary schools and just 1 secondary school for every 11 primary schools, the lack of post-primary education opportunities leaves many parents frustrated and angry, sometimes resulting in a decision to withdraw their children from school, even at a primary level.
||Ratio of Primary Schools to Middle Schools
||Ratio of Primary Schools to Secondary Schools
The latest round of ASER 2014 covered 263,990 children aged 3-16 from 144 rural and 21 urban districts of Pakistan. The figures indicate that 18% of primary school-aged children in rural areas are still not in school. At the lower secondary level one in five children of children are out of school, increasing to almost one in three children at the upper secondary level. The urban-rural gaps in out of school children are pronounced at all education levels, as the Table below indicates.
These disparities in the transition from primary to post primary education, and the prevalence of millions of out of school children means that many children risk falling victim to severe violations of their rights including, for example, child labor, trafficking and early marriage. These risks are particularly salient for the poorest children.
The ASER Report reveals that while the non-state education provision has increased in both rural and urban areas, this investment mainly occurs at a primary level due to the higher costs associated with the provision of middle and secondary schools.
Credit: Akhtar Soomro/UNESCO
In Sindh province, 91% of all public sector schools are primary schools, while just 5% and 3% are middle and secondary schools respectively. The number of non-state providers in rural areas has risen from 10% (ASER 2013) to 17% (ASER 2014), revealing that the demand for schools in rural Sindh is increasing.
Given these gaps in access to post-primary education in Pakistan, government planners must consider more innovative strategies to reduce disparities in the post-2015 period. Neither the government nor the private sector is actively investing in facilities for secondary education. There is a real need for more equity driven public policy programs.
The formidable challenges facing Pakistan are at the heart of the global challenge to reduce the 58 million children out of school and 250 million not learning well. The proposed Sustainable Development Goal on education–“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all”– and its 9 targets call on countries to establish an inclusive lifelong learning framework from early childhood to basic education, paying particular attention to gender equality and marginalized groups. They also highlight the importance of opportunities in secondary schools and tertiary institutions, including technical and vocational education and training. They set forth an ambitious and bold agenda for countries so that all children and youth acquire important skills, and that gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged groups are closed. But who will bridge these gaps? Who will proactively engage with the post-2015 targets, and who will ensure that our children don’t end up a generation without hope or capability?
For further information contact Baela Raza Jamil at email@example.com
Click to enlarge. (source: ASER 2014)
Message on the Launch of ASER 2014
By Muhammad Baligh ur Rehman, Minister of State Federal Education and Professional Training and Interior and Narcotics Control.
“The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) by Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) has been gaining momentum over the years and has earned respect of policy makers, educationists, analysts, media and the public. I appreciate the commendable job by ITA and all Partners for providing this reflection about the state of affairs of education prevailing in Pakistan. By creating public awareness, ASER not only helps us to improve our work and bridge the gaps but also creates a pressure on all the governments and stakeholders, which is good for the noble cause of quality education.
We are working hard to improve access to education as millions of children are out of school; and it is imperative to focus on quality of education simultaneously. Whereas public funding, inclusive of provincial and federal resources available for education, merely accounts for around 2% of GDP; the current government has been successful in increasing tax to GDP ratio to a certain extent and vows to keep on increasing it. Inshallah as more resources will be available, the governments are determined to take it up to 4% of GDP as soon as possible.
I thank all the Partners of ASER for their public service and wish them well in their efforts.“
January 8, 2015, Islamabad