High achievers: Untapped potential of South Punjab


By Khalid Khattak

LAHORE: A study of result analyses of Grade-5 and Grade-8 examinations conducted by Punjab Examination Commission (PEC), over the past several years, shows that students from South Punjab performed much better than the students of Lahore and other cities particularly in the subjects of Science and Mathematics.

The results of PEC 2017 exams also correspond with this interesting trend despite the fact public schools in South Punjab are often in the limelight vis-à-vis absence of basic facilities like drinking water, toilets, furniture and electricity and boundary walls etc.

The saddest part is that this achievement of South Punjab students has never been part of political and public discourse leaving aside any acknowledgment or appreciation by the government or the public.

Similarly, no major intervention has been witnessed over the years vis-à-vis focusing schools in Lahore, hometown of the chief minister and School Education Minister Rana Mashhood, as performance of students from the provincial metropolis remained poor among all the districts in these exams.

Every year, the Punjab Examination Commission prepares student learning outcome (SLO) based in-depth analysis report on the performance and achievement of students across all 36 districts of the province. The SLOs are measured against performance of students on knowledge, understanding and application based questions.

Nevertheless, credit where credit’s due, the Punjab government empowered Punjab Examination Commission through its Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) as the PITB team developed the entire software which generated that data and shared it after transforming it as per PEC requirement.

While detailed analysis of the results of PEC 2017 exams is still awaited, sources privy to the development reveal that the situation is not different from previous years and similar trends and patterns are likely to emerge in favour of South Punjab districts.

The PEC’s 2016 examination analysis report places Layyah on top among all districts in student achievement in Science subject in Grade-5 with 58.1 percent score followed by Bhakkar 56.1 percent and Dera Ghazi Khan on third with 56 percent. Bahawalnagar and Bahawalpur’s score was 55 percent while that of Vehari 54 percent.

Lahore and Gujranwala’s performance was lowest among all 40 percent, followed by Sheikhupura 41 percent while Faisalabad’s and Jhelum’s score was 44 percent.

In the subject of Mathematics, the score of South Punjab districts was highest among all with Layyah on the top with 65 percent followed by Vehari with 61 percent. Narowal was on third with 60 percent and Lodhran on fourth with 59 percent. Lahore’s performance was again the lowest among all with 43 percent.

In Grade-8’s overall performance the 2016 report places Layyah on top of the list with 67.2 percent score, followed by Vehari and Bahawalnagar 64 each. Lahore was again at the bottom with 53 percent score. In subject-wise performance of students in the two exams, South Punjab districts were ranked among the highest particularly in Science and Mathematics subjects.

Similarly, the 2015 report places Muzaffargarh on top among all districts in overall performance in Grade-5 with 65 percent mean score, followed by Layyah and Vehari with 61 each. Rawalpindi and Sheikhupura shared the bottom with 47 mean score each. Lodhran and Multan scored 59 each while Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar 58 each.

In Grade-8, the 2015 report placed Muzaffargarh on top with 72 percent average score, followed by Layyah 68 and Vehari 66 percent. Lodhran’s average score was 63 percent, Bahawalpur, Rajanpur and Multan 62 percent each and Dera Ghazi Khan 60 percent. Rawalpindi was on bottom with 51.3 percent, Narowal 52 while Lahore’s average score was 56.4 percent.

The executive summaries of 2010 and 2008 PEC reports, available online, are evident of the best performance of some South Punjab districts in these exams. The summary of the 2010 report reads: “For Grade-5 Muzaffargarh, Jhang and DG Khan performed very well while Rahimyar Khan and Attock performed poorly. For Grade-8 again Muzaffargarh, Jhang and DG Khan did well, but Attock, together with Mandi Bahauddin performed poorly.”

Similarly executive summary of the 2008 PEC report reads: “For Grade-5 Lodhran, DG Khan and Muzaffargarh performed exceptionally well while Okara, Attock and Gujrat were among the districts that performed poorly. While for Grade-8 again Lodhran, DG Khan and Muzaffargarh did exceptionally well and Okara, Attock and Gujrat were again among the districts that performed poorly.”

And this is not just limited to Grade-5 and Grade-8 exams as last two years data about Secondary School Certificate (Matriculation) exams of all the nine examination boards shows that more students passed the matric exams from South Punjab. In Matriculation Annual Examination 2015, the highest pass percentage was recorded at Board of Intermediate & Secondary Education (BISE), Multan as 74 percent of the students passed the exams from the board unlike 70.2 percent from BISE Lahore. Similarly, in 2016 Matric Annual Exams, BISE Dera Ghazi Khan’s pass percentage was highest among all i.e., 77 percent. This was followed by BISE Bahawalpur 46.01 percent while BISE Lahore’s pass percentage was 71.4 percent.

Acclaimed educationist and former professor at Punjab University, Dr Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal said there are a host of other assessment studies that lead to the same results. These are UNICEF-PITE STUDY 2001, PEAS Study 2012 and NEAS assessments 2005 to 2008 and then in 2014. “Results of all these studies clearly demonstrate that achievement of students from South Punjab in Urdu, Social Studies, Science and Math in Grade-5 and Grade-8 was significantly better than students from other parts of the Punjab or even from Pakistan, in case of NEAS,” he added.

Professor Hafiz Iqbal, a recipient of civil award Izaz-e-Fazeelat for his services in the field of education, said as a first step the governments should have at least acknowledged these results. “It seems ruling elite from Punjab or Islamabad is not ready to accept this reality,” he said. He said the government should have provided financial incentives to South Punjab students particularly for higher education because mostly it is beyond their financial reach to pursue higher education.

He also came hard on Punjab University’s previous administration for admitting students from Balochistan and Fata without merit saying such incentive should have been offered to students from South Punjab first.

Responding to a question of possible reasons behind good performance of students from South Punjab, Professor Iqbal said this phenomenon is of national importance and needs to be further investigated.

He said as a student of assessment and research and having interest in the area of educational psychology, he himself had been thinking about these intriguing results and believed anthropological, sociological and linguistic factors seemed to play their role individually as well as interactively, in enabling students from South Punjab to outperform in theses assessment studies.

“Whatever the reason, it is proved beyond any doubt that students of these areas have hidden potential that needs to be tapped for the larger interest of the society,” Professor Iqbal suggests.



This story first appeared on The News International on June 13, 2017.

Main image: The Nation