Islamabad - About 21 per cent of Pakistan’s children aged between 6 to 16 years still remain out of school and the remaining 79 per cent that are enrolled in the same age bracket are not learning much.

According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 national survey, student competencies in learning English, arithmetic, and language are deplorable as half i.e. 54 per cent of the children from Class V cannot read Class II level text in Urdu/Sindhi/ Pashto. Sindh has the lowest learning level of English in Class-V i.e. 24 per cent.

The household based ASER Survey states that the private sector is performing better than the government sector as far as the learning levels of children, student and teacher attendance are concerned. It has also identified that children enrolled in private schools are performing better as compared to those studying in government schools; 60 per cent children enrolled in Class-V in private schools were able to read a story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto compared to 42 per cent class-V students studying at government schools.

The ASER rural survey has been conducted in 144 rural districts and 21 urban administrative areas in the country, wherein 5-16 year age cohort 195,723 children were tested for English, language (Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto), and arithmetic competencies. The ASER 2014 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.

The study reveals that the proportion of enrolled children (3-5 years) in rural areas has decreased in 2014 to 39 per cent as compared to 41 per cent in 2013. However, the proportion of enrolled children in urban has remained the same as that of 2013 i.e. 58 per cent.

The survey reveals a clear urban-rural divide, whereby urban areas perform better in terms of access (94% children in schools vs. 79% in rural areas) and infrastructure facilities. The survey results illustrate a considerable number of children going to non-state schools this year compared to public schools. As many as 30 per cent children of age 6-16 were found enrolled in non-state schools in 2014 while in the previous year the percentage was 26 per cent.

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 39 per cent girls. For arithmetic, 45 percent of Class V boys were able to do Class II level subtraction as compared to only 38 percent Class V girls.

Islamabad tops the enrolment ranking with the 99 per cent enrolment of children (6-16 years)in schools, following Azad Jammu and Kashmir with 94 per cent, Gilgit-Baltistan 86 per cent, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 85 per cent, FATA 80 per cent, Sindh 73 per cent, and Balochistan 67 per cent.

In addition to the assessment of children, the report also highlights schools functioning across every district in Pakistan. The rural survey informs that overall teachers’ attendance in government schools stood at 88 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 33 per cent in government schools, however the reverse is the case for MA/MSC or postgraduate qualifications, whereby larger percentage of public sector teachers have a higher qualification than private sector counterparts.

Despite of the fact that only 4 per cent private primary schools receive funds from the government (as compared to 26% public primary schools), the private sector has been reported to be better at school facilities. For example, 73 per cent private primary schools had boundary walls as compared to 61 per cent government primary schools. Similarly, with regard to availability of functional toilets, it has been found that the facility was still not available in 49 per cent public and 25 per cent private primary schools in rural Pakistan.

The statistics of education are not satisfactory as one and half million children are not attending schools; however the government is committed to improving not only the figures but the standards of education, remarked State Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Baligh ur Rehman at the launch. “Although the budget allocation in education at the federal level is 2 percent while the budget allocation at the provincial level is not less than the one fourth of the entire budget at provincial level,” he added.

Federal Minister for Planning and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal vowed that to meet the current era challenges and bridge the imbalance between hardware and software, the government would double the education budget by 2018 as planed in the Vision 2025.