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Declare education emergency to develop human capital

World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report 2017 reveals that 62 per cent of human capital has now been developed globally and only 25 nations have been able to tap about 70 percent of their human capital. While most countries vary between 50 and 70 percent, 14 countries remain below 50 percent. Pakistan has been ranked almost at the bottom — 125 out of 130 that were tested against four key areas of human capital development; Capacity, largely determined by past investment in formal education; Deployment, the application and accumulation of skills through work; Development, the formal education of the next generation workforce and continued up-skilling and re-skilling of existing workers; and know-how, the breadth and depth of specialized skills-use at work. From South Asia, Sri Lanka with70th position is the top performer, while Nepal stands at serial number 98 followed by India at103, Bangladesh at111 and Pakistan lags behind at125. With the exception of Sri Lanka, the rest have yet to reach the 60 percent threshold with regard to developing their human capital.

On the other hand Pakistan is among the world’s 38 percent countries, which are facing a talent crisis. According to a report the reason is failure to adequately develop people’s talents. This fact has also been endorsed by Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (STEVTA) which believes that currently there is a mismatch between the skills needed by employers and the skills and competencies of students trained for employment in Pakistan, especially those graduating from publicly funded technical and vocational training institutes. There is no doubt that STEVTA is making all efforts to do the needful. In order to address this issue, it teamed up with the British Council, which has experience of evolving demand-led vocational training and apparently it achieved some successes also.

On the other hand the report says that Pakistan is ranked at the bottom in South Asia because of insufficient educational enrolment rates and below standard primary schools. As many as 44 percent children between the ages of five and 16 are still out of school. The statistics further reveal that 21 percent primary schools in the country are being run by a single teacher while 14 per cent have one room. These bitter facts are a bit too depressing and require government action on war footing. The youth literacy rate in Pakistan is around 75 percent, far behind the rest of the developing countries of the world and the up-and-coming nations. Pakistan’s performance is little better at tertiary educational level but the skill diversity ratio among the university graduates is very low. Pakistan’s government seems to be focusing on building roads and distributing laptops as a publicity stunt. Had the government been spending just a portion of it in the education sector things would definitely been different. In short we see a trend that mismanaged government priorities are affecting the country’s Human Capital Index rankings.

There is no denying of the fact that Pakistan has been blessed with unprecedented youth human resources. This young population has incredible vigor and talent and all what required is a concerted effort from the government to provide them proper avenues for the positive utilization of their energies. Here it is encouraging to note that in this regard the government has launched a number of youth investment schemes such as Business Loans, Interest Free Loans, Youth Skill Development schemes and Youth Training Program to enhance their skills, and abilities. If properly disbursed for investment in profitable schemes, the program would definitely bring quicker and better results and dynamic young lot would play a pivotal role in the socio-economic reconstruction of the society. But then transparency in granting loan to the truly spirited youth is an absolute must. And slackness or dishonesty in this regard will not serve the purpose but on the contrary prove detrimental.

The results of the latest census presented to the Pakistani Council of Common Interests show that Pakistan has huge latent in terms of human capital but government attention is required to use this potential. There is a general consensus that economic growth is greatly dependent on investment in human capital, the unprecedented development in Japan, Taiwan and other Asian economies in recent decades are instance. They invested on their human capital and the results are simply amazing. Pakistan has also been gifted with a vast wealth of human talent. The data analysis shows that Pakistan has strong human resources waiting for good investment so that they can contribute to development of the economy. This can only be done by setting aside a considerable amount for the education sector. Although the Government of Pakistan has launched a number of programs as loans, internship schemes, and vocational training, these have not yet achieved the desired results, so more effort is required.

 

Investment base

In fact, what the government is crossly ignoring is the investment in primary education which prepares the base for a healthy development of human resources. The time has come to remind ourselves of the importance attached to education in our Constitution. Article 25-A recognises the right to education as a fundamental right. According to a report, currently, ‘Pakistan has set aside only 2.1 percent of its GDP to education. About 38 percent of the expenditure is on primary education. Bulk of the expenditure is borne by provincial governments. The large increase in transfers to these governments in the 7th NFC Award has not translated into a corresponding increase in expenditure on education. The predominant component of the increase that has taken place is in teachers’ salaries and allowances and not in the number of schools or teachers. The time has come to declare an education emergency, especially for primary and secondary education. Several steps will have to be taken on a priority basis. First, the education budget has to be increased substantially. The manifesto of the government targets raising the level of education spending to four per cent of GDP in its tenure. As such, the annual increase should be at least 0.5 percent of GDP. Our educationists rightly argue that it is essential that more investment be made in primary and secondary education so that Pakistanis can learn the basic skills required for the development of the country. It is also pertinent to increase the level of vocational and technical training, so that skilled, high-quality labor may be produced. For Pakistan, as a rapidly urbanizing country in South Asia, it is important to note that developmental challenges are present, and thus it is imperative that further efforts be made with regard to investments in the country’s people.

It is undoubtedly very disturbing to note that in spite of significant growth rate; the indicators of human capital are not satisfactory. Almost all economic indicators that can measure the situation of human development are very low in Pakistan i.e. literacy rate, enrolment rate at school level, facilities of health and clean water etc. It is a sad fact that since the inception of Pakistan, the most neglected government sector had been the human capital. Due to this lack of investment in human capital, the result is unemployment, high poverty level, illiteracy and shortfall of electricity. Therefore, if we want to make a place for ourselves in the modern developed world investment of human capital is an absolute must.

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