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Pakistan’s literacy rate disgrace – poverty a drawback

Pakistan withstands the burden of one of the most illiterate countries of Asia. About half of the male population is illiterate and two third of the female population cannot even write their names. Pakistan with its 58.7 percent literacy rate is even lower than Nepal and Bangladesh, which has literacy, rates of 64.7 and 61.5 percent respectively.

Countries like the Maldives and Sri Lanka have achieved far more impressive results given that above 90 percent of the population in both these countries is literate. India has a 61 percent literacy rate, despite its enormous population.

Poverty is the biggest disadvantage and the largest resistance in the development of a country. Over half of Pakistanis live below the poverty line. The feudal system is a big obstacle in the way of universal literacy. Pakistan counts among those 12 countries of the world which spend less than 2.4 percent of the GDP on education, whereas China spends 2.82 percent, India 3.5 percent and the US, Japan, the UK and Italy more than 5 percent of GDP on education.

There are many reasons for the low literacy rate in Pakistan like poverty, population expansion, feudal lords, low allocations, male-dominated society and lack of school in rural areas. Although literacy in Pakistan has grown by about 13 percent during President Mushsarraf’s rule to about 56 percent, it still remains deplorably low when compared to its neighbors.

Latest UNESCO warning

Pakistanis now spending more time in schools and colleges and graduate at a higher rate than their Indian counterparts in 15+ age group, according to a report on educational achievement by Harvard University researchers Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee.

The Higher Education Commission in Pakistan has spent a lot of money to improve the academic credentials of faculty across the country. Pakistan is at least 50 years behind in its primary and 60 years behind in its secondary education targets, according to the UN Global Education Monitoring Report, 2016. The report was released by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) last week.

The target world leaders set for all children to have at least a primary education by 2030 will likely be missed if current trends are to continue, the UNESCO report warned. The report further said chronic under-funding in the education sector is a crucial factor deterring nations from achieving the target.

According to the report, the literacy rate of males in rural areas from the low-income bracket in Pakistan is 64 percent, compared to 14 percent for their female counterparts.

The report further said in Pakistan, only about 10 percent of poor children completed lower secondary school, compared to 75 percent of rich children in 2014. Pakistan is at least 50 years behind in its primary and 60 years behind in its secondary education targets.

The target world leaders set for all children to have at least a primary education by 2030 will likely be missed if current trends are to continue, the UNESCO report warned. The report further said chronic under-funding in the education sector is a crucial factor deterring nations from achieving the target.

According to the report, the literacy rate of males in rural areas from the low-income bracket in Pakistan is 64 percent, compared to 14 per cent for their female counterparts.

The report further said in Pakistan, only about 10 percent of poor children completed lower secondary school, compared to 75 per cent of rich children in 2014.

Bangladesh data

According to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the literacy rate in Bangladesh has shot up remarkably over the last 10 years, reaching an all-time high of 72.76 percent in 2016.

The figure marks a 26.1 percent increase from 2007, when the literacy rate was a mere 46.66 percent.

The literacy rate for females in the year was 43.74 percent, while that for males was 49.83 percent. Conversely, the literacy rate for males in 2016 was 75.62 percent, while that for females was 69.90 percent. The data also revealed that the number of educated young males and females rose dramatically over the past 10 years.

Phenomenal rise in literacy rate is one of the major factors that the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) of the United Nations considered when declaring Bangladesh’s eligibility for graduating from Least Developed Country (LDC) status.

The UIS data said Bangladesh is now ahead of India (69.30 percent), Nepal (59.63 percent), Bhutan (57.03 percent) and Pakistan (56.98 percent) in the global literacy rate index.

UNESCO attributed the success to the Bangladesh government’s policies and fiscal support for the education sector. On average, the government distributes 354.6 million textbooks to students in Bangladesh every year. About 3.8 million students from the 6th grade to undergraduate level are provided with stipends and other forms of assistance at a cost of Tk675 crore.

India outlook

During a recently held education event, Javadekar HRD Minister said that India would achieve 100 per cent literacy rate within the next five years. There was a literacy rate of 18 percent in the post independence era. Today it has gone up to 80 percent. Within next five years, it will be 100 percent. “Our priority is to improve the quality of education. The purpose of education is not just employment but it is important to become good human being,” Javadekar added in recent IANS report.

Asia university rankings

India leads in South Asia, but its neighbours are closing the gap. Pakistan’s and Bangladesh’s institutions are hot on the heels of their regional rival, but investment in higher education remains an issue.

India is the strongest South Asian nation in the rankings. It is the only country in the region with representatives in the top 100 (eight) and boasts 16 universities overall, while its neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh have just three institutions between them in the bottom half of the table.

The institution has ‘top-rate research’ in the natural and biological sciences and its scholars publish in leading academic journals across the globe. The quality of the research being conducted at the university is one of our biggest strengths.

 

Top universities in South Asia

The following are the list of universities in South Asia with name and origin and their present ranking in the world:

  • Indian Institute of Science (India) 27
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (India) 43
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur (India) 51
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (India) 60
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (India) 62
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (India) 65
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati (India) 80
  • Jadavpur University (India) 84
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (India) 101-110
  • Quaid-e-Azam University (Pakistan) 101-110
  • National University of Sciences and Technology, (Pakistan) 121-130
  • University of Calcutta, (India) 141-150
  • Savitribai Phule Pune University (India) 141-150
  • Aligarh Muslim University (India) 151-160
  • University of Delhi (India) 161-170
  • Amrita University (India) 181-190
  • Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (India) 191-200
  • University of Dhaka (Bangladesh) 191-200
Politicization in education

Pakistan had an excellent start in the 2000s, with significant reforms and higher levels of funding. Unfortunately, the political crisis of the past few years has also affected the higher education sector negatively.

On Bangladesh, the country has not invested the levels of resources needed for competing internationally, not to mention the high level of politicization of its public universities.

The British Council’s South Asia regional manager for higher and further education agrees that South Asian universities need to “depoliticize the sector while raising standards of provision and quality assurance mechanisms”.

Governments and industry in the region need to invest greater amounts of funding into research, noting that “while research capacity has been increasing, the proportion of South Asia’s research output compared with the rest of the world is extremely low”.

In 2013, China produced 71,003 documents with international collaborations, compared to India with 17,484, Pakistan with 4,278, and Bangladesh with 1,566. More countries from outside the region are looking to collaborate on research with South Asian universities; just 2.2 percent of all international collaborations involve countries within the region. The deadline on universal education was agreed as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) an ambitious plan to end poverty, hunger, advance equality and protect the environment.

According to UNESCO, education is key to every aspect of sustainable development, including achieving increased prosperity, better health and greater gender equality as well as bringing violence under control.

Achieving universal upper secondary education by 2030 in economically challenged countries could lift 60 million people out of poverty by 2050, the report further argued.

New Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report

The GEM report said conflict is one of the greatest obstacles in making quality education common, keeping over 36 million children out of school. Around 263 million children are currently out of school globally, it said, adding almost 30 percent of children from the poorest households in underdeveloped countries have never been to school.

The new Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report by UNESCO shows the potential for education to propel progress towards all global goals outlined in the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). It also shows that education needs a major transformation to fulfill that potential and meet the current challenges facing humanity and the planet.

There is an urgent need for greater headway in education. On current trends, the world will achieve universal primary education in 2042, universal lower secondary education in 2059 and universal upper secondary education in 2084. This means the world would be half a century late for the 2030 SDG deadline.

The Report, ‘education for people and planet’, shows the need for education systems to step up attention to environmental concerns. While in the majority of countries, education is the best indicator of climate change awareness, half of countries’ curricula worldwide do not explicitly mention climate change or environmental sustainability in their content.

In OECD countries, almost 40 percent of 15-year-old students only have basic knowledge about environmental issues. Two-thirds of all adults lack financial literacy; 37 percents of adults in EU countries attended adult education in 2011. Only 6 percent of adults in the poorest countries have ever attended literacy programmes.

“If we want a greener planet, and sustainable futures for all, we must ask more from our education systems than just a transfer of knowledge. We need our schools, universities and lifelong learning programmes to focus on economic, environmental and social perspectives that help nurture empowered, critical, mindful and competent citizens,” said Aaron Benavot, Director of the GEM Report.

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