PAKISTAN: TOWARDS EDUCATIONAL BREAK THROUGH

PROF. DR. KHAWAJA AMJAD SAEED*
Nov 09 - 15, 2009

INTRODUCTION

Recently education policy has been announced by the democratic government. Unfortunately this has not be debated in the parliament. There is an urgent need for a full debate by Civil Society. Some quarters have declared this as a wish list. However we wish the implementation of this policy a tangible success to usher in an era of wider prosperity.

Education is a factor of significant importance in economic growth. In the less developed countries including Pakistan, the expenditure on the expansion of education is quite small as compared to the other sectors of the economy. Pakistan's literacy rate is also very low as compared to even several SAARC countries. Efforts have been made to design proper policies and programs to raise the literacy rate and to improve the quality of education in the past. Educational facilities for technical and for higher education have also expanded in recent years.

However, since the current democratic set up has been serving the country, investment in development projects of Higher Education has considerably slowed down. Even allocation to Higher Education Commission has been decreased with consequential decline in release for meeting current expenditure of public Universities. Resultantly the pace of development work at University campuses has slowed down and in most case stopped.

The target set for 2010 as 4% contribution to Education of GDP is also promise with no hope of its accomplishment. We are still far behind in the field of education as is evident from our low literacy rate and the government has been trying to improve the standard of education and to raise the literacy rate by formulating new educational policies. In 1997, the contribution to education was 2.4% of GNP. The government has announced that it will be raised to 4% by the year 2010 and 7% by 2015. Let us hope that this promise will be accomplished.

ROLE OF EDUCATION IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The positive relationship between education and economic development is now widely recognized. In fact, education and training are regarded as strategic variables in planning for economic development. The contributions of education to economic growth take various forms and may be different with different stages in the evolution of a country's economy. Its role in development may be summed up as under:

* Quantitatively speaking, an elementary education for the mass of the people in a society leads to great economic gains. The people can learn through the written word and transmit as well as record their ideas more exactly. It enables them to keep accounts and assess the profitableness of their business activities and alternative ways of allocating their resources. A literate population can be made to cooperate for beneficial economic activities more easily than an illiterate one. They can thus work more effectively under a plan as well as independently in the pursuit of their self-interest. The result is that an increase of expenditure of a moderate amount on education produces very high returns.

* For the advancement of knowledge, education is a basic factor. Scientific knowledge itself is a basis for improvement of techniques of production in many industries in the contemporary world. Advanced education usually accompanied by research leads to the discovery of new frontiers of knowledge and opens up new possibilities of its application in the interest of economic development. Existing techniques can be adapted to new situations and new techniques can be discovered, thus leading to a more productive utilization of resources or even discovery of new resources.

* "A Sharp Rise in Quality of Education", according to Benson, "Produces economic returns even when it is not possible to specify what skills and attributes would be created or precisely how they would be used". Thus a liberal education which sharpens the intellect and broadens human faculties, may be as productive as more narrowly specialized forms of skills imparted through scientific and technological training. This points towards the danger of neglecting human disciplines and unduly diverting resources towards instruction in scientific and technological fields.

The positive relation between education and economic development can be explained with the help of per capita income and the literacy rate of various countries. For instance, according to the World Development Report 2009, various low income countries have very low literacy rates.

If we take some of the middle income countries, their literacy rates will be relatively high and so will be per capita income, e.g. Malaysia and Brazil have literacy rates of over 78% and 81% with per capita incomes of over US $ 3000. The high income countries have literacy rates above 95% with per capita income of 25,510 dollars on an average. Thus a high literacy rate leads to a high per capita income and the role of education in economic development becomes very significant.

STRUCTURE OF EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN

Pakistan has a four-tiered education structure: Primary (grades I to V for ages five to nine); Secondary (grades VI to X for ages ten to fourteen); Colleges: Intermediate and Degree (grades XI to XIV for ages fifteen to eighteen): and University (grades XV to XVI and above for ages nineteen plus). Education upto primary level in national and regional languages-medium schools has always been free.

Education is a provincial subject and, therefore, the management of almost all types of educational institutions is under the provincial governments. However, the Federal Government provides much of the development finance, policy formulation, and coordination in education at higher level. As of March 31, 2009, important data relating to educational set up in Pakistan, as reported in the Economic Survey of Pakistan for 2008 2009 are given below:

TABLE: 1

EDUCATIONAL SET UP OF PAKISTAN

S / NO.

PARTICULARS

NUMBER

STUDENTS

INSTITUTIONS

1 Primary Stage ( I - IV ) 17.37 158,000
2 Middle Stage ( VI - VIII ) 5.40 41,300
3 High Stage ( IX - X ) 2.53 24,300
4 Secondary & Vocational Institutions 284,000* 3,059
5 Arts & Science Colleges 998,000 3,292
6 Professional Colleges 361,072 1,219
7 Universities 741,002 124
* 2006 2007
Source: Pakistan Economic Survey 2007 - 08, Statistical Appendix, Table: 10 & 10.2, P. 85-86

An analysis of above Table reveals the following:

* The coverage of primary class students is only 17.37 million which is low as compared to total population of the country. Emergency should be announced for education and given top and high priority. Efforts should be made to increase the number of students to study at the primary level with emphasis on functional literacy. Through legislation and full financial support, Primary education be made mandatory for every one.

* Comparison of students studying at primary level with middle stage of education level shows a high drop out rate and this can also be seen at the high stage level of education.

* Number of students studying in secondary and vocational institutions is also very low. This needs critical attention so that middle level skills can be developed. NTEVTA and its equivalent set ups in other provinces and should play their meaningful roles. A review of other aspects is given in the next table but situation needs considerable improvement.

STRATEGY FOR INNOVATIVE FRONTIER

The following strategic directions are needed to usher in an era of educational enrichment and for achieving high educational standards:

Table : 2

STRATEGIC DIRECTORS FOR EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

S / NO

EDUCATIONAL STAGE

STRATEGIC DIRECTION

1 Primary ( I - V ) Functional Literacy
- Staggered Time Tables in Rural Areas
2 Middle ( V - VIII ) Middle Tech.
3 High ( IX - X ) Matric Tech.
4 Secondary & Vocational Practical Emphasis
- On Job Training ( OJT )
- Modern Curriculum cushioned with Computerization
5 Arts & Science Interdisciplinary approach
6 Professional Multi-disciplinary approach
7 University Synergy
- Grown-Town Relationship

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Literacy rate is claimed to be over 50% in Pakistan. If criteria to calculate literacy rate is considered above Primary Education, real literacy rate in Pakistan may be around 10%. This is extremely low. Our suggestion is not to concentrate on increasing literacy but to accelerate functional literacy so that the results of functional literates are reflected in higher productivity in all walks of socio-economic development in our country. Quality Education is the crying need every where. Too much expectation from the Government may not be made for higher commitment of funds as this may not crystallize in reality due to Government's funds constraints. The community must rise to the occasion and productively contribute to quality revolution in educational development in Pakistan.

All stakeholders must take keen and active interest in accelerating educational reform agenda to reduce poverty, generate employment and accelerate socio-economic development of our country and for striking a happy balance between economic development and social justice. The earlier this is done the better.