With around seven million children out of school – the second highest such figure in the world – Pakistan has yet to determine a very basic requirement: can it meet the financial requirements to fulfill national and international commitments in the education sector?
“As yet, no study is available to determine the financial requirements to meet EFA (Education for All) targets by 2015,” the Ministry of Education admitted in an official document placed before the National Assembly recently. Pakistan has set a target of 80% for 2015. A new clause, guaranteeing the right to education, was inserted in the Constitution in 2010.
“The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children from the age of five to sixteen years in such a manner as may be determined by law,” reads Article 25-A, inserted in the Constitution through the 18th Amendment.
The EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013 has listed Pakistan among countries far from achieving education goals by 2015. Other countries on the list include Mali, Niger and Lesotho. However, no attempt to determine the money required to meet EFA goals has been made so far.
In its official reply, the federal government absolved itself by saying “after the devolution of the subject of ‘education’ under (the) 18th constitutional amendment, the provincial governments are undertaking plans and policies to improve the status of education in their respective provinces and achieve the EFA targets.”
This reply speaks volumes about the apathy of successive regimes towards education. Due to the absence of an analysis on the needs of the education sector, the government has been unable to properly channel funds earmarked for it.
Interestingly, no legislator protested against the reply of the education ministry.
While a national education policy (NEP) was approved by the then cabinet in 2009, its implementation was put on hold due to the devolution of education to the provinces under the 18th Amendment.
Later, in 2011, the Pakistan Peoples Party decided to develop a mechanism to implement the NEP through the Interprovincial Education Ministers Conference, but no concrete development has come from the forum.
“The seriousness of provincial governments on the matter can be gauged from the fact that only two provinces have passed Article 25-A following the devolution of education to the provinces,” said Faisal Bari, associate professor of economics at Lahore University of Management Sciences, who is affiliated with research on education.
“Maybe the government is not willing to do it or push provincial governments to conduct their surveys because the revealing figure may be too high,” he added.
Without even knowing Pakistan’s exact education needs, the international community on Saturday pledged around $1 billion in financial assistance for the sector over the next four years.
Talking about the grant, Bari said it would likely go to existing organisations working in the education sector again.
Punjab Governor Muhammad Sarwar, who played an active role in persuading UN Special Envoy on Global Education Gordon Brown to take this initiative, told journalists that the international community was more than willing to support the education sector in Pakistan if the country showed ‘seriousness’.
Brown himself made an interesting comment during his interaction with the media, asking the country’s education authorities, at federal and provincial levels, to adopt “concrete measures to actually get students in school instead of just promising them education.”
Among the conditions set by the international donors for Pakistan were doubling the education budget and achieving enrollment goals, especially with regards to girls.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2014.
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Education for the people has NEVER been a priority........and will never be.
This is no "apathy" but a contrived situation created by ruling elites of Waderas, Chaudhries , Maliks and Sardars with the help of the higher bureaucracy.
The vast pool of poor, uneducated masses is the fodder for their farms, factories and palaces? If they get educated where will the cheap labour come from?
$1 billion overseas funds! Expect more MIT,HARVARD and CAMBRIDGE educated children of the same elites!
No one likes to have a bullet put in his/her head by talking about education.As for one billion,they will go the way many more billions over the period have gone.God bless