Thursday, July 6, 2017

Political Patronage: Pakistan School Enrollment Rate Flat Despite Increased Education Spending

Data shows that Pakistan's literacy and enrollment rates are not rising in spite of significantly increased education spending over the last several years. Education budgets at federal and provincial levels have seen double digit increase of 17.5% a year on average since 2010. And yet, school enrollment and literacy rate have remained essentially flat during this period.  This lack of progress in education stands in sharp contrast to the significant improvements in outcomes seen from increase education spending during Musharraf years in 2001-2008. Why is it?

Is the money not being spent honestly and wisely? Is the education budget being used by the ruling politicians to create teacher jobs solely for political patronage? Are the teachers not showing up for work? Is the money being siphoned off by bureaucrats and politicians by hiring "ghost teachers" in "ghost schools"? Let's try and examine the data and the causes of lack of tangible results from education spending.

Pakistan Education Budget:

The total money budgeted for education by the governments at the federal and provincial levels has increased from Rs. 304 billion in 2010-11 to Rs. 790 billion in 2016-17,  representing an average of 17.5% increase per year since 2010.

Education and Literacy Rates:

Pakistan's net primary enrollment rose from 42% in 2001-2002 to 57% in 2008-9 during Musharraf years. It has been essentially flat at 57% since 2009 under PPP and PML(N) governments.

Source: Economic Survey of Pakistan 2015-16

Similarly, the literacy rate for Pakistan 10 years or older rose from 45% in 2001-2002 to 56% in 2007-2008 during Musharraf years. It has increased just 4% to 60% since 2009-2010 under PPP and PML(N) governments.

Source: Economic Survey of Pakistan 2015-16

Pakistan's Human Development: 

Human development index reports on Pakistan released by UNDP confirm the ESP 2015 human development trends.Pakistan’s HDI value for 2013 is 0.537— which is in the low human development category—positioning the country at 146 out of 187 countries and territories. Between 1980 and 2013, Pakistan’s HDI value increased from 0.356 to 0.537, an increase of 50.7 percent or an average annual increase of about 1.25.

Pakistan HDI Components Trend 1980-2013 Source: Human Development Report 2014

Overall, Pakistan's human development score rose by 18.9% during Musharraf years and increased just 3.4% under elected leadership since 2008. The news on the human development front got even worse in the last three years, with HDI growth slowing down as low as 0.59% — a paltry average annual increase of under 0.20 per cent.

Going further back to the  decade of 1990s when the civilian leadership of the country alternated between PML (N) and PPP,  the increase in Pakistan's HDI was 9.3% from 1990 to 2000, less than half of the HDI gain of 18.9% on Musharraf's watch from 2000 to 2007.

Bogus Teachers in Sindh:

In 2014, Sindh's provincial education minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said that "a large number of fake appointments were made in the education department during the previous tenure of the PPP government" when the ministry was headed by Khuhru's predecessor PPP's Peer Mazhar ul Haq. Khuhro was quoted by Dawn newspaper as saying that "a large number of bogus appointments of teaching and non-teaching staff had been made beyond the sanctioned strength" and without completing legal formalities as laid down in the recruitment rules by former directors of school education Karachi in connivance with district officers during 2012–13.

Ghost Schools in Balochistan:

In 2016, Balochistan province's education minister Abdur Rahim Ziaratwal was quoted by Express Tribune newspaper as telling his provincial legislature that  “about 900 ghost schools have been detected with 300,000 fake registrations of students, and out of 60,000, 15,000 teachers’ records are unknown.”

Absentee Teachers in Punjab:

A 2013 study conducted in public schools in Bhawalnagar district of Punjab found that 27.5% of the teachers are absent from classrooms from 1 to 5 days a month while 3.75% are absent more than 10 days a month. The absentee rate in the district's private schools was significantly lower. Another study by an NGO Alif Ailan conducted in Gujaranwala and Narowal reported that "teacher absenteeism has been one of the key impediments to an effective and working education apparatus."

Political Patronage:

Pakistani civilian rule has been characterized by a system of political patronage that doles out money and jobs to political party supporters at the expense of the rest of the population. Public sector jobs, including those in education and health care sectors, are part of this patronage system that was described by Pakistani economist Dr. Mahbub ul Haq, the man credited with the development of United Nation's Human Development Index (HDI) as follows:

"...every time a new political government comes in they have to distribute huge amounts of state money and jobs as rewards to politicians who have supported them, and short term populist measures to try to convince the people that their election promises meant something, which leaves nothing for long-term development. As far as development is concerned, our system has all the worst features of oligarchy and democracy put together." 


Education spending in Pakistan has increased at an annual average rate of 17.5% since 2010. However, the school enrollment and literacy rates have remained flat and the human development indices are stuck in neutral.  This is in sharp contrast to the significant improvements in outcomes from increased education spending seen during Musharraf years in 2001-2008. An examination of the causes shows that the corrupt system of political patronage tops the list. This system jeopardizes the future of the country by producing ghost teacher, ghost schools and absentee staff to siphon off the money allocated for children's education.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

History of Literacy in Pakistan

Myths and Facts on Out-of-School Children

Who's Better For Pakistan's Human Development? Musharraf or Politicians? 

Corrosive Effects of Pakistan's System of Political Patronage

Development of Pakistan's Human Capital

Asian Tigers Brought Prosperity; Democracy Followed

Musharraf Accelerated Growth of Pakistan's Human and Financial Capital


Anonymous said...

There is enough bad news. You're suppose to write only good things about Pakistan and bad things about others like India.

Zafar S. said...

Excellent analysis, one more reason I would like add is the portion of education budget are used for personal perks and privilege and misuse of funds, which is ever escalating

Shams S. said...

Pakistan's increase in education spending barely covers the nearly 10% core inflation rate over the period in your blog. Over the last 7 years, real estate costs have quadrupled, so new schools are costlier to build. CPI is out of control - food, transportation, housing, and healthcare costs have nearly quadrupled as well. Salaries had to match.

In contrast, the education budget has only doubled. Using "corruption factor of Sindh" as a constant, it is suprising that the enrollment has stayed level in that province. Basic math.

Riaz Haq said...

Shams: " CPI is out of control - food, transportation, housing, and healthcare costs have nearly quadrupled as well. Salaries had to match.......Basic math."

Core Inflation Rate in Pakistan increased 5.50 percent in May of 2017 over the same month in the previous year. Core Inflation Rate in Pakistan averaged 7.69 percent from 2010 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 11.40 percent in June of 2012 and a record low of 3.40 percent in September of 2015.

Even if one accepts your exaggerated 10% annual inflation figure, since when is 17.5% annual education budget increase less than 10%?

And yes, the real estate prices have gone up in urban areas but that's not where the problem is in terms of enrollment; it's mainly in the rural areas where the prices are fairly steady

Shams S. said...

The numbers 17.5% and 10% suggest that the "additional" spending is not as additional as your blog makes it sound. The second part of my comment on your blog was that the entire spending increase is in the Punjab where new universities have been set up and new funding has been provided to existing universities.

Riaz Haq said...

Shams: "The numbers 17.5% and 10% suggest that the "additional" spending is not as additional as your blog makes it sound. The second part of my comment on your blog was that the entire spending increase is in the Punjab..."

It's obvious you know nothing about how education is funded and managed in Pakistan after the adoption of the 18th amendment.

At the K-12 level, it's entirely in the provincial budget. All of the provinces, including Sindh and Balochistan, have seen big increases in education budget but no improvement in enrollment or literacy rates mainly due to widespread corruption and mismanagement. I have cited examples of mea culpa by Sindh and Balochistan politicians in my post.

As to inflation, the core inflation rate in Pakistan since 2010 has been 7.69% while the budget increases have averaged 17.5%.

Nitin B said...

Pakistan dares to reject anything Indian. Here is the Indian Model for Pakistan to try.

From UNESCO standpoint, India also has numerous challenges including ghost teachers. What the government did, and now the Modi Team has spear headed, was to make education and literacy a birthright and then made providing at least one full meal at school mandatory. Two things happened next. Enrollment increased among poor households (low literate group) and problem of teacher absenteeism started vanishing simply because the manpower and monitoring required and the parents would complain if their children were not fed!

Riaz Haq said...

LRH using new technology for attendance, care management

The Lady Reading Hospital, a public sector medical teaching institution of the provincial capital, is taking measures to fully apply the Radio Frequency Identification technology introduced three months ago to ensure the attendance of staff members and effective patient care.

According to the officials in the know, the data of the RFID cards issued to the hospital’s 3,500 employees are being connected to the payment of salary to them.

They told Dawn that the employees won’t be paid salary for their absence from duty without permission.

Initially, the 1,749-bed hospital had introduced biometric system for attendance of staff members but that didn’t achieve the desired results as senior consultants didn’t approve of affixation of thumb to the machine at the time of entry to and exit from the premises considering the act a ‘disgrace’.

However, the new system is gaining currency as the administration is hopeful that the employees are required to show up the card before a screen without requiring them to affix thumb impression on the biometric devices fixed at certain places.

The officials said the authorities found it extremely challenging to regulate the attendance of staff members at the facility due to the visit of 6,000 patients to OPD and 4,000 to accident and emergency department and therefore, it had sought assistance from the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre for the application of the latest technology on the premises spread over 224 kanals of land.

They said the hospital, the city’s oldest and largest health facility in the public sector, offered treatment in 27 specialties, the biggest number in any hospital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, recently closed unnecessary gates to reduce the massive influx of irrelevant visitors and ensure uninterrupted treatment of patients.

When contacted, associate hospital director Mohammad Tariq said the management was in the process of applying information technology to the hospital affairs for which preparations were under way.

“The patients will benefit from the new technology, which will enable them to get speedy investigations, while their results will be displayed on the screens of the computers of the relevant doctors,” he said.

The assistant director said each patient would be issued a card useable everywhere in the province.

“At a later stage, all data will be shared with the director-general (health services) and if the patients visit other hospitals, they will be able to find their whole records there with the help of the card,” he said.

Mr Tariq said the patients wouldn’t be required to walk with a bundle of investigations and X-ray films as all that information could be seen from their cards.

“In this way, we will save X-ray materials. The CT and MRI scans will also be seen using the cards,” he said.

The assistant director said the new system would help the management know about the bed occupancy and location and ensure prompt admission after arrival of patients.

“Though already there in developed countries for years, the integrated technology is a new thing to Pakistan. It ensures efficiency, effectiveness and promptness. More than 60 per cent work on its application has been completed,” he said.

Mr Tariq said the enterprise resource planning was another mechanism the hospital was going to introduce to ensure the optimal utilisation of medicines and other materials.

“When all data is available, we can make evidence-based planning,” he said.

The assistant director said the new technology would enable the hospital to know about number of patients, their diseases, requirements of beds, doctors, nurses, paramedics and other staff members.

Hospital director Dr Khalid Masud said the Medical Teaching Institutions Reform Act, 2015, had paved the way for improvement as the hospital was able to take decisions on its own.

Riaz Haq said...

PITB chairman for IT-aided governance reforms in Pakistan

Sharing some of the IT-enabled reforms in Punjab, the PITB chairman said that two major sectors, Police and Provincial Revenue Department, were focused to change the Thana and Pitwari culture in Punjab. This was an uphill task as both systems were given by the British government in the United India to rule here.

The British rulers had empowered Patwari to the extent that it had played with the Fard (document of ownership of rural land) by establishing a parallel economy which need to be broken scientifically. The Fard is an important document for every transaction between the two parties.

Similarly, 26 registers are maintained in a police station and registration of an FIR is in the first register. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC), once an FIR is registered the police have to produce the accused and recovery from him before a court. Thus it empowers the police Moharar that he can register a fake FIR.

These are the issues which need to be understood first before IT enabled reforms to change the Thana and Pitwari culture in Punjab.

Dr Saif said that in land revenue reforms, 24,800 mozaajat (rural land units) have been computerised. This has enabled the public to get E-Fard conveniently. Secondly, Grawadri and Miswai are two other areas of land revenue reforms. The reforms in the sector have also helped the government a lot in the last wheat procurement campaign.

The digital data disclosed that thousands of acres of land were wrongly declared as wheat growing area while no such land existed but the middlemen were selling wheat to government on this land purchased from farmers at lower price.

Furthermore, e-stamp was introduced which increased the land revenue by 30 percent in one fiscal year which depicted that fake stamp papers were being sold and used in land transactions in Punjab....

To change the Thana culture, the PITB first established their front desks in police stations where PITB staff operates to register a complaint while the CPO, CCPO and other top officials in the evening decide whether an FIR should be registered on the complaint or not. This was the step was initiated to change police station culture. Once a complaint is registered in electronic system of the police, the person responsible has to decide about disposal of it within next 72 hours, either by giving a solid justification or registering an FIR on the complaint and forwarding it for further proceedings, Dr Saif said. He said over 1.1 million complaints had been registered in the system so far. He said 850,000 FIRs had been registered using the system.


On student enrolment in schools and "ghost" teachers, Dr Saif said that there was not a single "ghost" teacher in Punjab. ‘Anyone can check school data anytime at where real time live data of schools' students and teachers' attendance and facilities of schools were updated’, he said. Furthermore, if a school shows zero attendance of student or teacher, the deputy commissioner of that area is asked to address the issue. Same system is also replicated in Sindh but, due to administrative issues there, the results were not the same as achieved in Punjab. In Punjab, various disciplinary actions are being taken against the teachers on absence, whereas, no such actions so far have been possible in Sindh yet, he disclosed.

Similarly, in total 143 Tehsil Headquarters Hospital (THQs) and District Headquarters Hospitals, 786 biometric devices were installed for doctors and allied staff's attendance which increased the attendance from 30 percent to 51 percent. Now the PITB daily makes duty roster and it was pasted in the DHQ and THQ hospitals. Now the attendance has reached 83 percent from 51 percent.

Riaz Haq said...

Burying Dar-nomics. #Pakistan #PMLN #PPP #Corruption #Taxes #Exports #Industry #Economy Sakib Sherani

Here is a snapshot of PML-N’s economic policies in numbers.

On top of these new taxation measures, the government has been withholding refunds of businesses of around Rs150bn to Rs200bn while collecting advance tax to bolster its revenue performance under the IMF programme. Measures such as the foregoing in particular, including the levying of sales tax of up to 52pc on high speed diesel, a main stay input for the entire economy, have been particularly damaging for industry.

In terms of borrowing, the government’s debt-accumulation since 2013 has pushed up total public debt from nearly Rs14.5 trillion in FY13 to around Rs21.5tr by June 2017 — adding Rs7tr in just four years. More worryingly, the PML-N government has contracted new foreign loans of nearly $40bn in four years, an unprecedented amount, pushing total public external debt outstanding in net terms (after repayments), from $51bn in June 2013 to $62bn at the end of March 2017.

Under the third leg of economic policy under Mr Dar, the exchange rate has appreciated 26pc in real effective terms since December 2013 — hurting exports while giving a boost to all manner of imports including non-essential consumer and luxury items. In addition, the overvalued exchange rate has acted as a spur to capital flight from the country.

A combination of unaddressed structural challenges from the past, and Mr Dar’s policy framework since 2013, has resulted in Pakistan’s export sector (manufactured goods) shrinking to 6.9pc of GDP from around 14pc in the mid-2000s.

So the first order of business for the new PML-N prime minister should be to undo the punishing taxation burden on industry imposed by Mr Dar’s policies, and to rectify the policy framework in ways that will boost industry, in particular exports, in the long run. With Pakistan no more sleepwalking into a balance of payments crisis but sliding into one (even with international oil prices at around $50!), the government’s policy space and options are becoming limited. It, or its successor, will need to begin talking to the IMF for a new loan programme sooner rather than later, which will curtail freedom of movement for introducing industry- and investment-friendly policies.

However, some immediate concrete policy measures to reduce the cost of doing business in the country (on the taxation side), combined with a strong signal that the PML-N government is moving away from Mr Dar’s damaging economic policies, will be welcome as well as hopeful news for Pakistani industry.

Tailpiece: Thank God for the PPP government in Sindh! In a huge service to real democracy, its uninterrupted misrule since 2008 has buried some apologetic myths forwarded since the July 28 Supreme Court ruling to ‘defend’ the pathetic non-performance of political governments.

With the military commanding the heights in foreign and security policy, and not in terms of economic governance, it cannot be blamed if Thari children die each year due to lack of medicines in public hospitals, or if roads in Larkana are in a shambles, or there are heaps of uncollected garbage in Karachi. With around Rs2,100bn transferred to Sindh from the centre since 2013 under the National Finance Commission awards, in addition to the nearly Rs200bn tax collected by Sindh itself over this period, the issue is not even of money.

It boils down to corruption pure and simple. Large-scale, pervasive and systemic corruption has been widely documented as the undoing of many resource-rich but underdeveloped countries, particularly in Africa, which have no civil-military imbalances to worry about. Regular, ongoing attempts to shift the blame from bad governance and grand corruption (political sleaze) to tensions in civil-military relations are disingenuous as well as a disservice.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Launched Annual Status Of Education Report (ASER)

The United Kingdom strongly supports ASER, this is the only citizen-led independent assessment of Education and it is also an important tool for citizen’s accountability. We as DFID have been supporting ASER since its launch years ago, and we will continue to support the cause for better of the society, said Joanna Reid while addressing the panelists.

The number of out-of-the-school children has dropped significantly from 25 million to 22 million according to the government data. However, it’s still not enough, there is a lot more to be done. We should not compromise on access to schools, our main focus should be on improving quality, the education budget was increased this year which is a good sign towards development but still short in achieving targets, from 2.83% of GDP the budget allocation this year was 3.02%, Joanna added.

Education and economic development are correlated with each other, economic growth in Pakistan heavily relies on education, Pakistan has a larger segment of population which is aged between 10 to 24 years according to population Council, 61 million young people can really make a difference if they are equipped with required education and skills, if half of them are not, Pakistan will not be able to meet its workforce needs in the future to continue economic growth, she said.

The ASER meeting was organized by Idra-e-Taleem-o-Agahi with other partners of ASER in Serena Hotel. Key personalities from Federal government Education department, National Assembly, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics and Human Rights Activists were among the Panelists.

Riaz Haq said...

What has changed in Thar? Not much

What is unfolding in Tharparkar has all the signs of a humanitarian catastrophe. But the PPP-led provincial government has underplayed the crisis.

On paper, there are in total 390 health facilities in Thar, small and big, of which 288 are up and running – as 46 are under construction and 56 need to hire staff.

But on the ground, those figures are greatly exaggerated. At least 40 percent of these facilities are out of order, estimate residents spoke to.

Even if the building is there, enough doctors, nurses and medical practitioners are not available. The provincial government has yet to hire doctors to fill the 332 vacant posts in the district.

Health problems are further compounded by lack of water and other basic facilities.

Thar does not have a working irrigation system. People here are dependent on rainwater for drinking and other needs. Then, the prolonged season of dry weather, and less than normal rain, ravages the crops and food supply in the desert.

In 2016, in the drought-affected Thar, 479 children died due to malnutrition, according to the health department.

This year, in just the first three months, 82 children have already lost their lives. This data has been collected from the government hospitals. Local health experts insist that death in the far-flung areas of the district go unreported.

The figures of mortality are alarming. What is unfolding in Thar has all the signs of a humanitarian catastrophe. Yet, the provincial government, led by the Pakistan People’s Party, has underplayed the crises.

Officials have stopped providing media with updated figures of the death toll. In the past five months, the information flowing out of the district has been blocked.

Recently, Dr. Sikandar Ali Mandhro, Sindh’s Minister for Health, visited the area. When asked by a local journalist about the number of children who died this year, he was quoted as saying, “Children can die anywhere. Why does the media not report the children dying in other parts of Sindh, such as Badin or Hyderabad, why is it focused on Thar?”

He further asked reporters to compare the mortality rate to world figures, “The number in Thar is not so extraordinary.”

Mol Ram is a resident of the village Hilario in the desert. He is disappointed with the parliamentarians his people elected.

“They [the PPP] made many promises in 2013, but since then, since the polling day, we have barely seen them. Does only our vote matter?”

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...

What’s Really Keeping Pakistan’s Children Out of School?

Since 2010, Pakistan has more than doubled what it budgets for education, from $3.5 billion to $8.6 billion a year. The budget for education now rivals the official $8.7 billion military budget. The teaching force is as big as the armed forces.

But Pakistan has a learning crisis that afflicts its schoolchildren despite much debate and increase in funding for education because policy interventions by the government and foreign donors misdiagnosed what is keeping children out of school.

...... the demand for education is already high, evidenced by the mushrooming of low-cost private schools that now enroll 40 percent of students in the country and charge as little as $2 a month.

Foreign donors also want Pakistanis to send their girls to schools, but a 2014 Pew survey found that 86 percent of Pakistanis believe that education is equally important for boys and girls, while another 5 percent said it was more important for girls. Even in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — where Malala Yousafzai is from — government high schools for girls are enrolled beyond their capacity.

Pakistan’s education crisis is a supply-side problem. Enrollment rates are used as the measure for progress because Pakistan has the second-largest population of out-of-school children in the world. But the proportion of 5- to 9-year-olds in school is the same as it was in 2010: 57 percent. With teachers chronically absent from school at a rate of 20 to 30 percent and most of the education budget going into their above-market salaries ($150 to $1,000 a month), doubling the budget was never the solution to Pakistan’s education crisis.


Eighteen million of the 23 million out-of-school children in Pakistan are between 10 and 16 years old. Efforts to reach them have been negligible. These children opted out of a failing education system and now they have aged. They will not now go to school if it means starting in kindergarten. They need accelerated programs, or short crash courses in literacy and math to help them enroll with their age group.

Even if these children do not go back to school — international evidence suggests they won’t — they will, at least, become literate adults.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s lessons in school reform

What the world’s sixth most populous state can teach other developing countries

Pakistan has long been home to a flourishing market of low-cost private schools, as parents have given up on a dysfunctional state sector and opted instead to pay for a better alternative. In the province of Punjab alone the number of these schools has risen from 32,000 in 1990 to 60,000 by 2016. (England has just 24,000 schools, albeit much bigger ones.)

More recently, Pakistani policymakers have begun to use these private schools to provide state education. Today Pakistan has one of the largest school-voucher schemes in the world. It has outsourced the running of more government-funded schools than any other developing country. By the end of this year Punjab aims to have placed 10,000 public schools—about the number in all of California—in the hands of entrepreneurs or charities. Although other provinces cannot match the scope and pace of reforms in Punjab, which is home to 53% of Pakistanis, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are implementing some similar changes on a smaller scale.

The results are promising—and they hold lessons for reformers in other countries. One is that “public-private partnerships” can improve children’s results while costing the state less than running schools itself. A paper published in August by the World Bank found that a scheme to subsidise local entrepreneurs to open schools in 199 villages increased enrolment of six- to ten-year-olds by 30 percentage points and boosted test scores. Better schools also led parents to encourage their sons to become doctors not security guards, and their daughters to become teachers rather than housewives.

Other new research suggests that policymakers can also take simple steps to fix failures in the market for low-cost private schools. For example, providing better information for parents through standardised report cards, and making it easier for entrepreneurs to obtain loans to expand schools, have both been found to lead to a higher quality of education.

Another, related lesson is that simply spending more public money is not going to transform classrooms in poor countries. The bulk of spending on public education goes on teachers’ salaries, and if they cannot teach, the money is wasted. A revealing recent study looked at what happened between 2003 and 2007, when Punjab hired teachers on temporary contracts at 35% less pay. It found that the lower wages had no discernible impact on how well teachers taught.

Such results reflect what happens when teachers are hired corruptly, rather than for their teaching skills. Yet the final and most important lesson from Pakistan is that politicians can break the link between political patronage and the classroom. Under Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab’s chief minister, the province has hired new teachers on merit, not an official’s say-so. It uses data on enrolment and test scores to hold local officials to account at regular high-stakes meetings.

Shifting from “the politics of patronage” to “the politics of performance”, in the words of Sir Michael Barber, a former adviser to the British government who now works with the Punjabis, would transform public services in poor countries. Pakistan’s reforms have a long way to go. But they already have many lessons to teach the world.

Riaz Haq said...

What’s Really Keeping Pakistan’s Children Out of School?

Less than half of third graders in Pakistan can read a sentence in Urdu or local languages. Thirty-one percent can write a sentence using the word “school” in Urdu, and 11 percent can do it in English.

Children in government schools report that teachers have them clean, cook, massage their feet and buy them desserts. Children are categorized as smart or stupid as soon as they start school. Corporal punishment is severe. Parents will send their kids to a private school if they can afford a few dollars a month, but they do not see government schools as worth it.

Since 2010, Pakistan has more than doubled what it budgets for education, from $3.5 billion to $8.6 billion a year. The budget for education now rivals the official $8.7 billion military budget. The teaching force is as big as the armed forces.

But Pakistan has a learning crisis that afflicts its schoolchildren despite much debate and increase in funding for education because policy interventions by the government and foreign donors misdiagnosed what is keeping children out of school.


Although aid programs of the United States and Britain contribute a mere 2 percent of the education budget, those countries and the local elite, whose own children go to high-end private schools, have emphasized that Pakistanis demand education and that more children should be enrolled in school.

But the demand for education is already high, evidenced by the mushrooming of low-cost private schools that now enroll 40 percent of students in the country and charge as little as $2 a month.

Foreign donors also want Pakistanis to send their girls to schools, but a 2014 Pew survey found that 86 percent of Pakistanis believe that education is equally important for boys and girls, while another 5 percent said it was more important for girls. Even in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — where Malala Yousafzai is from — government high schools for girls are enrolled beyond their capacity.


Eighteen million of the 23 million out-of-school children in Pakistan are between 10 and 16 years old. Efforts to reach them have been negligible. These children opted out of a failing education system and now they have aged. They will not now go to school if it means starting in kindergarten. They need accelerated programs, or short crash courses in literacy and math to help them enroll with their age group.

Even if these children do not go back to school — international evidence suggests they won’t — they will, at least, become literate adults.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan ‘Street #Schools’ Open to Poor Kids, Parents. "The program is called Street to School. Organizers launched it in the Pakistani city of #Karachi in 2014" #education

A different kind of school in Pakistan is giving poor children, and sometimes their mothers too, a new chance to get an education.

The program is called Street to School. Organizers launched it in the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2014. The idea was to create a school for children who played on the streets every day while their parents worked. Some parents chose not to send their children to school, while others did not have enough money to do so.

The founder of Street to School is Mohammad Hassan. He says children who spend all day on the streets are at risk for a number of reasons. They are in danger of catching dangerous diseases and can also be caught up in crime and drug use. Others are forced to work.

Street to School is a way to keep these children off the streets, while providing them with a basic education and useful life skills.

Hassan says the preschool education program centers on reading, writing and mathematics. Students are also taught English as well as the local language, Urdu. In addition, Street to School includes sports activities and provides students with information on how to stay healthy and take care of themselves.

Hassan says Street to School has been successful in getting children off the streets and on a new path toward an education in traditional schools. But running the school also taught him about another great need in the community.

“We started this project for kids. But we found out very quickly the kids would bring their homework diaries without parents’ signatures. That meant kids were not getting the needed help at home to do their homework. So, we decided to create a special course for these parents so that they can have basic literacy to help their kids.”

Uzma is a wife and mother who decided for herself she wanted to join Street to School.

“I talked to my husband. He gave me his permission, which is a huge deal. So many women don't get this opportunity. This is why I am here today. I come here, and I study with God's blessing. I have learned enough now that I don't feel dependent on anyone.”


Karachi has other educational programs for street children. One of them is called The Street School. Two teenagers, Hasan and Shireen Zafar, started the program. It aims to bring education to the streets for groups of needy children around the city.

The founders told Pakistan’s Dunya News television they decided to launch the school after a girl came up to them and asked an unusual question. Instead of asking for money, the girl asked, “Will you teach me?”

The program started out with just two students, but grew to more than 200. The Zafars told Dunya News one of their main goals is to prevent people from abusing children as laborers.

The Street School also has begun to teach some adults, most of whom are parents of children involved in the program.

Riaz Haq said...

Privatization could fix Pakistan’s educational system
By Shi Lancha Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/15 23:33:40

Education - especially primary and secondary schooling - is perhaps the most-discussed topic in Pakistan. Poor education has not only hindered the country's efforts to eradicate poverty and boost growth, but has also exacerbated issues like gender inequality, social conflicts and even terrorism. For an ethnically and socially diverse country like Pakistan, education carries heavy political significance for nation-building, as it builds common symbols and values.

Even though the provision of free and compulsory education for all children from 5-16 years old is mandated in the Constitution of Pakistan, the reality has long been lamentable, if not outright atrocious. A high drop-out rate in lower grades, a low graduation rate at higher grades, and the gender difference in enrollment which is even wider than that of Afghanistan have bedeviled education in Pakistan. For example, most Pakistani children drop out of school by the age of 9 and only 3 percent complete the 12th grade.

Despite the Pakistani government's commitment to both Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for All (EFA), there were still more than 22.6 million children out of school in late 2016. More seriously, those in school suffered badly from teacher absenteeism and poor learning environments.

Poor education naturally leads to miserable student performance: Only about half of Pakistanis who complete five years of primary education are literate, and only just over 40 percent of third-graders from rural schools demonstrate passable arithmetic skills like subtraction and addition. Facing the likely scenario of their children learning nothing despite years in school, many parents decide to make the children help in the fields instead.

The Pakistani government, both at central and provincial levels, has undertaken major policy efforts to improve the coverage and quality of education. The education authority was devolved from the federal government to the provinces in 2010, and most provinces have more than doubled their education budgets since then. Impressively, in 2016 Pakistani provinces spent as much as 17 to 28 percent of their budgets on education agendas, whereas the global average was merely 14 percent.

However, despite growing financial resources and political capital being directed into the education system, the results remain largely uncertain. After all, given the fact that Pakistan's education problems are firmly rooted in the country's deeper social and political soil, it will not be easy to make progress.

What Pakistan needs is to spend better, not simply to spend more. The political element in education spending is so strong that increased budgets are often translated into jobs as political patronage, rather than yielding improvements in education. The logic is straightforward: Politicians hand out permanent teaching positions in exchange for their constituents' votes and loyalty, while these teachers function as the patron's political organizers.

In a sense, swelling the ranks of teachers appears to "kill two birds with one stone" for politicians: it appears to address educational problems, helping them to win over more supporters, and it buttresses their personal political base. It's no surprise that education departments have become the single largest employers in most provinces. Strikingly, Pakistan's educational sector is now as big as its armed forces, and the education budget of $8.6 billion in 2016 came second only to the $8.7 billion military bill.

As more and more over-paid teachers enter schools with patronage shielding them from any potential disciplinary proceedings, not only will existing issues like teacher absenteeism get worse, other much-needed social programs may also suffer from insufficient resources.

Riaz Haq said...

Teachers who earn high salaries but don’t show up to school. Even if they do, they might not do much once they get there. Students who can’t read basic sentences after three years in a classroom, and drop out altogether by age 9. And ironically, a government that’s doubled its education budget in the last eight years.

Pakistan’s education system has been called a “crisis,” and its reforms “frenetic.” The former chief minister of Punjab fired a significant portion of government teachers, and today over 40 percent of the country’s students are enrolled in schools that are either privately run or sustained on philanthropy. With a new government set to come in, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, what does that mean for education?

Nadia Naviwala is a Global Fellow at The Wilson Center, where she authored a report called, “Pakistan’s Education Crisis: The Real Story.” She is also a senior advisor for The Citizens Foundation, which educates over 200,000 students in philanthropy-supported schools across Pakistan. BRIGHT Magazine caught up with Naviwala about the root causes of Pakistan’s education crisis, the importance of political will in solving it, and the surprisingly minimal role of international donors.

BRIGHT Magazine: I read your story in the New York Times about how Pakistan can’t spend its way out of the education crisis. What are the root causes of the education crisis, and why are they not related to money?

Nadia Naviwala: Pakistan’s education crisis comes down to a crisis of teaching and learning, which is not something that money can solve. You can look at some of the best education systems in the world, and they are not necessarily the ones that spend the most. Efficiency is also really important. You can even look within Pakistan: The provinces and districts that are spending more are not necessarily the ones that have stronger education systems. Pakistan has doubled its education budget since 2010, but we haven’t seen either the improvement in enrollment or the learning value you’d expect.

BRIGHT: Why hasn’t increasing the budget led to better education outcomes?

NN: The majority of the education budget, about 85 percent, goes into teachers’ salaries. If your teachers aren’t showing up to school, or if they aren’t doing anything when they get to school, then it really doesn’t make a difference how much money you’re pouring in.

No one has quite figured out what to do. Once you get teachers to school, how do you improve learning outcomes for kids? This is the reason for high rates of illiteracy in schools in Pakistan.

Two of Pakistan’s four provinces, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), have achieved a few things regarding education reforms. First, they fixed school infrastructure, because Pakistan was — and still is — a place where going to school is dangerous because the facilities are just so dilapidated. Second was making teachers show up to school. The [provincial] governments started sending someone to school every month to make sure the teacher was there, which resulted in teacher absenteeism plummeting.

So for the next government, their challenge is adherence, and also taking some of these reforms to other provinces, so we don’t send the country into four completely different directions. We know how to make schools look like schools, we know how to get teachers to show up. There is still this problem of illiteracy rates, and the fact that a child can go to school for 3–5 years and still not be able to read a sentence in Urdu or a local language.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s own Khan Academy
By Dr Umar SaifPublished: September 2, 2018

Ghost schools, bogus enrolment, absent teachers, out-of-school children — Pakistan’s public-sector school education system is trapped in complicated challenges. Punjab alone has over 52,000 schools, more than 12 million students and close to 400,000 teachers. Around four years ago, the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) started rolling out a series of IT systems for monitoring schools, computerising school enrolment and ensuring teacher presence. Our system works on computer tablets, enabling close to 1,300 monitoring officers to randomly visit schools each month and report data about school facilities, teacher presence and student attendance. The data is geo-tagged (using the tablet’s GPS system), and must be submitted from the vicinity of the school to be accepted by our system. The report must also include geo-tagged pictures of the attendance register and the head teacher, as well as a selfie of the monitoring officer, as evidence of the visit. In the last four years, over 1.9 million inspection reports have been uploaded in the system. In a recent study, Alif Ailaan found our monitoring data to be highly correlated (over 93% correlation) with their independent assessments.

We make all the monitoring data public in real-time to make the entire exercise fully transparent and enable all stakeholders to hold the government accountable. This data can be viewed by visiting, On our website, besides real-time inspection data of schools, there are comparisons with previous years to track progress and link to the official school census data for a baseline comparison.

Moreover, the same system is used to also measure Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). As part of each school visit, the monitoring officer is mandated to conduct a pop quiz of 7-10 students using another testing application on their tablets. The quiz is generated by automatic test generation software, populated with millions of multiple-choice questions devised to measure 17 students learning outcomes from the government’s official curriculum. Currently focused on grade 3 students to measure their learning and numeracy, over 35 million tablet-based spot tests have been conducted by our monitoring officers, and the data is uploaded in real-time to our system. This learning outcome data is also made public on the same website. Our website enables visitors to compare districts across 17 SLOs and analyse the performance of grade 3 students across Punjab in terms of their basic learning and numeracy.

In order to evaluate the intervention, we ran a Randomised Control Trial (RCT) in 60 schools in Punjab. The one-year study, soon to be published in a research paper, produced exceptional results: Math scores of students improved by 120%; Science scores improved by 52%. Overall, the schools in which e-learn was used showed 74% improvement in test scores. The monthly project cost was less than Rs75 per student.

Currently, the project is being scaled up to over 800 high schools in Punjab. This equivalent of Pakistan’s own Khan Academy, and its application in classrooms, could become a blueprint to improve teaching standards and learning outcomes throughout the country.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s generational shift
By Dr Ayesha RazzaqueMay 22, 2022

In this generation only 18.7 per cent of rural women are without an education, down from 75.5 per cent from their mothers’ generation. Nearly 50 per cent have an education ranging from a primary to secondary education, up from just 20 per cent in the previous generation. A stunning 22.9 per cent have a higher secondary or above education, up from an almost nothing 0.3 per cent in their previous generation.


Last year saw the publication of ‘Womansplaining – Navigating Activism, Politics and Modernity in Pakistan,’ a book edited by Federal Minister Sherry Rehman to which I was able to contribute a chapter. It connected education with women’s rights and argued that indigenous movements like the Aurat March should focus on education as a core part of their agenda.

Detractors of Pakistan’s women’s rights movement have been taking potshots at it by claiming that the issues it raises are not the issues of ‘real’ (read: rural) women. Put aside for a minute the fact that Pakistan’s rural population now accounts for 62 per cent, down from 72 per cent in 1980, and is on a steady decline. While the numbers may differ, and women’s power to negotiate may differ, rural and urban women share basic challenges and better education can yield similar opportunities and improvements in life circumstances.

Indigenous progressive and women’s rights movements have adopted the cause of education as an agenda item but should make it front and center, specifically K-12 education for girls in rural areas. New data further substantiates that connection with numbers. Education up to the higher secondary level, just the education that rural schools offer today, is the enabler that brings increased women’s labour force participation, delayed first marriage, lower rates of consanguinity, increased income, increased spousal income, and is a contributing factor to greater freedom of movement and communication – all positives.

Studies exploring the relationships between levels of education and life circumstances around the world are plentiful and capture the situation at a point and place in time. The Learning and Educational Achievements in Pakistan Schools (LEAPS) programme is qualitatively different because it already spans a period of almost two decades. The LEAPS programme has been tracking lower- and middle-income households in 120 randomly selected villages across three districts in rural Punjab since 2003. It has been revisiting them since then, most recently for the sixth time in 2018, roughly once every three years. That makes it one of the largest and longest panels of households in lower- and middle-income countries. This study is also unique as it looks at return on investment in education beyond an individual’s income and looks into the possible spillover into life circumstances and quality-of-life which is especially interesting for those interested in women empowerment and feminist movements.

In this latest round it surveyed 2006 women now aged 20-30. All these women were from the same 120 birth villages and have been tracked to their marital homes within or outside the village if they have married, migrated or moved for any other reason. Preliminary descriptive results of the long-running LEAPS study tell interesting stories. The headline finding of LEAPS investigators is that Pakistan is in the midst of a ‘generational shift’ where, for the first time in its education history, we have a ‘critical mass of moderately educated women’.


Existing plans, at least in the domain of education, remain unguided by some of the very excellent evidence that is available. Meanwhile, the Planning Commission is organizing a ‘Turnaround Pakistan’ conference perhaps as early as May 28 to conduct national consultations. Whether a hurriedly thrown together conference can change the way business is done remains to be seen.

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.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan: Technology boosts education reform in remote areas

Education in Pakistan’s Balochistan and Sindh provinces has been hampered by natural disasters, poor infrastructure and remoteness, and further exacerbated by political, economic and security problems.
From WhatsApp groups to biometric fingerprint systems, innovative technology has helped with building and restoring schools and improving teacher retention in these remote regions.
Since 2014, GPE’s support has led to 53,000 previously out-of-school children enrolled in school in Balochistan, and the tracking of educational data in all 29 districts in Sindh.

Supported by a US$34 million GPE grant, the government of Balochistan set up digital profiles to record land transfers and follow school construction, supporting the completion of schools and allowing education officials to track progress.

Large-scale surveys gathered geospatial data, an innovative and cost-effective way to identify abandoned buildings that could be transformed into schools.

Balochistan also established criteria for the selection of school sites, ensuring no other school existed within a 1.5 km radius and that locations enabled at least 20 out-of-school children to attend. This resulted in schools being built in remote areas with the most need.

Since 2015, 700 schools with new or renovated buildings have been completed and more than 100 girls’ primary schools upgraded to secondary. With GPE support, education authorities began to track real-time data in 14,000 schools, including teacher attendance and enrollment.

This has helped with the allocation of funding to locations with the greatest need. Android apps also record the physical infrastructure of schools, providing timely information on the functionality of toilets, drinking water and electricity.

School monitoring using technology
Both provinces use tech solutions to support management and ensure accountability in the education system. In Balochistan, apps keep track of teacher attendance, recording when teachers are within a certain geo-radius of the school; they work offline in more remote areas, uploading information when there is network access.

Through a US$66 million GPE grant, the Sindh province used tech tools to ensure teachers were deployed to the areas where they were most needed. Fingerprint-based biometric and photograph systems supported by GPS coordinates are also able to track teaching hours.

Greater incentive and validation for teachers
In a significant boost to quality learning, GPE supported the recruitment and training of qualified teachers, with emphasis placed on hiring female teachers to increase girls’ enrollment. Since 2015, 1,200 teachers have been recruited in Balochistan after passing the national testing service exam.

Better teaching and consistently open schools have helped increase student enrollment, with over 56,000 more girls enrolling in public elementary, primary and middle schools in Sindh.