Islamabad - Ranking for the third consecutive year for providing best primary education but in terms of infrastructural facilities it stood at 29 among all districts.  In 2nd and 3rd place are Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab, respectively, indicating a reversal from last year when Punjab ranked 2nd, says a study.

The Alif Ailaan Pakistan District Education Rankings 2015 launched Thursday the third edition of the annual in-depth assessment of the state of education in the country, prepared in partnership with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and covers all 148 districts, agencies and frontier regions of the country.

The rankings generate two types of scores: the first, an education outcome based rankings measure district level performance on access, retention, learning and gender parity while the second, measures performance on availability of basic school level infrastructure.

According to the report, Punjab and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) switched positions this year, with AJK jumping to second spot behind top ranked Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). Punjab’s score declined by 3.38 per cent, while AJK’s stayed static. None of the AJK districts rank outside the top 50 and all AJK districts have a high education score between 70 and 79.

According to the rankings by district, Rawalpindi (ranked 2nd in 2014) climbs up one place to the number 1 rank in 2015 district rankings. This was largely due to improvements in learning and retention scores. Meanwhile, Chakwal the number 1 district from 2014 drops one place to second. Punjab’s districts are dominating eight out of ten top spots in the rankings. However, this year’s report shows that several districts (including Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur) saw a decline in the learning score, reflected in the ASER data. This is the primary cause from Punjab’s overall decline from second to third. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is represented by only Haripur in top ten districts. Islamabad drops a place down to 5th rank.

The ranking score the districts as: Rawalpindi, Chakwal, Lahore, Haripur, Islamabad, Sheikhupura, Attock, Sialkot, Toba Tek Singh, and Faisalabad.

The report illuminates the comparative inequalities prevalent within Pakistan’s federal framework, with the Punjab continuing to provide a superior government school infrastructure to its students, and the highest learning outcomes in the country.

The other big change from the 2014 rankings is the upward trend visible in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with this being the first year that the PTI government was in-charge for the entirety of the data collection period. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has managed to show progress through an improved rank, based on considerable improvements in enrolment, retention and importantly, gender parity. KP is still far behind ICT, AJK, and Punjab in many crucial measures, but the improvement is marked.

According to the report, much like last year Balochistan and FATA occupy the bottom of the rankings, highlighting critical, long-term political challenges for Pakistan. This is despite a drop in Balochistan’s score (3.67%) and a large increase in FATA’s score (15.12%). Quetta is the highest ranked district and the only one in the top 50 districts while almost half the districts of Balochistan rank outside the top 100, it says.

Killa Abdullah is the worst performing district in Balochistan. Only 8 of the 31 ranked districts in Balochistan scored above 60 on education score. Except Quetta, no other district scored more than 70.

The report shows that despite poor performance on the school infrastructure score, Gilgit-Baltistan holds steady at fourth position while its education score shows an increase by 1.69 per cent. Sindh has climbed down a spot since last year and now sits at the sixth spot owing primarily to a decline in enrolment. Sindh’s continued poor performance is further emphasised by the fact that only one of its 24 districts is in the top 50, while half of its districts are ranked in the bottom third.

The study reveals that overall Pakistan’s education score remains steady (an increase of 1.67 per cent). This is the second consecutive year of modest improvement. The biggest decline seen in the scores is in the learning score, while improvements are seen in retention (survival till class 5) and gender parity.

The biggest takeaway for policymakers should be the falling learning scores, stresses the study. Quality of education is fast-becoming the single biggest challenge for the education system. Pakistan cannot continue to focus on universal enrolment or gender parity, whilst allowing quality to suffer.

This is highlighted by low learning scores across the board for all districts and provinces, it maintains.

“We failed to pay attention to education for over 60 years, it is high time that we pay attention and fix the problems,” said Khawaja Asif, Federal Minister for Defence at the launch of the rankings.