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ASER reports increase in enrolment rates in Punjab, signals positive trend in educational access - The News

This photograph shows students attending a class at a school. — AFP/File

Islamabad: The flagship report of Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Pakistan 2023, for Punjab was launched on April 2, providing valuable insights into the educational and foundational learning (FL) profile across the province. The report focuses on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy measures in the province but also includes important themes such as Climate Change and technology, says a press release.

Minister of Education for Punjab, Rana Sikandar Hayat Khan, graced the occasion as the chief guest and Secretary School Education Department, Dr. Ehtasham Anwar, was the guest of honour. Nabeel Ahmed Awan, Chairman Planning and Development Board, Govt of Punjab, was the chair and panellist.

In Punjab, ASER Pakistan 2023 reached 57,143 children aged 3-16 years, out of whom 26,060 were girls; 46,736 children aged 5-16 were assessed using foundational learning or grade 2 level learning tools in Urdu, Arithmetic, and English. The assessment covered 1,085 villages/blocks in 35 rural and 35 urban districts and 2144 schools (1352 government schools)

The launch was attended by influencers from various sectors, including government officials, civil society representatives, media and development partners. ASER Pakistan, a flagship programme of Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), aims to provide reliable estimates on children’s learning status, aligning with education targets or SDG 4.1.1.a. at lower primary grades 2/3 and Article 25 a right to education. Rubina Tariq, Board member-ITA, extended a warm welcome to the attendees providing an overview of the key aspects of the 12th ASER report since 2009/10.

Punjab Highlights: A key highlight of the ASER 2023 report in Punjab is the remarkable increase in enrolment rates for 6–16-year-olds, signalling a positive trend in educational access. The report indicates that enrolment rate in Punjab is at 93% (highest after AJK: 98% and GB: 94%) for 6-16-year-olds, demonstrating a significant improvement from 86% in 2021. Amongst these, 70% (77% in 2021) of children were enrolled in government schools whereas 30% (23% in 2021) were going to non-state institutions (28% private schools and 1% Madrassah and 1% others). The share of private schools has increased by 7 percentage points compared with 2021, a return to pre-COVID level. In urban areas the Enrolment rate is 97% with 47% children going to private schools.

The percentage of out-of-school children has decreased in Punjab suggesting enhanced demand and access to educational opportunities for both males and females. Gender gaps persist, but more girls are going to school; 3% out of school girls, compared to 4% boys out of school!

However, ASER 2023 revealed a dip in the learning levels. Urdu Story reading declined from 68% in 2021 to 65% in 2023 of 5th graders. A similar trend could be seen in English Sentence reading with fluency, 67% (73% in 2021) and for arithmetic solving two-digit division 61% (69% in 2021) grade 5 children could do it successfully. Learning losses persist from COVID-19 over the years, compared with learning in 2019.

Learning in grade 3 remains low across the country and in Punjab. The ASER tool comprising grade 2 competencies is ideally for grade 3 learning outcomes or the foundational lower primary level. ASER 2023 in Punjab shows that only 26% of children in grade 3 can read an Urdu story, 24% can read a set of English sentences fluently and 18% can do a 2-digit division. The low learning levels at grade 3 need urgent attention as a high-stake target to irreversibly address the crisis of Foundational Learning in Punjab and Pakistan.

Encouragingly, girls continue to outperform or be equal to boys in all three competencies in rural areas and similar pattern is witnessed in urban areas with girls performing better in Urdu (reading story) competency. Gender gains in Punjab are to be applauded.

Whilst after school tuition continue to run high for private schools (33%) as well as government schools (20%), the multi-grade teaching in grade 2 in govt. schools has declined to 18% in 2023 compared to 28% in 2021, which is very positive in spite of new recruitment constraints.



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