Human Resource Development (HRM-627)
A STUDY ON QUALITY OF PRIMARY EDUCATION BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE
At the sub-regional meeting of South Asian Ministers in Kathmandu in April 2001, Quality Education was
unanimously identified as a priority area from the regional Perspective. The ministers and all participants were
in agreement that there was an urgency to seek remedies for bottlenecks faced in these areas to meet the
intermediate targets and EFA goals by 2015. In the context of quality education, the discussions highlighted
that in spite of concerted efforts and resources devoted to quality, the results have been neither satisfactory nor
sustainable. Why is this so? If drop out rate is any indicator of quality, the picture is not a promising one. The
region cannot afford high internal inefficiencies within the education system and the leakage must be addressed
comprehensively. Failing standards reveal poor service delivery, leading in turn to low levels of interest; and
improvement in quality is a key element that could ensure equity for learners through substantive entitlements
in terms of capabilities for improving human well-being.
Several international and regional meetings have reiterated the need for Quality EFA.
In this context, the Dakar Framework of Action refers to quality both within the six goals and the
Improving every aspect of the quality of education, and ensuring their excellence so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes
are achieved by all, especially in literacy, innumeracy and essential life skills
Strengthening the quality of education has become a concern of paramount importance in discussions on
education. The concern is shared equally by all the stakeholders at all levels of education including the primary
education. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) declared primary education as the basic human
right of all people. Accordingly, all nations prioritized universal access to education. The developed, and many
developing, nations have attained universal or near universal access to primary education. Now the focus is on
the quality of students' learning. The concern is valid not only for nations who have attained the quantitative
targets, it is also valid for nations still striving for expansion of educational access. It has been established that
access and quality are not sequential elements. Quality is rather considered, in the light of growing evidence, a
means for achieving the universal access and equity of education regardless of gender, location, race, religion,
and social class (Hoy, et al, 2000). The World Bank (1997) in one of its reports on elementary education in
Pakistan has also laid equal emphasis on the expansion of access and quality as the quality has been visualized
instrumental in improving access. The report states:
"The best way to improve access is to improve quality which would make coming to school or staying in school a more attractive
option from the perspective of parents as well as children. Moreover, effort to improve quality will tend to increase the efficiency of the
public expenditure and will encourage parents to contribute to children education."
Quality of education also means setting standards which make a pavement for assessment of standards,
comparability of programs, and accountability for meeting the targets.
International Declarations on Quality of Basic Education
1. The Jomtien Declaration of EFA, 1990: A landmark document for the promotion of basic education
emphasized that 'the focus of education must, therefore, be on actual learning outcomes rather than exclusively
2. The World Education Forum, Dakar Framework of Action 2000: Emphasis on quality of education is
included as one of the six goals:
"Improving all aspects of the quality of education, and ensuring their excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning
outcomes are achieved by all especially in literacy, innumeracy and essential life skills" (Article 7(vi))
The Expanded Commentary on the Dakar Framework of Action includes following two articles on quality:
i) Evidence over the past decade has shown that efforts to expand enrolment must be accompanied by
attempts to enhance educational quality (Article 43).
ii) Government and all other EFA partners must work together to ensure basic education of quality for all,
regardless of gender, health, location, language or ethnic origin (Article 44).
3. The Recife Declaration of UNESCO E-9 project (Education for All in the nine most populous developing
countries), of January 2000, reaffirms commitment to the enhancement of quality of basic education through
adopting several measures.
4. The Beijing Declaration of the E-9 Project on ICT1 and EFA (August 2001) reiterated its commitment to
raise the quality of education through using Information Communication Technology (ICT), and better training
of teachers and administrators.
Human Resource Development (HRM-627)
Quality Concerns and Commitments by the Government of Pakistan
Pakistan is a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and many other declarations down
to the World Declaration on Education for All (1990), the World Education Forum: Dakar Framework for
Action 2000, the Recife Declaration of E-9 Countries 2000 and the Beijing Declaration of E-9 Countries on
ICT and EFA 2001. But Pakistan, despite policy statements and target setting in various education policies and
five-year plans is still far below universal primary education access and retention. The priority is thus, still on
the expansion of basic educational opportunity to all. However, with the emerging international agenda of
quality education, Pakistan has also readdressed the educational target setting by adopting a two-pronged
approach based on quantitative expansion along with quality enhancement, particularly since the 7th Five Year
Plan. The National Education Policy 1998 has included many elements and strategies for improving quality at
elementary level. The central message of SAP-II and EFA beyond DAKAR is Quality Education and that the
access is not sustainable without quality (Govt. of Pakistan, 2000). The important policy statements and
strategies are listed below:
The National Education Policy 1992 recognized that the quality aspect of primary education has been
compromised and required urgent examination of the measures needed for its raising. The policy has
mentioned several strategies for the purpose including teachers' training; updating "primary kit"; provision of
The National Education Policy 1998-2010 had also included among its objectives the improvement of
elementary education. The policy gives a comprehensive list of quality inputs such as merit-based recruitment
of teachers; pre-service and in-service training of teachers; improving the quality and availability of books; etc.
Education Sector Reforms: Action Plan 2001-2005 based on National Educational Policy 1998-2010 among its
nine sectors includes a cross-cutting thrust area of quality assurance in education including upgraded teacher
training, textbooks and curricula, and assessment system.
The National Plan of Action (NPA) for Education for All also addresses the issue of quality education. The
major quality inputs suggested include reforms in curricula (focusing on basic learning needs of child, youth,
adolescent and adult), textbook development and teachers' training. An improved system of
examination/assessment i.e. National Education Assessment System (NEAS) will also be introduced. Besides,
early childhood education programmers will be initiated as part of efforts to improve the achievement of pupils
at primary education level.
Quality of Education in Pakistan
Quality Output: All quality inputs converge to yield quality learning of students. Student achievement as an
indicator of quality output received global recognition when the International Consultative Forum on EFA
listed it as one of the indicators to be used for the year 2000 EFA Assessment. The commitment was further
spelled out in the form of sixth goal of the Dakar Framework of Action for EFA as under:
"Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes
are achieved by all."
In Pakistan, the system of National or Provincial Assessment has yet not been established. Standardized data
on student learning over years or over repeated measurements are non-existent. However, the realization of a
coherent National Assessment has been emerging since mid eighties of the last century. Resultantly a number,
nearly two dozens, isolated studies on student learning have been conducted by different agencies and
organizations since 1984 and more so during the last decade. Some of the studies have been conducted at
national level, whilst other focused on provinces and still some other had a very narrow focus and limited
sample. The parameters, methodologies and rigor of the studies also vary. The tests used were generally
curriculum and textbook bound. Some small-scale studies used competencies as the standards for testing.
A compilation and analysis of various studies has been done and it has been concluded that on the average
students do not achieve competency on more than half the material in the 5th grade curriculum (Benoliel, 1999
in UNESCO, 2001).
BRIDGES (1989) observed that students of grade 4th and 5th attained scores of 29 and 33 in science and 25
and 26 in mathematics. A study by Mirza and Hameed (1995) in Punjab shows that students of grade I, II, III,
IV and V attained mean scores of 62%, 70%, 53%, 51% and 46%, respectively. In grade IV and V the lowest
scores were observed in mathematics. Baseline survey of Sindh (2000) reported a mean score of 8 in
mathematics. Studies further show that students performed better on items measuring rote learning and poorly
on items requiring comprehension, problem solving and life skills. Pervez (1995) also found over 60% children
Human Resource Development (HRM-627)
at the end of grade 5 competent in rote learning whilst only 18 - 27% could write a letter, read with
comprehension and demonstrate life skill knowledge.
Quality Inputs: Quality learning cannot be expected without quality inputs. But the context of public primary
education in Pakistan is very difficult. About 71% schools are located in rural areas. A general picture of inputs
in schools can be portrayed as under:
· Provisions in primary schools particularly the rural primary schools are very poor.
· Nearly 1/6th of the primary schools is shelter less.
· The schools with building have insufficient accommodation - 2 rooms and a veranda.
· Students mostly sit on mats/tat.
· Per school average number of teachers is 2.35.
· In mosque schools the average number of teachers is 1.3 per school.
· Textbooks for teachers: Never provided.
· Teaching Kit: Supplied in mid seventies. Never updated or repaired.
Teachers hesitate to use it due to fear of breakage.
· Copy of curriculum: Never provided.
· Resource Materials: Never provided.
· Community support is at the very low, but is being sought through various modes.
Teachers at Primary Level: The importance of teacher as key figure in the education process has always been
recognized. The most recent National Education Policy 1998-2010 also recognizes that the teacher is
considered the most crucial factor in implementing all educational reforms at the grass-root level. The World
Declaration on Education for All emphasized the role of teacher as under:
"The pre-eminent role of teachers as well as of other educational personnel in providing quality education needs to be recognized and
developed to optimize their contribution ......improve their working conditions and status notably in respect to the recruitment,
initial and in-service training, remuneration and career development possibilities." (Article 1.6 para 33, p. 58).
The Dakar Framework of Action for EFA, 2000 also states as under:
"Enhance the status, morale and professionalism of teachers" (Article 8-ix)
The quality of public primary school is a matter of concern both in terms of number of teachers provided and
their qualifications. The figures show that on the average only 2.35 teachers have been provided to a school.
The mosque schools have an average of 1.3 teachers per school. The qualifications of teacher are generally
matriculate/HSC + PTC/CT. In some of the areas even the condition of matriculate has to be relaxed. The
teachers have hardly any opportunity for systematic in-service training. On-the job training, monitoring and
guidance are nearly non-existent.
A teacher with such a profile has to teach almost three to six grades simultaneously in a difficult context, an
environment of least facilities and support.
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