ISLAMABAD - Over 6.5 million children are not attending primary schools and another 2.7 million are not enrolled at lower secondary level.
The gender difference is fairly stark, with 3.6 million girls not attending primary level education as compared to 2.9 million boys. An out-of-school children study reveals that more girls than boys are out of school - 38.9 per cent of primary age girls are not attending school while the rate is 30.2 per cent for boys. Children from poorer households are proportionally more out of school - 49.2 per cent compared to 17.5 per cent in the richest quintile. Dropout is highest in the grade 5 (42.8 per cent) indicating that many children do not transition to lower secondary or middle school education and therefore do not complete basic education.
The report has been prepared in collaboration between the Ministry of Education, Training and Standards in Higher Education, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
The main data source used in the report is the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) for 2007-08 and its associated Household Integrated Economic Survey (HIES). It develops profiles of children who remain out of school, investigates the major barriers to education, and identifies the reasons why children in Pakistan drop out of school.
Some 51.2 per cent of four-year-old are neither attending pre-primary nor primary school. Some 23.7 per cent are attending pre-primary school and 25.1 per cent are attending primary school.
Some 34.4 per cent of primary-school-age children are out of school i.e. not attending primary or secondary levels of education. This equates to 6.5 million children (2.9 million boys and 3.6 million girls). The proportions of out of school children (OOSC) drop each year between the ages of five and eight years from 54.9 per cent to 21.9 per cent and then rises again for nine-year-old to 27.1 per cent, says the study.
Girls are more likely to be out of school than boys, rural children more likely than urban children and children from poorer households more likely than children from richer households. Balochi-speaking children are the most likely to be out of school, followed by Sindhi, Pashto, Urdu and Punjabi speaking children.
Some 30.1 per cent of lower-secondary-school-age children are ut of school, i.e. not attending primary or secondary levels of education. This equates to 2.7 million children (1.1 million boys and 1.6 million girls). The percentage is higher for girls than for boys (37.6 per cent compared to 23.0 per cent). Rural children are more likely than urban children to out of school, particularly rural girls.
Dropout rates are lowest in the early grades of primary school, from 2.5 per cent in Grade 1 to 15.9 per cent in Grade 4. Dropout rates rise from 16.2 per cent in Grade 6 to 26.7 per cent in Grade 8. Children in rural areas are more likely than those in urban areas to drop out.
About 8.6 per cent of children aged 10-11 years are engaged in economic activity for at least one hour per week. Boys are as likely as girls to be engaged in child labour (8.6 per cent compared to 8.7 per cent). The largest category is unpaid family workers (7.2 per cent), and of these children, 29.8 per cent reported 'no attendance at school'.
Some 41.4 per cent of children aged four years in Punjab are not attending school, 59.8 per cent in Sindh, 64.7 per cent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 75.7 per cent in Balochistan are not attending school.
"Out-of-School children often face deep-rooted inequalities and disparities due to gender, poverty and child labour as well as lack of school facilities and learning and teaching materials and now is the time to address issues of quality and access to education," said Dan Rohrmann, UNICEF representative in Pakistan.
If the issue of out-of-school children is not addressed with urgency, these children will add to the existing pool of youth and eventually adult illiterates in the future exacerbating the vicious cycle of poverty. Hence, immediate investment in children falling behind, with funds, commitments and innovation is crucial, cautions the report.
It highlights gender disparity, early or forced marriages, mothers' literacy levels, trafficking, child labour, quality of education, cost of schooling, health and nutrition as some of the barriers and bottlenecks influencing exclusion children from schools in Pakistan.