ISLAMABAD - About 90 percent 8th graders have poor writing skills in Urdu while 74 percent struggle in mathematics. Likewise, the 4th graders also perform below average in English and science subjects in government school across Pakistan, according to a government assessment.

The assessment reveals though the students have shown improvement in mathematics and Urdu as compared to the previous assessment, majority of the students has scored below the average with scaled score of 500 (scale used 0-1000).

The assessment “National Achievement Test-2014 Report” has been carried out by the National Education Assessment System (NEAS) of Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training. A total number of 11,200 students from 448 schools were assessed from Grade 4 and 8 in the subjects of English and science, and Urdu and mathematics respectively. The assessment has been conducted after a gap of five years due to paucity of funds. The last curriculum based assessment across Pakistan for measuring student’s learning achievement was conducted in 2008.

According to the findings of the study, marginal improvement was seen in overall performance of the students. As expected, the students from urban areas performed better than those from rural areas. Subject-wise results revealed that English remained the most difficult subject for the students while the situation of Urdu, science and mathematics was also not the desired one. Overall, the assessment says, except in Urdu reading assessment in which the students performed slightly above average (526 mean score out of 1000), the students of Grade 8 scored below the average in Urdu writing (384 mean score) and Mathematics (461mean score). About 50 percent students performed better in Urdu reading but in writing 90 percent students of the same class performed below average in writing; in Mathematics too only 26 percent performed above average while 74 percent scored below average.  

It also points out an alarming difference between leaning levels of  students and teachers, according to which, 49 percent students performed better in Urdu reading while only 15 percent teachers could pass the same reading test. Likewise, if 27 percent students performed better in math assessment, only 18 percent could score better in the same test.

In terms of Urdu reading Punjab is at the top with the highest mean score (568) but when it comes to writing Islamabad Capital Territory is on the top with the highest score (471) that is still below the average mean score of 500.  And, in mathematics again Punjab is at the top (532 mean score) followed by other provinces and regions with Fata at the bottom (398 mean score).

National Coordinator of NEAS, Jaffar Mansoor, who shared the key findings at the report dissemination event, remarked though the educational institutions of the federal capital claim to be imparting quality education yet they have not been able to perform as a role model for the rest of the country. In Grade 4 overall the performance of students remained below the mean of 500 in English reading, writing and science, while the alarming situation emerged in English writing as hardly 13 percent students were above the mean of 500 and 87 percent performed below the average. In English writing, the students of Sindh had distinction with high scaled mean score of 450 whereas the students of Balochistan found English writing the most difficult subject with an achieved scaled mean score of 164. In the subjects of science all the province and regions the students of Grade 4 performed below average score of 500.

Performance of Urdu medium schools was lower in English and science subject, the study says. The assessment found that the students who were taught in local language performed significantly better and strongly recommend to teach students during initial stages in their mother tongue.  

It also highlight that out of selected sample schools, only 32 percent schools had playground facility and 35 percent students do not get free textbooks. It also says those students performed well in mathematics who were not given corporal punishment in the school. The study stresses to discourage corporal punishment but recommends adopting strict measures for late coming, incomplete homework and ill-discipline.

Multi-grade teaching has a negative effect on the students’ performance, it says, but regular homework assignments and correction work has a positive effect on students’ abilities.