LAHORE: The school setup in Punjab made incremental progress throughout 2017 and focused on the quality of education. As a result, there was progress in aspects such as enrolment, retention, infrastructure development, hiring and the training of teachers.
According to the District Education Ranking 2017 by Alif Ailaan, Punjab was ranked third among the eight regions of the country. Among the top 10 districts in the country, five were from the province. The districts included Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Sargodha and Bahawalpur.
Although the sector made progress, many issues remained unresolved. According to the same district ranking, many performed at a dismissal level with Muzaffargarh being one of the lowest. Among other districts of the province that did not perform well were Lodhran, Mianwali, Bahawalnagar, Chiniot, Vehari, Kasur, Pakpattan, Rajanpur and Bhakkar.
Education on the backburner in Urdu Bazaar area
Shift to quality
The Punjab government's data collection regime, in the form of its quarterly district education ranking, gathered data and ranked each district of the province accordingly. Up till 2016, the ranking was based on the attendance of teachers and students, retention and available facilities. At the start of 2017, the Punjab government added literacy and numeracy as part of its assessment.
The newly-added indicator, although limited, showed a shift in direction for the province in terms of schooling. The shift, from quantitative to qualitative indicators, meant that the Punjab School Education Department (SED) wanted to focus on quality.
The ranking used English, Urdu and Math tests as benchmarks of quality education in schools by administering a test.
According to the provincial government’s last district ranking of the year, 23 districts failed to achieve the 80% target for the math assessment. For the English assessment, every district of the province failed to achieve the target. In the Urdu test, 25 districts passed the assessment and 11 scored below the 80% target.
For the better part of 2016, public schoolteachers remained at loggerheads with the provincial government with demands ranging from pay scale up-gradation to hiring of more teachers. In 2017, the Punjab government made significant progress in hiring new teachers as well as the pay scale up-gradation demand of schoolteachers.
In the budget of 2017-18, the Punjab government earmarked an amount of Rs9 billion to upgrade teachers' basic pay scales. The up-gradation process would be completed at the beginning of 2018. In 2017, many teachers were upgraded.
Another longstanding demand of the teachers, to honour the performers among their ranks, was also met. The SED gave away 500-star teachers and officers’ awards along with cash prizes.
Attendance, retention and infrastructure
According to the ranking, all districts, except Kasur, achieved the student attendance targets with the province's overall performance calculated at 91.4%. Similarly, all districts achieved the teachers' presence targets and the overall presence of teachers was calculated at 94.8%.
All the districts also achieved the retention targets, with the overall performance calculated at 98.8%. The Lahore district topped the retention raking among the 36 districts of the province, while Kasur was at the bottom of the ranking at the 36th place.
KU students take slum children off the streets and into the classroom
According to the ranking, 34 out of the 36 districts achieved the provision of facilities target with a total success rate of 97.7%. The facilities include the availability of electricity, drinking water, toilets and boundary walls. The only two districts unable to achieve the targets were Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan. The districts were, however, unable to achieve security of buildings targets as 16 of them were found to be below par. According to the ranking, Layyah, Sargodha, Vehari, Lahore, Bahawalnagar, Gujranwala, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur, Multan, Rajanpur, Khushab, Lodhran, Narowal, Nankana Sahib, Rawalpindi and Dera Ghazi Khan failed to meet the standard.
Parents VS private schools
Several protests were carried out by parents throughout the year against the continuous fee hike by private schools. The parents demanded an end to fee hike and complained of deteriorating quality of education in expensive private schools in the province. Parents battled it out with private schools at the District Education Authorities (DEAs), which is responsible to keep a check on public and private schools, and the court.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2017.
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