Idara E Taleem o Aagahi

Pakistani second graders second in foundational numeracy in South Asia

Only 32.3% of children in class 2-3 in Pakistan can do a set of foundational numeracy tasks aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 4, according to an International Common Assessment of Numeracy report released on July 9. But this is better than other countries in South Asia.

The report was launched virtually by UNESCO Institute of Statistics Director Dr Silvia Montoya. The ICAN tool was used on children in one rural district in each of the 13 countries part of the PAL Network–Pakistan, Kenya, Bangladesh, India, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.

The report noted that 77.3% children of class 4-6 and 95.5% children of class 7-8 were able to perform the tasks. It surveyed children in Punjab’s Toba Tek Singh.


The ICAN is an assessment of foundational numeracy using common items and provides data on lower primary learning. It highlights gaps in foundational numeracy even for older children.

In Toba Tek Singh, 60 randomly selected rural communities were surveyed and 1,616 children in the age group of five to 16 years were assessed. The children were asked to do a variety of numeracy tasks at home.

According to the report, Pakistan lags only behind Bangladesh in the South Asian region in the minimum proficiency level of students of class 2-3, demonstrating skills in number sense and computation, shape recognition and spatial orientation, with a score of 32.3% and 53.0% respectively.

In Nepal, 19.8% children of class 2-3 could perform foundational numeracy tasks while in India, only 10.4% children of the same grades could do the tasks.

Findings from ICAN 2020 show that 80.7% children of age six to 16 are enrolled in government schools in Pakistan, 16% are in private schools and 0.2% are in other religious or community schools. Only 3% children of the same age group were found out of school.

Toba Tek Singh was observed to have better household facilities with 88.1% of households having walls of permanent material, 91.7% households with toilet, 99.2% electricity, 86.1% mobile phones and 70.5% households having televisions. However, most households lacked the facilities of computer (18.3%) and extra reading material (24.4%).

The ICAN study has established that children’s minimum proficiency levels globally in reading and mathematics remain low. It also noted that despite efforts to bring children in this region to school, their minimum proficiency levels have not improved over the years.

“The compelling need for generating robustness to capture globally agreed minimum proficiency levels for both language and numeracy has finally led the PAL Network to reach a global milestone,” said Baela Raza Jamil, the CEO of Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi who is also leading ASER Pakistan.

“ICAN, tested in 13 countries including Pakistan, is a testimony to the guts of our network. Conducted with children five to 16 years old, across 60 villages of Toba Tek Singh (Punjab), ICAN could not have had a better first home landing,” she said.

Samaa TV