Alif Ailaan Pakistan District Education Rankings launched: It's time to fix our education system: Khawaja Asif

The PML-N government believes that if we fail to reform our education system for over 60 years, this is the time to fix it, said Khawaja Asif, Federal Minister for Defence, at the launch of the Alif Ailaan Pakistan District Education Rankings 2015. 

The Alif Ailaan Pakistan District Education Rankings 2015 is the third edition of the annual in-depth assessment of the state of education in the country, prepared in partnership with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and covers all 148 districts, agencies and frontier regions of the country. According to the report, Punjab and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) switched positions this year, with AJK jumping to second spot behind top ranked Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). The report illuminates the comparative inequalities prevalent in Pakistan's federal framework, with the Punjab continuing to provide a superior government school infrastructure to its students, and the highest learning outcomes in the country. 

Punjab's districts are dominating eight out of 10 top spots in the rankings. However, this year's report shows that several districts (including Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur) saw a decline in the learning score, reflected in the ASER data. This is the primary cause from Punjab's overall decline from second to third. "Alif Ailaan's rankings are showing us the mirror", said Shafqat Mehmood, PTI MNA. "Education should be beyond politics. Political differences should be kept away from the pursuit of education reform", he said. 

The other big change from the 2014 rankings is the upward trend visible in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with this being the first year that the PTI government was in-charge for the entirety of the data collection period. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has managed to show progress through an improved rank, based on considerable improvements in enrolment, retention and importantly, gender parity. KP is still far behind ICT, AJK, and Punjab in many crucial measures, but the improvement is marked. "These rankings promote healthy competition among provinces and districts", said Baligh-ur-Rahman, Federal Minister for Education and Training. 

"The situation of education in Pakistan is improving after the 2013 elections. Provinces have allocated more resources to education and recent PSLM survey shows that the number of out of school children has significantly reduced", he said. Much like last year Balochistan and FATA occupy the bottom of the rankings, highlighting critical, long-term political challenges for Pakistan. 

This is despite a drop in Balochistan's score (3.67 percent) and a large increase in FATA's score (15.12 percent). Quetta is the highest ranked district and the only one in the top 50 districts while almost half the districts of Balochistan rank outside the top 100. 

The report shows that despite poor performance on the school infrastructure score, Gilgit-Baltistan holds steady at fourth position while its education score shows an increase by 1.69 percent. Sindh has climbed down a spot since last year and now sits at the sixth spot owing primarily to a decline in enrolment. Sindh's continued poor performance is further emphasised by the fact that only one of its 24 districts is in the top 50, while half of its districts are ranked in the bottom third. 

Overall Pakistan's education score remains steady (an increase of 1.67 percent). This is the second consecutive year of modest improvement. The biggest decline seen in the scores is in the learning score, while improvements are seen in retention (survival till class 5) and gender parity. 

The biggest takeaway for policymakers should be the falling learning scores. Quality of education is fast-becoming the single biggest challenge for the education system. Pakistan cannot continue to focus on universal enrolment or gender parity, whilst allowing quality to suffer. This is highlighted by low learning scores across the board for all districts and provinces.-PR 

Copyright Business Recorder, 2015
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