EDUCATION NEEDS GOVERNMENT ATTENTION

SHAHZEB KHANZADA
Sep 10 - 16, 2007

There is no second thought about the fact that education plays a vital role in the development of economies. If all positive indicators are intact and literacy rate is low then it is next to impossible to achieve a sustainable growth rate in the economy In early 90s when Indian economy had collapsed, no one could even visualize that a trained human resource in information technology will put all the bad times in past .Today's world has changed the way nations make their way to prosperity. Education was though always very important in the history but last two decades have made its role even more important. The reason for this is the evolution of technology that has made it possible for developing economies to achieve major milestones in no time.

China and India invested in their human resource before opening up their economies for the world trade. Their economic managers were shrewd enough to foresee the demand of trained and technical education in the near future and hence acted accordingly. Pakistan, India and china has relatively large population in the age bracket of twenty and thirty years. The economic managers in our neighboring countries realized and rightly calculated the way this human resource could be utilized in the best possible manner. If it is information technology then India is dominating the world map among developing countries. Good planning has made it possible to utilize this human resource for the well being of economy. Look at the way jobs have been created through software development, call centers and many other IT related industries in India. Look at the way Chinese textile industry has evolved on the world map. In twenty years, it has emerged as the top priority of the buyers.

Technological advancement has improved the workers productivity in neighboring countries. China now tops in the region in terms of workers productivity. Be it steel, refinery, services, mobile manufacturing or any other industry, when you think about doing business in any sector in china or India, you do not have to worry about the availability of quality human resource.

The good policies of past have produced quality human resource in our neighboring countries and it is not only meeting the local requirement but is also being exported to the developed world. This is what has given birth to business process outsourcing and has made it an ideal choice for the business conglomerate of west thus earning foreign exchange for the developing countries.

It is an established fact that education has not been the top priority of any of the past ruling Governments in Pakistan. Private sector has taken the responsibility of providing quality and in some cases poor education in Pakistan. if private education sector was not nationalized in 70s then this sector could have grown in an even better way and provided quality education.

Federal Government has left it on provinces to improve education. The budget allocation has been very disappointing and extremely inadequate for an economy growing at 7% in last many years and where population growth rate is 2%. If one simply looks at the rate of population growth and annual budget allocation for education, then it can easily be recognized that in the present scenario, quality of education is deteriorating with each passing year. During 1990-2006, the average share of education as a % of GNP is 1.98% which is disappointingly low. It becomes more heart breaking when one comes to know about the fact that among 34 poorest economies, Pakistan is ranked 17th in education in terms of allocations against total expenditure.

Female education is considered very important for a well educated future generation. An investment in female education gives higher returns not only for present but also in long term scenario. Our national primary school enrollment rate for girls is only 49 percent and it is even lower in rural areas where it is just 43 percent, compared to 86 percent in India. The entire leading economists have agreed that it is not possible to achieve high growth rate without greater female literacy and participation in the work force.

It is normally considered that infrastructure is the key to success and investment in any economy. According to the recent survey conducted by Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI), Infrastructure is the main obstacle to attracting FDI in Pakistan. The survey reveals "A major concern for foreign investors is the state of infrastructure facilities available in the country with 89 per cent being highly dissatisfied with the availability electricity and 51 per cent being dissatisfied with water availability in Pakistan". There is no doubt about the fact that these are the things of basic requirement for any investor. However, let us imagine about the situation when all these facilities were available in Pakistan and the Government focus on education was same as it is now, in such a situation if the role of private sector was not at its place, could we attract major foreign players to make computers, mobile phones, automobiles or any other product? The answer is no and indicates the poor role that Government has played in improving education in Pakistan.

If education in Pakistan is divided as basic and technical education, then Pakistan still has lowest primary enrollment rate in the region and at the same time its expenditure as a percentage of GDP is lowest among all the developing countries. Government had designed programs for the training of Government teachers but these activities have also slowed down. The condition of government schools is a clear indication of lack of Governmental focus on the basic education.

Technical education is also a weak area. Government did not open any institutions for skill development so that growing human resource appetite of industrial development could be met. Moreover, Different industries could themselves work on the development of such institutions but their role was also very subdued. Though some technical education institutes were developed by the industry but their role was also profit maximization rather than human resource training that in the long run could benefit the entire industry itself.

Being an agrarian economy, we have one of the lowest yield per hectare among peers. It is not only due to the inadequate provisioning of basic raw materials like water and electricity but also due to the lack of education and awareness among growers. The farmers in Pakistan were never educated to use the proper combination of fertilizers for their crop until Government subsidized it and made available at lower prices. It is price advantage not the understanding of usefulness and higher productivity that has forced growers to shift to this combination from the older one. It shows Pakistan can not only increase area under crop but also yield per hectare if proper methods are employed and growers are educated about it.

It is not a myth but a clear reality with regional examples that there is no short cut to succeed in this competitive world without developing a quality human resource in the economy. Government should allocate higher budget for this purpose so that future economic growth targets can be achieved with quality human capital.