29pc of children in Sindh out of school: report

KARACHI: Despite the recent focus of the provincial government on enrolment drives as a rhetoric on Article 25 A, 29 percent of Sindh’s children aged 5-16 still remain out of school, said the Annual Status of Education Report –ASER 2013 National survey. The remaining 71% that are enrolled in the 5-16 age bracket are not learning much either.

These findings were made public in the provincial launch of Pakistan’s largest-annual citizen-led household based ASER Survey 2013 – the fifth ASER Survey report in a row – launched in Karachi on 11th February 2014.

The ASER 2013 survey has been conducted by 10,000 volunteers managed by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) along with many key civil society /semi autonomous organizations that include the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), Sindh Education Foundation (SEF), Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD), HANDS, NRSP and several other civil society organizations across Pakistan.

The ASER survey findings for Sindh have been based on the testing of 41,190 children (including 41 per cent girls) by thousands of volunteer citizens, who personally visited 13,020 households in 655 villages as well as 8259 children (including 43 percent girls) 3,255 households in 164 blocks in urban areas of districts across Sindh. For the year 2013, the ASER rural survey has been conducted in 22 rural districts in the Sindh, wherein 5-16 year age cohort children were tested for English, Language (Urdu/Sindhi), and Arithmetic competencies.

The report aims to inform the progress or lack thereof with respect to Article 25 A of the constitution making education a fundamental right for 5-16 year old children since 2010. To date the implementation has yet to take place as both laws and rules remain in abeyance. In spite of public demand the State response at best continues to remain neutral to education as a basic need. Parliamentarians and ministers made commitments to be held accountable as duty bearers – but they must walk the talk. They must decide between a future based on an educated Pakistan and a dead end that marginalizes learning and undervalues social capital. The narrative on education must change dramatically under the current democratic dispensation.

Released by Taj Haider, Coordinator Chief Minister Sindh, the report states that the private sector is performing better than the government sector as far as the learning levels of children, student and teacher attendance are concerned. The survey reveals a clear- urban-rural divide, whereby urban areas perform better in terms of access and infrastructure facilities; however learning levels remain marginally better than rural areas with a high incidence of private tuitions in urban areas. Shockingly teacher and student absenteeism is higher in public schools in urban than rural areas.

According to the report, student competencies in learning English, Arithmetic, and Language are deplorable. Half of the children from Class V cannot read Class II level text in Urdu/Sindhi. In English, only 25% of the surveyed Class V students could read sentences which should ideally be read by students from the second grade. A similar trend has been observed in the Arithmetic capabilities of children where only 29% of class V children were able to do a two-digit division, something that is expected in second grade curriculum.

The ASER Survey also has identified that in Sindh children enrolled in private schools are performing better compared to those studying in government schools; 61% children enrolled in Class-V in private schools were able to read a story in Urdu compared to 40% Class V students studying at government schools. The difference in learning levels is starker for English, where 53% Grade V could read English Class II level sentences compared to 23% public sector students.

Further, the survey explains that girls continue to lag behind boys in language and arithmetic competencies. As many as 33 percent of boys were found able to read at least sentences in Urdu/Sindhi with only 24% girls being able to do so.

In addition to the assessment of children, the report also highlights school functioning across every district in Sindh. The ASER Sindh rural survey informs that overall teachers’ attendance in government schools stood at 82% as compared to 92% in private schools on the day of the survey. Government school teachers were reported to have better qualifications at graduate levels; for example, 44% teachers in government schools are graduates in comparison to only 36% in private schools, and same is the case for MA/MSc or postgraduate qualifications, whereby larger percentage of public sector teachers have a higher qualification than private sector counterparts. But then do the qualifications matter more than attitudes and pedagogies?

The trends in multi-grade teaching across schools are also mixed. ASER 2013 findings have found 70% of government and 44% of private schools imparting multi-grade teaching at Class II level. On the contrary, at the Class VIII level, multi-grade teaching is more prevalent in the private sector 51 vs. 31 % in government schools.

Forty percent private primary schools receive funds from the government (as compared to 30% public primary schools) and have been reported to be better at some school facilities but worse for others. For example, 57% private primary schools had boundary-walls as compared to 63% government primary schools. On the contrary, with regard to availability of functional toilets, it has been found that the facility was still not available in 50% public and 40% private primary schools in rural Sindh.

On this occasion Dr. Arif Alvi, Muhammad Hussain Mehanti, Dr. Muhammad Memon, Dr. Tanveer Shaikh, Zakir Shah, Naveed Shaikh, Saba Mehmood, Noman Siddiqui, Asghar Soomro, Dr. Suleman Shaikh, Aziz Kabani and Bela Raza Jamil spoke. They asked when will children’s rights be recognized and protected as a fundamental constitutional obligation to enable them a safer, capable and entitled passage to adulthood.

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