ASER – Pakistan: A Citizen-led Initiative about Learning Outcomes

ASER – Pakistan: A Citizen-led Initiative about Learning Outcomes

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) is a citizen-led household survey about learning outcomes, focusing not simply on inputs for quality or whether children are going to schools but what they are learning. It seeks to fill a gap in educational data by providing reliable and  comprehensive data at a national level on the status of education of 3 to 16 year olds.


ASER Pakistan conducts annual measurement and mobilization exercises using volunteers to get reliable estimates of the status of children’s schooling and basic learning (reading and arithmetic) and then interprets these results, using them to advocate for policy change.


The survey data is compiled annually in a report and shared with the government, civil society organizations, local communities, the media, lawyers, bilateral and multilateral agencies and other stakeholders working in education. ASER results are propagated at multiple levels and repackaged as policy briefs, posters, and village and district report cards in order to highlight gaps in learning. This all contributes to engaging and pressuring key decision makers.


ASER Pakistan 2011 collected information of 146,874 children, aged 3-16 years in 49793 households, from 2599 villages/blocks, in 85 districts across Pakistan.


ASER 2011 evidence is most worrying on learning levels across school systems. There are 47.4 percent children in class 5 who can read simple class 2 stories in Urdu or their mother tongue, while 40.6 percent in the same category can read simple class 2 level sentences in English and only 37.3 percent children in class 5 can do three digit division.


Within school going children, again on average, public school children seem to be doing poorly when compared to their private school counter parts. In government schools, only 37.5 percent of class 3 students were able to read sentences whereas 53.3 percent of class 3 students in private schools could read sentences in Urdu or their mother tongue. Regarding English reading and comprehension, in government schools only 39.4 percent of class 3 students were able to read words whereas 65.5 percent of class 3 students in private schools could read words. Arithmetic learning level of children going to private schools is slightly better but far from being satisfactory. 48.1 percent of private school students of class 5 could do division correctly as opposed to 34.7 percent of class 5 students studying in government schools.


ASER data clearly shows that quality of education, measured in terms of numeracy and literacy (Urdu and English) skills also varies significantly across various divides. There are significant differences in what grade one, grade three and grade five children know across provinces, even districts, and across the rural-urban divide. Judging by what the children of a particular age or grade should know, keeping curriculum in mind, most children are doing poorly. So, on an absolute scale the quality of education that Pakistani children are getting, on average, is quite poor.


ASER is informing the Right to Education (RTE) debate in Pakistan where education has been declared a fundamental right and the state is obliged to provide free and compulsory education for children from 5 to 16 years of age. It has also inspired activism from civil society, local communities and parents as ASER teams conduct policy seminars/ briefings involving public representatives, government officials and civil society activists. Its methodology seeks to empower ALL citizens to seek evidence and take appropriate action.


In 2012, as ASER expands to cover all districts of the country and as its yearly surveys build a picture of the status of education across time, we hope the engagement of students, parents, local communities, citizens, civil society, academics, local, provincial and federal government officials, and international stakeholders will increase and become embedded into the education debate in the country. We hope that this engagement will be evidence-based and will allow progress tracking. By sharing its data and analysis, ASER will have a significant role to play in generating this evidence, creating tools for monitoring and evaluation and forming a basis for sustainable citizen engagement on education.


For more information on ASER Pakistan please visit their website

Nargis Sultana

A Program Officer, Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI).

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  • Anonymous

    Look forward to ASER’s 2012 report covering all districts. In the interim, perhaps a lot more focus on teacher training in Government schools will do a lot more to narrow the education gap across the class/economic divide. For now comparing public vs private education is like comaring apples and oranges as teacher standards vary enormously (with many governmnt schools being politically motivated employment dump – not education institutes). Need to bring public schools teachers closer to private sector both in education training and economic sense.

  • Zubeida

    Excellent initiative. The writer has done an excellent job

  • Farooq Hashmi

    Does ‘Zara Chochiye’ range through the field of education alone or encompasses the entire expanse of human activity? Natch,a right-minded person’s answer will be in affirmative.Taking ‘Zara Chochyie’ as an all-embracing function of the human mind, lets’ pass the GEO TV program, ‘ Khabarnak ‘through the alembic of analytical criticism.The very thought of the program,’ Khabarnak ‘ forms a unified image of rudeness, crudeness and the narcissism of the program’s anchor.The rustic uncouth remarks of the ” anchor ” on different matters, followed by the asinine retorts of his side-kicks and jesters hold the sway of the program.What the anchor probably,brands as humor is no more than a horseplay which is conducted at the cost of others’ respect. For instance,the ridiculing of the budding singers speaks vociferously of the meanness of the anchor and his brown-noser jesters.Whereas they should encourage the embryonic singers,they subject them virulent ridicule so that not only do they become a laughing-stock of their acquaintances but also their burgeoning artistic skill is guillotined.Again,the anchor’s susceptibility to flattery by the jesters,reminds of the flattery-hungry “direct hawaldar” of a program aired on PTV years ago.The more the buffoons of the program inflate the anchor with flattery, the deeper he plunges into self-conceit. Not only that the monotonous impersonation of Mira by a jester satiates the anchor’s thirst for praise, also it chafes hard the finer sensibility of a program-watcher. In the latest program,the pronunciation of ‘ Dravidians ‘ as ” Darvadians ” struck the mind as a hammer-blow.What’s more, in the same latest program the anchor had committed the mistake of misplacing Pandit Jawarlal with the then-Defence Minister of Pakistan, Ayyoub khoro, who had let General Ayyoub Khan cool in his heels for hours outside office,When a weary General Ayyoub Khan had entered Mr.Khoro’s office without his prior permission, the latter he had ordered him out with opprobrium.Had the negative aspects as crudeness,rudeness,horseplay, farce and the narcissism of the anchor,etc.not cast a dark pall on it,the program,’Khabarnak’ would have definitely,been purposeful.

  • Farooq Hashmi

    It was expected of the program host,Mr. Aftab Khan to own up in his show the mistake of mispronouncing ‘Dravidians’ as ‘Darvadians’,but he has not. Obviously,he lacks in moral courage of accepting his mistakes.His false pride and narcissism kept him from rectifying the wrong knowledge he had imparted to the audience.Whereas Mr. Khan is always on the prowl for the negligible eccentricities of the renowned intellectuals, he brushes his own follies under the carpet.

  • Farooq Hashmi

    It was expected of the program host,Mr.Aftab Khan to own up in the show,the mistake of mispronouncing ‘Dravidians’ as “Darvadians”,but he did not.Obviously,he lacks in the moral courage of accepting his mistakes. His ego and conceit kept him from rectifying the wrong knowledge he had imparted to the audience.Whereas Mr.Khan is always on the prowl even for the negligible eccentricities of the intellectuals,he brushes under the carpet the big follies of his own.