Punjab schools struggle to overcome problems

Education blighted by low enrolment rates, poor facilities and mediocre quality

Our Correspondent December 31, 2016

LAHORE: Though considered the best in Pakistan, schools in Punjab have failed to overcome the many problems of low enrolment rates, poor facilities and mediocre quality of education. The year 2016 saw the government’s struggle continue for meeting enrolment targets, lowering the number of out-of-schoolchildren and pacifying various teachers’ unions protesting against the government’s decisions.

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According to the Pakistan Education Atlas 2016, Punjab has a total of 100,878 education institutions, out of which 52,986 are state owned and 47,892 are private. The report states the province has achieved 69% male and 51% female adult literacy – defined as people above the age of 15 who can read and write a short, simple statement.

The report states Punjab has a 77% survival rate till Grade-5, meaning the retention rate of students who joined school and remain in school up till Class-V.

Enrolment targets

School education continued to face similar problems as previous years as the School Education Department (SED) failed to achieve its own targets.

In April, the government launched the Enrolment Emergency Campaign 2016, directing the SED to ensure 95% enrolment of out-of-school children between the ages of 5 and 16 by October 31 and 100% by 2018.

The government had set the enrolment target in the province at 3.8 million children in pre-primary and grade 1, 7.7 million in Class-II and Class-V and 3.7 million children in middle, secondary and higher secondary classes.

The SED, however, failed to achieve the targets and later inquires and punishment was meted out to the officers and teachers who failed to achieve the targets set by the government. The schoolteachers complained the targets were unrealistic and teachers were punished based on those numbers.

Similarly, the provincial government set the target for 10% increase in the number of students appearing in the Punjab Examination Commission (PEC) exam.

In a letter, the PEC directed the SED to ensure 10% increase in the number of registered students in grades 5 and 8 for the year 2017. However, in the same letter it showed that the provincial government was unable to enrol 42,000 students in class 5 as per the set targets for 2016-17 in 26 districts of the province.

The government, as per the data in the letter, was unable to enrol 105,000 students in Class-VIII in 27 districts in Punjab. In Lahore, the government enrolled 14,124 less students in Class-VIII as per the given target. In Faisalabad, the government achieved 13,279 less enrolments while for Sargodha the gap remained 6,783. Gujranwala also recorded 6,232 less enrolments, whereas Rawalpindi recorded 5,715 less students than the set target.

Increase in manpower

The Punjab government sought to strengthen the school education network in the province by increasing the number of teachers. In October, it was decided to hire up to 80,000 schoolteachers in, what the SED called, the highest-ever number of teacher recruitments.

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The SED claimed the new hiring would increase the number of teachers in the province by 27%. According to the Academy of Educational Planning and Management (AEPMA) estimates, around 15% of the total schools in Punjab have only one teacher teaching multiple grades at public schools.

Teachers’ woes

Public school teachers in the province continued to show their reservations against the policies of the Punjab government also. The demands of these teachers remained the same as no action to alleviate the matter was taken by the government.

The teachers demanded an end to punishment for teachers for not achieving enrolment targets or desired results, justifying their demand by arguing the teachers could not ensure enrolment and bad results could not just be attributed to just the teachers, as many schools had single teachers or a small number.

Teachers also protested against handing of public schools with the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) and the Daanish School System, terming it a move to privatise the education sector while destroying the public setup of schools.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2016.


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