We often find ourselves complaining or at least commenting about the overall educational scenario of our country. Unfortunately, much of the commentary is a shot in the dark and we do not have the statistical basis to support our arguments. However, the situation is fast changing as some private sector organisations are now endeavouring to provide reliable data that can become a solid foundation for policy makers. One such organization that has surfaced in the recent times is Alif Ailaan, an educational movement that aims to put education at the front and center of public discourse in Pakistan. This private sector body was launched in February 2013, and one of its biggest achievements includes gathering significant statistical data related to various indicators of the educational standard across Pakistan, and ranking the provinces accordingly. Their rankings use official government data from across the country, along with data from the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey, to assess the performance of districts in education.
While the data thus collected informs about the current situation, it has also served to prompt a healthy competition among the provinces for educational progress and excellence. So in this brief write-up, we compare the rankings of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – two provinces competing for educational superiority over the past few years – to analyse which province is faring better in terms of education. The basis of this comparison is a recent report by Alif Ailan (ADD REFERENCE) that ranks Pakistan’s geographical regions according to quality and quantity of education. According to the writers of the report, the report also provides an insight into ‘the deep intra-provincial inequalities, and the disparities between districts within a province, reflecting a failure of programming at the provincial level’. Overall, the report helps the reader evaluate the claims made by the provincial governments regarding enhancing the educational standards in their respective provinces.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has nine of its districts ranked in the top 10 when it comes to infrastructure. The remaining one is Gujrat from Punjab. Going further down the list, we see districts from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab districts alternately constituting the list until Islamabad appears at number 46.
The predominance of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts at top position reflects that the provincial authorities have valued and expended much for better schooling conditions.
In terms of educational quality, as assessed by learning, student retention, and gender parity, Punjab has 5 of its district in the top 10, with only one from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This implies that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is lagging behind Punjab in terms of quality education. Apparently, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has placed more focus on building infrastructure and facilities at the expense of real learning.
‘Readiness’ is the measure of how much the school is prepared for the execution of daily learning activities. This is assessed through the availability of necessary equipment and resources such as computers, lab equipment etc. Lahore secures third position in this index.On the other hand, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s first entry, Malakand and Protected Area appears far-down at 39th position.
Whereas on middle school level, the top two districts in this readiness list, Malakand and Swabi belong to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with eight districts from Punjab following them till the 10th position. The scores in the report reflect that the ratio between primary and secondary school is 4:1, resulting in masses being out of school regardless of the province. This condition arouses a great concern and accounts for unemployment, destitution and mental handicap in the country.
Among the top ten districts in terms of gender parity, eight are from Punjab. KPK’s score under gender parity measure displays 79.31% while for Punjab the readings are 93.62%. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it seems, will have to exert more effort in eradicating the opposition to female education. The report also says ‘the rankings show that the gender gap in education is persistent and deeply enmeshed with the school infrastructure challenge especially for middle, high and higher secondary schools’.
As a result, the fall-off in female enrollment beyond the primary level is steep and stark. There are more than 55 districts in Pakistan where the total number of girls are enrolled in high schools is less than one thousand. Females in Pakistan have always been deprived of education owing to prevalent ignorance. It is time that this problem is attended to and solutions drawn, especially in KPK, where the scores are even lower.
Overall Status of Provincial Capitals
As provincial capitals, both Lahore and Peshawar occupy a significant position in reflecting the performance of their respective governments. A comparison between Lahore and Peshawar indicates a clear lead of the former when it comes to primary schools. Except for infrastructure scores, Peshawar is behind Lahore in all major indicators of educational progress. This suggests that the Punjab government has been more successful in the education sector than the KPK government.
The report published by Alif Ailaan offers a valuable insight into the current educational affairs of Pakistan. The results mentioned therein highlight the inter- and intra-provincial disparities in education and emphasize the need for educational reforms across the countries. Unless all provincial governments address the educational needs of their respective provinces with priority and urgency, the nation as a whole, and especially the disadvantaged communities, will continue to be deprived of the means for progress and growth.