In September 2000, a pledge was made to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Today, four years short of the deadline of 2015, Pakistan finds that little progress has been made on the MDG objectives.
One of the most abysmal performances has been in achieving education for all. Fifty million children under the age of 10 are illiterate and 34 per cent children of primary school age are out of school. From 2001, when 58 per cent of the children of primary school age were enrolled in school, the progress made has been minimal. What is more worrisome, however, is that the quality of schooling is subpar with only the privileged having access to quality education, which deepens the disparity between different income groups.
That Pakistan would not achieve its education goals by 2015 became clear last year, when the Education Task Force published its report, Education Emergency in Pakistan. This does not mean, however, that the goal should be abandoned altogether. Examining the reasons for this would be instructive in charting out a future course of action. One of the conclusions reached by the forum was that the government was not committed to achieving these goals, an indication of which is given by the education budget — 2 per cent of GDP, whereas governments are committed to spending at least 4 per cent of GDP under the MDG. At the same time, the education department is notorious for corruption and red tape, another stumbling block.
This is a time of reassessment and realistic goal-setting. Even if universal primary education cannot be achieved, resources can still be devoted to luring more children in school, and providing better training to teachers. Better management of current resources, better governance and a larger education budget can set us on the way to achieving our education goals — provided there is consensus on the goals themselves and the political will to achieve them.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2012.
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