The state of crisis of education in Pakistan is well established. Survey after survey has highlighted the terrible state of public sector schools, the poor design of curriculums and the poor output of teachers. With a literacy rate of just 51 per cent, Pakistan has also slipped lower and lower on the list of countries ranked according to their attainments in education.
A shocking new report by the Pakistan Education Task Force, a body set up in 2009 by the federal government to offer recommendations on how to implement education policies, brings home the true scale of the emergency we face and its consequences for the future of the country. It states that despite the right given to education for all by the Constitution of Pakistan, this target will not be attained during the lifetime of anyone alive today. Balochistan, at the present rate of a growth in literacy, will not attain this target till 2100. The cost of not educating people is the equivalent of one flood every year and one out of every 10 children of school-going age in the world who are not in school are in Pakistan.
The study is an important wake-up call. While the emergency seems almost insurmountable judging by the figures, it has also been stated that it can quite easily be overcome by increasing the education budget by 50 per cent. We need to declare that education is our foremost priority. This would be the logical follow-up to the good work done by the government in setting up a task force with many experts on board dedicated to exposing the truth. Beyond all matters of security, beyond the question of national defence on which we spend so much money, it is this that will determine what kind of future awaits Pakistan and what it will bring for the people of the country, who could gain so much if a place in the classroom was ensured for every child, regardless of gender, ethnic group or geographical location.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2011.