Over 25m children out of school
LAHORE: Over 25.02 million Pakistani children between the ages of 5 and 16 are deprived of their right to education and among children of primary-school going age, almost one in every five is not in school and this proportion increases at higher levels of education, reveals a study conducted by Alif Ailaan.
By region, the province of Balochistan is home to the highest proportion of out of school children (OOSC), followed by the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). In terms of overall distribution, meanwhile, more than half of the total number of OOSC are in Punjab.
Of the 25.02 million OOSC, more than half are girls. The data also reveal vast regional disparities in providing equal opportunities for schooling to girls, with the greatest disparity in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). For both girls and boys, access to schooling is more difficult in rural areas and the gap widens at higher levels of education. Similarly, children from the poorest families are more likely to be out of school compared to their counterparts belonging to richer families.
While making sure that children who are enrolled remain in school is a concern across the country, our analysis reveals that the majority of OOSC are children who have never seen the inside of a classroom. Nevertheless, retention is a gauge of the quality of education and the data show that across the country almost half of all children enrolled in Class 1 either drop out, transfer to a private school or repeat at least one year during the first five years of schooling. A significant proportion of students also drop out at higher levels of education, with three times more children enrolled in the first five years of school (Class 1-5) compared to the next five years (Class 6-10). One of the major reasons for both boys and girls dropping out, asreported by parents, is that children themselves unwilling to continue schooling.
Some steps have been taken to address Pakistan’s OOSC problem. Article 25-A of the Constitution, which promises every child a free education, is a good start. The federal government’s National Plan of Action, presented in 2013, aims to achieve 91% net primary enrolment by 2016. The establishment of the Punjab government’s Programme Monitoring and Implementation Unit (PMIU) in 2003 has helped local governments in that province focus on fixing tangible problems instead of trying to solve large-scale macro issues that are difficult to monitor. In KP, with a new political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in government, a powerful push from the top levels of the provincial education department has been made. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government in Sindh has also taken a step forward by terminating the contracts of unqualified teachers in an effort to improve the standard of education in the province. Meanwhile Balochistan, under the leadership of Chief Minister Dr Malik Baloch, has earmarked nearly 30% of its education budget for development expenditure in the financial year 2013-14, the highest proportion of development expenditure among all the provinces, a move which bodes well for improving both access to education and the quality of education. Another positive step is the federal government’s commitment to raise spending on education from the current
share of roughly 2% of GDP to 4% of GDP by 2018. These measures represent a good start in getting Pakistan’s OOSC into school.
To get Pakistan’s 25.02 million OOSC into school, a concentrated and coherent Pakistan-owned, Pakistan-led, Pakistan-driven process of reform is required. Politicians must generate a national narrative for education, establish clear and ambitious targets, and transform the data regime to pave the way for a determined leadership to address an issue on which the future of 200 million people depends.