Nearly 80% of children under the age of 10 in Pakistan struggle to read basic text, and only 51% can solve simple math problems. Pakistan has a significant number of out-of-school children, with 22.8 million currently not attending school. Even children who do go to primary school often do not acquire the expected reading skills for their age. While there has been progress in enrolling children in school, there is still a lack of focus on actual learning within schools. A term called “learning poverty” refers to the inability to read and understand simple text by age 10, and it is a problem affecting classrooms across Pakistan. A recent conference aimed to address this learning gap and improve literacy and numeracy skills among school children. Proposed reforms include specialized training for teachers, improving assessment mechanisms, and promoting a culture of reading outside of classrooms. The lack of trained teachers and focus on early childhood education are significant challenges. Establishing a specialized teaching cadre with expertise in early childhood education could greatly improve learning outcomes. The Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) approach, which tailors instruction to individual student’s learning levels, has shown promise in bridging learning gaps. Implementing a comprehensive assessment mechanism for reading is also crucial for measuring learning levels and holding teachers accountable. Urgent intervention is needed to improve foundational learning and support better educational outcomes for children in Pakistan.
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