ISLAMABAD-The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) launched on Monday said despite of government efforts to increase enrolment in educational institutions, 17 percent children are still out-of-school.

The report launched also said that children enrolled in grade 3 continue to struggle due to low grasp of foundational skills in basic literacy and numeracy, despite trends in learning levels in language and arithmetic from 2014 to 2019 show an improvement from 13 per cent to 17 per cent for grade 5.

About Early Childhood Education (ECE), the report said that from 2014 when ECE enrolment stood at 39 per cent, it has not registered significant improvement (39% in 2019), although ECE is critical for foundational learning readiness in literacy and numeracy.

However, on the positive side ASER rural results showed a decline in the number of children going to private sector schools; 23 per cent children of age 6-16 are enrolled in private sector in 2019 compared to 30 per cent in 2014.

The shift to government/public sector schools has increased the enrolment share from 70 per cent (2014) to 77 per cent in 2019. This edge must be maintained with persistent state actions for quality facilities.

According to the rural report, student competencies in learning language, English, and Arithmetic have improved: 59 per cent of the children from Class V read Class II level story text in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto; in English, only 55 per cent of the surveyed Class V students could read sentences, meant for students at second grade.

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Arithmetic learning levels have also improved since 2018; now 57 per cent of class V children could do a two-digit division, pegged at second grade curriculum. New questions on time recognition along with word problems on addition and multiplication were also added for the first time.

Sixty per cent of children in class 5 could recognise time correctly, 60 per cent could solve addition word problem and 53 per cent could solve multiplication word problem. Private sector schools report better learning outcomes and boys outperform girls. In comparison, the learning levels in urban areas are considerably higher than rural areas across all three competencies.

Overall, 70 per cent of the children enrolled in grade 5 in all urban districts can read a story in the local language, 67 per cent can read sentences in English while 66 per cent can do division with reduced gender gaps.

In contrast, the survey in 20 urban centres across Pakistan reveals that only 6 per cent children are out of school. With 40 per cent of the population residing in urban areas, this presents an important opportunity to accelerate universal access for the urban 5-16 year olds, while simultaneously focusing on rural areas. Education targets can be met through extra ordinary resolve and actions by the state to guarantee a constitutional fundamental right.

These findings were made public in the report of ASER Survey 2019. Over 10,000 volunteer citizens visited 155 districts in 4,546 villages to implement the ASER survey from 92,008 households and 255,266 children of age 3-16 years.

For the year 2019, the ASER rural survey assessed 202,648 children of 5-16 year age cohort in language (Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto), English, and Arithmetic competencies mapped to grade 2 curriculum and textbooks. In nine districts, the survey was successfully conducted through androids, testing for at scale survey solutions that are paperless, efficient and transparent.

Report said teachers’ attendance in government and private schools stood same at 89 per cent closing the gap, on the day of the survey. Whilst private school teachers were reported to have better qualifications at graduate levels (40%) compared to 33 per cent in government schools; however, for MA/MSC qualifications, a larger percentage of public sector teachers have a higher qualification than private counterparts.

However, multi-grade classrooms highlight teacher shortages as rural findings reveal 46 per cent of government and 26 per cent of private schools impart multi-grade teaching at grade 2 level; whilst in grade 8, multi-grade teaching stood at 18 per cent in both government and private schools; multi-grade in government middle schools has risen from 5 per cent (2018) to 18 per cent in 2019.