The quest for knowledge in rural areas, particularly in females, compensated for the declining trend of getting an education in cities, according to the Pakistan Labour Force survey.
In 2009-10 the literacy rate in Pakistan marginally increased to 57.7 per cent due to an increase in the literacy ratio of females in rural areas. During the preceding year the literacy rate was 57.4 per cent. The male literacy rate stood at 69.5 per cent while it was 45.2 per cent for females.
According to the official definition, the literacy rate is that percentage of the population ten years and above which is able to read and write in any language.
Though more than half of the rural population is illiterate, the ratio improved by over half a percentage point to 49.2 per cent by June 30, 2010 due to an increasing number of women and girls who can read and write. The female literacy ratio improved to 34.2 per cent, a progress of 0.8 per cent in a year. In rural areas, the 63.6 per cent male literacy rate improved by only 0.4 per cent in comparison. The literacy rate in urban areas marginally declined due to a dip in the number of men who qualify as literate. The urban literacy ratio decreased 0.1 per cent to 73.2 per cent, due to a fractional reduction in the male literacy rate. At present more than eight out of ten urban males are educated but the ratio is below that of 2008-09.
The provincial literacy rates also depict interesting trends. In Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the number of educated people increased, while it decreased in Sindh. The figure remained stagnant in Balochistan at 51.5 per cent. Punjab turned out to be the most educated province, followed by Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber -Pakhtunkhwa.
In Sindh the percentage of educated people dropped by one per cent to 58.2 per cent in 2009-10. The declining ratios were witnessed across the divide, rural, urban, females and males. Contrary to that in Punjab the literacy rate increased to 59.6 per cent. Over half of the rural population is literate and the urban literacy ratio stood at almost three-fourth in the province.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa the literacy rate increased to 50.9 per cent, a progress of almost one per cent. The rural literacy rate increased to 48.4 per cent but the urban literacy dipped by 0.4 per cent. The urban literacy rate increased while the rural literacy rate declined.
In terms of level of education, near four out of ten literate people are not even matriculates. Another one out of ten is below intermediate, the survey reveals. Only 4.7 per cent of the total literate population has cleared intermediate but not bachelor’s and just 4.3 per cent have a bachelor’s or above. Even today over four out of ten Pakistanis are illiterate according to official figures.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2011.