Whither Education in Pakistan
Pakistan is a developing country facing a myriad of problems like population explosion, energy crisis, gender discrimination, a corruption-ridden state structure, and an economy buffeted by the home-grown insurgency. These problems have stymied the progress and prosperity of the country and are escalating despite an influx of aid, international cooperation and a democratic dispensation. But a large number of these impediments stem from the inability of the country to develop a sound educational system suitable to the needs of its people.
Education is a basic human right having an immense power to transform the society. On its foundations rest the cornerstone of liberty, equality and sustainable human development. Pakistan’s founding father, Jinnah, was well-aware of the grim state of education in the newly-carved country; therefore he convened a national educational conference in 1947 in order to chalk out an effective educational policy. Since then our ruling elite has laid a huge emphasis on promoting education by introducing nine educational policies in order to bring a revolution in the educational scene of Pakistan, but none of them has been able to achieve even the minimum target of Universal Primary Education. A look at our educational statistics transpires the dismal state of education prevailing in the country. UN requires each member state to dedicate at least 4% of the GDP to the education, but Pakistan spends only 2.1% of its GDP on education, dedicating a large chunk of its budget to the non-development expenditure. The over all literacy rate is 57% for age 10 year and above, while only 45% of the female are literate despite their making up more than 50% of the population. According to UN, in South Asia, Pakistan has the highest share of the children who are out of schools and the percentage is especially alarming for the girl students. Almost 30% proportion of our citizen live in an extreme educational poverty and one in three of our rural women have ever been to a school in their life. Being a signatory to MDGs, Pakistan has much to achieve on its educational front and if the present literacy rate persist in the up coming years, it is very rare that we may achieve the MDGs by 2015.
But one may ask as to what are the factors which contribute to this bleak scenario. Our rural families are still heavily dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods and to them the opportunity cost of sending a child to the field is greater than sending him to a school for getting education. UN charter and the constitution of Pakistan lay down equal provisions of education both for girls and boys, but in our patriarchal structure of society, parents prefer to invest more in the education of their sons thinking them to be their old age social security. Besides this, lack of physical facilities is another reason behind the low literacy rates and deters the students from joining the schools. According to the ministry of education, almost 59.6% of government schools are without the electricity and 33.9% are without the facility of drinkable water. Moreover, a stark difference of physical facilities exists between the urban and rural schools of the country.
In addition to this, the country grapples with a mushrooming growth of madressahs (seminaries) that sprang up in the wake of Soviet Jihad and continue to serve as incubators for the violent extremism. At present, no official figures are available about the exact number of seminaries in the country which provide free education and boarding to the poor students. This seminaries are a major contributing factor to the spate of terrorism owing to their educational environment, curricula, and the clerics which inculcate a spirit of militancy in the students and lay an over emphasis on the glorification of Jihad for imposition of an Islamist order.
Despite the foregoing, the situation has not gone beyond the redemption. In order to revamp our present educational structure, our present leadership must introduce the remedial measures on a war footing as Pakistan is in a state of educational emergency. We need to introduce the 3Ps strategy i.e. public private partnership for the provision of quality education to the people. Presently there are hundreds of private channels that can play a pivotal role if the government makes it obligatory for them to dedicate their one hour to the cause of education. Besides this, our ruling elite must not only focus the enrolment of the students rather a comprehensive strategy must be devised for the retention of those children who enter the schools.
In order to discourage the students from joining seminaries, the government must provide some economic assistance to the down-trodden sections to enable them to send their children to the state-run institutions. If Pakistan is to carve out a distinguishing place for itself in the comity of nations and to make strides in economic and social realms, then a quality education of its people is the only way out.