Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Facts and Myths About Out of School Children in Pakistan

A recent Express Tribune newspaper headline screamed: "Over 27 million children out of school" It included the following graphic that looks even more scary:

The story had the intended effect. Various commentators and pundits responded in a knee-jerk fashion. Without scrutinizing the data and checking the facts, they declared the situation "hopeless". Many Indian readers also jumped in on the discussions at various Internet sites to reinforce the doom and gloom about Pakistan.

Instead of joining the mourning crowd, I decided to check the original sources and found as follows:

1. The actual number of out of school children of primary age in Pakistan is 5.1 million.

2. The figures of 50% in Punjab, 61% in Sindh, 65% in KP and 78% in Balochistan are for pre-primary children ages 3 to 5 years, not for ages 6-16 years.

3. In 6-16 years age group, 7% of urban and 23% of rural children are out of school.

Source: 2012 Global Monitoring Report
4. The number of primary-age out-of-school children has declined from in 8.4 million in 2001 to 5.1 million in 2010.

5. According to Pakistan Standards of Living Measurements PSLM 2011-12, the country's literacy rate is 58%, not 54% as claimed in the latest Express Tribune story.

Source: 2012 Global Monitoring Report

6. Data from Harvard researchers Rober Barro and Jhong-Wa Lee shows that Pakistan has been increasing enrollment of students in schools at a faster rate since 1990 than India. In 1990, there were 66.2% of Pakistanis vs 51.6% of Indians who had no schooling. In 2000, there were 60.2% Pakistanis vs 43% Indians with no schooling. In 2010, Pakistan reduced it to 38% vs India's 32.7%.

Source: Pakistan Education Stats

UNESCO data also shows that a significant percentage of out-of-school children in Pakistan are expected to enter school:

I do not see any justification for the usual expressions of extreme pessimism that follow every alarmist report in the media. I do, however, see an urgent need for higher spending and greater focus on education by the incoming government to make faster progress, particularly in closing the gender gap in school enrollment. A recent report about significant education successes in Punjab prepared by Sir Micheal Barber gives me hope that the PML (N) will perform better than the last government in responding to the challenge.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Educational Attainment in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Biotech and Genomics in Pakistan

India & Pakistan Comparison Update 2011

India and Pakistan Contrasted in 2010
Eating Grass-The Making of Pakistani Bomb
Educational Attainment Dataset By Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee

Quality of Higher Education in India and Pakistan

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Pakistan's Story After 64 Years of Independence

Pakistan Ahead of India on Key Human Development Indices


Hopewins said...

From the graph you have provided:

It looks like India went from 20.3 Million (16%) out of school in 2001 to 5.0 Million (4%) out of school in 2004.

Looks like the bigoted, hateful, fascist BJP did manage to do some good after all. Do you agree?

Maybe we should also elect some of our own bigoted, hateful, fascist parties? Perhaps they would also do a good job?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a UNESCO story of youth champions helping enroll children:

LAHORE, Pakistan, 17 April 2012 – Walking through the narrow streets of Ahmedabad, an urban slum on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, 22-year-old Syed Mohsin Raza saw a barefoot school-aged girl playing outside her house.

He asked if she was in school. When he learned she was not, Mr. Raza approached her parents, determined to convince them to send her to school. Mr. Raza is a volunteer in UNICEF’s ‘Young Champions’ initiative to get every child of school age in his community enrolled in school.

“I joined the ‘Young Champions’ initiative in September 2010,” Mr. Raza said. “Since then, I’ve managed to have more than 200 children enrolled. Initially, it is difficult to convince the parents. I tell about the advantages of educating their children and eventually they agree. I encourage them to keep their children in school for at least 10 years.”

Empowering youth to help out-of-school children

‘Young Champions’ initiative is a programme of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). In Pakistan, it is conducted in partnership with the UNICEF Punjab office, Jahandad Society for Community Development (JSCD), and government social welfare and education departments.

Through the programme, educated youth are selected and trained to encourage families in their communities to enrol children in school.

“‘Young Champions’ … envisions involving adolescents as ‘young champions’ to become advocates and change-makers in their communities, to address gender concerns, increase girl child enrolment and decrease drop outs,” said UNICEF Education Officer Sehr Raza Qizilbash. “Over the last two years, this initiative has produced encouraging results and made a substantial contribution to UNICEF’s objective of enrolling every school-going-aged child in target districts."

Most out-of-school children are marginalized and poor; some have been forced by circumstances to drop out to engage in child labour.

“This is a poor neighbourhood,” Mr. Raza. “Most men here work as labourers on daily wages while women go to affluent localities to work as housemaids. Each family has around four to six children, and poverty is often the reason why parents don’t send their children to school. They want them to work and earn some money even at this tender age.”

The programme is being implemented in 40 Union Councils in Lahore and Faisalabad districts, and UNICEF plans to expand the initiative by involving Girl Guides and Boy Scouts during 2012 and beyond...


Anonymous said...

Haq Sb,

Pakistani media has a tendency of alway presenting the bad picture of the country.

As far as education is concerned, I think even if one child is out of scholl then it is one too many.


Riaz Haq said...

Zamir: "As far as education is concerned, I think even if one child is out of scholl then it is one too many."


Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on literacy through text messaging:

For 1,500 women in Pakistan, an SMS message will soon be a tutor, textbook and school all rolled into one.
On Wednesday, Mobilink Foundation — a nonprofit organisation established by Mobilink in 2007 — and UNESCO signed an agreement to enhance their “SMS-based Literacy” programme.
The programme, which will now enter into a fourth phase, aims to educate 1,500 illiterate women in Punjab and Sindh using tutorials that will be sent via text messages in Urdu. At least 4,000 women have previously benefited from the same programme.
In the latest phase, UNESCO has collaborated with government education departments and agencies to increase the project’s outreach. As a result, 500 male students at 20 centres in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will also be taking part.
The six-month initiative will be managed under Mobilink Foundation’s “mTaleem” scheme, which provides education to underprivileged communities across Pakistan.
Throughout the programme, the women, who will be selected by community-based nonprofit organisations, will be given basic training on how to use mobile phones and practical hands-on experience.
The learning performance of the students will be tested using a special software developed by Mobilink.
During this phase, learners at 20 centres, namely Multan, Sahiwal, Okara, Thatta, Jacobabad and Shaheed Benazirabad will be participating in the programme. The phase also includes UNESCO’s initiative for the capacity building of rural female teachers, whereby 150 teachers in Islamabad will be trained about Early Childhood Education while 30 teachers in Multan, Sahiwal and Okara will learn about literacy and non-formal basic education.
UNESCO Islamabad Director Dr Kozue Kay Nagata said that the programme’s novel approach, while developing interest among the learners would also safeguard them from relapsing into illiteracy.
The mobile phones, however, contextualise the learning to suit modern day realities.
The phones can be used for sending and receiving text messages in the future, thereby helping the women retain the basic language skills they have learnt, said Nagata.
Incentives such as permanent ownership of the phone sets and free SMS from Mobilink for a fixed duration also fuel interest, she added.
Mobilink Corporate Communications Head Omar Manzur said the programme has also won the GSMA’s Global Mobile Award in the “Connected Life Awards” category and was acknowledged as the “Best Mobile Education or Learning Product or Service” in February this year.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nation report on out of school children in Pakistan:

A report on ‘State of Pakistan’s Children 2012’ launched here on Thursday revealed that almost 25 million children and adolescents are out of school in Pakistan, out of which seven million (aged between three to five years) have yet to receive primary schooling.
The poor state of education in the country is evident from Pakistan’s position on the Education Development Index which says Pakistan is ranked at 113 out of 120 countries.
Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) launched the report at a gathering held here at a local hotel. It said that with the current rate of progress, Pakistan will fail to reach the education related MDGs by 2015. The report states that almost 225,000 annual newborn deaths are reported in Pakistan. It further highlights that resurgence of polio and measles in different parts of the country poses new challenges to an already under-equipped health sector of Pakistan.....


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn story on a World Bank study of poverty reduction in Pakistan:

A new World Bank study says Pakistan has demonstrated that it can reduce poverty even at relatively low rates of growth of 3.2 to 4.5 per cent but not at growth of GDP per capita of 1pc, noting that it is struggling to sustain that growth.

“International comparisons suggest that Pakistan has been a good performer in turning growth into poverty reduction. Countries that are more successful in reducing poverty tend to be better at generating sustained growth, however the issue for Pakistan will thus be sustaining growth,” according to World Bank policy note on poverty in Pakistan.

The observation that Pakistan is successful in reducing poverty when GDP grows but cannot sustain that growth has two important policy implications. With more growth interruptions, an adequate social protection system becomes more important.

The second implication is that a renewed effort to address the problem that work against sustained growth would be well justified for faster poverty reduction.

This effort should lead to policy priorities for poverty reduction different from those in countries better able to sustain growth but unable to convert that growth into rapid poverty reduction, it says.

The poor are vulnerable to shocks — be they of natural disasters, health or macro policy. An adequate system would ensure that when shocks hit, the poor and vulnerable can still maintain the investments they need to increase their incomes and their children’s welfare.

Describing safety net programme like Benazir Income Support Programme as no substitute for sustained growth, the study says due to stop-go growth and too many natural disasters, Pakistan has to ensure a strong safety net programme as part of an overall poverty reduction strategy.

The study estimates that in Punjab, the largest province, where it says data appears more reliable, poverty has fallen considerably from 33.5pc in 2001-02 to 16.4pc in 2007-08, after adjusting for higher food prices.

This improvement was driven largely by increasing returns in the non-farm sector, in both urban and rural areas.

Over the period, the growth of per capita consumption of the bottom 40pc of Punjab’s population exceeded GDP per capita growth. Subsequently, over 2007-08, 2010-11, per capita real consumption growth in Punjab was stagnant, and the equality of opportunity for primary education completion rates seemed to improve but alongside a slowdown in the rate of improvement in indicators for water and sanitation and for primary enrolment.

The report says that the last three years have seen sizeable differences in the improving social indicators. Sindh has been lagging in its primary completion rates, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has been lagging in coverage of improved sanitation.

According to the report, opportunity is growing in both urban and rural areas for education and sanitation, which is a very positive sign. Urban children have more absolute opportunity than rural children, but the rate of growth in rural areas is growing faster.



Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Times on Literacy Day in Pakistan:

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova has said the primary school survival rate is 70 percent in Pakistan, while a gender gap still exists.

She said the survival rate for girls in primary schools was 68 percent compared to 71 percent for boys.

She made these points in her message on the International Literacy Day.

She said Punjab, primary school survival rate today was better with 76 percent, but not without a gender gap of 8 percent with the girls’ survival rate at 72 percent compared to 80 percent for boys.

She pointed out the better average per student spending in primary level (ages 5 to 9) in Punjab, which was Rs 6,998 compared to the national average.

She said in Balochistan, although almost the same amount of money, Rs 6,985, was being spent, but the primary school survival rate was only 53 percent. The girls’ survival rate was slightly better with 54 percent than that of boys, which was 52 percent, she added.

She said in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the primary school survival rate was 67 percent, which was lower than the national average of 70 percent. She added that the gender gap also existed with girls’ survival rate at 65 percent compared to 68 percent for boys.

She mentioned that per student education expenditure in primary level (ages 5 to 9) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was Rs 8,638.

Islamabad UNESCO Director Dr Kozue Kay Nagata drew on the point made by Irina Bokova and highlighted its relevance in Pakistan’s context.

Referring to a recent national survey carried out by the Education Ministry, Trainings and Standards in Higher Education, Dr Nagata pointed out that in Sindh, the primary school survival rate was 63 percent. She said the girls’ survival rate was 67 percent compared to 60 percent for boys. Per student education expenditure in primary level (ages 5 to 9) in Sindh was Rs 5,019.

“Literacy is much more than an educational priority – it is the ultimate investment in the future and the first step towards all the new forms of literacy required in the 21st century. We wish to see a century where every child is able to read and to use this skill to gain autonomy.”

Like every year, the UNESCO supported the relevant federal and provincial governments and NGOs working for the promotion of literacy, to organise meaningful events in their respective constituencies to mark this year’s International Literacy Day.

A total of 21 events (two seminars in Karachi, three in Lahore, two in Quetta, two in Peshawar, one literacy walk each in Islamabad and Peshawar, one seminar each in Sialkot, Muzaffergarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Multan and Hafizabad and one seminar each in five districts of Balochistan, Pishin, Ziarat, Nushki and Qilla Saifullah, were being organised by relevant stakeholders with the UNESCO’s support.

These events include advocacy campaigns on LED digital screens (electronic hording boards) in Islamabad, literacy walks, seminars, speeches and art competitions, and seminars of teachers’ associations.

About nine events were being organised in the rural communities to mobilise the communities to send their children to schools.

Dr Nagata underscored: “Illiteracy in Pakistan has fallen over the last two decades, thanks to the government and people of Pakistan for their efforts in working towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Today, 70 percent of Pakistani youth can read and write. In 20 years, illiteracy has been reduced significantly.”

However, she also emphasised the need to do more to improve the literacy rate in the country and said: “The proportion of population in Pakistan lacking basic reading and writing skills is too high. This is a serious obstacle in the development of the society”


Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on private school enrollment growth in Pakistan:

Pakistan is seeing a surge in private schools, a trend some find hopeful in a country where the government education system is decrepit and the other alternative is religious schools, known here as madrasas, which offer little education beyond memorizing the Quran and are seen as one source of Islamic militancy.

The U.S., for one, says it plans to invest in private schools as part of a multibillion-dollar aid package designed to erode extremism in the nuclear-armed country battered by Taliban attacks.

"The quality of education in the public sector is deteriorating day by day," said T.M. Qureshi, a Ministry of Education official. "When there's a vacuum of quality, someone will fill it."

According to UNESCO figures, Pakistan spends 2.9 percent of its gross domestic product on education, slightly less than India's 3.2 percent and well below the U.S.'s 5.2 percent.

One reason education has historically been a low priority for Pakistani governments, experts say, is that the governing elite can afford to send their children to the best private schools or to academies abroad. Another, the experts say, is the feudal structures in the rural areas that give landowners an incentive to keep farm workers uneducated and submissive.

Only around half of Pakistani adults can read, schools often lack basic amenities like water, teachers get away with absences, and the bureaucracy is cumbersome.

But since the mid-1990s, small, inexpensive private schools, once an urban phenomenon, have been sprouting in earnest in the poorer countryside, offering relatively affordable tuition, according to a 2008 World Bank report.

Between 2000 and 2005, their number grew from 32,000 to 47,000, the report said. More recent Pakistani government statistics put the figure at more than 58,000. Around one-third of Pakistan's 33 million students attend a range of private schools, far more than the 1.6 million in the 12,000 madrasas.

The private schools tend to outperform their government peers academically, though generally speaking, standards are low across the board, said Tahir Andrabi, an economics professor at Pomona College in California who has studied the trend.

In the big picture, proponents of private schools echo the argument for charter schools in the U.S. — that they can make schools better and children more educated, and in Pakistan's case dent poverty and the appeal of extremism.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's ET Op Ed by Ayesha Siddiqa on poor quality education at some private schools in Pakistan:

The government would love to see every child enrolled in a school. That is certainly a good idea. But is there any attention being given to what is taught and what is the quality of the product? Many criticise the government primary and elementary education systems. Therefore, a parallel system was erected many years ago in the name of public-private partnership. The idea was for the government not to invest in the infrastructure or pay the teachers but leave the responsibility to private partners who would be paid the children’s fees. Many consider the project that was launched mainly in Punjab as a success story. According to the PTI’s Jahangir Tareen, the public-private partnership reduced costs for the state and provided better education. We already have many a consultant who have argued in the past that private schools are better than government schools. Such assessments are probably based on results. In the public-private partnership venture, the National Testing System (NTS) is a key variable. An exam is taken on a regular basis and those schools demonstrating a minimum 45 per cent of pass rate are given assistance.

But here is the catch. The private entrepreneurs who run a school or a chain of schools know that the government pays a fee for a certain number of children enrolled per school. Furthermore, there is little checking of how much is spent on paying teachers or on children. Thus, running schools have turned into a big racket and a profitable business. As per Mr Tareen’s formula, the government does not have to pay high fees to teachers or bother with discipline. The results may be comparatively better than in government schools. Recently, I had a chance to go around schools and educational institutions in south Punjab and it was interesting to learn that government schools were comparatively doing better in terms of level of general knowledge of children and their overall confidence.

The private schools are almost run madrassa style, which means, forcing children to learn by rote. The teachers are better disciplined in terms of being more fearful of losing their job so they place more emphasis on learning by rote than explaining concepts. But does one expect better from a teacher who gets paid a maximum of Rs3,000-4,000 a month? Most of these government-funded private schools tend to pay much less than the vouchers they make them sign. Referring to the Unesco report, one of the key reasons of poor quality education is an underpaid teacher. Yet, we expect our teachers, a majority of whom are females, to produce good results. Sadly, those whose kids go to grammar school type of educational institutions believe this is a workable system.

There are other layers of corruption as well, such as paying people for getting reasonable NTS results to remain in business. Or taking extra children who are used as dummies to fill places of absentees, especially on days when inspection teams visit to show almost 100 per cent attendance.

Yet, the poor tend to send their children for this kind of education mainly because it is free and in the hope that someday their children will make it to higher tiers of the socio-economic cadre. Surely, there must be some good examples out of this system as well. However, the key point is that education that compromises on quality does not succeed in producing the right product to help a nation grow....


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a blog post on Pakistan govt education vouchers for private schooling of poor children:

In 2006, Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) launched its Education Voucher Scheme (EVS) with an aim to bring education to children belonging to less affluent and underprivileged families, who would otherwise have been deprived from the benefits of schooling. The scheme has been lauded for thoughtful targeting of beneficiaries, appropriate design of incentives for participating schools and built-in learning-based targets that have addressed an important issue of out of school children.
The main features of this scheme that have addressed concerns with regards to the involvement of the private sector in education are the following:
Appropriate targeting of beneficiary
Under EVS, only the most deserving children are identified and registered. Specifically, out of school children (drop outs or those that never went to school), orphans, children of widows and children of single parents were targets for this scheme. Notably, EVS did not target any children already enrolled in government schools, thereby allaying fears that the scheme was an attempt to undermine the value of government schools.
Voluntary participant selection
The EVS schools were selected by inviting expressions of interest from institutions within selected areas through advertisements. Quality inspections of the shortlisted schools from those that applied to be a part of the program, were conducted to assess standards. Student learning assessments and infrastructure checks were used to make a final selection of schools that would participate, and agreements were signed with the approved schools. This invitation process ensured that only interested schools were involved and that standards were maintained such that choice would lead to increased learning outcomes.
Low cost and affordable design
The average cost for the PEF voucher program was PKR 350 per student, which is much lower than traditional programs (approximately a third compared to government expenditure). Vouchers were distributed every 4 months and an additional onetime payment of PKR 1000 for books, stationary, uniforms, bags, belts and shoes was made annually. The affordability of the model makes it affordable, sustainable and scalable.
Measurable and relevant outcomes
Schools empanelled with the EVS were required to positive learning outcomes for the QATs (50% students obtaining at least a 40% mark). Failing this twice successively would automatically lead to the school being excluded from the program for a minimum of two years. In addition, the PEF-EVS has set internal targets for several indicators. Decreasing the number of out of school children, increasing primary school completion rates and increased retention, improved quality of education and learning outcomes, increase in female enrolment, employment opportunities linked with skill development programs, increase in employment opportunities for female teachers were some of the listed indicators. Thus, clearly delineated and measurable outcomes defined the goals of the program.
PEF designed strong incentives for schools to participate in the voucher program. The incentives assured a regular revenue for the schools and vouchers were given for 12 months although children attend only 10 months of school. The extra revenue could then be used for school improvement work. EVS is clearly focused on learning outcomes instead of inputs such as teacher qualification or infrastructure norms unlike most other schemes. Additionally PEF conducted professional development programs for the participating schools three times a year in addition to preparing and disseminating lessons plans in schools. ..


Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of a paper "Low Cost Private Schools For the Poor" by Heyneman and Stern on public-private education partnership in education:

Despite the prohibition of private education in the 1970s, there has been recent rapid growth of the private sector in Pakistan. The majority of this growth has occurred in rural areas and among
the country’s poorest households. While the government has made
great strides toward increased educational coverage, low-cost
private schools have been necessary in order to address the needs of children who still do not have a viable public school option.
In Pakistan, several studies have been conducted to assess the
state of non-government education, which found that lower teacher absenteeism and smaller class sizes were some of their greatest assets (Alderman et al., 2001; Andrabi et al., 2008). As far as school output is concerned, Das et al. (2006) found private
school students had higher test score results in mathematics, Urdu
and English (after accounting for observable characteristics).
Additionally, Asadullah (2009) found that private school students
had future earnings advantages over public school students.
Despite these findings, however, a Save the Children study ultimately concluded that while parents perceive private schools to be of higher quality than government schools, ‘‘on balance, children in private education institutions in Nepal and Pakistan are
not provided with the quality of education as defined within the
CRC3 ’’ (Save the Children, 2002, p. 8).


Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a report on Pakistan by education consultant Lina Vashee from Dahlberg's in San Francisco:

I became familiar with these challenges while visiting Pakistan as part of a recent Dalberg engagement. Our team met with a diverse set of actors within the education sector to understand what is currently being done in the private sector to improve access to and the quality of basic education for the poor. Through these conversations, it became clear that private sector innovation has ample opportunity to address education in Pakistan in a scalable and sustainable way.

On our visits, we discovered a world of small schools tucked away in bustling slum areas, providing accessible educational opportunities for the populations residing in these areas. The owner-entrepreneurs of these low-cost private schools take a business approach to their work, constantly thinking ahead, looking to expand infrastructure, improve curriculums, and boost student enrollment. These low-cost private schools presented a stark difference from the failing public school system. Teachers were present and teaching in every classroom, and students were eager to be attending school. Parents value their children’s education and have demonstrated a willingness to pay tuition in exchange for the hope of a brighter future for them.
The numbers support the thriving potential we saw on our visits. Higher exam results from private schools, as well as better teacher attendance rates, speak to the higher quality of private schooling. Between 1999 and 2009, low-cost private schools nearly tripled, from 36,000 to over 90,000 primary and secondary schools in urban and rural areas. These schools are largely operated by self-financing, small-scale entrepreneurs from the communities themselves, and are typically financially accessible for low-income populations, with monthly tuition fees ranging between $2 to $20 USD per student. Families tend to opt for this private schooling, even if it means paying more, because they feel it has the potential to bring better educational outcomes for their children.

Low-cost private schooling very well may be the brightest future for education for the poor. Although many of these schools are not recognized at a government level, and thus enrollment and achievement far too often goes undocumented, the mere presence and steady growth of private education for the poor is contributing significantly to the global goal of “education for all.” This alone is cause for celebration.


Riaz Haq said...

Imagine sending your children to school and there are no teachers.

You might go to the principal's office to see what's going on and to ask when the staff is likely to return. But the principal is not there either.

When you complain to the local education authorities they promise faithfully that the teachers will be back. While you're at it, you mention that none of the toilets at the school work and that there's no water for the kids to drink. There may not even be any chairs or desks. Or books.

In the U.S. you'd be expecting to wake up about now. You'd realize it was all just an unpleasant dream and walk your children to their nice school complete with teachers, books, desks and working toilets.

But if you were a parent with children in the public school system in Pakistan, you'd never wake from the nightmare.

There are said to be 25,000 "ghost schools" in Pakistan. The teachers all get paid. They just don't see the need to turn up. They don't go to school, so the kids don't either. The result is one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world.

With a population approaching 200 million, Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, but about 54 million are illiterate. While national statistics report that 70 percent of children are enrolled in in primary education, 50 percent drop out before reaching the fifth grade.

According to UNESCO's 2014 report on the state of global primary education, Pakistan has nearly 5.5 million children out of school, the second highest number in the world after Nigeria.

If you have a daughter in Pakistan, the odds are stacked against her going to school at all, especially if you're living in a poor urban slum or a rural area. There remain huge disparities in the levels of literacy between the sexes.

You can't blame the children. The Citizens Foundation (TCF), a non-profit that relies almost exclusively on donations from Pakistani and expat supporters in the U.S. and other countries, runs 1,000 quality schools in the country's worst slums and neglected rural areas. TCF has a long waiting list of parents desperate to get their kids educated.

I recently spent a week visiting TCF schools in Karachi. Immediately outside the school walls, there's abject poverty. Inside the school gates, there are pristine classrooms, computer labs and spotless washrooms. Drinking water is provided to ensure that no child goes thirsty.

This sanctuary could be a snapshot from any classroom in the world -- happy children hanging on their teacher's every word, immune to the stresses of the world outside.

Now working in 100 towns and cities across Pakistan, TCF strives to maintain an equivalent enrollment of girls and boys. This is no mean feat in a nation that has marginalized women even as it elected Benazir Bhutto its prime minister, a height yet to be achieved by an American woman. To sustain this gender ratio, TCF has an all-female faculty, because parents are more likely to send their daughters to schools where the teachers are women.

TCF schools have succeeded where others have failed because they've won the support of communities that have been forgotten and abandoned by the state.

On October 8, TCF in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C., co-hosted a conference titled "Pakistan's Biggest Challenge: Turning Around a Broken Education System", bringing together some of the best minds in education from around the world....


Riaz Haq said...

From Sadaf Shallwani:

Take a look at these recent statistics:

Pakistan has the second highest (after Nigeria) population of out-of-school children in the world, with almost five and a half million school-aged children not accessing school . This number accounts for 10% of the world’s out-of-school children. (UNESCO, 2014)
72% of school-aged children enroll in school. This is an improvement compared to two decades ago, when only 58% of children enrolled in school. One of key goals of the Education For All declaration is for countries to achieve a primary enrollment target of at least 95% by 2015. While Pakistan is rated as very far from target (with an enrollment rate below 80%), it is also rated as having relatively strong progress over the last two decades. (UNESCO, 2014)
However, only one out of every two children who enroll in school will make it to the last year of primary (Grade 5). On average, 4% of children will repeat any given grade. (UNESCO, 2014)
Before the end of Grade 1, 17.5% of enrolled children drop out of school. Another 4.9% repeat Grade 1. In other words, more than one in five children experiences failure before making it to Grade 2. (UNESCO, 2014)
Of those children completing primary school (Grade 5), 51% are unable to read at a Grade 2 level and 57% are unable to do arithmetic at a Grade 2 level (SAFED, 2014). This means that these children have spent five or more years of their lives attending school but are still without basic literacy and numeracy skills.
Outcomes for all learning indicators are lower in government schools than in private schools, and lower in rural areas than in urban areas. (SAFED, 2014)
The education system is failing too many children!

Education is critical for human development – and for national development. Consider this:

The Pakistani government invests only 2.3% of its Gross National Product in education – less than what it spends on the military (UNESCO, 2014). The effects on the availability and quality of the education system are clear, as seen above.
In Pakistan, the wages of a literate person are 23% higher than those of an illiterate person (UNESCO, 2014). However, the adult literacy rate is 55% (UNESCO, 2014), and it will be difficult to increase this number in the decades ahead with so many out-of-school children, and so many children leaving primary school without basic literacy skills.
We need to push for greater public investment in education in Pakistan. This means:

Increasing tax revenue and reducing tax evasion (less than 1% of Pakistanis pay income tax – Economist, 2012, as cited in UNESCO, 2014)
Prioritizing education at the policy and budget level – above the military for example (education is likely a stronger force against terrorism and war anyway, in the long run!), and
Identifying and implementing proven strategies to improve the quality of teaching and learning in primary schools across the country – especially in the early grades. (More on this in a later post.)


Riaz Haq said...

Ayaz Ali stands outside the only school in his southern Pakistan village, struggling to recall the last time the lone teacher showed up. It was at least five years ago.

“I’d come back but we haven’t really seen the teacher for some time now,” said Ali, 16, who now spends his days in the fields picking cotton and wheat near Allah Warayo village in Sindh province. “I don’t think he’s returning.”

The school is strewn with plastic bags, while urine stains and dried-out feces emit a foul smell. Since district education officials say the school is technically still open, Ali has no alternatives that he can afford.

Ali’s plight shows how Pakistan’s government often poses a bigger obstacle to a quality education than Taliban militants who shot Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai in the face two years ago. One in three students now attends a privately run school, up 50 percent from a decade ago, as a failing public system produces one of the world’s highest truancy rates.

“People are rushing to private schools,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, campaign director for Alif Ailaan, an education advocacy group in Islamabad, who added that poor students like Ali who can’t afford private school are the ones who suffer most. “The answer isn’t private, private, private. The answer is to fix the government.”

The country has seven million children who are out of school, two-thirds of them girls, and most of them lack minimum mastery of math and reading, according to a World Bank report in April 2014. Pakistan ranked 113 of 120 countries on the United Nations’s Education for All index.

Pakistan is a young country, with a third of its population less than 15 years old. Even so, spending on education fell for a second straight year to 2.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2012, among the lowest in the world, according to the latest available data from the World Bank. That’s about half as much as the nuclear-armed nation spends on its military, budget documents show.

Since his election in May 2013 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has focused on stabilizing an economy hit by a power crisis that curbed growth. Provincial governments are responsible for overseeing education, according to the constitution.

Ali’s school in Allah Warayo is typical of government-run schools, which are often in decaying buildings that lack running water, toilets or proper furniture. Teachers are frequently absent or don’t attend at all.
Private schools are increasingly filling the gap. Pakistan now has more than 150,000 for-profit schools, at least 25,000 madrasahs and hundreds of other non-profit schools. That compares with 233,300 public schools, according to the government’s Economic Survey 2014.

Elite private schools in well-to-do sections of big cities can cost as much as 30,000 rupees ($300) a month. These offer better salaries to attract highly qualified teachers and provide a good standard of education.

Politicians often stand in the way, said Atta-ur-Rahman, a former chairman of the constitutionally mandated Higher Education Commission. Poorly qualified teachers are routinely hired as a way to dish out favors in return for votes.

“The feudal landlords who have ruled over us are determined to keep the people of Pakistan uneducated,” Atta-ur-Rahman said. “This allows them to loot and plunder the national exchequer at will.”

In Allah Warayo village, Ali is stuck toiling in the fields as he waits for his school to reopen.

“I really miss my math class,” he said. “If I can go back to school, I will leave this farm work and finish my education so I can get a proper job and take care of my family.”


Riaz Haq said...

DFID support is primarily towards the national cash transfer programme, providing women from the poorest households a monthly stipend of Rs1,500.

DFID is also supporting BISP’s Waseela-e-Taleem education conditional cash transfer programme, which encourages the poorest families to send their children to school. “DFID will continue to support the Government of Pakistan in expanding and strengthening the country’s largest national social safety net. This support is vital to empowering nearly five million women from some of Pakistan’s poorest families through monthly stipends,” Swayne said in a statement. He added that these stipends allow beneficiaries to buy essential items such as food and medicine, and to protect them from shocks such as illness or unemployment, which can push families deeper into debt and poverty.

“Alongside the main unconditional cash transfers, BISP’s use of supplementary conditional cash transfers is an impressive example of how to use small incentives to encourage the poorest families to educate their children,” Swayne added. He further said that education boosts the economy, broadens outlooks, and offers a brighter future for young people by giving them skills to improve their lives and employment opportunities. Memon said BISP is a vital tool in helping the poorest and most vulnerable in order to build a more inclusive Pakistan, where everyone has the opportunity to fulfill their potential and contribute to the economy. “We intend to make BISP the pride of Pakistan by offering seamless services, targeted products, and a medium of lifted empowerment to our most vulnerable,” she added.


Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan School Enrollment Rising But #Education Quality Remains Unacceptable: ASER 2015 Report http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/?p=472641 via @ePakistanToday

In 2015, 20 per cent of children were reported to be out-of-school. That number has decreased as compared to previous year, which had over 21 per cent children out-of-school.

Only 49 per cent of boys in grade five were able to do grade two level subtraction as compared to 41 per cent of girls in grade five.
2015 saw a six per cent rise in the number of children enrolled in public schools, as compared to 2014

Some 76 per cent children between the ages of six and 16 were enrolled in public schools in 2015, while last year the number was 70 per cent.

According to the report, student competencies in learning English, arithmetic, and language have also improved.

The ASER Survey also has identified that boys are outperforming girls in literacy and numeric skills in rural Pakistan. As many as 49 per cent of boys were able to read at least a few sentences in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto as compared to 42 per cent of the girls.

For Arithmetic, 49 per cent of Class-V boys were able to do second grade level subtraction as compared to only 41 per cent Class V girls.

In addition to the assessment of children, the report also highlights school functioning across every district in Pakistan. The ASER rural survey informs that overall teachers’ attendance in government schools stood at 89 per cent as compared to 91 per cent in private schools on the day of the survey.

The reverse is the case for MA/MSC or postgraduate qualifications, whereby larger percentage of public sector teachers has a higher qualification than private sector counterparts.

The trends in multi-grade teaching across schools are also mixed. ASER 2015 National rural findings have found 49 per cent of government and 29 per cent of private schools are imparting multi-grade teaching at the second grade level. On the contrary, at the eighth grade level, multi-grade teaching is more prevalent in the private sector at 24 per cent as compared to 16 per cent in government schools.

Despite of the fact that only two per cent private primary schools receive funds from the government (as compared to 29 per cent public primary schools), the private sector has been reported to be better at school facilities.

For example, 65 per cent of private primary schools have boundary-walls as compared to 63 per cent government primary schools. Similarly, about the availability of functional toilets, it has been found that the facility was still not available in 48 per cent public and 22 per cent private primary schools in rural Pakistan.

ASER has undoubtedly played a unique role in informing the public, inspiring a national discourse and initiate demand for policy and action leading to a transformation from the bottom-up.

Riaz Haq said...

ASER Survey 2016: More students enrolling in public schools in ICT

Even as the government enhanced the education budget and is seen to be making concerted efforts to boost school enrollment in the country, the proportion of out-of-school children is still the same when compared to 2015.

This was stated in Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2016 national survey report launched on Wednesday.

The seventh version of the citizen-led household-based survey, managed by the Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in partnership with a number of key civil society and semi-autonomous bodies including the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) and others, found that 19% of children between the ages of 6-16 are still out-of-school. The remaining 81% which are attending school are not learning much either.

The ASER rural survey assessed 216,365 children between the ages of 5-16 years cohort in language (Urdu, Sindhi, Pashto, English), and Arithmetic competencies.

The report noted that almost all parts of Pakistan including Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Sindh, Gilgit-Baltistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) recorded some increase in enrollment figures from 1.4% to 4.5%.

However, at the same time, there was a considerable shift from public to private schools in most parts of the country.

The ASER 2016 rural results showed that 26% of children between the ages 6-16 years of age go to non-state schools. This was up from 24% last year.

Only the Punjab and the Islamabad Capital Territory registered a positive shift in enrollment in public schools.

Early Childhood Education (ECE) in rural parts of Pakistan has been on a declining trend, falling from 39% in 2014 to 36% in 2016.

Overall, government schools have witnessed a fall of 7.5% (63% overall) in enrollment for ECE, while the private sector continues to hold a 37% slice of total enrollment.

“There are 61 million young people in Pakistan aged 10 to 24 years as per the estimates of Population Council. Their ability and skills will play a major role in making Pakistan prosperous and a successful player in global economy,” said head of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) Joanna Reid at the launch of the report.

“If half of them [youngsters] are not equipped to do their job, Pakistan will not be able to meet the workforce needs of its economy.”

Dipping competencies

The report further notes that student competencies, especially in learning English, Arithmetic, and other languages have dipped.

As many as 48% of children from class V cannot read a class-II-level-story written in Urdu, Sindhi or Pashto.

In English, only 46% Class V students surveyed could read sentences, which should ideally be read by students of the second grade. Arithmetic learning levels too showed a decline with only 48% of class V children able to complete a two-digit division, something which is expected in the second grade.

The report revealed that only AJK showed substantial improvement in English and Arithmetic with 17% and 29% respective increase from 2015 results.

Punjab registered a solitary increase in Arithmetic learnings over scores from 2015. The survey further showed that children enrolled in private schools continued to perform better as compared to those studying in government-run schools. As many as 66% of children enrolled in Class-V in private schools were able to read a story written in Urdu, Sindhi or Pashto.

The difference in learning levels for English was starker with 65% of grade V students able to read a class-II-level sentence.

For arithmetic, 64% of children enrolled in class V could complete a two-digit division. While the gap was narrower in some provinces, the gap was a consistent feature.

Riaz Haq said...

Punjab and Sindh provinces in Pakistan are public-ising their private schools (and they’re also privatising their public schools)


Back in 2015 the Economist published an article called “Learning Unleashed”, which breathlessly declared Punjab, Pakistan to be the “new standard bearer for market-based education reform”. No matter there isn’t really any evidence that learning has been improved, never mind unleashed, what the article described is just about the opposite of a market-based reform. Through voucher and subsidy schemes, Punjab’s government injects public finance into private schools. Similarly, in the southern province of Sindh, the state is fully financing the education of hundreds of thousands of kids enrolled in private schools. And in both provinces it is the state, not the market, that sets the rules of the game.

Kids in Pakistan’s schools aren’t learning. And they’re the lucky ones who are actually in school
Test scores suggest that children in Pakistan are performing well below curricular standards. Although, unlike in India, their test scores have not worsened over time, like almost every other developing country they are not improving. Data from ASER makes for grim reading: less than a third of grade five children from the wealthiest quintile have the numeracy and literacy skills that are expected of a child in grade two. Just 17 percent of grade five kids from the poorest quintile can read a single sentence. Remember, these are the kids who managed to make it to grade five – in other words, they’ve sat through at least five years of schooling and 83 percent of them still can’t read a sentence.

As for those who aren’t in school, Pakistan’s Bureau of Statistics estimates that there are 5.6 million primary age out-of-school kids (note that this figure is based on the 1998 census, and so the true number could well be substantially higher or lower).

The twin ”crises”of low and static test scores, combined with millions of kids not in school, has led to a proliferation of education reforms. These include policies that aim to harness the vibrant and growing private education sector.

With education in crisis, government turned to the private sector for help
Provincial leaders in Punjab and Sindh are taking bold steps to reform their failing education systems. They’ve moved fast, particularly in Punjab where the Economist’s Learning Unleashed article is framed and proudly mounted on several government office walls.

Together, the PPPs in Punjab and Sindh make up one of the largest and fastest-growing public private partnerships in the world. More than three million kids in the two provinces are enrolled in around ten thousand private primary schools, with the cost of their education fully financed by the state. They’re managed by semi-autonomous entities, the Sindh Education Foundation and the Punjab Education Foundation, whose funding is almost entirely provided by their provincial governments.

Riaz Haq said...

Launch of Access for Out of School Children to #Education and Safe Schools in #Pakistan's #Tribal Districts in #KP https://reliefweb.int/report/pakistan/launch-access-out-school-children-education-and-safe-schools-pakistan-access-project?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=shared&utm_source=twitter.com via @reliefweb

Currently in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) 1.1 million children are out of school. Mostly, out of school children live in areas that have suffered by insecurity and come from poorer households in rural areas. Emergencies have a devastating impact on a child’s education. This is particularly true for girls.

The aim of Access for Out of School Children to Education and Safe Schools in Pakistan (AcCESS) project is to improve access to quality education in emergencies, other situations of violence and early recovery phases. It is being implemented in 8 tribal districts and districts of KP which include Peshawar, Bannu, D.I. Khan, Swat, Khyber, Mohmand, Orakzai and Bajaur.

AcCESS aims to expand access to school for more than 81,469 children (50% girls) who are currently out of school or at risk of dropping out. These out of school children are selected on the basis of The Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies(INEE) guidelines. That means they will be Out of School Children (OOSC) from families of Temporarily Displaced Persons (TDP), host community, returnees moving back to areas of displacement, returnees to places of origin, registered Afghan refugees and undocumented Afghans in host communities.

AcCESS will enable access to education for OOSC, strengthen quality aspects of Education in Emergencies (EiE), including recruitment, provide capacity building and protection for teachers and link education to other life-saving humanitarian sectors, such as WASH and nutrition in order to reduce vulnerability of children affected by violence and threats.

The European Union aims to help children affected by humanitarian crises to have access to safe, quality, and accredited primary and secondary education. In this project the European Union is working closely together with several partners (communities, government, HOPE 87 and donors) to increase the enrolment of children. It is an investment in their long-term future and in the peace, stability and economic growth of Pakistan.

The targeted outcomes of the project are to i) create 868 facilities with better quality learning environments, ii) improve learning outcomes for 72,531 children (50% girls), particularly in early grades literacy and numeracy; iii) increase the number and effectiveness of 1,020 teachers; iii) establish 7,650 school management committees for promoting girls education and working to address school safety, iv) strengthen the capacity of 50 government staff for school disaster management and education in emergencies and v) engage 510 communities to pursue local solutions for girls' education.

Indirectly, the project will benefit 480,000 people through the impact that better educated girls have on communities through raising health and education levels, providing social services for women at local level, as well as creating a stronger teacher cohort.

In order to increase the school enrolment of children and decrease the drop-out rate the project will work closely together with communities. . This involves discussions with community elders, representatives and men/women from wider community to gain community approval and ownership of the idea of opening a community school; support communities in electing or Mohalla Committee (MC) or Village Education Committee (VEC) including men and women (equitable representation of Pakistani/Afghan parents in host communities.

Riaz Haq said...

How Maqsad’s Mobile Education Can Help More Pakistani Students Learn


Maqsad aims to make education more accessible to 100 million Pakistani students through a learning platform delivered via a mobile app. The platform offers teaching and testing, and can respond to queries. It seeks to disrupt the country’s out-of-school education sector, which largely consists of expensive tuition services that most families can’t afford.


Growing up in Pakistan, high-school friends Rooshan Aziz and Taha Ahmed, the founders of edtech start-up Maqsad, were very conscious of their good fortune. Aziz struggled with dyslexia but his parents were able to afford after-school academic support that enabled him to complete his education. Ahmed, meanwhile, benefited from a series of academic scholarships that gave him a headstart in life.

Fast forward to the Covid-19 pandemic, Aziz and Ahmed were both working in London, and watched with horror as Pakistan tried to move to online learning, but found itself unable to scale up a technology platform capable of supporting large numbers of students. The crisis acted as an impetus to launch Maqsad, which is today announcing a $2.8 million funding round as it reaches 1 million users only six months after its launch.


“Maqsad offers an exceptional after-school learning experience for students at a fraction of the cost of existing alternatives,” Ahmed explains. “Our focus on student problems is at the core of our mission, and we’ve collected feedback from over 20,000 students and teachers across Pakistan to ensure learning outcomes are being achieved.”

Certainly, the company has grown remarkably quickly. Since its launch last year, the Maqsad app has been downloaded more than 1 million times and is consistently ranked as the number one education app in Pakistan on the Google Play Store. The app provides access to high-quality content developed by experienced teachers, but also uses artificial intelligence tools to offer personalised learning.

Aimed initially at students aged 15 to 19 – often preparing for board or university entrance exams – the platform aims to have real impact in a market where student-teacher ratios, at 44:1, are among the highest in the world. Maqsad – the name is the Urdu word for “purpose” – offers a freemium model, enabling students to access a range of features and services at little or no cost. Over time, it plans to offer more content aimed at younger students.

From an investment perspective, the business offers exposure to an education market that is worth $37 billion in Pakistan. While other technology-enabled providers are also targeting the market – including Abwaab and Nearpeer – Maqsad regards its primary competitors as the providers of physical tuition centres. These are unaffordable for many students, it points out, or simply inaccessible for those who do not live in urban locations where such centres are located.