ISLAMABAD - Despite recent focus of the federal and provincial governments on enrolment drives, 21 per cent of Pakistan's children aged 5-16 are still out of school.And the remaining 79 per cent that are enrolled in the 5-16 age bracket are not learning much either, says a household survey that measures basic learning levels.The survey reports 34 per cent children are out of school in Balochistan, 29 per cent in Sindh, 21 per cent in Federally Administered Tribal Areas, 16 per cent in Gilgit-Baltistan, 16 per cent in Punjab, 14 per cent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 5 per cent children are out of school in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Islamabad. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2013 National survey has been conducted by 10,000 volunteers managed by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) along with many key civil society /semi-autonomous organisations including National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), Sindh Education Foundation (SEF), Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD), HANDS, and NRSP across Pakistan.According to the report, student competencies in learning English, arithmetic, and language are deplorable. Only 50 per cent children in Class-V can read story fluently in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto and half of the children from Class-V cannot read Class II level text in Urdu/Sindhi/ Pashto. In English, only 43 per cent of the surveyed Class V students could read sentences which should ideally be read by students from the second grade. Compared to the last year, the learning levels in English have deteriorated by 5 per cent. A similar trend has been observed in arithmetic capabilities of children where only 43 per cent of Class-V children were able to do a two-digit division, something that is expected in second grade curriculum. The ASER survey findings have been based on the testing of 249,832 children (including 41 per cent girls). For the year 2013, the ASER rural survey has been conducted in 138 rural districts in the country, wherein 5-16 year age cohort children were tested for English, language (Urdu/Sindhi/Pushto), and arithmetic competencies.The survey also identified that children enrolled in private schools are performing better compared to those studying in government schools as 61 per cent children enrolled in Class-V in private schools were able to read a story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto compared to 46 per cent Class-V students studying at government schools. The difference in learning levels is starker for English, where 63 per cent Grade V could read English Class II level sentences compared to only 38 per cent public sector students.Further, the survey explains that boys are outperforming girls in literacy and numeracy skills in rural Pakistan. As many as 46 per cent of boys were found able to read at least sentences in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto as compared to 40 per cent girls. The gender gap in learning levels is highest for arithmetic where 45 per cent of Class-V boys were able to do Class-II level subtraction as compared to only 38 per cent Class V girls. In addition to the assessment of children, the report also highlights schools' functioning across every district in Pakistan. The ASER rural survey informs that over all teachers' attendance in government schools stood at 87 per cent as compared to 93 per cent in private schools on the day of the survey. Private teachers were reported to have better qualifications at graduate levels; for example, 39 per cent teachers in private schools are graduates in comparison to only 34 per cent in government schools, however the reverse is the case for MA/MSc or post graduate qualifications, whereby larger percentage of public sector teachers have a higher qualification than private sector counterparts. Although only 9pc private schools receive funds from the government (as compared to 36pc public schools), the private sector has been reported to be better at school facilities. For example, 72pc private primary schools had boundary-walls as compared to 57pc govt primary schools. Similarly, with regard to availability of functional toilets, it has been found that the facility was still not available in 53 per cent public and 24 per cent private schools in rural Pakistan.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 17-Jan-2014 here.