There has been an improvement in school facilities, but severe shortage of middle schools across the country. Photo: AFP

(Web desk) – For every four primary schools in Pakistan, there is only one school above primary level. This means that most children passing class 5 do not have middle schools to continue their education.

This was revealed in the fifth annual District Education Rankings report which was launched in Islamabad by the Alif Ailaan campaign. According to the findings, the large out-of-school population of the country is a direct product of this shortage of middle schools across the country.

To assess the performance of districts in education, the rankings use official government data from across the country, along with data from the ASER survey.

These district education rankings highlight some improvements but many disparities. According to the 2017 rankings, while certain parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab have made marked improvements in school infrastructure, the pace of progress in Sindh, Balochistan and FATA remains a concern. Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and ICT all show some progress across all indicators.

Provincial and regional education scores according to the Alif Ailaan district rankings for 2017. Table: Alif Ailaan

Despite strong and continued commitments across all political parties, improvements in education have largely been limited to infrastructure upgrades in primary schools. Middle, high, and higher secondary schools, however, are not being given their due attention.

Primary school infrastructure scores by Alif Ailaan for 2017. Table: Alif Ailaan

There are more than 55 districts in Pakistan where the total number of girls enrolled in high schools is less than one thousand.

This is indicative of the persistent gender gap which the report says is enmeshed with the school infrastructure challenge especially for middle, high and higher secondary schools. As a result, the falloff in female enrolment beyond the primary level is steep.

Middle school infrastructure scores according to 2017 district rankings by Alif Ailaan. Table: Alif Ailaan

The districts rankings also demonstrate deep intra provincial inequalities, and the disparities between districts within a province, reflecting a failure of programming at the provincial level. Though provinces should not be held responsible for disparities between each other, they are very much responsible for the wide disparities between their own districts, records the report.

The data from the rankings point towards the need for provinces to attend to the different levels of performance in education across their districts. One of the most urgent issues the rankings point to is the need for improved data regimes in the country. Authorities continue to prioritise school infrastructure at the expense of what happens in classrooms.