Govt urged to increase involvement in education system

Myra Imran
Tuesday, Nov 08, 2022

Islamabad:The trend of unregistered schools in Pakistan is very common as 18 per cent of primary and 14 per cent of lower secondary and 4 per cent of higher secondary are being functioned without having regulation or registration from the concerned government bodies, said a report released on Monday.

The report titled ‘Global Education Monitoring Report 2022, non-state actors in education, who chooses who loses’ was conducted by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in joint collaboration with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The report revealed a rapid proliferation of private education institutions requires stronger oversight to ensure that quality and equity are not put at risk.

The report stated that out of 5,000 total schools in Rawalpindi two-thirds of private schools have no registration, adding that 2016-17 Private School Census, some 54,000 private schools offered pre-primary education in Punjab province under various categorizations, such as pre-nursery, nursery, and prep. The majority of programmes operated as unregulated entities, without government supervision and oversight.

It recalled that less than 3 per cent of the annual GDP is being spent on education in the last 12 years. Due to this backdrop, the report added, public sector schools are insufficient in both supply and quality.

“Private education has grown to fill the gaps. One-third of students in Pakistan attend privately funded schools with 45 per cent of those in private education and 25 per cent in state education in urban areas paying for additional private tutoring,” adding that overall 8 percent of students are enrolled in religious schools.

The report highlights the exponential growth of private tutoring and educational technology companies in the country, predominantly due to rapid growth in the labour market and the resultant competitiveness in the education system. As compared to other south countries, it added, a franchise model of tutoring is prevalent in the country, with companies or academies running schools and tuition centres, and developing their own curriculum and textbooks.

The report further noted the stark disparities in learning outcomes between privately educated and state-educated students. Those attending private institutions consistently score significantly higher than those enrolled in state schools where the student-teacher ratios are as high as 92:1. However, after controlling for socioeconomic status the relative advantage in learning outcomes that private schools enjoy is reduced or eliminated.

COVID-19 has both highlighted and exacerbated the existing issues in the education system of the country, adding that privately funded institutions with pupils of more financially stable backgrounds were often better prepared to cope with the implications of school closures and suspension of in-person teaching. However, with only 14.3 per cent of families across the country having access to a laptop or desktop, and just 4 percent of the population knowing basic ICT skills, remote learning was much harder to organise for low-budget state schools.

Additionally, as COVID-19 dealt a blow to global economies, income levels suffered and state schools were overwhelmed with an influx of pupils who could no longer afford private schools. Enrolment in private schools decreased from 23 percent in 2019 to 19 per cent in 2021.

The report urges the government to increase its involvement in education systems, and has devised five policy recommendations to enhance the quality and equity of education across all schools in South Asia: On the occasion, Additional Secretary Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training Waseem Ajmal said that the report has shattered many myths about the private and the public sector in the education as it gives global insights revealing that what works and what doesn't work.

The report, Ajmal said, raised questions about the effectiveness of many practices of learning outcomes, cost-efficiency, and administration. He recalled that actually many aspects of the reports needed to have deliberation in consultation with all stakeholders while finding a road map to form comprehensive policies for the education sector. Ajmal further highlighted those private schools in our countries are working as non-state actors and such actors are considered very integral in any society in the world.

Baela Raza Jamil, CEO of ITA shared that in Pakistan private sector fills up critical gaps in education service provision in both urban and rural areas not just through pre-schools, schools, colleges, and universities but also in the vital areas of disability services, teacher preparation, EdTech, textbooks, and assessments.

Given the huge challenges of the sector and multiple emergencies, there is an urgency to have enabling standards along with predictable regulatory regimes and support systems by the state to work as one for improving key metrics on access with quality, inclusion, and equity; Pakistan must accelerate actions with all actors to catch up on foundational learning and SDG 4 targets in South Asia”.

Chairman Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (FBISE) Qaiser Alam said that there are still a lot of challenges in the private sector with specific regards to teacher training, particularly in the low-cost school arena and they look towards the government for support He stated that it is really important that we look at the non-state actors in the country in the midst of a humanitarian crisis such as COVID-19. Irfan Muzaffar Technical Advisor, Education Reforms KPK said Equity in education service delivery is becoming a central point via publications such as the GEM Report.

“We have to change fundamentally about who teaches as also indicated by the report,” Khadija Bakhtiar CEO and founder of Teach For Pakistan.

Education Advisor Foreign Common Wealth and Development Freya Perry said that there is a lot of potentials that we need to do all at our disposal to make sure learning outcomes are met.