Forty-eight per cent of the students in Karachi who passed their matriculation examinations last year were unable to continue their education, according to the statistics of the Sindh E-Centralised College Admission Programme (Seccap) and the Board of Secondary Education Karachi (BSEK).
Owing to the unavailability of seats, especially due to the success rate of over 99 per cent in the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) annual exams, 91,173 students could not get an admission in college.
According to educators, child rights activists and economists, poverty is one of the major reasons that is decreasing college enrolment, while the government also has not taken adequate measures to curb the other factors.
According to the statistics, 112,372 students were declared passed in the SSC annual exams 2018 held under the BSEK. The success rate of the science group was 63 per cent, while that of the general group was 62.5 per cent.
Over 81 per cent (91,453) of the students were granted admission in public colleges, but the remaining 20,919 (19 per cent) were not considered for admission or they had not applied for it.
The following year, 161,882 science group students took the matric exams and 68.5 per cent of them passed, while 20,468 general group students attempted the exams and 64 per cent of them passed.
Of the total 124,081 students who cleared their matric exams, 88,575 (over 71 per cent) were granted admission to different public colleges through Seccap, but 35,506 (29 per cent) could not get in a college.
In 2020, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the BSEK issued the results without conducting the SSC exams. Therefore, the passing percentage last year was 99.8 per cent for the science group and 99.5 per cent for the general group.
In the ongoing academic year, 99,593 (over 52 per cent) of the 190,766 passed students have been enrolled in government colleges. But the unavailability of seats has deprived the remaining 91,173 (48 per cent) students of getting an admission.
This shows that since 2018, around 35 per cent of the students could not continue their education after passing their SSC exams. And, according to the statistics, among those students, the number of females was more than that of males.
Educators and child rights activists listed poverty, child marriages, rigid family boundaries, poor academic results, pursuing professional and vocational courses, location of colleges, transportation and additional academic expenses as the major factors for decreasing college enrolment.
But for female students, they named family restrictions, poverty and child marriages as the main reasons that force them to discontinue their education after secondary school.
Rana Asif Habib, who works for the well-being of street children, is of the view that poverty is one of the major reasons that is decreasing college enrolment.
He said that low-income families living in underdeveloped areas, slums and suburban localities force their children into labour. He pointed out that some families staying in makeshift houses even involve their children in begging.
Habib said that in the past three years Pakistan has observed massive waves of inflation, due to which majority of the working-class parents have been unable to send their kids to college. “They simply can’t afford the hefty fees and other expenses.”
Habib pointed out that rigid family boundaries and child marriages also result in students discontinuing their education after matric, saying that in traditional families, parents restrict their children, especially females, from going out.
He said they prefer to arrange marriages for their daughters instead of educating them. In some cases, he added, heavy responsibilities fall upon the shoulders of minor boys, who ultimately discontinue their education.
According to the Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of over 1,500 civil society organisations, 18 per cent of the girls in Pakistan are married before their 18th birthday and four per cent before the age of 15.
Locations of colleges
Nadeem Hussain, who is an education economist and policy commentator, said that challenges such as poverty, locations of colleges, unsatisfactory academic arrangements and additional financial expenses are the root causes of declining enrolment.
He explained that the transportation system in Karachi is pathetic, saying that over the years the number of buses in the city has fallen from 35,000 to 8,000.
He also said that students used to be charged half the fare, but those buses have gradually disappeared, while no alternative transport has been provided. So, he added, families, particularly those with conservative backgrounds, usually do not allow their female members to travel far for college.
Hussain pointed out that parents and students do not rely only on what is taught in colleges, saying that they believe they would also need to study at tuition centres for additional academic support to ensure good results.
He said that since most colleges are unable to perform up to par, those from low-income backgrounds see an admission leading to additional expenses, and so discontinue their education.
Hussain also pointed out that thousands of families have moved to the city but they have been living according to their own traditions. He said that in such families, very few females even study up to matric.
He explained that this is why tribal, societal, traditional and other conservative norms have also been decreasing college enrolment. As far as child marriages are concerned, he said that they curtail female education 100 per cent.
Directorate of Inspection & Registration of Private Institutions Sindh Registrar Rafia Javed rejected the idea that a large number of students discontinue their education after matric.
She pointed out that thousands of students apply for admission in private high schools and colleges, as well as in technical education institutes and vocational training centres.
She also pointed out that several thousand students take the Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC) exams as external candidates every year. So, she explained, many of the students considered to have discontinued their education are external candidates or enrolled at other institutions of learning.
Rafia said that at present, some 20 higher secondary schools and colleges are running across the city, while 17 institutes are imparting technical education and vocational training.
But scholar Asim Bashir Khan, who has done a lot of work on preparing government reports on education, disagrees with Rafia’s view. He said that SSC is not a prerequisite for getting an admission for vocational training or short courses.
Moreover, he added, hardly three or four per cent of the total number of students who do not get an admission in a public college make their way into any of the rest of the institutes.
Khan said that the number of students taking the HSSC exams as external candidates does not exceed 5,000, while the Sindh Board of Technical Education (SBTE) conducts exams for all districts of the province.
So, he explained, the statistics of the students who do not get an admission in a public college cannot be compared those of the SBTE and the HSSC external exams held under the Board of Intermediate Education Karachi.