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Tarim Wasim

Joined: 28 Jan 2005
Last Visit: 17 Apr 2011
Posts: 160
Location: San Francisco
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2005 1:57 pm    Post subject: Education Reply with quote

Interesting interview with a Kennedy School professor about his research on the misperceived prevalence of madrassah education in Pakistan. I found the stats on private school enrollment even more surprising.....

March 11, 2005 — Following the 9/11 attacks on the United States, many blamed the proliferation of Muslim fundamentalist religious schools for spreading fervent anti-Americanism in Pakistan and elsewhere. But Assistant Professor Asim Ijaz Khwaja's latest research examines statistical data to determine more precisely the enrollment in madrassas in Pakistan. The results are quite revealing and may cause political scientists to rethink their previous theories.

Q: What did your analysis find, in terms of enrollment in Pakistani madrassas?

Khwaja: Our analysis finds that enrollment in Pakistani madrassas is relatively low, with less than 1 percent of all students enrolled in a school attending madrassas. There are as much as 100 times as many children in public schools as there are in madrassas and almost 40 times as many children in private schools as there are in madrassas. For the average Pakistani household, the choice of going to a madrassa is simply not a statistically significant option. Even in areas which surround Afghanistan, which are considered to be hotbeds of madrassa activity, madrassa enrollment is actually less than 7.5 percent.

Outside this region madrassa enrollment is thinly, but evenly, spread across the rest of the country. Furthermore, we find no evidence of a dramatic increase in madrassa enrollment in recent years. Examining time trends we find that madrassa enrollment actually declined in Pakistan from its creation until the 1980s. It increased somewhat during the religion-based resistance to the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets in 1979 and the subsequent rise of the Taliban. However, looking at the last few years, our data does not suggest that there is any dramatic increase in madrassa enrollment.

Q: What data did you utilize for this study?

Khwaja: We used three different sources of data, which are collected through established and verifiable statistical methodologies. These are all household based surveys that document patterns of enrollment and available educational options for Pakistani families. The first two of these sources, the 1998 official census of population and three separate rounds (1991, 1998, and 2001) of the Pakistan Integrated Household Survey (PIHS), are nationally representative (rural and urban areas) and publicly available. However, they were collected prior to the events of 9/11. The third survey, which is a smaller sample, is a census of schooling choices in over 100 rural and peri-urban communities collected by our own research team in 2003.

All three of these sources were collected at different times, have slightly different definitions of madrassa enrollment, and were collected by organizations and individuals with very different institutional affiliations, ranging from the Pakistani government to international organizations and U.S. based academics. This provides independent verification of enrollment estimates and allows us to determine the sensitivity of our results. What is reassuring is that estimates obtained from all three sources are very similar and therefore give us greater confidence in these numbers.

Q: How do these findings contradict popular beliefs?

Khwaja: Popular beliefs, whether we consider articles in leadings U.S. or international newspapers, scholarly work by U.S., international or Pakistani scholars, or even government reports like the 9/11 Commission, are that madrassa enrollment in Pakistan is high both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of total enrollment, and that it has been increasing in recent years. For example, between March and July of 2002, figures for madrassa enrollment cited in The Washington Post tripled from 500,000 to 1.5 million. A report in 2002 by the International Crisis Group reported madrassa enrollment in Pakistan was between one and 1.7 million. The 9/11 Commission Report states that millions of families in Pakistan send their children to religious schools. In comparison, even our highest estimates are lower than these numbers.

What is more striking and in even sharper contrast to our estimates is the relative importance of madrassas. The L.A. Times reported that 10 percent of all enrolled children in Pakistan go to madrassas. The widely cited International Crisis Group report states that about one in every three enrolled children is going to a religious school. Although it is likely that the latter estimate is inflated ten fold due to a numerical miscalulation (transcription error). Recall our estimates were that less than one percent of enrolled children are in a madrassa.

Given the importance placed on these numbers by policy makers, what is of greater concern is that none of these articles base their analysis on established statistical methodologies and verifiable data sources or attempt to “fact check” some of the higher estimates. For the most part, the primary sources for these articles are newspaper accounts of Pakistani police estimates or simply interviews with policy makers. We have yet to find a single article that validates these numbers with established statistical methodologies or verifiable data sources.

Q: What do these findings say about the educational landscape in Pakistan and its potential radical influences on young people there?

Khwaja: The educational landscape in Pakistan is characterized by the prevalence of public and private schools and madrassas play a minor role. While there has been a striking change in the last few years in the educational landscape, this is not a large increase in the number going to madrassas, but the phenomenal growth of mainstream private schools in Pakistan since the mid-90s.

In related work we show that in an almost 20 year period from 1983 to 2000, the number of private primary and secondary schools increased tenfold. Currently, almost 30 percent of children enrolled at the primary level are going to private schools. What is interesting is that the greatest growth in private schools has been in rural areas. These schools are typically for-profit schools and are affordable. The typical monthly tuition fees in these schools are less than what an unskilled worker would earn in a single day, with a family with four enrolled children spending around 7 percent of its household expenditure on schooling. These private schools are very much in the mainstream. They teach a curriculum that is similar to the government curriculum, with perhaps greater stress on teaching English. The vast majority of these private schools are coeducational at the primary level, compared to government schools which are officially single-sex.

While our findings show that madrassas are relatively unimportant as an educational option, these findings may speak differently to people with different concerns. For those interested in schooling choices facing the average Pakistani parent, madrassas play a very insignificant role. However, for those concerned about global security issues, absolute numbers may matter.

While we do not have data to examine whether certain types of madrassas promote extremist views, or what factors cause a child to go to a madrassa as opposed to a public or private school, our results suggest that no simple explanation will work. Most existing theories seek to explain why children go to madrassas based on the differences between families. For example, poor families may be more likely to send their children to madrassas because madrassas typically offer free room and board. Similarly, families with more radical religious beliefs or no alternate schooling options may send their children to madrassas. However, none of these theories are able to adequately explain the facts, in particular, the large observed differences in educational choice in children within the same family. Even in the less than 1 percent of families that send at least one child to a madrassa, more than three-fourths of these families send their other children to a public and/or private school. Any existing theory we have will have to be modified to account for the fact that there are large differences in educational choices across children in the same family. In fact, if the choice of a madrassa or private school does provide information about the ideology of the household, the data suggests that the choice of a private school is more ideologically driven than the choice of a madrassa.

The real revolution in the Pakistani educational landscape has been the rise of mainstream and affordable private schools. In order to understand what the future youth, or even the current youth of Pakistan is, or will be, we need to understand what the role of this private sector is and how it interacts with the public sector. For the average Pakistani child, the alternative to a public school is in fact not a madrassa, but is a private school, a fact which has been largely ignored in the current debate about education policy in Pakistan.
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Tarim Wasim

Joined: 28 Jan 2005
Last Visit: 17 Apr 2011
Posts: 160
Location: San Francisco
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2005 12:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting piece of research on quality of primary education in govt schools...

Dawn, April 8, 2005
Elusive search for quality education
By Shahid Kardar and Nadia Khar

The overarching constraint in Pakistan's ability to expand its industrial production, improve its productivity and international competitiveness and increase its global share of high value-added exports is the size and quality of its human capital.

Although Pakistan continues to be a laggard in its social indicators (in terms of low enrolment and high drop-out rates) and suffers from poor quality institutions of higher learning, little is known about the quality of basic education being imparted through educational institutions managed by government agencies.

While enrolment rates reflect the extent to which children are attending school
- it covers only the "access" aspect of education - the real indicator of the quality of services delivered through educational institutions is the knowledge of students in subjects being taught to them.

To assess the learning outcomes of children, students of Grade 4 and their teachers were administered a test in a recently concluded survey of a sample of government schools in six representative districts of Punjab (Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur and Mianwali).

In the 104 schools that were surveyed, students were tested in mathematics and Urdu using an instrument designed by the National Education Assessment System
(NEAS) for children who had completed the curriculum developed for Grade 3.

The performance of the students in the tests was so poor that it was heart-rending, highlighting the low quality of instruction delivered through public schools. Since the tests were meant to assess the familiarity of students with concepts that they had supposedly been taught in Grade 3, it was alarming that the vast majority of the students (70 per cent) were unable to score even 30 per cent in maths.

Of the 595 students tested in maths only six per cent were able to score more than 50 per cent. The students maintained that they were unfamiliar with a large proportion of the concepts covered in the test that had ostensibly been designed on the basis of the curriculum and textbooks of Grade 3.

The performance of students in the Urdu test was somewhat better. Around 42 per cent of the 619 students who sat for the Urdu test did not get pass marks (which were pitched at a mere 30 per cent) and 28 per cent scored more than 50 per cent marks.

In view of the difficulties experienced by students in attempting the tests, it was decided to administer the same tests to teachers to assess their knowledge of the concepts they were required to pass on to their students.

It was highly disturbing to discover that more than 18 per cent of the teachers were unable to score even 50 per cent in the same maths test, while a mere 31 per cent managed to get more than 75 per cent despite reliance on textbooks and collaboration with other colleagues in some instances.

Teachers who were matriculates (the minimum academic requirement for primary teachers until the recent change mentioned below) were able to attain an average of just 56 per cent, compared with the average of 69 per cent obtained by teachers who were graduates, although still well below what they should have scored considering that they were being tested on basic concepts that children in Grade 3 are expected to know!

Further analysis of test results in maths revealed that teachers, particularly females, encountered problems in solving questions relating to interpretation of very simple graphs, conversion of weights and measures, rather simple fractions and even calculations of the area of basic shapes.

The difficulties experienced by teachers in solving simple mathematical problems meant for students who have completed Grade 3 reflects the poor quality of the teaching force educating this country's future generations.

The policy of hiring teachers with low academic qualifications for primary grades in the past, the political patronage exercised during teacher recruitment, the ineffective mechanisms for providing on-going instructional support to teachers, the low quality and inadequate duration of the teacher training courses for staff development and rampant teacher absenteeism without any penalties for negligence of duty have all contributed to the dismal standard of education delivered through public institutions.

This suggests that an issue much larger than the low rates of literacy and enrolment is the disappointing level of knowledge of not just the children but more importantly that of their teachers.

Recognizing the need to improve the quality of teachers, the Government of Punjab has introduced a transparent, merit-based system for recruiting teachers on contract and school-specific basis and has raised the minimum academic entry requirement for teachers to graduation, all in the hope of reducing the scope for political interference in teacher recruitment and transfers.

The new merit-driven recruitment policy is a step in the right direction as better qualified teachers are expected to significantly impact on the quality of education in publicly managed schools. However, it will take some time before this new policy starts making a visible difference to the learning outcomes of children as new teachers gain experience and replace the old group of poorly qualified and inadequately trained teachers.

Until this happens and the quality of the institutions of higher education is improved so that we can get a better crop of graduates to serve as teachers, we will continue to be constrained in our efforts to enhance the productivity and skills of our work force.

It appears, therefore, that there is still a long way to go, and that too if we start making, and sustaining, the necessary adjustments today. In the meantime, there is every reason to fear that these young, new entrants will eventually imbibe the culture and mindset of the "regular" teachers and adopt their relatively relaxed attitudes and work ethics and focus their energies on getting themselves re-categorized as "permanent" employees, resulting in most potential gains from the new policy being lost to the country.
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