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Sindh education: a nightmare

Salman Rasheed

The writer is a Karachi-based research analyst and political consultant.

When Murad Ali Shah became Chief Minister of Sindh in the summer of 2016, he declared an ‘education emergency’, which was a commendable decision given the poor state of public education throughout the province of Sindh.
However, after 12 years of PPP-rule in Sindh and four years since the declaration of ‘education emergency’, the quality of public education at the primary level remains pathetic and lags behind the rest of Pakistan. Sadly, the chief minister’s ‘education emergency’ has become a nightmare for parents and children of Sindh.
The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for 2019 released a few weeks back shows that despite the PPP-government spending nearly Rs. 800 billion of current expenditure over the last 6 years on education, the learning results for Sindh are pitiful and near the bottom.
ASER 2019 report reveals that when it comes to reading a story in Urdu/Sindhi/Pashto at class 2 level, only 44% of class 5 students in Sindh could accomplish this. In this category, Sindh was at the bottom with smaller and less wealthy provinces such as Balochistan and KP achieving higher levels at 48% and 55% respectively.
Moreover, when it comes to the percentage of class 5 students that can read sentences in English at class 2 level, only 27% in Sindh could do this. Again, this was the worst in the country with Balochistan and KP scoring higher.
The nightmare continues in terms of the quality of education in Sindh as ASER 2019 report states that only 31% of class 5 students in Sindh who can do a 2-digit division of class 3 level whereas it is 35% in Balochistan, 53% in KP and 82% in Punjab.
Alif Ailaan in its Sindh Education Report 2018 has also reported the same poor learning outcomes. “Findings from the most recent SAT exams expose a worrying picture. Learning outcomes among students across the province are low. Average scores for language, maths and science are well below 50% at both the Grade 5 (class V) and the Grade 8 (class VIII) levels. Scores in maths and science are especially poor (both under 30% at both grade levels),” the report said.
If primary and secondary education receive 70% of current expenditure of education then why are these learning results for Sindh so deplorable? We, as the residents and taxpayers of Sindh must ask where is the money going?
Why are we experiencing this gradual decline in education results, especially in a province where the culture values education and learning? Is it because of feudalism or people’s mentality has changed and resigned to their fate as they do not see any benefit of pursuing education?
The quality of teachers in government schools throughout Sindh appears to be another factor in the learning results. The reforms attempted in Sindh to tackle the educational crisis in the province have been ineffective in reducing the incidence of teacher absenteeism in schools. The Sindh School Education and Literacy Department in 2018 released a long, regionally disaggregated list naming absentee teachers and staff.
The quality of training of teachers is also suspect. It was reported last December that “some of the teachers associated with the Sindh Teachers Education Development Authority (STEDA), the Professional Institute for Teacher Education (PITE), the Teacher Training Institute (TTI), and the Reform Support Unit (RSU) do not even have the professional qualifications necessary to provide vocational training to teachers in Sindh public schools.”
Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani recently admitted that 37,000 teacher positions remain vacant currently and that 13,000 government schools out of 49,000 throughout the province were closed.
The lack of decent facilities and schools could also be a factor in poor learning outcomes.  Over half of the schools do not have electricity, 75% do not have a playground and 98% schools do not have any laboratory facilities. Only 13,891 government-run schools are suitable for use with structures of 6,567 schools declared dangerous, buildings of 15,978 schools requiring repair and maintenance work, and 4,910 schools in the province are operating without a building or roof.
For how long are we going to tolerate these conditions and poor learning results? The residents of Sindh must demand that the chief minister and education minister establish a commission to investigate why we are not receiving value for money. An independent auditing firm must be appointed to conduct a forensic audit of all education department expenditures for the last 10 years.
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