ISLAMABAD - Despite the recent focus of the federal and provincial governments on enrolment drives as a rhetoric on Article 25 A, 21 per cent of Pakistan’s children aged 6-16 still remain out of school, according to the Annual Status of Education Report - ASER 2013 National Survey.

The data shows that in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, fortunately, the percentage of Out of School Children is lower than the national average, at 14 per cent. However, despite this good news, the learning levels of the remaining 86 per cent are not satisfactory.

These findings were made public in the KPK Provincial Launch report of Pakistan’s largest-annual citizen-led household based ASER Survey 2013 - the fifth ASER Survey report in a row - launched in Peshawar on Monday February 24th, 2014. The ASER 2013 survey has been conducted by 10,000 volunteers managed by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) along with many key civil society /semi autonomous that include the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), Sindh Education Foundation (SEF), Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD), HANDS, NRSP and several civil society organizations across Pakistan.

The ASER survey findings in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are based on the testing of 45,290 rural children (including 38 per cent girls) and 1,379 urban children (including 37 per cent girls) by over 1,500 volunteer citizens, who personally visited 15,144 households in 763 villages/urban blocks. For the year 2013, the ASER rural survey was conducted in 25 rural districts, and one urban district, Peshawar, of Kyber Pakhtunkhwa, wherein 5-16 year age cohort children were tested for English, Language (Urdu/Pashto), and Arithmetic competencies.

According to the report, in KP, student competencies in learning English, Arithmetic, and Language are deplorable. 61 per cent of the children from Class V cannot read Class II level text in Urdu/Pashto. In English, only 39 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 have deteriorated for English and Urdu/Pashto by 4 and 8 per cent respectively. A similar pattern has been seen in the Arithmetic capabilities of children where only 38 per cent of Class V children were able to do a two-digit division, something that is expected in second grade curriculum, compared to 44 per cent in 2012.

The ASER survey also has identified that children enrolled in private schools, in KP are performing better compared to those studying in government schools; 51 per cent children enrolled in Class-V in private schools were able to read a story in Urdu compared to 35 per cent Class V students studying at government schools. The difference in learning levels is starker for English, where 56 per cent Grade V could read English Class II level sentences compared to only 34 per cent public sector students!               

Gender gaps in KP are consistent with the national results, where boys continue to outperform girls in basic literacy and numeracy. For example, 51 per cent of boys could read at least sentences in Urdu/Pashto compared to 40 per cent girls. Similarly, in Arithmetic, 53 per cent boys were able to do at least subtraction where only 41 per cent girls could do it.

In addition to the assessment of children, the report also highlights school functioning across every district in AJK. The ASER rural survey in KP informs that over all teachers’ attendance in government schools stood at 86 per cent as compared to 93 per cent in private schools on the day of the survey. Private teachers and government teachers were reported to have similar qualifications at the graduate level; however, the case was different for MA/MSc or post-graduate qualifications, whereby a slightly larger percentage of public sector teachers (35 per cent) have a higher qualification than private sector (33 per cent) counterparts. But then do qualifications matter more than attitudes and pedagogies?

The trends in multi-grade teaching across schools, in KP are also mixed. ASER 2013-KP findings have found 38 per cent of government and 17 per cent of private schools imparting multi-grade teaching at Class II level. On the contrary, at the Class VIII level, multi-grade teaching is more prevalent in the private sector 32 vs. 9 per cent per cent in government schools.

With regard to school facilities and grants in KP, the condition is appalling! The findings for KP state that 44 per cent government primary schools received funds from the government as compared to 0 per cent private primary schools, in 2013. Moreover, only 12 per cent private primary schools had no boundary-walls as compared to 34 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 43 per cent public and 12 per cent private primary schools in rural KP.