Federal and provincial governments should consider importance of ‘the school experience’ in their strategy to enrol and retain children in schools.

For 25 million out of school children, gaining education is a quest that involves insurmountable hurdles. It comes as no surprise that so many people do not choose to get education.

More than half (57%) of all out of school children come from the poorest homes in the country. Their only chance of getting education is through government schools.

These parents have to choose between not sending their children to a school and sending them to a school that is not going to provide quality education.

There is one teacher for every 37 children in Pakistan. Government school teachers are pulled in many directions and on a typical day 18% of government teachers are absent from their class rooms.

Often children put themselves into harm’s way when they go to a government school, since 65% of government schools do not have boundary walls and 55% operate in dilapidated structures. This is in addition to the daily discomfort children face in absence of basic facilities – 58% schools do not have toilets and 64% schools do not have running water.

The responsibility of bringing 25 million children in the schools lies with the government. The chief ministers and provincial ministers have the opportunity to show their leadership by starting to resolve these problems. On federal and provincial levels the government should consider the importance of quality of the school experience as a whole in its strategy to enrol and retain children in the schools.

Why are children out of school?

Pakistan’s out of school children are stuck in a vicious cycle that is impossible to break without the government’s help. Although poverty and other problems at home play a role in keeping children out of schools, the biggest hurdles are outside the home and can be removed by the government.

Are we investing enough in the education of our children?

Pakistan’s current education budget does not cover the nation’s educational needs. The most worrisome aspect of the current education expenditure is the high proportion of teachers’ salaries. It is an unsustainable trend that is having an enormous impact on the entire education sector.

Why is the quality of education in Pakistan so poor?

The biggest failure of public education schools is quality of education. Government school teachers are often perceived as unimaginative and inefficient. But teachers are not the only ones to blame. In most cases, teachers do not receive training for years; there are no accountability measures in place either.