Oct 25 - 31, 20

Currently, there are around 2.3 million educational institutions in the country with overall enrolment of 34.49 millions and teaching staff of 1.27 million.

Education helps combat unemployment, confirm sound foundation of social equity, awareness, tolerance, self-esteem and spread of political socialisation and cultural vitality. Education is regarded a route to economic prosperity being the key to scientific and technological advancement that plays a pivotal role in human capital formation and a necessary tool for sustainable socioeconomic growth.

Public expenditure on education as percentage to GDP is lowest in the country due to fiscal resources constraint.

Although overall literacy rate has increased gradually, but absolute number of illiterate has swelled significantly from 20 million to 64 million during last six decades, which reveals a dismal picture of education and literacy in the country. Lack of government commitment to allocate adequate financial resources to education in successive annual budgets is the major factor for low literacy rate and educational backwardness. According to Pakistan Social and Living Measurement (PSLM) Survey data (2007-08), the overall literacy rate (age 10 years and above) is 56 per cent (69 per cent for male and 44 per cent for female) in 2007-08 compared to 55 per cent (67 per cent for male and 42 per cent for female) in 2006-07.

Literacy remains higher in urban areas (71 per cent) than in rural areas (49 per cent) and more in men (69 per cent) compared to women (44 per cent). When analysed provincially, literacy rate in Punjab stood at 59 per cent, followed by Sindh (56 per cent), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (49 per cent), and Balochistan (46 per cent). The literacy rate of Punjab and Balochistan has improved considerably during 2006-07 to 2007-08.

Education is considered engine of change in society. However, due results vis-a-vis nation-building goals are still to be achieved.

Educationists believe that current 57 per cent of country's literacy rate is lowest in South Asia. What is required is not only to adopt more realistic annual and five yearly financial and physical targets for education sector but also to evolve innovative mechanisms for ensuring adequate financial resources for promotion of education. Even to reach a modest target of allocation of 4-per cent of GDP by 2020 will require doubling of existing total educational expenditures by 2015.

Today's rapidly changing knowledge-guided society demands new skills and higher education in which competent and professional teachers would have to play a crucial role, they said.

Former Federal Minister and Vice-Chancellor Beacon House National University Sartaj Aziz stressed the need for isolating public sector education from negative political interference in administrative matters, recruitment, and transfers of teachers and conduct of examinations to promote merit system and professional academic standards in education.

Sartaj Aziz advocated earmarking a percentage of transfers from the divisible pool, under the 7th NFC Award for education sector. He also emphasised on improving capacity of provincial governments and district governments for managing existing educational institutions more efficiently and cost effectively. About the recruitments of teachers in all grades, he proposed conducting of district level merit-based competitive examination so that teachers can serve close to their home districts. An effective monitoring system needs to be created for checking misuse or wastage of funds and to eliminate menace of ghost schools and ghost teachers, he opined.

PML-N senior leader and former Education Minister Ahsan Iqbal said role of education is not confined to giving skills and degrees to students rather it brings out and polishes their hidden capabilities and talents to make them useful for themselves, the society, their country and human civilisation.

According to him, fragmentation of education system into different streams is creating classes; therefore, education sector in the country requires a paradigm shift.

To develop a creative and innovative mind, the students should have the ability to ask smart questions. There is a need for serious national dialogue to divert scarce resources to education sectors after meeting country's debt servicing and defence requirements. Responsibility of bringing in greater resources for education cannot be left to private sector which aims at profit earning and possesses limited resources, Ahsan said.

Experts are of the views that education needs to be accorded top priority to achieve desired results in nation rebuilding process so that future of the country could be secured through education.