STATE OF EDUCATION IN BALOCHISTAN
May 12 - 18, 2008
Balochistan faces dual problems of high illiteracy and high poverty incidences. The province also shows large variations in educational attainment among different economic groups. With low participation in general education and low completion rates at primary and secondary levels, the average literacy rate of the population aged 10 years and above is only 36% for Balochistan. As a result, while the unemployment and underemployment rates in the province are higher than the national rates, job vacancies are often unfilled due to lack of trained personnel. And even though there are increasing job opportunities abroad, especially in the Middle East and Malaysia, many youths lack the skills to seek jobs. Official sources claim that literacy rate of Balochistan is 31% as compared to 49% literacy rate at the national level.
I) EDUCATIONAL BACKWARDNESS
It is unfortunate that Education, the most important sector in Balochistan received least attention of the ruling elite in the past, or in other words, the key sector was ignored. Today, the ignorance of the past has manifested itself as "educational backwardness" posing serious threat to legitimate interests of the local people in wake of execution of mega projects in the province.
Rural Balochistan absolutely lacks the physical infrastructure and educational facilities wherein dropout rate of children is at the higher level. According to an estimate, there are a total of 15,000 settlements in Balochistan. Out of these settlements, 7,000 are equipped with the schools of formal education sector. In most of the districts in the province, the literacy rate among the female is even less than 4 percent.
Serious efforts and consistent policies are needed to combat the prevailing educational backwardness in Balochistan. There is a dire need to create technical hands, skilled labor, sharp brains and stable minds to survive the evolution in Balochistan. The situation of educational facilities in all parts of the province excluding Quetta is worst. Efforts should be directed to increase education ratio and improving health standard in the province.
II) IT EDUCATION
Balochistan is the least developed region of the country. Local youth is still deprived of the opportunities and facilities, which are necessary to make development in any field of science and technology. Computer literacy is the high demand of present digital age. The former government had provided a fund of Rs. 39 million for establishment of Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITMS). The establishment of IT University in Quetta was a welcome decision by the military government. Former government had also launched a project for imparting education at school level at a total cost of Rs.1.4 billion. The Federal government and provinces were to equally share the expenditure. About 1,000 computer laboratories were to be set up in schools, each having at least 11 computers.
The new government should also take steps to strengthen IT industry in the province. The key issue is the development and consolidation of IT industry. There will be no use of producing an army of IT professionals without developing and strengthening IT industry in the country. Government should resolve the problems of IT firms, help them build their trade record and place them in the international IT market. Pakistan Software Export Board should play its due role and make a viable strategy for placing Pakistani IT products in the international market. Scarcity of revenue and absence of venture capital are the main issues, which should be resolved by allocating more funds for consolidation of local IT industry. The local companies need a healing touch from the government. If awarding contracts accommodate them, it will help them build their record and play significant role in griping a market for Balochistan in IT nationally and internationally.
III) TECHNICAL EDUCATION
Technical education and vocational training (TEVT) system in Balochistan suffers from many structural and operational problems, leading to poor education quality, unequal access, limited resources, low efficiency, and weak linkage with the labor market. High dropout rates and a passing rate of less than half for examinations attest to the inefficiency of polytechnic programs. Finding work for graduates also takes a long time, partly because the skills needed for the jobs available are mismatched with the technical education given.
There are only two polytechnics under the Directorate of Colleges, Higher and Technical Education in Balochistan. The province lags behind other provinces in terms of access to TEVT, with the two polytechnics and 11 training centers serving a population of more than 7.7 million. Former provincial government had approved the establishment of a separate Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) in anticipation of expanding technical education in the province, and support for implementing this is urgently needed. Access to quality TEVT programs also remains limited, especially for the rural populations.
Former government had decided to establish Gwadar Institute of Technology (GIT) in Mekran at a cost of Rs200 million. The decision had been taken in line with the government policy to effectively develop Gwadar port under the 9th five-year plan. The new institute is aimed at strengthening entrepreneurship by establishing strong linkages between the institute and the industries of Gwadar port. The GIT would be established under the supervision of Director General of the Gwadar Development Authority (GDA).
The GIT is a good step toward development of human resources in the province, and ultimately getting the local population involved in the development process. The better human capital equipped with education in science and technology can be instrumental in increased productively with modern technology in all economic sectors. This will enhance industrial productivity and increase exportable output of the province. Many industries have been envisaged to be established in and around Gwadar. Skilled manpower would be needed for the operation of the port and the allied industries. There is a high need to create technical hands, and skilled labour in wake of the execution of Mega seaport project in the province.
Former Balochistan government had also decided to convert the massive buildings of textile mills at Uthal and Bolan into technology academies where youth would be trained in various modern disciplines. Former government had provided an additional grant of Rs 170 million for implementing projects of the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) in Balochistan. An amount of Rs 275 million had been earmarked for the year 2004-05. The NCHD was established on the special directives of President Musharraf in 2002 and had been working in nine districts of Balochistan.