The constitution of Pakistan has placed the
responsibility for basic education on the state. Under this
constitutional obligation, the state is required to promote the
educational and economic interests of backward classes or areas with
special care. Obviously, objective behind this responsibility guides
that the education is made available for all, irrespective of the
social status of the people living in this country.
This idea is supplemented by yet another obligation
on the state to remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory
secondary education within minimum possible period. Various
governments have, over the years, formulated an assortment of policies
and plans to fulfill the constitutional commitment of providing
education to the people and removing of inequalities. Unfortunately,
success has been very limited, through, with the result that the
current state of education in Pakistan is deplorable. Education has
suffered from a number of issues including low level of public
spending, literacy and enrolments, high level of dropout from the
school going system, acute regional and gender inequalities, and
inequalities in the distribution of budgetary allocations to the
Unfortunately, this cherished goal which ultimately
serves the national interest in all spheres of life including social,
political and economic development is far from the desired level.
Instead the rate of illiteracy is growing simultaneously with growing
number of people living below poverty line.
Both demand and supply factors explain this state
of affairs. On the demand side, poverty and illiteracy appear to be
significant factors adversely affecting household decisions to send
children to school. On the supply side, high population growth rates
and lack of sufficient financial commitment has caused illiteracy to
rise. There have been commendable efforts in the private and
non-governmental sectors, but the scale of these efforts has not been
sufficient to make a difference to the aggregate situation.
According to annual report released by Social
Policy and Development Center (SPDC), Pakistan has been placed at the
144th position out of 175 countries in terms of the human development
index. In other words, Pakistan ranks among the bottom 30 countries of
the world. With respect to the education index, Pakistan ranks among
the bottom 15 countries.
Comparative data reveals that Pakistan is at the
bottom of the ranking of countries in the region, with an adult
illiteracy rate of 56 percent, well above average of 37 percent for
Sub-Saharan Africa and 44 percent for South Asia. Net primary
enrolment rate in Pakistan is at 46 percent, the lowest in South Asia.
Even Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal fare better than Pakistan in almost
all key educational indicators.
The fact that education has failed to find its
place in the matrix of policy priorities and targets have remained
unrealized is the result of certain binding constraints, rooted in a
number of factors at the societal and state levels.
There have certainly been consistent efforts on the
part of the government to expand education. These efforts however
appear to be stalled by structural and policy factors such as
macro-economic and fiscal stabilization policies, poverty, rural land
inequality, weak implementation of education policies, and above all,
the socio-political environment. The rise of income inequality and
poverty has served to restrict access to education for the poor,
unequal rural land ownership, as well as disparity in urban resource
distribution has contributed to unequal access to education.
Macro-economic stabilization policy has tended to encroach on
provincial finances and compromise resource availability for
education, and education policies have suffered from a lack of success
on the implementation front.
Contrary to the importance of education for social
and economic growth, public spending on education in Pakistan is 1.8
percent of GDP, which is the lowest in South Asia and has actually
declined from 2.6 percent in 1990.
Figures obtained from a survey reveal that Pakistan
is among the 12 countries in the world that spend less than 2 percent
of GDP on education. Over the years, a stabilization driven
macro-economic policy has shrunk the fiscal space for provinces,
leaving little to spend on the provision of social services.
Consequently, the growth in provincial expenditures for all levels of
education has collapsed since 1997, the report said.
The statistics regarding state of education are
shocking and a matter of concern. The report says that adult literacy
rates have been increasing at less than one per cent per annum over
the last 30 years, with considerable urban-rural and provincial
The number of illiterate people has increased from
28 million in 1972 to 46 million presently. The 1993-2000 periods
witnessed an annual growth rate of only 3.4 percent in primary
enrollment against 6.4 percent during the 1980s. The situation in
terms of net primary enrollment ratio is even worse — not only are
the levels of net enrollment rates low, they also exhibit a declining
trend over the years and is now even lower than in Nepal and Bhutan.
Persistently low levels of primary enrollment have
led to an increase in the population of out of school children in the
5-9 age groups — there are 13 million out of school children out of
about 50 million children in this group, over half of whom are girls.
With respect to the net secondary enrollment rate, Pakistan registers
a dismal 10 percent, with the same gender, rural-urban and provincial
disparities that are evident in all indicators. At the national level,
the overall dropout rate has increased steadily from 40 percent in
1996-97 to 54 percent in 1999-2000. Dropouts are generally higher
among girls and are increasing at a higher pace relative to boys.
Investment in education and human resource
development offers high returns in terms of economic growth and
The report shows that poverty has an adverse impact
on access to education and unequal access to education has an adverse
impact on development level. The rise of income inequality and poverty
in recent years is shown to restrict access to education for the poor
and unequal rural land ownership has contributed to unequal access to
Poverty is also shown to be concentrated in
households in which the head of the households is illiterate. Thus,
children belonging to such households, trapped in illiteracy and
poverty, tend to remain out of school and be pushed into child labor
with all its attendant consequences. It is not surprising that the
single largest reason cited by households for not sending boys to
school is that education is too expensive in Pakistan.
The study establishes a case for greater and more
broad-based spread of education opportunities in order to reduce the
disparity between districts and raise their development levels. In
addition to economic development, income and education inequality also
has implications for social cohesion. Income is the primary
determinant of whether a child goes to an English-medium or
Urdu-medium school or to a madrassah. The students of these different
streams hold such different world views and opinions that they seem to
be living in different worlds. In many respects, these world views are
even hostile to each other and to an extent that has polarized society
and impended social cohesion. The starkest difference is between
students from elite English-medium schools and madrassahs, which stand
diametrically opposed to each other in terms of their opinions on
almost all issues.
In fact the outcome of the constant neglect right
from the inception of this country over the significance of quality
education for all which in fact prepares a society for developing all
social, economic, and political and above human values. This state of
ignorance at such a large scale becomes more challenging in the face
of the technological changes and globalization of markets which is
setting up unprecedented process of transformation of the economies of
the world from the traditional "resource" to knowledge based
development in all spheres of life especially the economic growth. The
most important components of a knowledge based economy are human and
institutional capital as opposed to physical and financial capital in
the resource-based economy.
Education has a wide range of advantages and
benefits for economic, social and political development of a country.
The positive relationship between economic development and education
levels and the impact of investment in education on economic growth
are well established. The transiting of the world towards a knowledge
based economy is adding to the importance of human resources in
general, and of education in particular. Human resources are poised to
commend an increasingly important role in the balance of world
economics and, hence, political power. In addition to economic and
political impacts, and also because of them, education leads to social
spill-over as well.
The current state of education in Pakistan is the
victims of various experiments made under different philosophies in
Pakistan. The nationalization of the private sector educational
institutions under the doctrine of so called socialism changed the
entire complexion of the education, the soul of social growth of a
nation. When that idea of nationalization proved a miserable failure,
the education was again transferred to the private hands. But this
time the situation was completely changed. Most of the moneyed people
entered into the noble sector of education have converted education as
a commercial venture being run only for profit making. The trend of
commercialization killed the very spirit that education should be for
all. Now is the time when only people desire to have quality education
should carry a heavy purse to bear the exorbitant cost of education.
As far as public sector educational institutions were concerned, the
class rooms present a deserted look. Students have no option but to go
to the coaching centers to get through the examinations. The most of
the coaching centers are being run by the teachers of these public
sector institutions, who instead of taking classes with devotion to
discharge their duties honesty are more interested in promoting their
own coaching centers. These teachers come to the public sector
institutions just to attract more students for their own coaching
centers. These faculty members are regular in the public institutions
only in the days of salary disbursement. It is irony that the amenity
plots allotted by the government for education purpose are openly used
for commercial gains. The prime land given for the purpose of
education, in some cases is being used for marriage gardens and other
commercial purposes. In order to escape from their commitment, a small
portion of such lands is cleverly reserved for education institutions.
In other cases, though the educational institutions have been set up
but they are being run purely for money making instead of serving the
cause of spreading knowledge at an affordable level in the society.
The situation calls for radical steps to improve
quality of education, ensuring discipline among the students and
eradication of rampant corruption. The situation also demands that an
effective partnership between public and private sector educational
A wide range of international studies have
established that, by and large, human resource development impacts
economic development positively. Of course, higher levels of economic
development enable higher allocations of resources to attain higher
level of human resource development. However, human resource
development remains the basic step to economic development.
A knowledge-based society necessarily requires a
higher average standard of education and a greater proportion of its
work force as knowledge workers. The concept of education based
economics should not be confused with that of information and
communication technology. Technology is only a subset of the content
of knowledge that encompasses a knowledge-based society. The new type
of knowledge, unlike the knowledge based work the industrial society
relief on, goes beyond the skills of professionals such as scientists,
engineers, technicians, architects, lawyers, doctors, economists etc.
It is a more multi-disciplinary and holistic body of knowledge and
requires institutionalization to be productive.