The Pakistan District Education Ranking 2016, a report compiled by education campaign Alif Ailaan, gives us nothing to rejoice about. The district-based reports, which focus on education score-keeping in light of different parameters such as retention, learning and gender parity in educational institutes across the country, give a clear insight into the dismal state of education in the country.

Although this report gives us many reasons to be very concerned for the future of Pakistan’s children, the most salient issue is that 81% of all government schools are primary schools, which has major implications for the state of higher education in the country. If the aim was just basic literacy, then the government should perhaps be satisfied with the result of this report. Considering that Pakistan has the most out-of-school children in the world, around 24 million, and is second only to Nigeria in this regard, even basic literacy is a far-reaching dream the way the situation is progressing ever so slowly. The aim must slowly shift from primary education to secondary and higher education and access must be improved to allow children to continue their education provided they do not drop out first.

The report states that all provinces have generally declined in retention of students and gender parity except for Punjab, which has shown a consistent improvement. Worryingly so, the district Lahore has gone down to the 22nd rank as compared to its third position in 2015, reflecting that the growing number of private schools mushrooming across the city and the standard of education provided by them need to be regulated so that the number of disillusioned parents encouraging drop out decrease in number.

Amongst reports of improvements in other districts, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Balochistan and Sindh are performing consistently poorly, even though a large chunk of the budget of Sindh has gone towards the improvement of education. In light of these dismal rankings the recent news of the Sindh Government taking over the DFID education project is probably not in the best interests of the people. While the dismal situation in FATA and Balochistan can be attributed to the conflict and violence in these provinces, the Sindh Government has no excuse for this bleak situation and must be held accountable. The report points out that the country’s overall education score has declined by four points after consecutive years of slow improvement and retention is the biggest factor to blame. Drastic changes must be made in the way we hope to educate if we are to improve the situation in the country.