Nearly five million children of primary school-going age are estimated to be out-of-school in Pakistan. Given Pakistan’s commitment under Article 25-A to educate all boys and girls between the ages of 5-16, even the most ambitious program for scaling up formal schooling will need to be supplemented by other means of providing education in the interim. In this context all possible alternatives to the formal system should be explored. Policy has so far given a great deal of emphasis to the low-cost private sector, that is public funds have been utilized to subsidize low-cost private sector schools and provide vouchers to families. Non-formal Basic Education (NFBE) represents another such avenue which, in other parts of the world as well as in Pakistan, has been used to address the issue of out-of-school children.
NFBE is commonly understood to be a flexible form of education, which targets a specific group of people, mostly under-privileged children who have been left out by the formal education system: out-of-school children, working children or children who have dropped out of the formal education system. NFBE in practice in Pakistan is not necessarily accelerated, but often has flexible timings, a curricula that aims to address learner and community needs, a program that is participatory in nature involving communities in setting up the center and finally costs that are not as high as in the formal sector.
Internationally, a number of countries have non-formal education programs. A review of the literature shows that quite a few non-formal models have succeeded in providing education to a large number of students who otherwise would have been left out by the formal education sector and have improved the learning levels of learners. Despite evidence of NFBE’s potential, it has not received due attention as a mode of education service delivery and policy-making has often failed to effectively address it. In Pakistan we find that the most recent National Education Policy 2009 and the provincial education sector plans recognize the importance of the non-formal education sector as a means of supporting and assisting the formal sector and outline policy actions to do so. However implementation of many of these policy actions remains to be seen.
Given this context, a nationwide study on the NFBE sector was conducted. This study sought to fill the gap in information on the NFBE sector in Pakistan and report on its current state with a view to provide insight into the institutional arrangements, the role of the community and factors that impact teacher performance as well as student performance. The study consisted of three phases: (1) An initial mapping phase; (2) A quantitative survey which entailed collecting data on 626 centers and teachers and 2,187 parents and students across all provinces and selected regions of Pakistan. It also entailed assessing 4,612 students from grades 3, 4 and 5 in languages (Urdu, Sindhi and Pushto), English, mathematics and general knowledge using the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) tools; and (3) A qualitative phase which entailed semi-structured interviews with teachers and program staff, community focus group discussions and classroom observations in 44 NFBE centers.
This report is an outcome of the collective effort by SAHE (Society for the Advancement of Higher Education) and IDEAS, who constituted the Working Group jointly.
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