Sindh witnesses decline in school enrollment despite heavy expenditures


LAHORE: The Sindh school enrollment trend keeps on worsening despite the fact that the provincial government has spent Rs42.153 billion ‘Specific Investment Loan for Sindh Education Sector’ over the period of 2014-17. These facts were revealed by preliminary programme documents available with Pakistan Today.

The documents boldly mention that the programme has not translated into improvements in school enrollments especially in primary grades, in fact, the enrollment witness a declining trend during the programme implementation period.

The documents recorded that the middle-level government schools Net Enrollment Rate (NER) decreased from 23.50 to 19.20 per cent, however, the expenditure for salary Rs92.43 million and non-salary Rs7.50 million has increased to Rs99.93 million.

Enrollment in the middle-level government schools was 23.5 in July 2012, which has now slipped down to 19.2 per cent in June 2017. Rural areas which were at 24.30 per cent in 2012, have gotten down now to 18.9 per cent. The Gender Parity Index (GPI) shows that primary level government schools’ enrollment stood at 69.1 per cent at the start of the project but it is now at 64 per cent.

According to details, the programme objective was to raise ‘school participation’ by improving sector governance, accountability, strengthening the administrative systems and measure students’ achievement.

The documents also pointed out that the direct beneficiaries comprised all students in government schools, and schools operated by private entrepreneurs whose services were contracted by the Sindh government under the Sindh Education Foundation’s (SEF) Promoting Private Schools in Rural Sindh (PPRS) programme. The annual count of the beneficiaries in the government school systems was to be obtained from administrative data.

The Sindh government views poor sector governance, accountability and weak administrative systems as the principal problems in public education in the province. Consequently, under SERP II, the Sindh government aimed towards intensifying the efforts to address this problem in order to improve the quality of service delivery.

Results from a conditional analysis suggest that children from poor households, and girls in rural areas, suffer the largest school participation shortfalls. There are sizeable differences in school participation rates across districts; some districts also exhibit large urban-rural gaps in school participation.

According to details, the recurrent expenditures for primary and secondary education are Rs4.65 billion, out of which 90 per cent were employee salaries in the education sector. Roughly 70 per cent and 67 per cent of school going children, aged 6 to 10 and 11 to 15 attend government schools respectively.

An important factor behind the poor education outcomes in the province, the documents mentioned, was the under-performance of the government school systems. Among other things, performance was hampered firstly by the poor capacity for systematic and strategic planning and effective implementation. Secondly, minimal monitoring and accountability of service delivery agents for implementation integrity and performance, and lastly, system capture by insiders and other special interest groups that prefer the status quo.

A sign, that the system is under performing, is that 90 per cent of people in Sindh report living within fifteen minutes of the nearest primary school and 55 per cent of households report being living near a middle school.