Islamabad — Around 18,000 teaching positions at government schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) were vacant at last count, according to information published by the provincial elementary and secondary education department.
Media for Transparency analysed data gathered from the education department’s annual statistical reports to see the way the number of working teachers and vacant posts have varied over time.
While the number of working teachers in KP public schools have increased by around 10,000 between 2009 and 2016, the number of vacant posts have risen by nearly 6,000 in the same period.
The analysis suggests the Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) government’s education performance in KP during the first three years of its tenure was not as great as its predecessor as far as filling teaching positions is concerned.
One reason for the increase in vacant posts is that the PTI government has created more teaching jobs at public schools. For example, the number of total sanctioned teaching positions went up by around 8,000 the year the party assumed power in KP.
However, the hiring of teachers appears sluggish.
For a 4% increase in new teaching positions in 2015-16 — the most recent year available in the data — there was only a 1.5% corresponding increase in hiring.
This means one in every 10 government teaching posts were empty on average across the four tiers of public schools in the province in 2015-16.
Media for Transparency’s data analysis also shows that the issue is most prevalent at the primary school-level.
Just over 40% of the 18,000 vacant teaching posts in 2015-16 were at primary schools.
The extent of teacher shortage at primary schools is unsurprising given the fact that primary schools form the largest tier of the public school system in KP. According to the Annual Statistical Report 2015-16, 75% of the 27,261 functional government schools in the province were primary schools.
While the administrative challenge posed by the large number of primary schools is understandable, it can be argued that the KP government’s greatest responsibility is also towards ensuring better primary education.
The education department report stated that the teacher-to-student ratio in government primary schools was 1 teacher to 43 students in 2015-16.
The most vacant teachers posts at the primary school-level in 2015-16 were in Swat district (794). Even if Swat’s insurgency-hit past is considered, it is worrying that more developed districts, such as Peshawar, Mardan, Nowshera and Abbottabad, each had more than 300 vacant teachers posts at their primary schools during the same year.
Most KP public schools — exactly 93% of all functional schools — are located in rural areas, according to the provincial education department.
A look at the districts most affected by the vacant teachers posts across primary and secondary schools in 2015-16 shows the problem is concentrated in the rural primary schools.
Around 60% of the vacant posts are for positions sanctioned for male teachers. This reflects the larger overall representation of men in the KP teaching workforce. Women teachers make only 35% of the total working teachers in the KP government schools, according to the education department’s statistics.
In its 2013 election manifesto, PTI had promised to increase education spending to 5% of the Gross Domestic Product in five years as part of its “Education Emergency” programme.
To its credit, the PTI government in KP has increased budget spending on education over the past two years. The 2017-18 provincial budget allocated Rs. 168 billion for education, up 17% from last year.
News reports also suggest that the KP government intends to hire 15,000 new teachers during 2017-18, including more women teachers for primary schools, and regularise the services of the nearly 40,000 teachers it claims to have hired during its tenure. The vacant posts might get filled if these plans are executed.