While Pakistan has made encouraging strides in bringing more students, especially girls to schools during the last decade or so, not much has been achieved in alleviating the learning levels of students enrolled in the public school system.
The Annual State of Education Report ASER 2021 reveals that 45 percent of the fifth-grade students in Pakistan are unable to read sentences in Urdu or their regional languages while 44 percent cannot read simple sentences in English.
Similarly, as per the results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) published in 2020, Pakistani Grade-4 students ranked second to last in mathematics and science. Only 27% of Pakistani children met the low international benchmark (i.e., basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), and just 21% were able to meet the low international benchmark in science.
Despite the seemingly grim situation, a 2021 study focusing on learning in Pakistani schools points at the fact that even with low learning levels education serves as an equalizing force for children, especially those hailing from marginalized socio-economic backgrounds. The study states that the bigger problem lies with the “learn and forget” approach. This leads to, what the paper cites as, “fragile learners.” In simple words, this means that merely passing on information to students is not enough but better pedagogical approaches are required to ensure that whatever is learned in one year is not forgotten in the next.
Accordingly, alongside the very welcome coherent efforts being made across Pakistan to enhance children’s access to education, the country must also strategize ways in which the quality of education being imparted in the classrooms can be rapidly improved. This demands greater investment in teachers’ training, recruitment of subject specialist teachers (especially in subjects of mathematics and science) as well as a radical departure from conventional teaching methodologies that hinge on rote learning.
These efforts are absolutely necessary to prepare our children for the highly competitive 21st-century global workforce.