According to a nationwide study conducted by faculty at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development, Pakistan, more than 90% of primary and lower-secondary students in Pakistan have only a poor or basic knowledge of the mathematics and science they are required to learn.
As part of the study, which was sponsored by Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission, more than 15,000 students in grades five, six, and eight from 153 public and private schools across the country took standardized tests in mathematics and science. All tests were developed in accordance with Pakistan’s curriculum and have been validated for use in the country through previous research.
The average score in mathematics was 27 out of 100. The average science score was 34 on a scale of 100. Only 1% of students received a score of 80 or higher in either subject, demonstrating “excellent understanding,” according to the researchers. In science, girls significantly outperform boys slightly, and in mathematics, girls are tied with boys.
In both subjects, the average score in private schools was higher than in public schools, but it did not exceed 40. Punjab had the highest average score among the country’s regions, but it did not exceed 40 in either subject. The study included 78 public schools and 75 private schools in total. 80% of students were the children of parents with a high school diploma or less.
Only one out of every twenty-eighth grader correctly answered the following question: “There are thirty students in a class. In the class, the boy’s ratio to girls is 2:3, how many boys are in this class?”
Only one in every fifty people could translate “ten million, twenty thousand, and thirty” into numeric form. Fewer than one in ten people could explain why the heart beats faster during exercise.
“Science and mathematics education requires emergency attention from educator and policymakers,” said study co-principal investigator Assistant Professor Nusrat Fatima Rizvi. Multiple factors were discovered to be significantly correlated with students’ learning outcomes by the researchers.
if we look at the reasons behind this, we can point out these some facts like, high-quality teaching practices, a student’s mother having a bachelor’s or master’s degree (a father’s educational attainment was relatively less important), only one language being used in the classroom, attending private school, and attending school in Punjab were all important factors.
Surprisingly, students learned less from experienced teachers and more from those who were new to the profession. They also learned less from teachers with a degree in education than from teachers without a degree in education.
The researchers visited 589 teachers’ classrooms to evaluate the quality of their instruction. Nearly 9 out of 10 teaching practices were rated as poor, with only about 1 out of 10 rated as mediocre. There were no teachers who demonstrated what the researchers described as good teaching practice.
“In most classrooms, teachers spend their time reading and explaining words from the textbook rather than encouraging students to ask questions or participate in activities that bring concepts to life,” said the study’s principal investigator, Associate Professor Sadia Bhutta. “As a result, students have a poor understanding of concepts and perform poorly on tests.”
Researchers also conducted interviews with teachers in order to better understand the challenges they face. The discussions revealed an urgent need to provide teachers with professional development opportunities to improve their subject knowledge as well as their ability to reflect on their own pedagogy.
The project’s research team included IED’s Dr. Sadia Muzaffar Bhutta, Dr. Nusrat Fatima Rizvi, Sohail Ahmad, Khadija Nadeem, Naureen Imran, Sabina Khan, and Maimona Khan.